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Three years ago, no shipping line except the Chinese-flag state carriers dared send their mainline ships to Chinese ports.
Chinese ports, foreign carriers said, are slow and ill-equipped to handle big containerships--they are best avoided and left to Chinese feeder operators.
Now, all major carriers are doing just the opposite. More than 12 foreign lines have started or announced the start of direct China services. Still more would like to, but they are queueing at the doors of Chinese ministries to obtain berthing permits in China.
The attraction of direct China calls for carriers is to get a share of the biggest and fastest-growing market in Asia. For shippers, too, the introduction of direct calls in China will mean some cost savings, transit-time improvements and opportunities to make competition between carriers work to their advantage.
In early February, Maersk Line and Sea-Land Service commenced direct calls at Shanghai with one of their transpacific West Coast services. They aim to cut transit times between Shanghai and Long Beach from around 18 days to 13 days.
Like many other carriers, Maersk and Sea-Land had feedered cargoes ex-Shanghai to a Japanese port, where containers were transshipped onto their trunk line Pacific vessels.
In April, Hanjin Shipping is extending its Pacific U.S. West Coast "Pusan Express Service" to Shanghai, which will offer a Shanghai/Long Beach transit time of 13 days.
Madrigal-Wan Hai Lines expanded its transpacific container/breakbulk service to include direct calls at Xiamen, Central China. Direct calls were to begin in March, with service every two weeks. Transit time from Xiamen to Long Beach will be 16 days.
Alliances Mean Business. In January, the global alliance of American President Lines, Orient Overseas …