Box Lines Launch New Asia-Mexico Routes As Freight Rates Reach 20-Month Peak

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  • The cost of shipping a container from Chinese ports to Manzanillo, Mexico’s main container port, is now approximately US$2,000 per TEU, prompting major shipping companies like CMA CGM, COSCO, and MSC to establish new China-Mexico services.
  • On May 6, COSCO, along with its subsidiary OOCL, started the Transpacific Latin Pacific 5 (TLP5) service which offers a transit time of 15 to 20 days between China, South Korea, and Mexico.
  • French carrier CMA CGM is set to launch the M2X Mexico Express service on May 11, which will connect various Asian ports with Mexican ports over a 56-day cycle, using eight ships.
  • MSC has revised one of its Asia-US East Coast services to eliminate US stops, focusing instead on Central America, thus creating a revised Far East-Mexico-Panama-Dominican Republic service with an 11-week rotation.
  • Starting May 15, MSC will launch the Asia-Mexico West Coast Shuttle service, which will utilize ships of 4,000-7,000 TEU, promising a 6 to 7-week turnaround.

New Shipping Routes Emerge as China-Mexico Freight Rates Soar

Mainline operators have been starting services connecting China with Mexico as freight rates have reached a near two-year high.

Freight rates for containers from Chinese ports to Mexico’s main container port, Manzanillo, are now around US$2,000 per TEU. This has caused CMA CGM, COSCO, and MSC to start China-Mexico connections.

On 6 May, COSCO and its subsidiary OOCL started the Transpacific Latin Pacific 5 (TLP5) service, offering transit times of 15 to 20 days between China, South Korea, and Mexico.

In response, French carrier CMA CGM will launch a new M2X Mexico Express service on 11 May, calling at Tianjin (Xingang), Qingdao, Busan, Ensenada, Manzanillo, Lazaro Cardenas, Yokohama, Busan, and Tianjin (Xingang).

Shipping Shifts Focus on China-Mexico and Central America Routes

The M2X will turn in 56 days using eight 4,200 TEU ships, starting with the 4,253 TEU ANL Wangaratta at Busan.

Linerlytica analyst Tan Hua Joo told Container News that the rising rates for China-Mexico service follow that for Asia to the wider South American region, convincing carriers to shift capacity to the lane.

MSC, particularly, has adjusted one of its Asia-US East Coast services, Santana, to cancel out US port calls and focus on Central American calls.

The Santana service’s last New York call was made by the 15,264 TEU MSC Martina Maria on 29 March, with subsequent sailings shortened to a revised Far East-Mexico-Panama-Dominican Republic service calling at Yantian, Ningbo, Shanghai, Busan, Manzanillo (Mexico), Cristobal, Colon (Coco Solo), Caucedo, and Yantian. The revised Santana service turns in 11 weeks, using up to 11 ships of 8,000 to 15,000 TEU on the new eastbound round-the-world rotation, with additional ports added to the rotation on inducement.

MSC Redirects Capacity to Tap into High-Demand

Linerlytica noted that MSC’s withdrawal of the USEC service will remove some 10,000 TEU a week on the Far East-US East Coast route as it seeks to take advantage of the more lucrative freight rates on the Far East-Mexico and Latin America routes.

MSC’s modification of the Santana service coincides with its launch of the new Asia-Mexico West Coast Shuttle service calling at Qingdao, Ningbo, Shanghai, Busan, Manzanillo, Lazaro Cardenas, and Qingdao. Starting 15 May, the service will have a turnaround of six to seven
weeks and will deploy ships of 4,000-7,000 TEU starting with the 6,492 TEU MSC Apollo departing Qingdao.

Xeneta’s chief analyst Peter Sand told Container News that Far East-Mexico rates are now at levels not seen since September 2022, as demand for Chinese imports in Mexico went up by over 33% year-on-year in 1Q 2024.

Shippers may be attempting to get around tariffs on goods imported from China into the United States, which have ramped up during the ongoing trade war between the nations.

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Source: container-news