Sea Star Line, which operates a liner service between Florida and Puerto Rico, has named Peter I. Keller as president.
Keller, who retired as executive vice president and chief operating officer of NYK Group Americas Inc. in 2010, knows the Puerto Rico trade from as far back as the 1970s when he was part of a team from Sea-Land Service that helped form Navieras de Puerto Rico.
“After watching for many, many years, I’m excited about being back involved with Sea Star and Saltchuk,” Keller said in an interview. Saltchuk is a Seattle-based conglomerate that also owns Totem Ocean Trailer Management and Foss Maritime, and many other businesses in shipping, logistics, air cargo and real estate.
Keller noted that the U.S.-to-Puerto Rico market has been a difficult one for many years, and that 2011 was again a challenging year. But he said with cost-cutting and restructuring taken last year, Sea Star “looks to return to a modest level of profitability in 2012.”
Last year Sea Star dropped a service between Philadelphia and Puerto Rico. Today it operates two ships, offering two sailings a week between San Juan and Jacksonville, Fla., and one per week between San Juan and Port Everglades, Fla.
Keller said rates in the U.S.-Puerto Rico trade need to improve if carriers are to be able to reinvest in new equipment for the trade.
Services between the U.S. mainland and Puerto Rico must comply with the Jones Act, requiring them to use ships built in U.S. shipyards, registered in the United States and operated by U.S. seafarers.
Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico’s representative in the U.S. House of Representatives, said last year that the General Accountability Office had agreed to his request to study the application of the Jones Act.
Pierluisi said “a broad array of economists in Puerto Rico have expressed concern that the Jones Act hinders the island’s economic growth.”
Keller said the Jones Act is “one of hallmarks of the nation’s maritime policy and a safeguard for a lot of the American maritime industry, shipyards, as well as our union partners.” — Chris Dupin