Multinational shipping lines have commenced a reordering of their voyages in deliberate moves to cut sailing costs and avoid expensive routes
It seemed a pretty radical move when first Maersk then MSC and CMA CGM and a number of other lines announced they would re-route eastbound shipping around the Cape of Good Hope to avoid the higher costs of sailing through the troubled Horn of Africa region and then paying the high Suez Canal costs.
The high costs were influenced by Suez Canal fees and heavy insurance premiums on sailing through pirate-infested waters near the Horn of Africa. A surcharge on containers helped redress the additional costs with westbound sailings but eastbound movements are too lightly loaded to make up the additional costs. Hence the decision to go the longer route via the Cape, avoid both canal and insurance fees and steam at slower speeds to conserve fuel.
The economics of this decision reveal this to be more than feasible and ships are already on their diverted courses, with the first having passed the Cape already and one, the 9,800-TEU MSC Lisbon actually putting into Cape Town to uplift empty containers for re-positioning.
Now comes news that French carrier CMA CGM intends diverting ships away from the Panama Canal on its PEX 2 service between the Caribbean and Asia and will instead sail the longer and slower route via the Cape of Good Hope on the homeward leg between Asia and the Caribbean.
Nine 4,000-TEU vessels are currently employed on the PEX 2 service but CMA CGM will add an additional ship because of the slower journey, but says it will still make considerable savings given the approximate $ 350,000 cost of transiting the Panama Canal for a ship of this size.
The revised PEX 2 revised port rotation eastbound from Trinidad is now essentially a circumnavigation voyage calling at Port of Spain, Keelung (optional), Hong Kong, Kaohsiung, Ningbo, Chiwan, Shanghai and Pusan.
The service then crosses the Pacific to call at Ensenada, Manzanillo (Mexico), Panama Canal, Manzanillo (Panama), Kingston, Caucedo, Puerto Cabello, Port of Spain, and then east to Africa. The Port of Manzanillo, Panama, is dropped from the end of the PEX2 rotation before the eastbound leg to Africa.
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