The 950-foot Hanjin Wilmingtondocked at the North Carolina State Ports Authority’s Port of Wilmington Saturday morning, making the first call of the new North China service at its namesake port. The 4,024-teu (20-foot equivalent container) vessel sailed about 12 hours later, after the Port’s new 100-foot gauge container cranes had moved more than 600 containers onto and off of the ship.

The call inaugurated a second weekly service from the Port’s longtime container-shipping partner, the CKYH Alliance, and marks the first Hanjin Shipping Co. vessel to call at the Port in several years. The new AWE North Loop provides weekly service to Qingdao, Ningbo and Shanghai in China and Busan, Korea.

The CKYH Alliance includes COSCO Container Lines of China, ‘K’ Line of Japan, Yang Ming Marine Transport Corp. of Taiwan, and Hanjin Shipping Co., Ltd. of Korea.

The existing CKYH service from Wilmington to South China ports and Busan has added larger ships to the rotation, increasing capacity significantly.

‘We’ve been sharing the news about the increased capacity and improved service Wilmington offers now, with customers and steamship lines all over the world,’ said Glenn Carlson, the Authority’s vice president for Business and Economic Development. ‘It’s beginning to pay off now.’

Expanded container service at the Port of Wilmington is a key part of economic-development projects in progress that would create thousands of high-paying, high-quality jobs in assembly, manufacturing and distribution facilities statewide, especially in the state’s eastern third and far-western regions where they are most needed.

‘These projects result directly from the choice by Governor Easley and the leaders of the General Assembly to invest in the Ports,’ said Carl J. Stewart Jr., Chairman of the Board of Directors of the NC State Ports Authority. ‘The new service, and the capabilities of the container terminal and our four new cranes, give us a giant step forward in our mission to enhance North Carolina’s economy and create jobs.’

The Ports have received $20.5 million in appropriations for Ports expansion programs since Gov. Mike Easley began including capital appropriations in his budget requests in 2003. Those requests were translated into appropriations by the strong support of the Ports’ delegation leaders in the General Assembly.

Of that amount, $16.5 million has gone toward Wilmington’s $143-million container-terminal expansion, which includes $33.2 million for four new 100-foot gauge container cranes that will go into service next week.

‘This news confirms that the demand for our expanded container terminal is strong,’ said Ports Authority CEO Thomas J. Eagar. ‘We based our decision to proceed with the expansion on careful analysis of market demands, especially the needs of many North Carolina businesses who have been using other ports.’