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A bonus for the Port of Tacoma: Container line moves Mediterranean service to Tacoma from Seattle

Post by John Gillie / The News Tribune on June 19, 2012 at 10:29 am |
June 19, 2012 1:14 pm

The Port of Tacoma learned this week that its victory in the battle for the business of the Grand Alliance container shipping consortium is coming with an unexpected bonus.

One of the three shipping lines in the Grand Alliance, Germany’s Hapag-Lloyd, will be moving its new Pacific Coast-Mediterranean service to Tacoma from Seattle in addition to its transpacific services.

The Port of Tacoma won the business of the Grand Alliance in March. The alliance consists of three major shipping lines, NYK Lines, OOCL, and Hapag-Lloyd, that share vessels in the Asia-Pacific Coast trade. Those lines have been calling on Seattle’s Terminal 18. Beginning late this month, they will shift their trans-Pacific operations to the Port of Tacoma’s Washington United Terminal.

Hapag-Lloyd in a notice to its customers said it will also shift the Mediterranean business to Tacoma to consolidate its operations in a single Puget Sound port.

Hapag-Lloyd’s first ship in the Mediterranean trade to call at the Port of Tacoma’s Washington United Terminal. the Sofia Schulte, will arrive in Tacoma on August 5. The last ship on that route to call in Seattle, the Angol, will arrive there on July 29.

The new service will call on the Washington United Terminal on Sundays when there is no conflicting ship traffic, said the port.

Hapag-Lloyd’s Med-Pacific service will connect Vancouver, Tacoma, Portland, Oakland and Los Angeles with Tangier, Morocco; Valencia and Barcelona, Spain; Fos-sur-Mere, France; Genoa, Livorno and Cagliari in Italy. Between the West Coast and the Mediterranean, the ships in the service will also call in southern Mexico, Panama and the Dominican Republic.

Those ports will provide the Port of Tacoma new connecting service to South America, Central America and the Caribbean, said Don Esterbrook, the port’s chief commercial officer.

Esterbrook said access to those new markets will provide opportunities to new exports to and imports from Latin countries particularly in the fruit business.

The ships in the Mediterranean service will call weekly in Tacoma. The vessels Hapag-Lloyd uses on the route are relatively modest sized containerships chartered from other owners. Those ships typically carry between 2,500 and 3,000 20-foot-equivalent containers. The ships Hapag uses for its trans-Pacific service carry between 6,000 and 8,000 container units.

The port and the Washington United Terminals operator, Hyundai Merchant Marine, are rushing to complete modifications to the terminal to handle the larger Grand Alliance and Hapag-Lloyd Mediterranean service volume.

The trans-pacific service alone could bolster the port’s existing container traffic by 20 percent. The Mediterranean service could provide a modest boost to the container volumes in Tacoma, said Esterbrook. That increase could amount to about 32,000 container units a year. That compares with the port’s overall container volume of about 1.5 million container units last year.

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