February 14 - The Maersk Group has emphasised the importance of unconventional cargoes to its subsidiary Safmarine as it endeavours to open up an expanding market between Asia and Africa.

Safmarine has a growing fleet of multi purpose vessels (MPV) which carries both containerised and non-containerised cargo, and recently took delivery of Safmarine Samba, the first of six new MPVs that it ordered in August 2008. These are the first new MPVs to be built for the business since it became part of the A.P. Moller - Maersk Group in 1999.

"Countries such as Japan, Korea and South East Asia have regular shipments of breakbulk cargo including equipment and rolling stock to Africa. The swift development of China in recent years has also led to increased project cargo being shipped from China to Africa and raw materials from Africa to China," said Hu Ke, Asia line manager, MPV Service.

"Currently, we have a monthly service between Far East Asia and West Africa, with vessels calling at ports in China, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and West Africa. The six new MPVs will allow us to increase our frequency to a bi-weekly service, and cover more Asian ports, for example in Japan and Indonesia."

As a sign of the growing importance of the Asian market for its MPV business, a newly structured MPV department has been set up and is headed by Grant Daly, who was previously the Asia regional head for Safmarine.

"Whilst focusing on our core strength and expertise in Africa, we believe that developing our MPV business in Asia is the right approach going forward. The increasing global importance of the Asian economies, supported by the changing trade and sourcing patterns toward Asia make our commitment to this service ever more important," commented Grant.

15 of Safmarine's fleet of 68 vessels are MPVs, which can carry both breakbulk cargo and containers. These are specifically designed to carry odd-sized and heavy cargo which is unsuitable for containers, such as locomotives, construction equipment, and steel products and pipes.