High Berth Wait?

Last week we were subjected to a lot of hullabaloo about the arrival of Mediterranean Shipping Company’s fabulous 12,550 TEU MSC Fabiola at the Port of Long Beach. It was the beginning of an avalanche of these monsters, we were being told. We would shortly be inundated by these giants, we’re supposed to believe, so naturally, a desperate and enormous dredging program must be initiated. Otherwise we would be missing out on all those wonderful shipments of foreign-made products.

No one really swallowed that spinnage, and it was refreshing to read how Alphaliner assessed the event in Portnews.ru: “Mega-ships will not enter Trans-Pacific trade”.

“The arrival of the container ship ‘MSC Fabiola’ at the US Port of Long Beach last week does not herald the start of a trend toward ultra-large vessels on the trans-Pacific route, according to container analyst Alphaliner.

“The West Coast port claimed the 12,550TEU ship ‘is the first of what is expected to be a string of larger container ships to be deployed by ocean carriers in Pacific Rim routes’. However, Alphaliner countered that ‘the move is less of a breakthrough than it is made out to be’, voicing doubts ocean carriers will follow the example of Mediterranean Shipping Company, the owner of the largest ship ever to call at a North American port.

“While ‘MSC Fabiola’ is more than 25 percent larger than any other vessel to call on the US West Coast, it was only 70 percent full when it arrived in Long Beach and is not scheduled to make another trans-Pacific rotation after its maiden call. Instead, MSC will deploy three smaller 11,600TEU ships on the Far East-US West Coast Pearl River Express Service that the Geneva-based carrier jointly operates with France’s CMA CGM, which is sailing three 9,000TUE vessels on the route.

“‘The other carriers active in the trade are not expected to follow MSC’s example,’ Alphaliner said.

“They are not expected to deploy vessels larger than 10,000TEUs across the Pacific in the near future as they are unlikely to be able to fully realize the capacity of such ships on the route. The larger vessels also pose operational challenges because of U.S West Coast port restrictions. MSC’s newly acquired ships on the ‘Pearl River Express’ service cannot be handled at the carrier’s regular Long Beach terminal and their calls have been shifted to Hanjin’s TTI facility.” –

“It was only 70 percent full”, huh? Wasn’t it Elvind Kolding, the CEO of Maersk Line, who admitted a few months ago that carriers had to attain 90 percent or more ship utilization in order to break even? And didn’t he follow up by stating that the figure rises to 100 percent during peak seasons? Yes, it was Mr. Kolding who said that.

Looks like MSC just took a serious bath.