June 22 - In a major restructuring of its regional and global network of liner shipping services and a decision to focus on the Asia - Pacific region, Swire Shipping is suspending its round-the-world multi-purpose liner services due to weak markets in the

In an official statement, the company said: "The collapse in cargo volumes and significant reduction in freight rates, coupled with the increasing oil price, means that these trades are no longer financially sustainable."

Furthermore, plans to replace the westbound round-the-world service with a new Europe Pacific service have also been withdrawn. This new service had been announced as a restructuring of Swire Shipping's long-established westabout RTW service (formerly known as Bank Line) which will now be withdrawn with the last sailing of Mahinabank departing Europe in mid July.

"We are very sad to be exiting this trading lane after more than 100 years of operation, but in the current economic climate, and with rapidly increasing bunker costs, this service is no longer a viable option for Swire Shipping," said Toby Smith, general manager trades for Swire Shipping.

"It is an essential move to ensure the continued viability of the company as we navigate through these turbulent economic times," said Ulrich Stelling Swire Shipping chief executive.

As part of the refocus on Asia Pacific, Mr Stelling said: "We are confident that, by consolidating our resources and focusing our attention on our traditional key trading regions of Asia, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific, and by strengthening our service products to our core customers, Swire Shipping will ride out these difficult economic times and emerge a stronger organisation." 

From July, the company's Australia-North Asia service will be integrated with Tasman Orient's New Zealand-North Asia operation to provide a significantly upgraded framework. A fourth vessel will be added to TOL's existing three vessel service to provide better port coverage and frequency in the Australia-North Asia as well as the Trans-Tasman sectors.

The two sister vessels currently deployed in the Australia-North Asia service will cascade into other regional services. One of them will be introduced into the Australia - Papua New Guinea/Solomon Islands trade as a third vessel, thus substantially increasing capacity and frequency in this sector. The other ship will return to a dedicated employment in the Australia-Pacific Islands trade.