The recent arrival of the container ship Hakuna Matata at Norfolk International Terminals is the latest example of an expanding number of direct links between The Port of Virginia and important Asian trading centers.

The arrival of the vessel marked the inaugural US East Coast visit for the Singapore-based ocean carrier Sea Lead. Sea Lead recently announced its AEC service that will make a direct call to the East Coast via the Panama Canal with The Port of Virginia being the first stop.

“It is a vote of confidence that Virginia is the first stop on this new service, which is operated by an experienced ocean carrier that doesn’t serve the US East Coast,” said Stephen A. Edwards, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority. “We were able to show Sea Lead the advantages of doing business here. This was an opportunity to emphasize our efficiency, our capacity, our growth and strong customer service. The goal is to develop a long-term, collaborative relationship that reinforces this strategic decision.”

The monthly service will employ vessels with an average size of 6,500 twenty-foot-equivalent units (TEUs); in July, the service will increase to twice-a-month. The port call rotation is: Nansha, Ningbo, Qindao, Pusan, (Panama Canal transit) The Port of Virginia, New York / New Jersey, South Carolina, Florida and back to Nansha via the Suez Canal.

“As one of the fastest-growing ocean carriers of recent times, we are delighted to add Virginia to the port rotation of our AEC service as we offer additional options to our customers,” said Henry Schmidl, managing director, Sea Lead. “We are confident that our customers and partners will respond well to the new options and look forward to working closely with The Port of Virginia in making this a success.”

Edwards said this is an important opportunity to introduce cargo owners and logistics companies using The Port of Virginia to Nansha, an important port in southern China. Nansha is among the country’s fastest growing ports and serves 14 city clusters including Guangzhou, Foshan, Zhongshan and Jiangmen.

“Increasing the number of connections to new and growing ports and markets is an important selling point for us,” Edwards said. “Earlier this month we announced another brand new vessel service that links Virginia with some very important Asian markets.

“When you couple these announcements with the fact that we are investing $1.3 billion to create more rail capacity, modernize and renovate two of our berths and convert them to an RMG operation (rail-mounted gantry crane) and widen and deepen dredge our channels it’s hard to deny the long-term advantages The Port of Virginia presents.”