Maersk Line has suspended bookings on its North Europe-to-Asia services effective immediately as it battles to clear up a backlog of containers at clogged European terminals.
Maersk said it expects to accept bookings again in early May after it has tackled an unprecedented buildup of cargo caused by consecutive vessel cancellations following the Chinese New Year.
“At the moment, terminal density at some ports is nearing yard capacity,” the Danish carrier said. “If bookings are not halted, this could negatively impact productivity, further slow down ocean carriers’ ability to clear the heavy backlog/overflow and impact other trades.”
Low westbound demand for Asian goods after the Chinese New Year prompted several carriers to cancel multiple sailings from Asia, and in turn, eastbound sailings from Europe. Despite the eurozone crisis and general rate increases in February, March and April, demand has continued to grow strongly for European goods on eastbound sailings to Asia, Maersk said.
“The booking stop is temporary, and we are working to clear it as soon as possible so that we can resume booking acceptance as usual,” Maersk said in a notice to shippers. “We are implementing this complete booking stop to ensure we prioritize and deliver on the bookings we have already accepted.”
“We have heard from customers that other lines have also stopped bookings until May,” a Maersk Line spokesman said. “Shippers are obviously disappointed by the temporary capacity shortage, but it’s too early to evaluate the impact on supply chains.”
Maersk said it is “ working on all options,” including adding extra ports on an inducement basis, reviewing possible extra loader opportunities out of North Europe and other measures to reduce the impact and duration of the booking suspension.
The suspension hasn't affected bookings on the much busier westbound leg out of Asia to Europe, including Maersk Line’s Daily Maersk service.
Maersk is the market leader on the Asia-Europe route, accounting for more than 19 percent of traffic on the world’s biggest trade lane.
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