Why Do Europe’s Feeder Companies Feel The Pressure?

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The requirement for feeder services throughout North Europe has been greatly reduced as a result of blanked sailings from Asia, as reported by The Loadstar.

Dramatic drop

In order to return ships to owners when chartering periods are complete, feeder operators must consolidate service loops or suspend them as a result of skipped main line calls and a severe fall in transhipment volumes.

An important transhipment centre for the Baltic region, the port of Hamburg, for instance, reported yesterday that feeder volumes had “suffered a dramatic drop.”

The Loadstar has learned from a feeder operator contact that demand for transhipment services at the two busiest container ports in North Europe, Rotterdam and Antwerp-Bruges, has significantly decreased during the past month.

Feeder operators

The contact remarked, “Not only are the ships not coming, but the numbers when they arrive are rather disappointing.”

In response to the feast-to-famine transition experienced by feeder operators over the previous two years, Alphaliner has examined how market leader Unifeeder restructured its services to counteract the decline in demand from/to German ports.

It stated that Unifeeder will this week give back to owner Peter Dohle three 1,578 teu sister vessels, the Ava D, Adelina D, and Annaba, following the rationalisation of its schedules to the Baltic region.

Charter fees spiked

The three 15-year-old feeder ships were reportedly leased by Unifeeder in October of last year for a period of two years, though it is unknown whether the charter agreement contained a break option that would have allowed the Danish carrier to return the vessels sooner without incurring a price.

A handy 1,600 teu ship of a similar age’s typical charter fees spiked to over $60,000 per day in April, but they have since dropped to about $14,000, which is comparable to the average for the previous few years.

Additionally, the Annaba, for instance, has a scrap value of $4 million and an asset value of $14 million, down from a peak of $37 million in April, according to Vesselsvalue.

Daily hiring prices

According to Alphaliner, Unifeeder also off-hired the 1,425 teu Heinrich Ehler and the 1,084 teu Sonderborg last week. The shortsea carrier had chartered both vessels in March for an eight-month period.

According to Alphaliner, “These five ships, with a total capacity of slightly over 7,000 teu, will not be replaced in the near future.” The expert mentioned that Unifeeder would co-load with other operators and streamline its Germany-Baltic routes, including switching to butterfly loops.

Due to the recent tonnage shortage, owners have sought to lock in charterers for periods of two years or longer, at dramatically increased daily hiring prices. Traditionally, feeder operators prefer to charter their ships for periods of three or six months with the potential of extensions.

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Source: The Loadstar

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