- Posted by Juan Pulgar 21 Jan
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Specialised reefer operator Seatrade is starting its own full container service.
January 14th, 2016 18:00 GMT by Ian Lewis London Published in Weekly
It will be run by StreamLines, the container arm of the Antwerp-managed reefer operator, linking Northern Europe to Central America and Florida.
Seatrade managing director Yntze Buitenwerf says the move has been years in the making as part of its investment plan.
He adds that 50% of what Seatrade carries is already handled in containers but believes the company can compete with conventional liner operators by operating faster, more direct services.
Seatrade already has six fully cellular boxships of 2,200 teu under construction at Yangfan Group’s facility in China, as well as six options. The first of those vessels is scheduled for delivery in May, with the others coming by the end of the year. They are not destined for the new StreamLines service, called Blue Stream, but could instead operate on other trades out of Central America, West Coast South America (WCSA) and Australasia.
The new container service will instead operate using five smaller chartered boxships with an average capacity of 1,350 teu and fitted with up to 450 reefer plugs. Rates for the vessels are historically low, with one of the ships, the 1,341-teu Max Winner (built 2008), reportedly taken for two to six months at $7,900 per day. The vessel is scheduled to make its first sailing on the service on 15 January, following the 1,368-teu Norderoog (built 2004) last week and ahead of the 1,678-teu Victoria (built 2004) later in the month.
The move marks another step in the development of StreamLines, which Seatrade incorporated in Curacao in 2008 when it acquired the commercial operations of bankrupt niche Caribbean carrier Europe West Indies Line (EWL).
StreamLines has tripled volumes since then, although the cargo has mostly been carried on reefers below deck or on deck in containers.
Buitenwerf says Seatrade is able to compete with the big lines by offering fast, direct and dedicated (FDD) services between loading ports and specialist reefer terminals. The drift of container lines towards bigger ships and slow steaming has not benefitted transit times, which remain important to shippers of perishable cargoes, says Buitenwerf.
Seatrade’s decision to open a fully cellular service is seen as a further sign that the world’s largest reefer operator is ready to defend its position against box lines for the transport of perishable cargoes.