Delayed alliances causing headaches for ports

Ports need certainty on alliance calls. Credit: IMO Ports need certainty on alliance calls. Credit: IMO

With only six weeks until the container industry welcomes the launch of two new mega-alliances, the delay in announcing details is causing issues for ports and shippers.

Two groups of carriers will join forces to create two new and bigger alliances to take on the mighty of Maersk Line and MSC in the 2m network. Although not much more about the Ocean Alliance and THE Alliance is known causing the industry concern.

A latest report from Drewry reported that: “Companies in both groups have created new shiny brochures that shed a bit more light on what the finished networks will look like. Ignoring the fact that some port names are still missing for the moment, the brochures do include updated port rotations, port-to-port transit times and a host of bullet points that sell the uniqueness of their product. However, two other crucial bits of information are missing; the days of the week for the port calls and the size of ships to be deployed by service.”

Without information, it is difficult for ports and terminals to properly plan their future workloads.

Drewry suspects that that after discussions and negotiations with carriers they have better knowledge of what the finished alliances products will look like, but other important stakeholders in the supply chain, such as truckers, railroads and shippers are probably to be at the back of the queue when it comes to accessing this vital information.

At a recent Georgia Foreign Trade Conference there was general agreement among panellists, including from Drewry, that the introduction of the new alliance structure will cause delays.

For shippers, the lack of clarity on which hub ports are going to be used is not too much of an issue, as its invisible to them but the gateway ports are a much more significant hole in their knowledge.

Drewey’s conclusion on the issue was that: “For whatever reasons the introduction of the two new alliances has not been plain sailing and some immediate disruption from 1 April seems inevitable. Ports and terminals should privately have a fairly good idea of what they are going to get, if they get it, but it’s the shippers who are very much in the dark, and probably other supporting players like truckers and railroads.”

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