Carriers maintain interest in NWSA with fourth new service
The Northwest Seaport Alliance next month will welcome the fourth new trans-Pacific service to call in Seattle-Tacoma this year, and others could follow as carriers continue to make good on their pledge to relieve pressure on the congested ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
“Absolutely, interest in our gateway is still strong from both carriers and BCOs [beneficial cargo owners],” Tong Zhu, chief commercial officer and chief strategy officer of the NWSA, told JOC.com Tuesday. Port staff continue to field inquiries from other carriers exploring the possibility of initiating service to the Pacific Northwest, she said.
Mediterranean Shipping Co. (MSC) last fall launched its weekly Santana service linking North Asia with Los Angeles-Long Beach with 9,000 TEU ships. MSC announced at the week the Santana service will no longer call in Southern California, and its new port rotation will be Yantian-Shanghai-Tacoma-Yantian. The MSC announcement did not state the size of the vessels in the new PNW service.
Gene Seroka, utive director of the Port of Los Angeles, told JOC.com in February trans-Pacific carriers inted to “meter” services to the Southern California gateway in order to spread to other West Coast ports some of the heavy import volumes from Asia that are expected to continue through peak season 2021.
Zhu said MSC in recent months has deployed several extra-loader vessels to Seattle-Tacoma and is pleased with the ability of the gateway to handle the cargo. The ad hoc vessels carried containers for local delivery as well as inland point intermodal (IPI) containers that move to the upper Midwest, she said. At first, the NWSA experienced some issues securing enough railcars and locomotive power to handle the increased IPI volume, but the situation has improved and last week the port was allocated additional rail capacity, Zhu said.
MSC follows CMA CGM, Zim Integrated Shipping Services, and Wan Hai Lines in initiating services to Seattle-Tacoma so far this year. Zim this week will launch a weekly trans-Pacific service to Oakland, following CMA CGM, which in January launched a first-call inbound service to the Northern California port.
Imports remain strong in LA-LB, Seattle-Tacoma
US imports from Asia moving through Los Angeles-Long Beach have averaged around 800,000 TEU each month from last July through March, according to PIERS, a JOC.com sister product within IHS Markit. Imports from Asia in Seattle-Tacoma have averaged about 105,000 TEU during that nine-month period. In this year’s first quarter, US imports from Asia moving through Los Angeles-Long Beach increased 48.3 percent from Q1 2020, while Asian imports increased 35.8 percent to the NWSA, according to PIERS.
In addition to the new regularly-scheduled weekly services, Zhu noted that so far this year Seattle-Tacoma has received 37 ad hoc vessel calls from multiple carriers. Some of the ad hoc calls disged only IPI containers destined for the Midwest before proceeding to Los Angeles-Long Beach, while others did full disge and reload in the NWSA.
The strategy of carriers to relieve pressure on Southern California appears to be succeeding in reducing vessel bunching in Los Angeles-Long Beach. Containerships that were forced to stop at anchor awaiting berthing space totaled 23 on Tuesday, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California. In recent weeks, the number of vessels at anchorage has remained in the range of 18 to 23, down from more than 30 vessels earlier this year.