Shipping giant switches transatlantic route to Liverpool

In a major coup for Port of Liverpool owner Peel Ports, the Maersk Line and MSC 2M Alliance will take its giant container vessels on the route out of Felixstowe and into Liverpool. Tony McDonough reports

MSC Messina
The switch will see more container vessels coming to the Port of Liverpool


Shipping giant Maersk is to switch a second transatlantic container route from the south of England to the Port of Liverpool.

In another major coup for Port of Liverpool owner Peel Ports, Maersk is switching its TA2 service linking Northern Europe with North America from Felixstowe to the Mersey. It means even more of its huge container ships will call at Seaforth.

TA2 is a weekly service that connects North Europe ports Bremerhaven, Antwerp, Le Havre and Liverpool to US East Coast ports Newark, Baltimore, Norfolk and Savannah. It is operated by the 2M alliance, which comprises Maersk Line and MSC.

In 2018, the partners temporarily switched the TA4 route linking the UK with several US ports from Felixstowe to Liverpool following a period of disruption at the Suffolk facility. In early 2019 this change was made permanent. 

The move prompted Port of Liverpool boss Mark Whitworth to say the “tide is turning” in Peel’s efforts to pursued more shipping lines to choose Liverpool over southern English ports.

In a statement to LBN on the TA2 service, Maersk said: “COVID-19 has been the most dramatic stress test of the past 75 years. Global trade demand has picked up stronger than expected, causing vessel, equipment and storage shortage globally across the supply chains, as well as bottlenecks in terminals and across inland services. 

“The TA2 has previously been based in Felixstowe but has been relocated to Liverpool due to southern England ports like Felixstowe are congested at the moment due to the above mentioned situation.”

On its website this week Maersk added: “After a careful evaluation of our network covering the North Europe to/from North America, we will change our UK Port call from Felixstowe to Liverpool. Our aim with this change is to provide stability to the service.”

A significant chunk of the UK’s imports comes in through southern English ports and is taken by road to distribution points in the Midlands. This made sense when the Midlands was a manufacturing powerhouse and Britain was a net exporter of goods. 

However, today the UK is a net importer but many vessels carrying goods from across the world by sea still unload their containers in the south of England, even though many of the goods are destined for the north of England and Scotland. Peel has been saying for some time that this makes little sense from both a financial and environmental perspective.

Last week MSC, in partnership with GB Railfreight, launched a five-days-a-week rail service between Liverpool and the East Midlands and it is understood the makes the Port of Liverpool a more attractive proposition.

A spokesperson for Peel Ports added: “We can confirm that the 2M shipping line alliance will call into Liverpool as part of its TA2 transatlantic service from the end of December 2020.”

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