Maersk North America this week announced the launch of a service linking ports in Vietnam and China with the U.S. East Coast via the Panama Canal beginning in May.
“Importers are looking for more U.S. East Coast gateways in their Asia/North America supply chains, while exporters are looking for more equipment — especially in the Southeast U.S. region. The TP23 service will enable us to address these needs while integrating our warehousing and distribution network,” Narin Phol, managing director of Maersk North America, said in a statement.
A Maersk spokesman told American Shipper, “West Coast congestion was not the direct reason for the launch of TP23. That said, we do believe that the infrastructure bottlenecks on the West Coast are contributing to the continued stronger market demand for Asia-U.S. East Coast services, which has outpaced U.S. West Coast growth for the past many years.”
Eight Maersk vessels and two ZIM ships will be used for the TP23 string, with a rotation of Vung Tau, Vietnam; to Yantian, China; Panama Canal; Savannah, Georgia; Charleston, South Carolina; Newark, New Jersey; and back to Asia.
Maersk noted that “due to congestion in Savannah, the rotation will initially and until further notice swap the U.S. calls to go Charleston, Savannah [and then] Newark.”
The vessels to be deployed include Maersk’s E.R. Berlin, Zante, E.R. Kobe, Agios Minas, Tamina, E.R. France and E.R. Felixstowe.
“Some of the TP23 vessels are new charters and some have been used in the Maersk network before but have now become available,” the spokesman said, noting that the vessel deployment on each service does change because of such factors as dry dockings, charter expirations and market fluctuations requiring upsizing or downsizing.
Maersk said the TP23 service is just the latest shift it has made over the last year “to stay agile for customers.”
That included deploying 48% more capacity in the trans-Pacific trade from July to November 2020 compared to the same period the year prior, it said.
“The evolution of the TP23 service reflects Maersk’s 2020 approach to serve the trans-Pacific to U.S. East Coast cargo surges via additional capacity from service upgrades, extra loaders and loadings on the Asia-Europe network for transshipment onto extra loader shuttles across the trans-Atlantic. The TP23 will now become a structured, stable, weekly service in 2021 with greater reliability,” Maersk said.
Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Griff Lynch also used the word “reliability” when asked to comment on the new Maersk service.
According to the GPA, container exchanges at the Port of Savannah are expected to average 2,000 moves per vessel with the TP23 service.
“This new offering from Maersk replaces the extra loader vessels we have been handling with a regular service,” Lynch said. “This will provide greater reliability over the ad hoc sailings previously employed to accommodate record container volumes.”
Maersk said it is not ending any service as a consequence of launching the TP23. “The TP23 is a net capacity addition,” the spokesman said. “The launch of TP23 results in one additional call in Newark, one additional call in Savannah and one less call in Charleston” as it will be removed from the TP17 and TP16 services.
South Carolina Ports Authority CEO Jim Newsome pointed out to American Shipper that the transit time from Yantian to Charleston on the TP23 service will be 28 to 29 days. That’s seven to eight days faster than existing services.
“This new service provides more capacity, reliability and coverage for importers needing a link between the Southeast U.S. and Vietnam and China,” Newsome said. “Importers of furniture, home goods and retail goods will benefit from the fast transit time and first-in call service to Charleston.”
Newsome said South Carolina’s ports have the capacity to handle more imports.
“Our deep harbor and available berths mean ships do not wait to access our terminals,” he said. “Our efficient operations allow for quick truck turn times. And our rail connectivity allows for goods to quickly move from the coast to the hinterland. Our two rail-served inland ports offer importers additional free time, increased trucking capacity and truck turn times less than 15 minutes.”