Maersk, Others seek Asia-US Peak-season Surcharge

AP Moeller-Maersk A/S, owner of the world’s biggest container shipping line, and 14 other carriers will seek a peak-season surcharge two months later than previously scheduled amid weaker-than-expected demand.

The shipping lines will ask customers to pay an additional fee for cargo to the US from Asia, the 15-member Transpacific Stabilization Agreement said in a statement dated Aug 3.

The group had said in November it would impose a US$400 per 40-foot container surcharge from June 15.

Maersk and the other 14 member lines refrained from adding surcharges in June and July, a sign that the seasonal increase in demand as US retailers restock for back-to-school and holiday shopping periods is weaker than usual.

The companies may face more resistance to the fee after US consumer spending unexpectedly fell in June for the first time in almost two years.

‘There are doubts about how successful the shipping lines will be on levying the surcharge considering how US consumers appear to be less eager to spend money,’ said Shin Ji Yoon, an analyst at KTB Investment & Securities Co in Seoul. ‘Shipping lines are having problems filling up space on their vessels, while costs such as fuel are high. That’s not a good combination.’

Fuel costs jumped 34 per cent this year, while railroad and trucking charges have also increased on key routes, the shipping group said.

The price of 380 Centistoke marine bunker fuel, used by ships, fell 0.3 per cent to US$680.50 per tonne in Singapore on Wednesday, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It rose to US$688.50 on Aug 1, the highest since Sept 1, 2008.

China Shipping Container Lines, the country’s second-biggest carrier of sea-cargo boxes, dropped as much as 2.8 per cent to HK$2.05 and traded at HK$2.09 as of 1 pm in Hong Kong. Hanjin Shipping Co, South Korea’s largest, fell as much as 2 per cent to 19,900 won in Seoul.

‘Forward bookings suggest the beginning of a late trans-Pacific peak amid higher costs,’ the TSA said in the statement.

Members of the group include APL Ltd, Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, China Shipping Container Lines, CMA CGM SA, Mediterranean Shipping Co, Cosco Container Lines Ltd, Nippon Yusen KK, Evergreen Line, Orient Overseas Container Line Ltd, Hanjin Shipping, Yangming Marine Transport Corp, Hapag-Lloyd AG, Zim Integrated Shipping Services Ltd and Hyundai Merchant Marine Co.

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