Remember the giant cargo ship Benjamin Franklin that docked on Seattle’s waterfront in February? Plans for a regular China-U.S. route with such megaships have been dropped.
Remember the giant cargo ship Benjamin Franklin that docked on Seattle’s waterfront in February? It was the largest ship ever to call on West Coast ports, a container-carrying monster as long as the Empire State Building is tall.
It wasn’t expected to make a return visit to Seattle for years. But owner CMA CGM did plan regular service from China to California ports with six such megaships, each capable of carrying 18,000 TEUs (20-foot equivalent units, the industry’s standard measure).
Even amid the hoopla of its West Coast tour, some experts questioned the need for such service with a ship more than 25 percent larger than the previous generation of 14,000-TEU vessels.
Now industry publications report CMA CGM has canceled plans to deploy the megaships on West Coast runs.
The Wall Street Journal reported this week that the Ben Franklin is now running routes between China and Europe, while smaller ships have been put on the China-West Coast circuit.
The reshuffling is part of an industrywide struggle to keep ships filled as China’s economy slows and a glut of shipping capacity depresses prices.
Asaf Ashar, a research professor at the University of New Orleans Transportation Institute, said before the latest routing moves that the original decision to put the megaships on U.S. runs was likely driven by overcapacity on the Asia-Europe route, not the demand.
“I believe that this has nothing to do with saving on shipping cost but more to do with the need to deploy these ships,” he told Cargo Management magazine in April. “Moreover, I believe that these ships will be calling partially loaded, resulting in a high slot cost.”
Instead, CMA CGM has decided to reroute those megaships back to European routes.
The shifts come as CMA CGM, considered the world’s No. 3 carrier, and three other major lines are working to form a new group called the Ocean Alliance, which could become the second-biggest vessel-sharing alliance after Maersk Line’s 2M partnership with Mediterranean Shipping.
CMA CGM is taking over Singapore’s Neptune Orient Lines and plans to bring the latter’s container operations unit APL under the Ocean Alliance, Bloomberg reported. That will mean the partnership could have 26 percent of the market, according to figures from Alphaliner.