Exporters of materials such as metals, plastics and paper have been hit by the news that shipping line Maersk has suspended services to China from northern Europe.
It is seeking to clear a backlog of containers at European container terminals until early May after it got an unprecedented build-up of cargo caused by a number of vessel cancellations following the Chinese New Year.
In a notice to shippers Maersk said: “At the moment, terminal density at some ports is nearing yard capacity. If bookings are not halted, this could negatively impact productivity, further slow down ocean carriers’ ability to clear the heavy backlog/overflow and impact other trades.
“The booking stop is temporary, and we are working to clear it as soon as possible so that we can resume booking acceptance as usual. We are implementing this complete booking stop to ensure we prioritise and deliver on the bookings we have already accepted.
“We have heard from customers that other lines have also stopped bookings until May. Shippers are obviously disappointed by the temporary capacity shortage, but it is too early to evaluate the impact on supply chains.”
Maersk accounts for 19 per cent of traffic on the Asia to Europe route.