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Mærsk Line

Faced with infrastructural challenges, Maersk Line has designed a special class of container ships, WAFMAX, that are optimised in terms of size and draught to call key West African ports.

The deployment of the WAFMAX ships helps improve the productivity of some of the world's most congested ports by significantly bringing down waiting and berthing times. These productivity gains have positive effects for the local economy as trade becomes both cheaper and more environmentally efficient, thereby creating favorable conditions for West Africa's future growth.'

Established in 1904, Maersk Line operates container ships. It is the largest business unit in A.P. Moller-Maersk, accounting for app. half of the Group’s revenues, with a headcount close to 26,000 in 125 countries. Maersk Line is also the largest container shipping company in the world by capacity, with a global market share of 15 percent and a presence on every major trade route. Maersk Line operates a fleet of more than 600 ships.

WAFMAX is an abbreviation for Maersk Line’s 22 new “West Africa Maximum” ships, which have been designed to meet the growing trade volumes between Far East Asia and West Africa. As the name implies, these vessels increase the current maximum capacity level of shipping lines calling West African ports and are the biggest vessels ever to serve the region.

The challenge of West African ports

The African continent is heavily dependent on inter­national trade. Intra-African trade only constitutes 11.5 percent of the continent’s total trade and the bulk of Africa’s international trade (oil, minerals and agricultural products) is transported by sea. As a consequence, maritime trade accounts for more than 90 percent of the continent’s imports and exports. The ports of Africa therefore play a fundamental role in facilitating Africa’s integration with international trade.

Yet West African ports are among the least efficient and most congested in the world and the recent growth in trade has increased congestion even more. Dwell times are nearly quadruple those of Asian ports, and limited traffic, poor facilities and a lack of maintenance dredging means that large ves­sels do not call West Africa.

Increased port productivity

The WAFMAX vessels were specifically designed to overcome the obstacles in West African ports. Every time a WAFMAX vessel calls a West African port, it delivers almost twice the number of containers as other vessels calling the same port, and faster too. That helps bringing down the notoriously long wait­ing times of West African ports benefitting all vessels servicing the territory and hence also importers and exporters in the region. In addition to reduced wait­ing time, the WAFMAX vessels' length and improved stability also help reduce berthing time through faster loading and discharge of containers.

Since the WAFMAX vessels are responsible for a significant share of the traffic in the ports they call, they have a measurable impact on improving the ports' overall productivity. In Apapa, Nigeria, the WAFMAX ships are for instance expected to lead to a 20% increase in port productivity by 2013.

Reduced emissions

The WAFMAX vessels also reduce the environmental impacts of container shipping on the West Africa - Far East Asia trade. A combination of lower port turnaround times and slow steaming while vessels are in transit means that a container shipped on a WAFMAX vessel has up to 30 percent lower CO2 emissions compared to the industry average on the Far East Asia to West Africa trade route. The WAF­MAX vessels also reduce SOx emissions significantly.

Enabling trade

The improvement in port productivity as a a result of WAFMAX also has an impact on transportation costs for shippers importing to or exporting from the region. The reduced waiting time enabled by WAFMAX means that customers are able to reduce their inventory costs and will incur fewer congestion surcharges as they receive their goods faster.

The reduced logistics costs of importing to or export­ing from West Africa are expected to generate increased trade and economic activity in West Africa in the years to come.

Further information: www.maerskline.com