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More container ships opt for Cape of Good Hope transit: cFlow


HMM Rotterdam joins Ever Greet, Hyundai Prestige for Cape of Good Hope transit

Transit via Cape of Good Hope adds 10-12 days to transit times

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London — The HMM Rotterdam, an ultra large container ship has turned south on its voyage Eastbound from Europe and appears to be heading for transit via the Cape of Good Hope, rather than join the ever lengthening queue of ships waiting for the Suez Canal to reopen, data from S&P Global Platts trade flow software cFlow showed March 26.

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The HMM Rotterdam is a 23,000 twenty-foot equivalent unit container ship.

As of March 26, there were 23 container ships awaiting transit of the Suez Canal at Port Said, north of the canal, 11 container ships currently in Great Bitter Lake, and 21 container ships waiting at anchorage south of the Suez Canal.

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Most carriers appear to be waiting to see whether the situation clears; however, with many expectations that it would clear overnight into the morning of March 25 proving inaccurate, some are planning alternative routes.

The blockage caused by the running aground of the Ever Given may not be cleared until March 28 or March 29 at the earliest, according to revised estimates from port agents. Given the lengthening list of vessels waiting to transit the canal, it could take around 10 days for ship movements to return to normal once the Ever Given is refloated.

"There is a high tide Sunday night, that might be the crunch point of where we go next should the vessel not be able to sail away," Nick Coverdale, founder of Agreefreight, said. "Old hands will have ideas and alternatives but will wait till Monday morning."

Most container ships travelling through the Suez Canal are either destined for European ports, or heading on the backhaul route back to Asia from Europe. One issue considered by carriers are port schedules, as berth windows are scheduled precisely and delays can trigger reverberating issues down the supply chain. As a result, passage via the southern tip of Africa is starting to appear a more likely route for container carriers, in an effort to try and prevent further schedule deterioration.

This news comes on the back of what appears to be a similar movement by the Hyundai Prestige, a 5,023 TEU container ship currently on its way from Europe to Asia, which is also continuing south, according to cFlow data, rather than turning east into the Mediterranean. The Ever Greet, a 20,160 TEU container ship, has also made a similar move on its westbound transit and is currently steaming south off the coast of East Africa.

Since Ever Given is only around 11 km into the canal in the northbound direction, it will either have to be taken north to Suez or forward into the Great Bitter Lake, a maritime navigator tracking the development said.

It is hazardous to repair the container ship inside the canal lanes but after refloating the ship, it can only be moved at a slow speed of around 2 knots and therefore resuming normal traffic can take dozens of hours, the navigator said.

Container lines Maersk, Hapag-Lloyd and CMA CGM have already warned of disruptions, with Maersk noting that nine of its vessels and two partner vessels have been directly affected. Hapag-Lloyd said in an email March 25 that five vessels have been affected. French carrier CMA CGM said in a statement March 26 that so far two of its vessels are queuing in the Suez Canal waiting to enter the passage, with four more vessels expected on March 26.