Maersk Line to cut stops in HK, divert to southern Chinese port Nansha

Monday, 28 March 2011 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

HONG KONG (Reuters)- Maersk Line,the world’s largest container-shipping company and a unit of Danish A.P. Moller-Maersk AS , will cut the number of ship calls at Hong Kong by about a quarter from April, one of the biggest changes for the world’s third-busiest port in years.

Maersk Line confirmed a newspaper report that it would cut the number of ships calling at Hong Kong but said there would be an estimated drop of about 25 percent, rather than the one-third reduction reported by the South China Morning Post on Friday.

“Maersk Line anticipates a drop from 30 weekly calls to 22-23 weekly calls at Hong Kong,” Maersk China managing director Jens Eskelund told Reuters by email.

The business would be transferred to Guangzhou South China Oceangate Container Terminal, partly owned by Maersk affiliate APM Terminals, in the southern Chinese port of Nansha, the newspaper said.

But Eskelund said only half of that drop was attributable to the Nansha move and half attributable to rationalisation of the company’s Hong Kong coverage.

“The transfer of some services to Nansha to serve our customers in the West Pearl River Delta is having a somewhat less dramatic impact than one would think after reading below,” he said.

Maersk intended to create a third major gateway at Nansha to augment its South China gateways at Yantian and Hong Kong, the newspaper quoted Soren Karas, head of South China for Maersk Line, as saying.

All the vessels calling at Hong Kong are handled by Wharf Holdings Ltd unit Modern Terminals, whose berths at Container Terminal 9 are almost a dedicated Maersk Line facility.

“We share the view with Maersk of the strategic importance of South China and we have a long-term and successful working history with Maersk in Hong Kong and Shenzhen’s Da Chan Bay and this will continue,” said Modern Terminals spokeswoman Joel Cheung.

She did not comment further on the change.

Hong Kong’s container port has seen more cargoes in China’s Pearl River Delta shift to Shenzhen and Guangzhou ports, which are closer to manufacturing bases and have cheaper handling costs.