Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Direct Container service from Chennai to Belgium, UK, Netherlands and Germany…. ICON service.

Something happening at Chennai again -  Shipping Corporation of India for long was the only the Indian shipping Co with a container fleet deployed for international cargo movement.  It has about five liners.    Their cellular service has a history with MV Lal Bahadur Shastri, Rajiv Gandhi and Indira Gandhi have all completed 16 years in service.  Further there are MV SCI Chennai and SCI Mumbai augmenting the fleet strength. 

SCI was established way back in 1961 with the amalgamation of Eastern Shipping Corporation and Western Shipping Corporation. The Nation’s premier shipping line has  significant presence on the global maritime map.  It has a well diversified fleet of crude tankers of all sizes and assortment of bulk carriers. 

Now, Maersk, World’s largest container lines has launched its first direct service to North Europe from the Chennai Container Terminal in Chennai Port. The new service named ICON was inaugurated on 14th Mar 11 with  a ceremony held onboard the MV Maersk Miami.   The new facility is to provide direct and faster coverage from Chennai Port to North Europe.  A direct service naturally would bring in greater saving of both time and money as it eliminates transshipment and extra handling at Colombo.  The Ports of Call on this line would be Chennai – Colombo – Salalah – Zeebrugge – Felixstowe – RotterdamBremerhaven.  It is claimed that it would take 20 days to reach Belgium, 23 days to Netherlands and 24 days to Germany. 

This ICON is another addition. Maersk recently launched a weekly service between US and Peru – the *** Spondylus route Paita, Peru, Miami, Newark to Philadephia.

Coming back, the ICON would benefit retailers in North Europe as they would have a faster and reliable connection for importing garments and textiles from their sources of South India.   This would also benefit the feeder line from Bangladesh to Colombo and boost rice, coffee and jute commodities.  The Indian subcontinent would get automobiles, chemicals, waste paper and scrap metal on the way back.

Cellular vessels are reigning the Ocean with their special design and efficiency in storage.  These vessels which carry intermodal containers are economical.  The box primarily offers voluminous space for various types of goods and the stowage pattern is many a times designed with computer sketches for maximization and optimization of storage space.  There are some special purpose built containers which for the sake of protecting cargo – ill affords economy.  Special garment hanger containers are one such type and this service would provide such hanging garment containers fitted with hanger beams which ensure that garments are transported in good condition and are ready to place directly into retail outlets.  Such an operation would reduce the lead time as no additional packing is required.  In some ways, the less cargo also helps as it reduces the weight.  

Shipping Lines generally accept containers loaded with loose garments on hangers on CY basis only.  These containers should have special hanger fittings such as beams, plastic lining and ropes on which the garments are loosely but properly secured.

The first one on this route was by Maersk Miami, which one would recall had a major engine room fire whilst on a voyage off the West coast of India.   This is a 1994 built 56248 GT, Liberian flagged containership.   During March 2010, the vessel bound for JNPT laen with cargo caught fire 43 NM off the Goa coast.   All the 23 crew members were rescued and there was no loss of lives.  Its distress signal was picked by  Indian Coast Guard Ship (ICGS) Shubadra Kumari Chauhan off the Tarapur coast, which alerted the Indian Navy. The navy sent its FAC-82 high-speed patrol boats with medical assistance.  The rescue ships were able to douse the fire sooner and the vessel was towed to safety.  

***Spondylus is a genus of bivalve molluscs and the Spondylus route is a trail down Ecuador’s coast.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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