Journal indépendant d'économie et de politique des transports
CENTRO INTERNAZIONALE STUDI CONTAINERS
ANNO XXXVIII - Numero LUGLIO 2020
BOOMING INTRA-ASIA TRADE PUSHES CARRIERS TO LAUNCH MORE
MSC has become the latest shipping line to revamp its intra-Asia
service offering amid strengthening China-Asean trade.
From this week, MSC has updated four existing intra-Asia
services and is launching a new South-east Asia loop named Seahorse,
which links Tanjung Pelepas, Singapore, Jakarta, Yantian, Kaohsiung,
Manila, Vung Tau and Laem Chabang.
"Customers are showing increasing demand for new services
to move cargo between key locations in Asia," said the carrier.
"These enhancements to our intra-Asia network offer direct
connections and competitive transit times for long-haul cargo from
Greater China and South-east Asia, as well as comprehensive port
coverage between Indonesia, South China, Taiwan, Philippines,
Vietnam and Thailand."
Dubbed the largest tradelane in the world, intra-Asia accounts
for some 33m teu every year, but in reality comprises hundreds of
individual lanes criss-crossing Asia Pacific, the Indian
Subcontinent and Australasia.
Between January and April - at the height of the Covid crisis in
Asia - some trade data suggested intra-Asia volumes were suffering
from 'lockdown-syndrome' alongside the major deepsea trades.
However, for China-Asean at least, recent figures show a 5.6%
increase in bilateral trade to $299bn during the first-half of the
The South-east Asian trading-bloc surpassed the EU to become
China's largest trading partner for the first time, albeit perhaps
temporarily as European economies get back into gear, post-lockdown.
As well as MSC, new services between China and Asean, and
intra-Asean, have been launched by other major players in the
region. For example, in March, Maersk's Sealand Asia adjusted two
intra-Asia strings to add new direct calls between Indonesia and
China; and ONE has increased direct sailings from China, with two
new services launching this month to Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam
and the Philippines.
Regional carriers have revamped services, too. This month,
Thailand's RCL began a butterfly service between Singapore,
Malaysia, and Indonesia, while this Friday, Wan Hai will launch its
fourth string between Taiwan, Vietnam and Thailand with partner
A traditionally competitive market, intra-Asia freight rates
have held steady throughout the crisis - unlike the steep rate
climbs experienced on the deepsea trades.
"Some mainline carriers are offering promotional rates on
intra-Asia lanes, especially where they need boxes to be
repositioned," said Mr Sundara, Asia Pacific ocean freight
director at Scan Global Logistics.
He added: "To cope with the peak in transpacific eastbound
and Far East westbound trades, intra-Asia movement has been capped
to provide priority movement for these mainline east-west trades.
"They are moving backhaul empties into the Far East to
ensure empty boxes are quickly released for export. However, we
expect these carriers to push harder for intra-Asia trades sometime
near the end of the third quarter, although we can still secure
rates until the end of September, both as FAK and for named
Furthermore, Mr Sundara explains, carriers including
Hapag-Lloyd, CNC and Sealand are pushing online spot rates.
"MSC has joined the bandwagon by offering instant quotes.
Even though this is not rolled out to intra-Asia trade yet, we
expect this to happen as it begins the network upgrade."
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