DESPITE shippers' pleas for faster ships, given cheaper oil prices, top container lines say they have no plans to speed up ships in the hard-pressed Asia-Europe trades, reports Lloyd's Loading List.
Both Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd have dismissed calls to drop slow steaming. Maersk north Europe chief Karsten Kildahl said there wasn't the demand to pay high enough rates to make high-speed services profitable.
Not mentioned in the reports was the value slow steaming has in absorbing excess tonnage that floods today's market, and that faster transits would only increase the number of idle ships.
Carriers pointed out that speeding up would require new berthing windows and feeder contracts - far more complicated than before - now that nearly all big shipping lines are in alliances.
Hapag-Lloyd chief executive Rolf Habben Jansen said punctuality was more important than speed. "We need to get schedule reliability up where it belongs. We do not intend to speed up anything," he told delegates.
But shippers such as Siemens say they would pay more for shorter Asia-Europe transits. "There is a market for this," said Siemens vice president Robert Gora.
He told the told the Containerisation International industry conference in Hamburg that he would welcome the option for a quicker alternative to the current 40-day voyage from Shanghai to Germany.
Existing alternatives are expensive air freight at 10 days door to door or rail at 20 to 25 days.
Conference chairman Jesper Kjaedegaard cited US carrier Matson showing there is a market for high-speed services, charging $200 more per container more on its Asia-US services for quicker turnaround times.
Source : HKSG.