Shipping: Link to increase power

Vietnam National Shipping Lines (Vinalines) will continue focusing on the linkage among shipping companies to increase resources, improve competitiveness and open new transport routes in the future, General Director of Vietnam National Shipping Lines Nguyễn Cảnh Tĩnh said.

Tĩnh said a new container transport route to Hong Kong was recently opened thanks to a partnership between two Vinalines members -- Vinalines Container Shipping Company (Vinalines Container) and Biển Đông Shipping Company Ltd.

Accordingly, the container ships of these two companies will carry some 1,800 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent unit) per 14-day round trip (HCM City-Hải Phòng-Hong Kong-Hải Phòng-HCM City) through Tân Vũ and Tân Thuận ports in Việt Nam and HIT Port in Hong Kong.

“This is a new service in the model of ‘alliance of shipping firms in the world’ to maintain the regular schedule of ships at ports,” Tĩnh said.

Earlier, members of Vinalines, including Vinalines Shipping Company, Vietnam Shipping Company (Vosco), Vinaship and Đông Đô Marine JSC, signed a framework agreement on fertiliser transportation with giant Malaysian corporations such as Petronas Chemicals Marketing Ltd, and Hemat Marine Sdn Bhd.

Under the agreement, the Vinalines shipping vessel fleet will transport fertiliser from Malaysia to Thailand and the Philippines, with an estimated transportation volume of 1-2 million tonnes per year.

Tĩnh said the linkage was needed because the shipping crisis had led to more and more mergers between carriers worldwide. In 2010, the shipping alliances accounted for less than 30 per cent of the total global capacity. By 2016, this rate was up to 76 per cent.

Over the past 10 years, the maritime industry has fluctuated drastically. The size of the ships has increased while the number of major shipping firms has decreased due to acquisitions and mergers. It is calculated that for more than three years from January 2015 to April 2017, half of the world's 20 largest shipping firms have "disappeared" due to acquisitions such as APL, or merged with other companies such as China Shipping, or gone bankrupt like Hanjin.

Competition is increasingly fierce

In 2012 and 2013, many shipping companies said this was a time of crisis, shipping operation would hit the bottom, and then it would recover. However, since then, there have been no signs of recovery -- freight is still low and there is a shortage of goods for transport, while there are too many ships participating in inland transport, including the river ships.

On international shipping lines, Việt Nam's container shipping firms have only been responsible for transporting by feeders, which collect shipping containers from different ports and transport them to central container terminal where they are loaded to bigger vessels, and have not yet been used for distant routes.

By this time, many leading brokerage companies in the field of sea transportation and maritime experts around the world expected that the shipping market would enter the recovery stage over the next few years. According to the World Trade Organisation’s schedule, after being allowed to set up wholly-foreign investment companies in Việt Nam, international shipping firms are boosting investment and operation in the Vietnamese market, instead of just picking up goods at major ports such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Kaohsiung, and hiring freight feeders from Việt Nam to ports in the region.

In mid-2016, Maersk Lines, which has its parent shipment at the Cái Mép International Terminal (CMIT) to the east and west of the United States, proposed that the Transport Ministry allow its ships to transport internally, collecting import and export goods of Việt Nam, both from the northern and central areas to Cái Mép-Thị Vải Port.

Open new route, provide package service

Recent two-year results of Vinalines show that even though seaports and maritime services have seen strong growth and are profitable, it was only enough for shipping operation. Parallel with the restructuring of the fleet, comprehensive financial restructuring and cost reduction, research to seek new business direction for shipping enterprises has become an urgent and survival task.

In June 2017, the Vinalines Container opened a new waterway service on barge on the route between Hải Phòng and Việt Trì, with weekly capacity of 2-3 barges departing from Hải Linh Port to Hải Phòng. Figures until the end of October 2017 showed that the company transported nearly 900 TEUs. The figure is expected to reach 1,000 TEUs by the end of this year.

In the Cửu Long Mekong Delta, the Vinalines Container previously used two-way shipping barges from ports in Cái Cui, Hoàng Diệu and Trà Nóc areas, transiting at ports in HCM City such as Tân Thuận, Cát Lái, VICT, Bến Nghé and Dầu thực vật, before moving to the central and northern provinces and vice versa. After one year of boosting the inland waterway shipping service in the delta, the volume of containers shipped by barges reached nearly 14,000 TEUs in the first 10 months of this year, marking an increase of nearly 60 per cent compared with the same period last year.

The reopening of this waterway route is part of a logistics package, including port-shipping-maritime services,that Vinalines is implementing to increase the added value and contribute to significantly reducing the pressure on the road system under the direction of the Ministry of Transport, said Tĩnh.