Melbourne port receives green light to handle larger containerships

COSCO, OOCL and ANL's plans to dramatically upscale the size of the
containerships deployed on their joint Asia-Australia service means
that the size of ships calling at Australia's port of Melbourne will
rise significantly.

The current string comprises five 5,500-6,000 TEU ships, however,
Melbourne port's regulatory authority has been given the go-ahead for
OOCL and Cosco to berth vessels in the 8,000-8,900 TEU range, reported
UK's The Loadstar.

Specifically, the Victorian Ports Corporation (VPC) has given
permission to conduct berthing trials for the 8,063 TEU OOCL Shenzhen,
the 8,888 TEU OOCL Beijing and the 8,200 TEU Cosco China.

The trials will initially be carried out at the Victoria International
Container Terminal (VICT), while simulation and studies to raise
vessel sizes at Melbourne's Swanson Dock are ongoing.

The introduction of the new vessels will go some way to quietening
accusations that Melbourne's two other terminal operators - DP World
and Patrick - had been lobbying behind the scenes to prevent VICT from
receiving authorisation to handle bigger ships.

Access to the DP World and Patrick terminals at Swanson Dock is
limited and the longest ship to call there was the 306-metre, 6,500
TEU Al Kharj, and the two operators are understood to be worried that
the introduction of larger containerships at the port would make their
facilities uneconomical.

However, the continued delay in VICT receiving permission to
accommodate larger vessels has also been blamed for Sydney overtaking
Melbourne to become the country's top container gateway.

With Sydney now able to handle vessels of up to 10,000 TEU, its
advantage is obvious, even though VICT claims it can handle ships up
to 12,500 TEU provided it receives permission.

The berthing trials come amid a further expansion of shipping capacity
into Australia, after Hyundai Merchant Marine, Evergreen and APL
announced plans to commence a new Asia-Australia service in August.

The new A1X service, with five 4,600 TEU vessels, according to
Alphaliner, will mark the first time HMM has deployed its own ships on
the trade - it is expected to provide two of the five vessels.

Melbourne's container terminal operators are currently bidding to
handle the service.

And in a further twist, OOCL and PIL are to welcome Cosco as a slot
charterer to their joint Asia-Australia AAA service, and then split
the string into two: the AAA1 and AAA2. This will see the six vessels
of 5,400-5,888 TEU capacity increase to nine.

The splitting of the string is due to interest in a new direct call at
Brisbane, as well as improving connections between Australia and
Southeast Asian ports.

"The new AAA 1/AAA 2 enhancement is expected to add some five per cent
to the total Far East-Australia capacity. It follows the recent
announcement by HMM, Evergreen and APL of the launch of a new
China-Australia service in August this year," said Alphaliner.