African and Indian semi-liner services that Norway-based multipurpose carrier G2 Ocean established just as the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) was cutting loose last February have delivered pandemic-defying results, according to Prashant Samel, G2 Ocean’s Singapore-based senior chartering manager and business development manager for southeast Asia, India, and the Middle East.
G2 Ocean will over the next six to 12 months establish more sailings and services, including expanded links from India to Southeast Asia and Japan and possibly a service from the US to Brazil and South America, Samel told JOC.com. “We expect increased activity from India to Southeast Asia, but it all depends on the course of [the] COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
Volumes to and from Africa have more than doubled in comparison to the full year of 2019 despite the pandemic, and the number of port calls has almost tripled, Simon Baker, G2 Ocean chartering director for Africa, India, and the Middle East, told JOC.com. Breakbulk and dry cargo commodities carried on its Africa services include project cargo, forest products, non-ferrous metals, steels and bulk cargoes.
“Currently, our main operations are to and from Tanzania, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, and Mozambique,” he said. The Africa service is from the Middle East/Asia to Africa and Europe.
Samel said volumes on the new India-US East Coast/Gulf semi-liner service reached 500,000 freight tons in 11 sailings since February. The India-US service, currently one ship per month, calls Oman, the UAE, and west coast ports of India before a Suez transit direct to North America, where the ports covered are New Orleans, Baltimore, Houston, Galveston, and Altamira.
“We’re carrying a mix of cargo including project freight, wind turbine components, steel pipes, and finished aluminum products. India and the Middle East are more finished products producers,” Samel said. “It’s a lot of volume compared with what the trade has been used to. The box-shaped holds of the multipurpose ships give us a lot of flexibility in the types of parcel-like cargoes we carry.” The ships deployed on this string are typically about 40,000 dwt.
G2 Ocean, a joint venture between Gearbulk and Grieg Star, is currently operating a fleet of approximately 125 ships. In addition to its many semi-liner services, the carrier calls global destinations on a tramp basis.
Baker said the pandemic has made demand for service difficult to predict. They've experienced scattered loading and discharging delays, and “COVID-19 has also reduced some of our vessel utilization as production and manufacturing in certain areas was closed or operating at reduced capacity. Consequently, some planned cargo shipments have been canceled or delayed,” he said.
Crew changes are challenging, as a combination of the crash in the number of flights, national lockdowns, restrictions on port calls, and strict quarantine regulations have limited the opportunity to exchange crews, Baker said. His own transfer to South Africa was held up for six months due to coronavirus travel restrictions.
Because of the pandemic, Africa is seeing its first recession in 25 years, according to an October commentary from the World Bank. Economic activity in Africa is projected to decline by 3.3 percent in 2020, but then to rebound modestly in 2021, with growth varying across countries.
India also continues to wrestle with the pandemic. The International Monetary Fund projects a 10.3 percent contraction in India's economic growth this year, but a forecasted 8.8 growth rate in 2021 should help the country recover.
Contact special correspondent Keith Wallis at email@example.com.