Maersk Sealand, part of Danish A.P. Moeller shipping and oil group, expects container rates to rise on the world`s main routes despite an economic slowdown in the U.S. "We are talking about increasing container rates by $525 per container from Asia to the U.S. We do expect higher rates from Asia to Europe and from Europe to the U.S. this year," Jesper Kjaedegaard, Maersk Sealand deputy director, said.
Kjaedegaard`s remarks echoed uncertainty over a possible looming U.S. recession denting world trade and with it container traffic. Investment fund Carnegie World-Wide has halved its five percent stake in Moeller company D/S Svendborg to 2.5 percent due to the gloomy U.S. outlook, Danish financial daily Borsen said on Tuesday.
"We believe the company will suffer relatively badly if U.S. economic growth really slows down. A downturn will negatively affect freight rates
as well as oil and dollar," the fund said.
"We have taken our precautions against whatever situation might occur," Kjaedegaard said but did not elaborate. Kjaedegaard added that last year`s double-digit growth in U.S. container volumes is over.
"January figures nonetheless showed a marginal growth in traffic to the U.S. We still see a growth scenario of a few percentage points," Kjaedegaard said.
Maersk Sealand is at present working on reducing costs following Maersk Line`s acquisition of U.S. Sealand`s international container activities in 1999.
Danish media have recently speculated that Maersk Sealand might be poised to build a new 10,000 teu (twenty-foot equivalent unit) super container, with the aim of increasing efficiency and cutting costs.
The line`s biggest container vessel is 6,600 teu. Kjaedegaard declined to comment on the media talk.
Maersk Sealand`s fleet grew 12 percent in 2000 to 297 ships totaling 694,000 teu, according to French shipping consultancy BRS Alpha liner
. - (Retuers)