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Box lines divert long-haul vessels to Persian Gulf and Indian lanes

Liner operators have been moving tonnage from the Transpacific and Asia-Europe lanes to Far East-Persian Gulf and Far East-India routes where rates are steadier. Alphaliner's latest report, released yesterday, said that the unrelenting slide in freight rates and cargo volumes, particularly in China after the Chinese New Year holidays, have led to significant changes in global container fleet deployment.

Alphaliner estimates that more than 565,000 TEUs of capacity were withdrawn from the Asia - North America and Asia - Europe trades in 2022. This process is still continuing, with Hapag-Lloyd closing down its China - Germany Express service and Ellerman City Liners diverting its ships from Asia-Europe to the more lucrative Transatlantic trade.

Capacity on the Transatlantic increased by 162,300 TEUs, or 16.2% in 2022. The biggest tonnage shift, however, has been to the Persian Gulf and India-related services, where 320,600 TEUs of fleet capacity, equivalent to 11% of the previous capacity, were added last year.

The growing interest in Indian traffic was reflected by COSCO Shipping Lines and its subsidiary, OOCL, launching a South East Asia - India - US East Coast service in December 2022 after closing a China - Vietnam - US East Coast loop.

The capacity shift seen in 2021 to Asia - North America and Asia - Europe trades was mostly at the expense of the intra-Asia fleet, which lost 11% that year, and Africa-related services, which lost 6%.

Alphaliner said, "This has not been fully restored, however, with capacity rising only 5% and 3% respectively in 2022. Intra-European capacity is down 5.2% year-on-year due to the Ukraine conflict, after a 5% decline in 2021."

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