The 2M Alliance is to reinstate its AE7/Condor loop call at Hamburg this month, despite announcing the port would be omitted until next year.

It is the first bit of good news for North European shippers for a while – lines have been increasingly dropping scheduled calls, reducing discharge rotations to a skeleton service based on just two or three hubs, supported by lengthy relay delays to final destination ports.

But although the reinstatement of the Hamburg call could be a positive for shippers, according to the Global Shippers Forum (GSF), it remains pessimistic that there will be relief from the severe congestion and highly elevated freight rates any time soon.

“Congestion is not just for Christmas,” said the GSF.

The first AE7/Condor vessel to resume its Hamburg call will be the 18,340 teu Matz Maersk, which is scheduled to call at the German city port this weekend.

According to eeSea data, the 2M deploys 12 16,652 teu-20,568 teu vessels on the service on a seven-day frequency.

Maersk said: “We have identified the opportunity to advance the reinstatement with confidence that overall operational capacity at the terminal has improved.”

The 2M dropped the AE7/Condor Hamburg call in favour of Bremerhaven on mid-August sailings from Asia, so the unexpected reinstatement is good news for shippers and retailers looking for inventory replenishment ahead of the peak holiday buying season.

Not so fortunate are UK importers, with the AE7/Condor continuing to skip its Felixstowe call until further notice.

Maersk said the decision to omit Felixstowe was due to “exceptional waiting times” at the port and “the current supply chain bottlenecks in the UK”.

The carrier is taking its UK containers out at Wilhelmshaven, while 2M partner MSC will discharge its UK cargo at Antwerp. Both Maersk and MSC are working to organise feeders to relay the containers back to the UK.

However, with commercial feeder services busy with existing commitments and open charter tonnage almost impossible to find, UK importers suffering several weeks of delay to get their products will miss crucial Christmas markets.

“Global shippers are riding a tidal wave of congestion this peak season,” said the GSF’s James Hookham.

The GSF said that the most vulnerable businesses impacted by congestion and the uncertainty in the supply chain were importers and distributors “fighting to meet delivery deadlines set by their retailer customers.

“They simply cannot predict when the goods they have paid so much to have transported will actually be available,” it said. “Not only have they blown their logistics budgets this year, but they are facing stiff penalty charges for late delivery and possible loss of future contracts.”

Source : The Loadstar