23 April 2016
CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin at the port of Long Beach for its inauguration in February. Photo credit: Port of Long Beach
French container shipping company CMA CGM has cancelled plans to begin deploying mega-ships between Asia and the U.S. west coast in May citing weak conditions in the trans-pacific market.
CMA CGM confirmed in March that it would deploy six 18,000 TEU containerships on its Pearl River Express service between South China and the U.S. west coast ports of Long Beach and Oakland following two earlier trial runs by the 18,000 TEU MV Benjamin Franklin.
But now CMA CGM has rescinded those plans, saying it has decided to postpone the deployments with no comment regarding when, or even if, the ships will be deployed in the future.
“Considering the current Transpacific market situation and in order to optimize the use of its fleet, the CMA CGM Group has decided to postpone its project to deploy 18,000 TEU-capacity vessels on this trade,” CMA CGM said in a statement provided to gCaptain.
The six ships, hailed as the company’s flagship vessels, are part of a new breed of so-called ‘megaships’, or Ultra Large Container Vessels (ULCVs), that are being built at shipyards in Asia to increase capacity and efficiency on the world’s busiest shipping routes. With the exception of the Benjamin Franklin however, ships of this size have remained exclusively on Asia to northern Europe trade routes. The vessels measure up to 400 meters long (1,312 ft.) and are designed to carry more than 18,000, and in some cases even 19,000 twenty-foot equivalent containers (TEU).
The 18,000 TEU CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin made two visits to the U.S. west coast last December and February, setting the record for the largest ship ever to call in the United States. The series of 4 trial-calls – including the port of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland and Seattle – were meant to test U.S. west coast port’s ability to accommodate larger vessels. The port visits were considered success, even though many still questioned whether U.S. west coast ports are prepared to handle megaships on a regular basis.
Earlier this week, CMA CGM, together with Asian shipping company’s COSCO Container Lines, Evergreen and OOCL, rolled out a new shipping alliance as the carriers struggle to weather the current market downturn caused by slumping freight rates and a severe overcapacity of ships. Following regulatory approval, the alliance, known as the Ocean Alliance, will run for five years and involve a fleet of 350 container ships with an estimated capacity of 3.5 million twenty-foot equivalent units.