Hapag-Lloyd, the 5th largest container shipping company in the world, announced the launch of its new MIAX (Middle East, India, Africa Express) service at an event hosted in Cape Town on Tuesday.
The company believes the new service, which will start in November, will provide one of the fastest container shipping service down to South Africa.
The MIAX service will offer direct connections and fast transit lines between South and West Africa, the Persian gulf, India, Sri Lanka and Reunion. The MIAX service will be connected to the Global Mainline Network via the key ports of Jebel Ali in Dubai and Colombo.
Hapag-Lloyd will jointly operate the MIAX service with Ocean Network Express.
Capt. Dheeraj Bhatia, senior managing director of Hapag-Lloyd in the Middle East, said at the event that the new MIAX service will allow its customers to benefit from a wider range of fast and flexible connections.
Hapag-Lloyd entered the African market about twelve years ago and has seen steady growth in the volumes transported both to and from Africa.
"Africa is a huge continent and South Africa is not the only entry point for distribution," commented Bhatia.
Congested ports, poor connectivity
He further said congestion at African ports remains a concern as well as connectivity challenges with the hinterland. Costs related to using African ports are also in general regarded as high.
In his view it would be in the interest of local trade in Africa to bring these costs down.
According to Cornelis van der Waal, Wesgro’s chief research officer, the new MIAX service shows the international interest in exploring opportunities in Africa.
“Yes, we would be naïve to think SA is thew only gateway into the continent. However, at the same time, SA has the most sophisticated infrastructure and we have strong trade relationships with the rest of the world,” he told Fin24.
He said East and West Africa are two growing hubs on the continent with many companies setting up offices there.
“A massive population explosion is expected in Africa and connectivity will enable increased trade opportunities on the continent,” he added.
According to Velile Dube, acting chief operations officer of Transnet Port Terminals, commented that industrial action in July caused a lot of congestion at SA ports, but that operations have been stabilised in the meantime.
“Direct investment has alluded us for a while, but this new service gives us an opportunity to see how we can practically connect with the rest of Africa,” he said.
He also said the new service also shows that with the right partner the potential of multi-purpose port terminals can be increased to in turn increase greater intra-African trade as well.