Central America and Caribbean Markets Remain Competitive for Steamship Service

By: | at 08:00 PM | Channel(s): International Trade  Ports & Terminals  Liner Shipping  

By Karen E. Thuermer, AJOTCentral America and the Caribbean Basin is full of alphabet soup when it comes to trade agreements. There’s CAFTA-DR (the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement), CBI (Caribbean Basin Initiative), the U.S.-Panama TPA (Trade Promotion Agreement), and HOPE II (the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement Act of 2008.
Lending further credence to the importance of Latin America, in late March 2011, President Barack Obama will visit Brazil, Chile and El Salvador, making his first trip to South and Central America since taking office two years ago.
While the region has typically received little attention from U.S. presidents, executives of steamship lines that service the region attest, there’s good money to be made in these areas. Central America, especially, provides the United States with a wealth of manufactured apparel as well as coffee, fruits and vegetables. Puerto Rico serves as an important center for pharmaceutical, medical products, and foodstuffs manufacturing that include rum.
In fact, few people probably know that 16 pallets of eye glass lenses manufactured by French company Essilor Industries are shipped northbound to the Port of Jacksonville, FL from its manufacturing base in Ponce, Puerto Rico each week. According to Essilor’s traffic manager, this translates to 224 boxes of lenses per pallet, or 6,720 eye glass lenses per shipment!
The company purchases its raw materials for the glasses from PPG, which means raw materials are transported southbound to the Ponce plant.
A host of steamship lines are active in Central America and the Caribbean Basin. These include Crowley Marine, Horizon Lines, and Seaboard Marine.
Liner Services
In December, Seaboard Marine celebrated 20 years of service in the Eastern Caribbean.
Answering the call to provide for more service to Haiti, the company added a direct weekly sailing to/ from the Port of Miami and Port-au-Prince, Haiti, effective January 13. The service, which sails on Thursday, complements Seaboard’s other southbound sailing to Haiti from Miami, which sails on Friday and also relays to Port-au-Prince via Kingston.
“Unfortunately 2010 was a difficult year for Haiti, Seaboard remains dedicated to strengthening the Haitian economy, not just by continuing with humanitarian aid, but also by rebuilding its infrastructure through providing a reliable transportation network that will serve as a solid foundation for our valued Haitian customers,” says Jose Concepcion, Seaboard Marine Vice President. “These improvements in Seaboard’s sailing frequencies will be of particular benefit to construction firms as well as Haitian exporters such as the apparel industry and mango growers.”
In February, Seaboard also furthered its commitment to Latin America by taking possession of the last of 300 new 40-foot refrigerated (reefer) high-cube containers in February. Half of these containers are being discharged in Miami while the remaining half are being unloaded in Valparaiso, Chile. All units will be promptly integrated throughout the Seaboard Marine network to satisfy customer demand. With this new addition, Seaboard will have added 1,507 new reefer containers since 2008 resulting in one of the youngest reefer fleets in the industry.
Horizon Lines has been offering dedicated service to Puerto Rico for 50 years, and recently incorporated two of its younger, larger vessels into that trade. Consequently, Horizon now has more capacity for 45-foot dry and 40-foot reefer containers and more availability for hazardous cargo.
Horizon Lines offers two direct weekly sailings from Jacksonville (JAXPORT), one weekly sailing from Elizabeth, NJ, and a direct vessel to Houston. The San Juan - Houston service runs every 14 days and calls on Tampa southbound while returning to San Juan.
The steamship line claims its Jacksonville Express service (JAX) provides the fastest northbound transit from San Juan. JAX service cargo is available

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American Journal of Transportation