OT Africa Line
(OTAL) announced some changes to its North Europe – West Africa services
. These take into account various factors including a slight downturn in overall trade volumes, civil unrest in certain countries and improved availability of roll-on, roll-off multi-purpose tonnage.
OTAL’s RoRo service is resuming its nine day frequency utilising six vessels
on a 45-day round-trip schedule. This has been made possible by the return to the service of Rokia Delmas and Rosa Delmas. Both ships have recently been employed in support of the military action in Iraq and during their absence, the service was reduced to an eleven-day frequency utilizing three RoRo vessels.
The company’s Express Container Service has switched to a fixed day fortnightly schedule utilizing three modern 900 TEU vessels. Previously four ships were employed to offer sailings every eleven days.
Unchanged though is the Weekly Container Service (HEB) which continues to employ five ships, each of around 1600TEU.
OTAL’s Marketing Manager Rachel Bennett says it is hard to remember a time when there has been a greater need for flexibility:
“The West African trades have never been easy. There always seems to be political or economic instability in one or more of the countries we serve. However, 2003 has already seen civil unrest to some degree in five of these nations. Not all impact significantly on cargo volumes but inevitably, some do.
“As an example, the political problems in Ivory Coast have caused shipments of cocoa to fluctuate with slightly reduced volumes overall. Ivory Coast is the world's largest cocoa producer, accounting for 40% of the world’s market.”
There are bright spots though, says Ms Bennett:
“Angola is booming now. The country has been in turmoil for so long but at last, it seems that there is light at the end of the tunnel. As is well-known, Angola is potentially a very wealthy country, rich in natural resources, and if everything holds together, its importance within the North Europe – West Africa trade is bound to increase markedly.”
OTAL’s Deputy Managing Director Bart Foley comments that the strong Euro is making itself felt too:
“Since the beginning of this year, the trade has been quite flat. We suspect that despite the SARS virus, West African importers are turning increasingly to China and other Asian countries for some of their requirements, at the expense of European manufacturers.”
Despite this flattening out of the market, Mr Foley is delighted to see that recent freight rate increases
are holding reasonably well:
“The carriers are all holding firm, which is just as well since we are all experiencing higher costs. The cost of chartering containerships is very high at the moment, primarily due to strong demand on other global trades. West African ports still leave a lot to be desired in terms of efficiency and vessel delays are commonplace. And then there is the strong Euro again: European suppliers are finding their goods less competitive forcing African agents to seek better value elsewhere."