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Slow Boat to China

April 10, 2009

ABOARD THE EUGEN MAERSK, IN THE NORTH SEA — On an early afternoon last month, the Eugen Maersk has left Rotterdam, the Netherlands, on the tail end of a journey from Shanghai. But the giant freighter is cruising at 10 knots, well shy of her 26-knot top speed.

Container Ship Cuts Costs to Stay Afloat

John W. Miller/The Wall Street Journal

At about half speed, fuel consumption drops to 100-150 tons of fuel a day from 350 tons, saving as much as $5,000 an hour. “The strategy now is to slow steam as much as possible,” said Christian Hagart, the Eugen’s chief officer.

That strategy is a key element in plans by AP Moeller-Maersk AS to cut $1 billion in costs this year, scaling back on everything from fuel to paper napkins. Analysts say the cuts should keep the whole company out of the red in 2009, since Maersk’s container unit is expected to lose between $1 billion and $2 billion.

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