Shipping giants CMA CGM and Maersk are set to significantly enhance their joint Far East-West Africa shipping route, known as FW1/WAX, from December 5. This strategic initiative aims to double the route's capacity by deploying larger vessels and adding key ports such as Lekki in Nigeria and Pointe Noire in the Republic of Congo to their network. The upgrade also establishes a direct connection to Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, as well as to other important ports of call, including Gwangyang, South Korea.
The announcement comes against a backdrop of strong growth in the Asia-Africa trade (+20%), which stands out against an overall decline in container traffic. Tan Hua Joo, analyst at Linerlytica, warns that this increase in capacity could lead to pricing pressures due to potential excess capacity in various regions.
In addition to improvements to the FW1/WAX service, CMA CGM has unveiled plans for a complete overhaul of its Asia-Africa routes from December. The WAX service will introduce thirteen enhanced fleet vessels with capacities of up to 14,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), targeting West Africa on a three-month cycle with initial stops in Qingdao, China, and Gwangyang before heading to Nigerian ports such as Lekki and extending to Pointe Noire in Congo.
At the same time, under the WAX 3 banner, ten container ships capable of carrying up to 4,500 TEU each are ready for voyages lasting more than two months. These vessels will link Singapore directly to West African destinations such as Lomé in Togo and Apapa in Nigeria.
The Asaf route is also part of the redesign, with twelve large-capacity vessels (8,500 TEU) for a journey of around three months from Qingdao to Kribi, Cameroon, via Southeast Asian ports, to the coast of Namibia. The Shaka line completes the reshuffle, with nine high-capacity vessels (9,300 TEU) scheduled for a faster two-month voyage from Shanghai to South Africa's bustling port city of Durban, via Port Louis in Mauritius.
On December 24, further enhancements are planned for the FW2/WAX3 line, with vessels up to 7,000 TEU. This complete reconfiguration of services underlines the shipping industry's response to changing trade patterns and market demands between Asia and Africa.