CMA CGM's executive in charge of the transpacific trade told American Shipper
Tuesday that Europe's Big 3 container lines are expecting solid to substantial growth on the lane in 2011, part of the reason the lines are augmenting their service network on the trade.
Maersk Line, CMA CGM and Mediterranean Shipping Co. this week announced changes to their transpacific vessel sharing agreement from the end of May, and the changes lean heavily on hub ports in Asia and clustered services around specific regions in China.
"We are quite positive about the 2011 forecast for the (transpacific) eastbound and westbound cargo going forward,' said Jean-Philippe Thenoz, CMA CGM senior vice president North America lines, based in Marseilles.
Referencing a recent forecast by SeaIntel that transpacific trade could rise 15 percent to 20 percent this year, CMA CGM and its vessel sharing partners in the transpacific are bullish on growth.
"This is quite amazing, this forecast," Thenoz said. "I am not a macroeconomist specialist. But still I must take into consideration what my customers are telling us and they are quite positive."
He specifically cited toy manufacturers, retailers, apparel companies, and consumer electronics makers as being positive for the upcoming year.
"I cannot mention a branch that is not positive about Asia imports into the U.S.,' Thenoz said. 'Whether it will be 5 percent, 8 percent, 11 percent, or 20 percent, we will see. At least there is a positive tendency even if the period after Chinese New Year has been a little slow. We have to cope with the demand, this is for sure."
Thenoz said with the changes announced by Maersk and CMA CGM Tuesday, the lines will be able to handle 5 percent to 8 percent growth without a problem. However, if growth approaches the 15 percent mark, it would exceed even the capacity built into the rearranged network.
'We took into consideration single-digit growth in the TP of 6 to 7 percent," he said.
Thenoz also noted that outbound trades have been quite positive in the last six months, primarily due to demand from China and the weak U.S. dollar.
'One of the big issues of any line calling the U.S. is the balance of containers,' he said. 'The more exports we have, the better.'
Meanwhile, commenting on whether the U.S. East Coast may attract more inland-bound cargo from Asia, Thenoz said that more Asia cargo is moving through the East Coast, though only about 15 percent of CMA CGM's inland-point-intermodal cargo from Asia moves through the East Coast, compared to 85 percent through West Coast ports.
But he did say the line moves quite a bit of cargo from South and Central China through New York on its trans-Suez Columbus service. Thenoz said it's not true that trans-Suez services are only competitive south and west of Singapore.
"South China is a place where transit time is equal Panama versus Suez, and we do a lot of Central China through Suez where transit time is slightly more than Panama. Customers and cargo interests are more interested in service reliability than having a transit time which is extremely quick. The slow steaming concept has been adopted by customers.'
The changes will allow CMA CGM to make twice weekly calls at five major Chinese ports -- Shanghai, Hong Kong, Ningbo, Xiamen and Yantian -- while also improving transit times by concentrating calls in particular regions.
"The only way to do this is to dedicate loops for origins,' Thenoz said. 'If a service calls north and south and central China, transit time will be horrible." ' Chris Dupin and Eric Johnson