The Thai unit of Denmark's Maersk Line, the world's largest container shipping company, expects a better performance this year thanks to its cost-saving efforts and new services.
Henrik Jensen, the Thailand country manager, said while the global economic downturn is still taking a toll on the overall shipping industry, cost-savings within the company, network adjustments and an increase in service rates will contribute to modest growth for Maersk this year.
"[The company] lost money last year but is expecting a small plus this year," he said.
Maersk Line is facing a tough market on the Asia-Europe route, with stagnating trade, rising bunker costs and an overcapacity of ships putting pressure on rates.
"Overall, the European market has seen a sluggish decline, and total trade volume to Europe over the past few months has also been down," said Mr Jensen, adding that huge growth is unlikely through next year.
Container traffic from Thailand to the rest of the world is expected to grow close to 2.5% this year, while larger growth of 15% is expected for imports due to increased demand for reconstruction after last year's severe flooding.
In 2010 and 2011, exports grew by 3% and imports by 9%.
With Europe and the US in relative decline, trade patterns are shifting towards the East.
The intra-Asia market is now the biggest and one of the fastest-growing markets in the world, with 10% growth expected this year.
"Intra-Asian trade has been good for Thailand over the last decade," said Mr Jensen.
Maersk Line (Thailand) now offers Absolute Reliability, the first shipping service of its kind in Thailand, guaranteeing shipping times and financial compensation should delays occur.
The service guarantees a fixed 31-day shipping time from Laem Chabang port to the major European ports of Felixstowe, Rotterdam and Bremerhaven.
Compensation of US$100 per container will be paid for shipments delayed 1-3 days and $300 per container for delays of four days or more.
Bookings for the service have been accepted since this past Monday, with the first shipment leaving Laem Chabang on Nov 22.
The service was first introduced in China and Malaysia for shipments to the same European ports.
This year, ports in Thailand and Indonesia have been added to the existing corridors, making a total of six departing locations.
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- Writer: Soonya Vanichkorn