Two freight forwarders, UK’s Uniserve and Italy’s Rifline, have begun running liner services to guarantee space to their customers, as tight shipping capacity and high freight rates persist.
Although freight forwarders have previously chartered ships for ad hoc sailings amid the firming market, Uniserve and Rifline have gone further by incorporating subsidiaries to operate liner services, suggesting that they expect to be in the liner industry for the long haul.
Founded by former Ellerman Lines employee Iain Liddell in 1984, Uniserve revived the Ellerman name to start its GB Express liner service between China and the UK in December 2021.
The now-defunct Ellerman Lines was established in 1892, during the height of the British Empire, but began suffering losses with decolonisation and containerisation after World War Two.
While Uniserve created a subsidiary, Ellerman City Liners, to operate the liner service, the service is branded as UniOcean Lines, and the company has manufactured containers with the UniOcean livery.
UniOcean’s first service kicked off on 7 December 2021, when its chartered vessel, the 2,464 TEU Buxhansa departed China’s Ningbo port on 7 December 2021 and arrived in Tilbury on 12 January.
The company then chartered the newly built 2,756 TEU Cape Hellas from Greek owner Cape Shipping for its second sailing, loading containers from China’s Taicang and Ningbo ports in mid-December 2021 before arriving in Tilbury on 24 January.
UniOcean has also chartered the 3,534 TEU Mona Lisa and the 5,060 TEU SC Maria. All four vessels have been chartered for two to three years.
Rifline has incorporated Kalypso Compagnia di Navigazione to operate a liner service between the Taicang and Dachan Bay, a sub-port of Shenzhen in China, and the Italian ports of Salerno and Civitavecchia, using three chartered ships of 1,100 TEU to 1,800 TEU.