Maersk re-ups with Kaohsiung

Maersk re-ups with Kaohsiung

Maersk Sealand will retain its base at Taiwan's main Port of Kaohsiung, scotching intense speculation that the world's largest box carrier planned to move some or all of its Taiwan operations to Shanghai.

"The contract was extended for another five years," said Jens Eskelund of Maersk (China) Shipping Co. Ltd.

Maersk leases piers 118 and 119 at Kaohsiung, where its annual volume accounts for one-sixth of the harbor's total throughput. Maersk offers services from Kaohsiung to North America and Europe, with total annual volume of 1.8 million TEUs, said Huang Ching-teng, director of the Kaohsiung Harbor Bureau.

Port and industry observers had feared a Maersk move would have increased rates as much as 10 percent on a reduction in available capacity.

One reason for Maersk's decision may be the tempting prospect of direct cross-strait sailings to China, widely expected to be approved in the near term. As reported, moves are underway to open regular, chartered cargo flights via Hong Kong or Macau to the mainland this month.

The designated "offshore" center for mainland cargo at Kaohsiung handled over 362,000 TEUs in the first seven months of the year, up 12.5 percent from a year earlier. Since it opened in early 1997, it has processed 2.64 million TEUs.

Kaohsiung offers 20 weekly voyages involving Xiamen and Fuzhou in China's southeastern Fujian province.

Overall, Kaohsiung - which has slipped to sixth among world box ports from a long-time third position - processed just over 5 million TEUs in the first seven months of this year, up 6.9 percent from a year earlier, statistics from the Harbor Bureau show. Officials are forecasting 9 million TEUs for the full year.