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Maersk Clears Suez Ships but Isn’t Taking New Short-Term Bookings

Maersk on Wednesday noted positive progress with efforts to process a lengthy line of vessels waiting at the recently unblocked Suez Canal, but warned clearing through the queue could last until the end of the week.

When the delayed vessels start hitting the next load ports in both Asia and Europe, the world’s largest ocean carrier said it “cannot avoid a significant impact on our equipment availability and capacity availability in the coming period.”

“We urge our customers not to think that the situation is resolved and advise you to prioritize the most urgent/critical goods to be shipped first due to the foreseeable limitations in the weeks to come,” Maersk said in its advisory. “We are closely looking at how we can adjust the network to avoid port congestions and we are so far managing to plan vessel calls without major clashes. We will be working directly with our customers on their import shipments, minimizing delays as best possible.”

After the canal was reopened for passage, Maersk said it has seen 43 vessels from the total queue pass on Monday, 66 on Tuesday and expects close to max capacity to pass through on Wednesday. Maersk and partners have so far seen 17 vessels waiting at anchorage able to transit the canal, a critical route for global trade.

“The next challenge is to get the services back on schedule, as we have near 50 vessels delayed for a full week or more due to the Suez blockage, either waiting at the Canal or being redirected South of Africa,” Maersk said. “We are doing our utmost to mitigate the impact on lost capacity and because of this, we have decided to temporarily cease short term bookings placed via Spot, as well as short term contracts this week and in the immediate future on selected trades. We want to assure you that this is only temporary and …we will be accepting short term bookings on all other services, where local availability allows.”

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Routes where short-term bookings are suspended until further notice include all exports from Asia; exports from Europe to Asia, the Middle East, the Indian Sub-Continent and Oceania; exports out of North America to the Middle East, Indian Sub-Continent and East Africa, and some exports from Latin America and Africa.

In terms of equipment, Maersk said there are three factors at play–the continuation of efforts to position dry and reefer equipment as intended and needed at origin; reviewing how sailings in the coming weeks may be adjusted, which will affect the delivery of laden and empty containers to those origins, and terminal capacity around the world as terminals and container yards are currently faced with capacity restrictions in many locations.

For its part, container ship operator CMA CGM said for vessels arrivals between Wednesday until the weekend, delays of one to two days may be expected, and “we expect a more normalized situation by next week.”