PACIFIC NORTHWEST PORTS - Maersk delivers bigger ships, faster service for Tacoma/Vancouver

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

By Leo Quigley, AJOTStreamlined ocean routes, larger container ships and greater growth opportunities for the ports of Vancouver, BC, and Tacoma are being delivered by Maersk Line’s initiative to move more containers on fewer routes in the Pacific.
The move to a less complex system with higher cargo density was announced January 22 by Vincent Clerc, vice president of Maersk Line area line management in North America. In a statement Clerc said, “The ocean-side economies in the Pacific services no longer support smaller ships in strings with low cargo density. We are optimizing our Pacific services to provide better service on fewer strings with larger ships and higher cargo density and velocity.”
While customers will benefit from the optimization of Maersk’s services to the Pacific Northwest, the driving force behind the consolidation of routes is rising costs and a growing trade imbalance. These two factors, Clerc said, are putting considerable financial pressure on all shipping lines in the Pacific.
“As fuel costs rise, freight rates trend down, and the contribution to round-trip compensation from export revenues continue to shrink, a negative trend in profitability has emerged that is not sustainable,” Clerc said. “This is part of our initiative to redefine our North American service model and streamline our ocean and inland routes.
“We want our customers to experience cost effective service that is faster and more reliable,” he said.
The changes involve phasing out the previous weekly TP2 service that called on Yantian, Shanghai, Busan, Tacoma, Vancouver, Dutch Harbor, and Yokohama. This service is being integrated into the company’s new TP 9, TP6, and TP 5 services.
TP 9 will call Los Angeles, Vancouver, Yokohama, Xingang, Qingdao, Shanghai and Ningbo westbound and Singapore, Laem Chabang, Shekou, Yantian, Xiamen, Kaohsiung, Los Angeles, and Vancouver eastbound. TP 6 will call Los Angeles, Yokohama, Shimizu, Nagoya, Shanghai, Ningbo, Hong Kong, and Yantian westbound and Tanjung Pelepas, Yantian, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, and Tacoma eastbound.
TP 5 will call Dutch Harbor, Yokohama, Nagoya, Kobe, Busan and Shanghai westbound and Shanghai, Ningbo, Los Angeles, and Oakland eastbound.
Maersk owns some of the largest container ships in the world. Jon Poelma, Senior Director, Pacific Cluster, Maersk Inc., told AJOT the company’s new TransPacific 6 (TP6) and TP9 services will utilize the largest vessels operating on Maersk’s Pacific routes.
“The frequency to both ports (Vancouver and Tacoma) remains unchanged, with weekly calls on both TP1 and TP6 to Tacoma and the TP9 to Vancouver, and no appreciable difference in turnaround time.”
Poelma said vessel size on both the TP6 and TP9 routes will be a step up from vessels used on the previous TP2 service. Also, he said Maersk plans to increase vessel size on its TP1 service as vessels are upgraded.
Asked about the effects recent slowdowns in rail service to the Port of Vancouver have had on the company’s new services, Poelma said that while the delays and recent rail strike by conductors and rail yard workers at Canadian National Railway have impacted timetables at the Port of Vancouver, “operations are expected to return to normal.”
However, he did say some ocean carriers are now moving some container volumes through alternative ports such as Los Angeles to avoid congestion and minimize the level of risk.
Chris Badger, Vice President, Customer Development and Operations at the Port of Vancouver, welcomed Maersk’s new services and said clearing the backlog of containers at the port “will take a few more weeks yet.”
He said whenever a new ship, or new line comes into the Port of Vancouver, the Vancouver Port Authority makes an effort to be “very transparent.”
“We want the services. We want the business. But, we also want to make sure we can offer the product that the service is lo

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American Journal of Transportation