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Breakbulk July2016

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8 THE JOURNAL OF COMMERCE JULY 2016 COVER STORY such as yachts and machinery on flatracks or above-deck platforms. Ro-ro carriers have designed ships to carry heavy and oversize cargoes. Current overcapacity in global shipping has blurred the lines further. Container lines were among the most prominent exhibitors at the recent Breakbulk Europe conference in Antwerp. Carriers includ- i ng Ma er sk L i ne, Hapag-L loyd a nd Mediterranean Shipping Co. are putting new emphasis on specialized cargoes that don't move in standard containers. Container and bulk carriers' increased interest in breakbulk and project cargo has been fueled by excess capacity that has created record low rates in the carriers' primary markets. This has raised ques- tions about whether some of new entrants will stick around after their core business rebounds. Maersk, the world's largest container carrier, says its commitment to the spe- cialized cargo niche is long-term and supported by three regional teams in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. The company expanded its market presence with the 2005 acquisition of P&O Nedlloyd and has had a team dedicated to exceptional cargo since 2012. "It's not a new business area for us," said Michael Juhler, Maersk's global head of specialized cargo. "It's something we've done for a long time, but it's gaining more focus for us." In recent months, Maersk has handled oversize shipments including a 350-ton tugboat, a 46-meter crane, and propellers for ships. "It really is a part of our DNA today, and is a part of our operat- ing model and the way we do business." He said Maersk is careful to ensure that specialized shipments don't inter- fere with container liner operations. "The minute we delay our own operations, we quickly lose the upside of catering for this cargo," Juhler said. "This is something that requires quite unique capabilities through- out the organization." He said Maersk has the expertise and breadth of coverage to efficiently handle exceptional cargoes. "It is complex, and you need to know what you're doing, but we as a company have invested in this," Juhler said. "We are reaping the benefits of the historical knowledge and capabilities we have built over the years." Maersk officials say their company's relative financial stability is another advantage. Years of excess capacity and low rates have left many bulk and con- tainer carriers in dire financial straits. No shipper wants to risk having a multimil- lion-dollar piece of machinery marooned on a ship tied up in a bankruptcy. Handling specialized cargo on a con- tainer ship has pluses and minuses. On the plus side, a liner vessel's weekly sailings can smooth supply chains by eliminat- ing a shipper's need to accumulate large volumes needed to fill a conventional ves- sel. On the minus side, adequate cranes may be hard to find in discharge ports, and specialized shipments can compli - cate operations at busy marine terminals already struggling to handle container volumes. Others say many container lines' cur- "IT'S NOT A NEW BUSINESS AREA FOR US. IT'S SOMETHING WE'VE DONE FOR A LONG TIME, BUT IT'S GAINING MORE FOCUS FOR US."

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