SM Line said it had refused to charter its vessel after offers from liner operators in a bid to support regional shipper clients on the Pacific. Credit Raymond Smith.

South Korean liner operator SM Line revealed it had rejected offers from mainline operators to charter one of its owned ships, in favour of fulfilling compatriot shippers’ needs for more capacity.

Vessel availability is so tight that foreign liner operators expressed interest in chartering one of SM Line’s owned vessels, the 6,622TEU SM Busan. However, SM Line decided to prioritise South Korean shippers by deploying SM Busan on its Pacific Northwest Service (PNS), which connects Busan with Long Beach and Vancouver.

The deployment of SM Busan will take place on 24 December, after SM Line launches an Transpacific extra loader service from Busan on 7 December.

SM Line will deploy the 2004-built 3,400TEU ship, Singapore, which was chartered from Danaos Corporation, to the service. Singapore had recently come off a previous fixture to Yang Ming Marine.

SM Line is joining HMM, Maersk Line, MSC and CMA CGM in deploying extra vessels on the Transpacific, in response to the South Korean government’s call for carriers to provide more capacity for shippers.

The company said that due to the shortage of boxships available for charter, its ship operations team worked round the clock to secure a ship. The charter market is firming in tandem with freight rates, and tonnage providers are demanding long-term charters over several years, or seeking higher rates, adding to liner operators’ costs.

If demand holds up, SM Line said it will continue the extra loader service into early 2021.

SM Line CEO Park Kee-hoon said, “It’s remarkable that we managed to charter a ship. We will strive to relieve the difficulties faced by our compatriot shippers.”