Container lines suspend shipments to Russia, Maersk considering

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Shipping containers are transported on a Maersk Line vessel through the Suez Canal in Ismailia, Egypt July 7, 2021. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

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LONDON/COPENHAGEN, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Container shipping company Ocean Network Express (ONE) on Monday suspended bookings to and from Russia while Maersk said it was considering doing the same in response to Western sanctions on Moscow following its invasion of Ukraine.

Russia's assault on its neighbour, which Moscow says is a "special operation", is the biggest state-to-state invasion in Europe since World War Two.

"Booking acceptance to and from St Petersburg, Russia is suspended with immediate effect until further notice whilst we evaluate the operational feasibility,” Singapore-headquartered ONE said in a customer advisory on Monday.

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ONE added that it had also suspended bookings for the Russian port of Novorossiisk as well as the Ukrainian container port of Odessa.

Germany’s Hapag Lloyd (HLAG.DE) said on Feb. 24 it had issued a temporary suspension on bookings for Russia and halted sailings for Ukraine. A Hapag spokesperson said on Monday it was “due to the developments we have seen last week and to ensure we comply with any sanctions imposed”.

MSC, the world's biggest container line by capacity, said as of Monday it was maintaining shipping and inland services to and from Russia "in full compliance with international sanctions measures".

"Bookings for permitted Russia-related cargo will be accepted only with a thorough screening process by MSC with prepayment required for all imports to Russia," the company said in a statement.

"We expect Russia-related cargo shipments to be impacted by an increasing number of inspections and controls at European and other international ports."

Meanwhile, Maersk (MAERSKb.CO) said on Monday it was closely monitoring the fast-evolving sanctions and restrictions imposed against Russia, and making preparations to comply with them.

"Our preparations include a possible suspension of Maersk bookings to and from Russia on ocean and inland," it said in a statement.

In a coordinated response, the United States, European countries and others have made the unusual move of targeting Russia's central bank with financial sanctions and put limits on cross-border transactions by the country's largest lenders.

Maersk, which handles roughly one in six containers shipped worldwide, said it was focusing on safeguarding types of containers and cold chain operations that "include important goods such as groceries and pharmaceuticals".

Maersk said limitations to operations over Russian air space would impact its air services.

A spokesperson declined to elaborate on the possible measures and said the company expects to provide further information later on Monday.

The company last year generated roughly 2.5% of its total revenue from Russia. It operates container shipping routes to St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad in the Baltic Sea, Novorossiysk in the Black Sea, and to Vladivostok and Vostochny on Russia's east coast.

Maersk has been active in Russia since 1992.

Last week, the company halted all port calls in Ukraine until the end of February and has shut its main office in Odessa on the Black Sea coast. read more

MSC said it has been unable to serve Ukrainian ports since Feb. 24.

Russia says its actions in Ukraine are designed not to occupy territory but to destroy its southern neighbour's military capabilities and capture what it regards as dangerous nationalists.

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Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Stine Jacobsen in Copenhagen and Jonathan Saul in London; Editing by David Goodman, Frank Jack Daniel, Andrew Heavens and Toby Chopra

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