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Shipping lines plunge into a war of attrition

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The Majestic Maersk, one of the world's largest containerships, is moored at Yangshan Deep Water Port in Shanghai's free trade zone on Sept. 24.   © Reuters

Ebbing trade growth and low freight rates are pushing Asian shipping lines into a war of attrition. To survive, the companies are scurrying to seal merger deals or strike up loose alliances. But the war has already claimed a major casualty -- South Korea's Hanjin Shipping -- and it may be only a matter of time until another player succumbs.

TOKYO In early September, disturbing reports emerged that ships owned by Hanjin Shipping, a big South Korean container line that collapsed in late August, were being kept at sea because of fears that their cargoes would be seized if they docked. The news came as a shock to Japanese shipping companies, in particular.

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