Maersk blanks trans-Pacific sailings, citing coronavirus

Maersk blanks trans-Pacific sailings, citing coronavirus

Maersk warned that although Chinese port container operations continue, refrigerated plug scarcity is slowing reefer shipments. Photo credit: Shutterstock.com.

Maersk on Wednesday said it was cancelling six Asian service sailings to North and South America due to the extended Lunar New Year holiday triggered by the coronavirus outbreak, and warned that although Chinese port container operations continue, refrigerated plug scarcity is slowing reefer shipments. More carriers operating on the trans-Pacific are expected to follow Maersk's lead.

The message to customers from Maersk comes after Alphaliner warned that China’s response to the coronavirus and carrier reaction to the extended Chinese New Year holidays will cut the country’s first quarter container volume by more than 6 million TEU. Such a drop will shave 0.7 percent off global volume for the full year. 

In its customer notice, Maersk said the backlog of barge operations from Wuhan, the origin of the coronavirus, was easing, and it was working with reefer shippers to mitigate port plug-in power capabilities. Maersk announced the cancellation of the following sailings:

  • Feb. 2 from Kaohsiung on the TP9 to the US West Coast

  • Feb. 9 from Yantian on the TP2 connecting to US West Coast

  • Feb. 17 from Ningbo on the TP18 toward the US East Coast

  • Feb. 7, Feb. 14, and Feb. 21 sailings from Ningbo on the AC3 to the South American West Coast

Alphaliner noted 2M, of which Maersk is a member with Mediterranean Shipping Co., will cancel an additional two China-North Europe sailings in February, and the Ocean Alliance is believed to be blanking three sailings in February on the China-US West Coast trade.

“The full impact of the Chinese coronavirus outbreak on container volumes will not be fully measurable until ports announce their throughput numbers for the first quarter,” Alphaliner noted in its weekly newsletter.

Beijing has extended the Chinese New Year holidays by a week. Factories are supposed to reopen on Feb. 10, but as the number of deaths and infections rises, that date might be extended further. There are also severe travel restrictions in force across most of the country and limited cross-provincial movement, so even if the holiday ends this weekend, the factories’ migrant workforce will find it difficult to get to work.