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SM Line cuts intra-Asia services to focus on transpacific trade

SM Line Corporation is shrinking its intra-East Asia services to focus on its transpacific routes now that it’s part of the 2M network with Maersk Line and MSC.

Formed in 2016, when the Samra Midas Group acquired the business of bankrupt Hanjin Shipping, SM Line said that it will axe its South Korea-Japan (KJX) and South Korea-China (KCX) services in April 2020.

The KJX service, now served by the 700TEU vessel Contship Day, will end nearly three years from its first day of operations, with its last sailing on 31 March. The service loop is Gwangyang, Busan, Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, Kobe and Gwangyang.

The KCX service’s last sailing is on 1 April. Served by the 2,800TEU Bomar Hamburg, the service loop is Busan, Xingang (Tianjin) and Qingdao.

Due to higher container movements between Busan and Shanghai, SM Line is planning to expand its service along this route from mid-April. The company already covers this loop through its Vietnam Thailand Express service and, is submitting revised port plans to the Yellow Sea Liner Committee, which covers seaborne container trade between South Korea and China.

Intra-East Asia services have been especially hard-hit by the COVID-19 outbreak, as the region is the epicentre of the illness.

Checks that shipping consultancy Drewry made with Chinese port operators indicate that volumes were down by 20-40% in the three weeks from 20 January to 10 February.

Drewry said, “Even in this most optimistic scenario it is hard to see how the container market can come out completely unscathed. While all of the Chinese ports, apart from Wuhan, have remained open, they are not operating at full capacity, with staff shortages arising from travel restrictions and quarantine measures. Extended factory shutdowns have also limited movement of cargoes destined for those ports and when monthly port throughput data is finally released, there will be a significant shortfall.”

Martina Li
Asia Correspondent

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