Frustrated North European exporters to China are said to be “snapping-up” space on a disrupter container line sailing that begins its eastbound loading programme at the end of next week.

The 3,534 teu Guenther Schulte, operated by Dubai-headquartered CargoGulf, is en route to North Europe with a full load of Asian exports, the second headhaul ad-hoc sailing performed by the panamax vessel.

But on this voyage, CargoGulf is also tapping into the backhaul market and export cargo left stranded on quays at North European hubs.

Ocean carriers are skipping numerous calls at North European box ports, due to berthing delays, and overlanding imports at the next available port for relay to the original destination.

However, this means export cargo not making nominated sailings is left for the next available vessel, which can see these containers delayed for several weeks.

Moreover, even if the ship does make its intended call, carriers are prioritising the shipment of empty equipment over laden exports – a situation one UK forwarder described as “a growing nightmare”.

“Only this week I had an export load, with carrier haulage due to load at 8am. We had a late-running notice in the morning to say the driver was stuck in traffic with an eta to be advised. We tried to call the carrier multiple times during the day, but it was impossible to get hold of anyone, and we had no response to our emails.”

The forwarder said the job ended up failing, and he had to wait until the following day for a response and a rebooking on the next available ship.

“All in all, a headache,” he said.

While extra loaders and ad-hoc sailings on the Asia-North Europe tradelane have concentrated on the lucrative headhaul market, where freight can cost as much as $18,000 per 40ft, the extra revenue generated from a full backload will more than compensate for the additional charter hire and port calls.

CargoGulf released the eastbound schedule of the Guenther Schulte today, commencing at Southampton on 29 October, Gothenburg and Aarhus on 1 November, Rotterdam on 3 November and Hamburg on 5 November, with an eta at Qingdao on 8 December, Shanghai, 13 December, and Ningbo, 14 December.

The operator has not so far said if it intends to perform further round-trips between China and North Europe.

However, CargoGulf took the vessel on charter in February for 15 months at $23,000 a day, a rate that compares very favourably with the current charter market average of $40,000 to $50,000. So if freight rates remain elevated and demand is still strong, there seems no reason why the carrier would not want to continue its ad-hoc sailings, or even upgrade to a liner service.

According to one UK agency source, bookings for the North Europe sailing were “even better than expected”, and added: “With the disruption to the carrier schedules, shippers are snapping up bookings on the vessel to China.”

Source : The Loadstar