Maersk Line, the Danish container operator has announced last week to lay up one of its giant Triple-E vessels of 18.000 TEU for a period of minimum six weeks in an attempt to anticipate the
2M Alliance loop cancellations between Europe and Asia.

The move to idle the Triple-E vessel followed a profit warning from the Maersk group which lowered its full-year profit forecast for the container division by us$ 600 million to us$ 1.6 billion. It blamed freight rates which “significantly deteriorated”, especially on its main Asia-Europe route in the latter

CEO Nils Andersen from Maerks group has indicated during a recent analysts call to give a “more detailed” response to the dramatic downturn. He confirmed that for surplus vessels there was no other option than to return ships to owners at the end of time charters, and for owned tonnage to enter lay-up in the interim.

The decision by the world’s top container shipping line, Maersk, to lay-up one of its 18,000-TEU ships is expected to prompt other ocean liners to remove surplus ships from service.

The cutback in services during the winter slack season will result in the total capacity of laid-up vessels breaching the 1 million TEU mark, the highest level since the financial crisis began, according to Alphaliner.

Its latest data shows 263 idled containerships, totalling 934,700 TEU and representing 4.7 per cent of the total global fleet. This includes 23 ships with a capacity of 7,500 TEU or more.

In this sub-economic container freight environment NOL has posted a third quarter net loss of us$ 96 million, while Chinese carriers Cosco and CSCL suffered a combined loss of us $426 million.

Analysts Drewry said: “Carriers have thus far been able to stay in the black, despite rapidly decreasing freight rates, because they have managed to cut costs even harder, but the extent of the pricing decline seen recently will exceed any cost savings and tip many carriers towards the red zone, some quicker than others.