17 May 2024


Recent research from Alphaliner has reported on a significant shortfall in the number of ships available for Asia-Europe services, despite the introduction of new container shipping capacity. The data indicates that these services are operating with nearly 10% fewer ships than required. The Red Sea crisis and the diversion of vessels around the Cape of Good Hope have exacerbated the situation.

Alphaliner reports that the number of ships needed to maintain weekly service frequency from Asia to Europe has increased from 321 ships for 27 services last year to 376 ships for the current 25 services. However, only 340 ships are currently deployed by the three major alliances, resulting in a shortfall of 36 vessels for routes to Northern Europe and the Mediterranean. “Taking into account that the average vessel size on this trade stands at 14,150 TEU, some 509,400 extra slots are still needed,” said Alphaliner. “This represents 9.6% of the capacity required to guarantee weekly sailings for all alliance loops.”

Alphaliner's analysis shows a notable disparity in vessel availability among the different alliances, with the Ocean Alliance carriers facing the most significant challenges. The Ocean Alliance, comprising CMA CGM, Cosco, Evergreen, and OOCL, needs an additional 20 ships, representing a 14% shortfall. A contributing factor to this shortage is the need to maintain services into the eastern Mediterranean, with Piraeus being a crucial regional hub. 

“One of the consequences of sending ships via the Cape of Good Hope is that services from Asia to North Europe no longer make wayport calls at Mediterranean ports,” Alphaliner noted. This has led to a capacity shift within the Ocean Alliance fleet, as both Cosco and Evergreen have moved megamax vessels from North European loops to their joint Asia-Mediterranean AEM1/MD2 service, which now carries large volumes from the Far East to Piraeus." These megamax vessels are partially withdrawn from the Evergreen-operated Far East–North Europe CES service, also known as the seventh OAL Asia-North Europe loop. “This service is already understaffed, with only eight out of the 14 vessels needed available,” Alphaliner explained.

The 2M and THE Alliance are in a relatively better position. MSC and Maersk of the 2M Alliance currently require eight vessels to complete their fleet of 126 ships for joint services. Similarly, THE Alliance, which includes Hapag-Lloyd, ONE, Yang Ming, and HMM, also needs an additional eight vessels to complement the 110 already deployed.

Source: The Loadstar