The arrival of the container ship MSC Fabiola at the port of Long Beach last week does not herald the start of a trend toward ultra-large vessels on the trans-Pacific route, container analyst Alphaliner said.
The West Coast port claimed the 12,550 20-foot equivalent unit ship “is the first of what is expected to be a string of larger container ships to be deployed by ocean carriers in Pacific Rim routes.”
But “the move is less of a breakthrough than it is made out to be,” according to Alphaliner, which said it doubts ocean carriers will follow the example of Mediterranean Shipping Co., the owner of the largest ship ever to call at a North American port.
While the MSC Fabiola is more than 25 percent larger than any other vessel to call on the U.S. West Coast, it was only 70 percent full when it arrived in Long Beach and is not scheduled to make another trans-Pacific rotation after its maiden call.
Instead, MSC will deploy three smaller 11,600-TEU ships on the Far East-U.S. West Coast “Pearl River Express” service that the Geneva-based carrier jointly operates with France’s CMA CGM, which is sailing three 9,000 TEUs vessels on the route.
“The other carriers active in the trade are not expected to follow MSC’s example,” Alphaliner said.
They are not expected to deploy vessels larger than 10,000 TEUs across the Pacific in the near future as they are unlikely to be able to fully utilize the capacity of such ships on the route.
The larger vessels also pose operational challenges because of U.S. West Coast port restrictions. MSC’s newly acquired ships on the “Pearl River Express” service cannot be handled at the carrier’s regular Long Beach terminal — SSA Pier A/Pier J — and their calls have been shifted to Hanjin’s TTI facility.
Contact Bruce Barnard at firstname.lastname@example.org. Image from Shipspotting.com