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CMA CGM, a world leader in shipping and logistics, and TotalEnergies have launched Marseilles’ inaugural ship-to-containership Liquefied Natural Gas bunkering operation in the Port of Marseille Fos, Southern France.
CMA CGM BALI, a 15,000 TEU LNG-powered containership is deployed on the MEX 1 service, connecting Asia and South Europe. She is being refuelled by TotalEnergies’ Gas Vitality, the first LNG bunker vessel based in France, with around 6,000m3 of LNG, by means of a ship-toship transfer alongside the Eurofos container terminal, while the containership carried out cargo operations simultaneously. The Gas Vitality is TotalEnergies’ second chartered LNG bunker vessel and owned by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd (MOL).
This entire operation underlines a solid collaborative teamwork across the French maritime industry, the excellence of its value chain and the involvement of local port authorities to enable the vessels’ safe operatorship.
CMA CGM pioneers France’s LNG field of excellence in maritime transport
In November of 2017, Rodolphe Saadé, CMA CGM Group’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, decided to make CMA CGM the first ship-owner in the world to equip its flagship 23,000-TEU vessels with engines using liquefied natural gas (LNG) – a first in the history of shipping for Ultra Large Container Vessels. CMA CGM has chosen TotalEnergies as part of a major industrial partnership to supply them with gas in Rotterdam, Singapore and Marseille. Thereby making CMA CGM the initiator in structuring a genuine LNG field of excellence in maritime transport. Marseille is the first LNG bunkering hub in France for shipping, for all the Mediterranean and South Europe area, and CMA CGM’s third one to be created after Rotterdam and Singapore.
By the end of 2024, the CMA CGM Group will have a fleet of 44 LNG-powered vessels, “emethane ready” of various sizes and 24 are already in service. The engines deployed on these vessels already have the technical capability of using bio-methane (already in use) and emethane, a carbon-neutral fuel, making them simultaneously an immediate and a long-term solution to the challenge of decarbonization.
LNG, a concrete commitment to energy transition in shipping
LNG is the most advanced available solution when it comes to preserving air quality, a major public health challenge for communities in coastal areas and port cities. It reduces sulfur oxide emissions by 99%, particulate matter emissions by 91%, and nitrogen oxide emissions by 92%. A LNG-powered vessel also emits up to 23%1 less greenhouse gas emissions than conventional fuel-powered systems.
Prior to this milestone bunkering operation, the Gas Vitality was loaded with LNG at Elengy’s Fos Cavaou LNG terminal on December 28, 2021, which also marks the terminal’s first loading of a small-scale LNG carrier.
Christine Cabau, Executive Vice President Operations and Assets of the CMA CGM Group said “This LNG bunkering operation is an important milestone for our group, in many ways. It sets France and Marseille maritime and port cluster on the frontline for the decarbonization of shipping. It enhances LNG solutions as the first step of a broader industrial strategy that will take us to alternative fuels such as biomethane and e-methane. It is also another proof of the commitment of CMA CGM toward Marseilles and its region. We are very proud to act both globally and locally to develop sustainably our business”.
“TotalEnergies is delighted to successfully complete Marseille’s first LNG bunkering operation of a containership via the Gas Vitality. Her deployment underscores the Company’s commitment to support the French port’s ambition to be an LNG bunkering hub for the Mediterranean region,” said Jérôme Leprince-Ringuet, Vice-President Marine Fuels at TotalEnergies. “This landmark operation also demonstrates our continued support to the growing role of LNG in shipping’s energy transition. In line with TotalEnergies’ climate ambition, we will continue to work hand-in-hand with our industry partners to develop and scale up new, lower-carbon and ultimately, zero-carbon fuel solutions for shipping.”
Hervé Martel, CEO, Port of Marseille Fos, said, “This is a new milestone for the port of Marseille Fos, which is undoubtedly an essential LNG hub in the Mediterranean. The energy transition operated at Marseille Fos involves all the partners. The port is resolutely committed to this path: that of environmental excellence. This operation is proof of effective joint work and an additional attractiveness argument for our port.”
Cyril Ducau, CEO of Eastern Pacific Shipping said, “EPS is pleased to be part of this landmark operation as it confirms the importance of LNG in the industry’s energy transition. In addition, the operations in Marseille prove that the needed infrastructure to facilitate LNG bunkering is already in place. By teaming up with environmentally conscious partners such as CMA CGM, TotalEnergies, and the Port of Marseille, shipping companies have the ability to significantly lower their emissions today while developing alternative solutions for tomorrow. EPS is proud to have a series of LNG-powered vessels chartered to CMA CGM, and we are excited that this will be the first of many successful LNG operations in France”.
Xeneta forecasts “extremely challenging” 2023 for the ocean freight market
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After over two years of rising rates and overstretched capacity, the rapidly cooling ocean freight market looks set for an “extremely challenging” 2023, according to Oslo-based Xeneta. An in-depth analysis of the latest real-time ocean and air freight rates, combined with expert trend forecasts, suggests that ocean cargo volumes could fall by up to 2.5%, rates will drop “significantly” and weak demand will force increased idling of vessels. The air freight market, analysts predict, will also face a turbulent twelve months.
Out of balance
From climbing to historical highs during the global pandemic, ocean freight rates have fallen away – and in the case of spot rates, dramatically so – since the summer. Xeneta’s market report, built on the foundation of the team’s crowd-sourced data from leading global shippers, suggests there’ll be no change in course for 2023, with challenging macroeconomic and geopolitical outlooks undermining confidence.
Xeneta CEO Patrik Berglund says difficult times await stakeholders right across the ocean and air freight value chain.
He notes: “The cost-of-living crisis is eating into consumer spending power, leaving little appetite for imported, containerized goods. With no sign of a global panacea to remedy that, we’d expect ocean freight volumes to drop, possibly by around 2.5%. That said, if the economic situation deteriorates further, it could be even more.
“Allied to dropping volumes, we have a growing world fleet, with a nominal inflow of 1.65m TEU of capacity. Some demolitions will dent that growth, but we still expect an increase in capacity of 5.9%. Even if demolitions double from our current level of expectations, the industry would still be looking at an almost 5% expansion.”
The upshot of that, Berglund explains, is overcapacity, necessitating an increased idling of assets. From a current position of “next to nothing,” Xeneta forecasts idling of up to 1m TEU – “maybe even more,” says the CEO.
This cocktail of weak demand, dropping volumes, and an increase in capacity will, inevitably, impact negatively on rates, says Berglund. He comments:
“We expect to see significant reductions. Carriers have proved adept at protecting and elevating rates during COVID, but with too much capacity and easing port congestion on most major trade lanes, they’ll be fighting losing battles in 2023. We could see spot rates on some key corridors drop below pre-pandemic levels during the first half of 2023, while long-term rates will fall rapidly as older, expensive contracts expire, and new, far lower contracts are signed. However, long-term rates will not drop below spot rates during the first half of 2023.
“As far as upcoming contract negotiations go, it’s imperative to keep an eye on the very latest market data to obtain optimal value. However, those talks will be difficult for all parties. The carriers will be desperate for volumes, but, at the same time, the shippers won’t have the high volumes that unlock the best prices. What we might see is that Freight Forwarders are the big winners, as they can find a sweet spot, serving the SMEs while playing the short market against carriers. Regardless, there’s both opportunity and challenges ahead, in the short- and long-term.”
Fasten your seat belts
One area where the ocean freight market may benefit is from a potential reduction in air freight. Xeneta says this segment faces a “bumpy ride” as lower ocean costs and better-scheduled reliability (from easing port congestion and available capacity) may tempt some shippers to make a modal shift. In a climate of increasing environmental awareness, shippers focused on sustainability may also be tempted to switch ‘general’ cargoes from the skies to the waves.
“To be fair, a shift in general volumes wouldn’t be too significant for the ocean freight carriers, but it would strongly impact on the air segment, where cargoes are obviously far smaller.”
Berglund adds that increasing ‘belly’ capacity, with easing travel restrictions, will be supplemented by the arrival of conversion and freighter orders placed during the air cargo peak. This will lead the air segment to join its ocean freight sibling in the overcapacity corner, with, he notes, “a negative impact on load factors and rates.”
In conclusion, the Xeneta CEO underlines the complexity of challenges facing the industry, with economic uncertainty, geopolitical concern, ongoing industrial action on logistics chains, China’s continued zero-COVID policy and the combination of weak demand, easing congestion and increased freight capacity.
“I’d like to wish everyone a Happy New Year in advance, but there’s not that much for the industry to look forward to at present,” he states. “However, as we’ve seen over the past couple of years, predictions are almost impossible to make in a world that moves ever-faster, so there may be unknown factors waiting in the wings to influence markets.”
He continues: “For example, what happens if the Ukraine-Russia war comes to an end sooner rather than later? This could drive down certain costs again, giving consumers a positive boost. However, on the flip side, it’s important to always stay ‘on your toes,’ as we could experience a second economic downturn at the drop of a hat. These ‘what ifs’ can, yet again, throw a curveball for the industry, just as we saw when COVID hit. If we’ve learned anything in the past couple of years, it’s that planning for the unthinkable ‘what ifs’ must be top of mind.”
The new Arctic Container Line connects Hamburg with Norway
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The newly established shipping line “Arctic Container Line”, based in Fonnes, Norway will start its new feeder service connecting Hamburg and Bremerhaven to the Norwegian West Coast this week. The service will be covered by the 712 TEU geared vessel “RS Mistral” and comes in addition to the Rotterdam service started already in June.
Arctic Container Line was established in March 2022 and is part of the Myklebusthaug Group, who owns 6 container vessels, as well as offshore and general cargo vessels.
Line manager Eivind Bergland states in a comment that the young company has been welcomed very well by the market, and that they have positive expectations to the new service.
“The last few months has shown us that the market has confidence in us, and that our customers believe that we can add extra value through operating our own vessels in a liner service. We are now exploring possibilities of adding even more ports to our services.” said Eivind Bergland.
The Norwegian ports covered by Arctic Container Line are Egersund, Tananger, Haugesund, Bergen, Florø, Ålesund and Orkanger.
Portchain partners with Hapag-Lloyd to deploy Portchain Connect
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Portchain announced a 5-year global partnership with Hapag-Lloyd to deploy Portchain Connect across their global operations. Portchain Connect digitizes the berth alignment process between carriers and terminals, empowering them to make earlier and more frequent planning decisions for the benefit of schedule reliability and terminal asset utilization. This digital transformation will further position Hapag-Lloyd to accelerate other initiatives that rely on timely and accurate schedule information to serve their customers better.
Using Portchain Connect, Hapag-Lloyd will transform their traditional email and phone communication to a digital flow of information for aligning berth arrival information with terminals, offering their terminal network direct access to schedule updates and essential vessel call information on the platform. By taking this step, Hapag-Lloyd empowers terminals with the data to optimize their berth planning, leading to improved customer service and improved asset utilization.
“We are delighted to be working with Portchain on digitizing and streamlining our berth alignment processes and look forward to creating value for our important Terminal partners throughout our network. We believe in the power of leveraging automated data flows to optimize our Port Calls and create transparency and efficiency for our valued Marine and Port Operations teams globally’’ said Andrew Allen, Director – Terminal Partnering, Hapag-Lloyd.
Hapag-Lloyd chose to partner with Portchain because of its experience with solving berth alignment inefficiencies in container shipping, and its position as a neutral software vendor focused on creating value for both carriers and terminals. Portchain provides a platform that enables carriers and terminals to securely share their schedule and berthing data with each other through their systems and an easy-to-use web application. The unique combination of system and user-generated data ensures that any container terminal or ocean carrier can join the network – no matter how large, small or digitally mature their operation is.
Portchain Connect facilitates digital handshakes and alignment between the terminal, carrier and connected stakeholders. This alignment process enables the opportunity to capture the benefits of Just-In-Time arrivals, which the IMO estimate can reduce CO2 emissions and bunker consumption by 5.9% in the 24 hours leading up to arrival.
Portchain Connect has been adopted by 33 terminals in the past 10 months, and the growth of the network is accelerating. Network growth will be further reinforced by 3 ocean carriers trialing the platform in the coming months.
“We are excited to partner with Hapag-Lloyd to digitalize the berth alignment process with terminals across the world. Hapag-Lloyd is an ambitious ocean carrier that is taking big steps to digitalize its operations and enable Just-In-Time Arrivals with its terminal network. We are excited to help them unlock the value of their data, providing terminals with more accurate and timely information to improve terminal efficiency.” commented Niels Kristiansen, CEO & Co-Founder, Portchain.
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