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Breakbulk July 2020

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Into the breach AAL steps into MPV liner void left by Zeamarine By Janet Nodar WHEN AAL ANNOUNCED a new Asia–Europe liner service in February, adding a key ship agency and an ex-Zeamarine/Rickmers Line executive to its roster to manage it, the COVID-19 pandemic was just beginning to spread. Almost six months later, the new service is doing well, considering the circumstances, AAL Managing Director Kyriacos Panayides told The Journal of Commerce. While calling ports during shifting global lockdowns is "an anxiety," it is just one among many, and the multipurpose/heavy-lift (MPV/HL) carrier is managing from "challenge to challenge," he said. "We expected 2020 to be a milestone," Panayides said — this year is AAL's 25th business anniversary — but not this kind of milestone. "Week after week, it's new situations. We are basically managing the unknown, and we've had quite remarkable tasks and challenges come to us," he said. Filling a need AAL's new service fills a gap created when the carrier Zeamarine failed earlier this year. In 2017, Zeamarine bought Rickmers Line, which at that time operated several semi-liner services and the only true round-the-world MPV/HL service, the Pearl String, begun in 2003. As Zeamarine faltered, so did these services, and the company's bankruptcy in early 2020 was the final blow. As of early June, four of the original Pearl String 30,000-deadweight ton (dwt) "Superflex" ships — the Dalian, Hamburg, Jakarta, and Tokyo — were headed for scrapping, according to German shipping publication Hansa. Singapore-based AAL operates a fleet of 25 MPV/HL vessels, 10 of which are 31,000-dwt ships with 700 metric tons of combined lift capacity that were built between 2010 and 2014. Those ships are designed for multi-leg semi-liner services, Panayides told The Journal of Commerce. Liner services, such as those operated by container or roll-on, roll-off (ro-ro) carriers, call a fixed rotation of ports on a rigid (or as close to rigid as possible) schedule. Semi-liner services, more common in the MPV/HL segment, call a flexible range of ports within a given region or trade lane. Normally, their schedules include a few fixed port calls, with further ports available on inducement. Schedules and the vessels deployed are often also flexible, depending on calls and cargo types. On eastbound voyages, AAL's new service calls Antwerp, Porto Marghera, Derince, Bahrain, Mesaiid, Jebal Ali, Dammam, Mumbai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Tai-chung, Ningbo, Shanghai, Jiangjin, Penglai, and Dalian on a fixed basis, with further ports on inducement, according to the carrier's website. Kay Goldenstein, formerly a senior line manager with Zeamarine and prior to that with Rickmers Line, is running the new Asia–Europe liner service out of Hamburg. Additionally, the Antwerp-based ship agency DKT has appointed two ex-Rickmers/Zeamarine managers, Kurt Lyssens and Peter De Boer, to work with AAL. European project logistics industry members who spoke with The Journal of Commerce about AAL's new service cited these appointments as a positive sign. Several said they've booked cargo on the new service. While the project and breakbulk logistics industry is sluggish due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting stagnation in economic growth, there is a sense that AAL, a "settled, experienced group," as one industry member put it, will be providing a service that has been missed. A cargo shipper told The Journal of Commerce that he is in talks about using the service and plans to book in the near future. One potential

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