Only Yantian and Tanjung Pelepas can handle fully-loaded 18,000 - TEUers.

TODAY's problem with Maersk's 18,000-TEUers is that there are only two ports in the world - Shenzhen's Yantian terminal and Malaysia's Tanjung Pelepas - that can handle them fully loaded, but still not one port in Europe.

"We can fill ships at Tanjung Pelepas but the problem is that we cannot take the goods off in Europe," said Maersk Asia-Pacific chief Thomas Riber Knudsen.

That's why they can only load 15,00-16,000 TEU into an 18,270-TEU vessel, said Mr Knudsen, reported Lloyd's List.

"Wherever we cannot operate cranes at the full height and full length, we cannot fill the ships," he said, adding that he hopes Algeciras, Shanghai and Rotterdam will be able by the end of the year.

Maersk Line is due to take delivery of another seven 18,270 TEU vessels, bringing its megaship fleet to 14.

Mr Knudsen said cascading would eliminate vessels smaller than 6,000 TEU. "Panamax ships are too small to operate in long-haul trades and many not small enough for feeder ports," he said.

With current overcapacity, he expects rates to continue to be under pressure, though anticipates improvements in volumes this year.

Mr Knudsen predicted world container trade to expand 4.5 per cent to five per cent. "Asia-Europe trade is to grow at four to five per cent, transpacific trade at three to four per cent while Latin America, Africa and intra-Asia would grow five to six per cent," he said.

Asked whether the mega alliance trend, with the advent of the P3, G6 and the CKYHE networks, was leading to a commoditisation of shipping services, Mr Knudsen said no.

Maersk's way of differentiating itself from alliance partners is to offer better overall customer services, which can be as important as vessel operation, Mr Knudsen said.

"We have more sailings of barges, trucks, railways, and a better feeder network. Our argument is not just how ships sail, but how we get containers on board and the whole process around it," he said.



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