LATIN AMERICA TRADE EDT. - Trailer Bridge makes history with new Dominican service

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By Paul Scott Abbott, AJOTTrailer Bridge Inc.’s introduction this month of new container service between Jacksonville and the Dominican Republic breaks ground on multiple fronts – from its use of 53-foot-long containers in a non-Jones Act trade to the fact that it links the Caribbean nation to North Florida, as opposed to South Florida ports, that long have dominated Dominican trade.
“Those two things are a pretty big deal,” John D. McCown, chairman and chief executive officer of Jacksonville-based Trailer Bridge told the American Journal of Transportation, referring to the utilization of 53-foot boxes and the use of the Jacksonville gateway.
The every-other-week service, inaugurated with the Aug. 13 sailing of the Brooklyn Bridge from the Jacksonville Port Authority’s Blount Island Marine Terminal, also represents the first foray beyond Jones Act trade for Trailer Bridge, which for its 16-year history has focused on serving Puerto Rico.
Unlike Puerto Rico service, which under the Jones Act is limited to US-flag carriers, trade between the US mainland and the Dominican Republic is open to non-US-flag vessels.
McCown termed the new service “a milestone in the evolution of Trailer Bridge.”
Not only does the new service represent the first use of 53-foot containers outside a Jones Act trade, it also marks the only US-flag service into the Dominican Republic, according to McCown.
Each of the 53-foot-long, 102-inch-wide high-cube containers boasts 62% more interior capacity than the standard 40-foot-long containers in the trade, thus reducing per-unit costs for shippers. The 53-foot boxes, carried aboard cost-efficient tug-and-barge combinations, have long been the cornerstone of Trailer Bridge’s Puerto Rico operation. Also, the tug-and-barge combinations produce lower particulate matter emissions than traditional self-propelled vessels.
In conjunction with the new service, Trailer Bridge has ordered 1,000 more 53-foot containers, plus 850 new 53-foot chassis.
The Brooklyn Bridge, one of five trademarked Triplestack Box Carrier vessels operated by Trailer Bridge, has the capacity to carry 281 of the 53-foot containers. In addition to carrying the 53-foot-long units, the service is employing Trailer Bridge’s patented Vehicle Transportation Modules, which facilitate damage-free movement of new and used automobiles, trucks and sport utility vehicles while affording multimodal capabilities.
The expansion of use of the larger containers to the Dominican market “really underscores the power of our 53-foot, tug-barge system,” McCown said.
“It’s something we’re real excited about,” he said. “It fits very nicely from a deployment standpoint.”
The new service augments Trailer Bridge’s existing Puerto Rico service, McCown said, increasing frequency to San Juan to three sailings per week while entering the company into three distinct additional lanes: Continental United States to the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico to the Dominican Republic and Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico.
The service accomplishes this with its rotation from Jacksonville to San Juan to Puerto Plata and back to Jacksonville.
McCown noted that Puerto Plata, on the north coast of the Dominican Republic, is a hub for hotel and resort construction and other tourist-related activity. Puerto Plata is second in cargo activity among Dominican ports to Rio Haina, on the south coast of the island, near the capital city of Santo Domingo.
A significant portion of Dominican trade with the United States is in the apparel sector, with garment materials heading southbound and finished goods returning north. Much of this trade extends well into the US Southeast and beyond.
“We think Jacksonville makes a lot of sense for trade to and from the Dominican Republic in that a lot of the cargo originates at or is destined for points beyond South Florida,” McCown said. “By going through Jacksonville, we cut off 300 inland miles.”
Raul Alfonso, JAXPORT’s director of container cargo marketing and trade developm

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For more than a quarter of a century, Paul Scott Abbott has been writing and shooting images for the American Journal of Transportation, applying four decades of experience as an award-winning journalist. A graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, with a master’s magna cum laude from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Abbott has served as president of chapters of the Propeller Club of the United States, Florida Public Relations Association and Society of Professional Journalists. Abbott honed his skills on several daily newspapers, including [em]The Cincinnati Enquirer, The Richmond (Va.) News Leader, Albuquerque Journal and (South Florida) Sun-Sentinel, and was editor and publisher of The County Line, a weekly newspaper he founded in suburban Richmond, Va.[/em] A native Chicagoan, he is a member of American Mensa and an ever-optimistic fan of the Chicago Cubs.