While most shippers applaud the call by Maersk Line CEO Eivind Kolding for a change in the way the container industry conducts business, rival carriers see it as a campaign by the world’s largest carrier to establish clear dominance over the major east-west trade lanes. They are preparing their own plans to compete with the Danish carrier.
As part of Kolding’s call for change, Maersk Line will launch what it calls “Daily Maersk” on the westbound Asia-Europe trade next month, combining the 70 ships in 10 existing services into one service with daily departures seven days a week from four major Asia ports. It will guarantee on-time delivery or pay a penalty for late freight.
Maersk will also deploy the 20 huge Triple-E vessels with capacities of 18,000 20-foot equivalent units that it has ordered on that service. Those mega-ships will lower its slot costs to the point where it will be able to make money even when its competitors can’t. Rival carriers say Maersk’s moves are designed to force them to follow suit at a time when ship finance is in scarce supply.
Maersk executives are aware that rival carriers plan to respond. Soren Castbak, Maersk’s senior director of the trans-Atlantic trades, told The Journal of Commerce’s annual Canada Maritime Conference in Montreal on Sept. 20 that he knows that other carriers are readying their own plans for services like the Daily Maersk service.
And indeed some are. “We’ve got some things up our sleeve that will match what they are doing,” said one carrier executive who did not want to be identified. “Stay tuned.”