North European importers are facing more vessel diversions as carriers lose patience with congested box terminals and dump their cargo at other ports.
Moreover, shippers are increasingly being asked to pick up the tab for inland on-carriage or relay to destination ports.
2M partners Maersk and MSC have advised their customers they will skip Hamburg on their AE7/Condor loop from Asia for a further four weeks, due to congestion at its Eurogate Terminal.
According to eeSea data, this Loop 4 of the 2M’s Asia-North Europe service deploys 10 ships with an average capacity of 17,916 teu.
MSC said in an advisory today that the “situation had not improved” at Eurogate and ,therefore, the loop would “continue calling Bremerhaven for an additional four weeks”.
The carrier reminded shippers that, as advised in its 1 June advisory, according to the terms and conditions of its bill of lading, the carriage will cease after cargo is discharged at Bremerhaven, some 160 km by road from the centre of Hamburg, where, it adds: “It will be at your disposal for pick up on your own account after payment of local charges.”
The carrier added that it was “not in a position to accept liability in connection with any delay so caused”.
Maersk attributed the blame for the additional Hamburg vessel call omissions to “high yard density and exceptional waiting times for our vessels” and was taking “specific measures to improve schedule reliability”.
The line did not say whether it would also consider the bill of lading carriage terminated after the discharge of containers at Bremerhaven.
Meanwhile, the other two alliances are closely monitoring congestion issues in North Europe, with the individual lines having their own preferences for which port to take overlanded cargo, depending on their market and customer commitments.
One carrier said schedule changes in North Europe were “a continuous, often heated, debate” between the vessel-sharing partners with the vessel operator having the final say. This results in some last-minute decisions to skip a port, with carrier offices often not receiving timely schedule updates.
Shippers already critical of the communication from their carriers as to the status of their containers, could find the situation a whole lot worse this summer.
“I don’t quite know what we will do when the peak season kicks in, as there are not too many relatively uncongested port options open to us that can handle ULCVs,” said the carrier contact.
Indeed, according to the latest terminal operational status update from HMM, the only container port on its North Europe schedule without a “serious berthing problem” was Antwerp, albeit that the Belgian port was experiencing “slight problems” with congestion in its container yard.