LATIN AMERICAN TRADE BI-ANNUAL - Latin America services shift, add mid-Atlantic opportunities

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

By Paul Scott Abbott, AJOTWith key changes in ocean carrier services taking effect in mid-April, mid-Atlantic ports remain a critical component of trade linking the East Coasts of the Americas.
Among those enthusiastic about opportunities created by these service shifts is Rick Schiappacasse, director of Latin America and forest products for the Maryland Port Administration.
“This may be the start of a wonderful thing,” Schiappacasse commented in regard to the position of the Port of Baltimore as a call in Mitsui OSK Lines’ (MOL) new Americas Container Express (ACX) service. APL Ltd. will also participate in this service. Neither MOL nor APL has made dedicated calls at Baltimore with services in effect prior to mid-April.
The ACX service will make US calls at Norfolk, Philadelphia and New York, in addition to Baltimore. It will call at Buenos Aires in Argentina and at three Brazilian ports.
Meanwhile, Maersk Line is joining forces with Hamburg Süd, discontinuing the current North America-South America (NASA) cooperation with MOL and APL. US calls in the new Maersk-Hamburg Süd service, effective April 16, will include New York, Philadelphia, Norfolk, Charleston, Jacksonville and Port Everglades before vessels head to the South American ports of Puerto Cabello, Suape, Santos, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Rio Grande, Santos and Pecem.
Greg Edwards, managing director of marketing at the Virginia Port Authority, noted that, as the service rationalization trend goes on, Virginia is blessed to continue to have direct calls in all five major services linking the US East Coast with South America. Those services, he said, include: CSAV/Libra; Hamburg Süd/Maersk; NYK Line/Hapag-Lloyd; Hanjin/Yang Ming/“K” Line; and Mediterranean Shipping Co. (MSC) with new slot partners MOL and APL.
While the number of ship calls decreases with rationalization, the number of container units moving through Norfolk has not, Edwards pointed out.
“Brazil really drives the market for us,” Edwards said, noting that South America’s largest economy is responsible for some two-thirds of Virginia’s total maritime commerce with South America. Auto parts lead the way, he said, in part because Virginia permits gross weights of containers to reach 90,000 pounds, thus allowing shippers to bring in heavy containers that are moved to warehouses for stripping and ultimate shipping of the contents to inland automobile manufacturers.
The auto parts ties are so strong that, five years ago, the Virginia Port Authority hired as its fulltime Sao Paolo-based director for Latin America a Brazilian national, Antonio Carlos Amado, who had been an auto parts exporter and VPA customer.
Other key northbound commodities to Virginia include tobacco (for blending with domestic leaf), footwear and furniture, while Edwards is looking to see increased imports of granite and pulp and paper. Northbound, volumes are about twice those southbound in the trade, he noted.
In order to handle growing volumes, the VPA is implementing an overall port expansion plan while looking forward to the opening this summer of the first phase of the new Maersk/APM Virginia terminal at Portsmouth.
Edwards concurs with a number of observers in believing that shippers will not be benefiting from depressed ocean freight rates much longer.
“The rates have more than bottomed out,” Edwards said. “Rate increases are already in the works or are imminent.”
The recent trend of some ocean carriers to reduce participation in inland intermodal moves is another factor spurring opportunities for port authorities, according to the Maryland Port Administration’s Schiappacasse.
“I think the lines are finding out they are not making an adequate profit in handling the inland portion, and are getting back to core [ocean] services,” Schiappacasse said, adding that intermodal departments such as that of the Maryland authority gladly handle inland options for port customers.
Indeed, one thing with which Maryland port officials hope to impress new users is

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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.