Maersk Line, Limited (MLL) said it has begun upgrading its U.S.-flag fleet by replacing eight existing ships with eight newer and larger containerships at a cost of about $500 million.
MLL, the U.S.-flag arm of A.P. Moller-Maersk, said the new ships, which are being re-registered under the U.S. flag, will allow it to improve the quality of service between the U.S. East Coast and Middle East and Mediterranean Sea that it offers to the U.S. military, government and commercial customers.
Maersk Chicago, the first of the eight vessels to be reflagged, came under the U.S. flag on May 1, and the company said the remaining ships will join Maersk Line’s weekly Middle East Container Line service (MECL1) in May and June. Maersk said last month the MECL 1 service will be the backbone of its service to the Mediterranean.
The MECL 1 service serves both commercial customers and the U.S. military. It also transports U.S.-grown food aid. MECL1 will be the industry’s only direct U.S.-flag service to and from the U.S. East Coast and Pakistan, and includes a new stop in Algeciras, Spain, which will be used as a hub for cargo moving to and from ports in the Mediterranean.
The company has added an eighth vessel to what had been a seven-ship string to accommodate the Algeciras call and increased commercial cargo moving to and from the Mediterranean. Military cargo volumes are expected to drop as the war winds down in Afghanistan.
The vessels are about 10 years younger than the outgoing ships, offering improved fuel efficiency and environmental performance. For example, the Maersk Chicago, formerly known as Maersk Kuantan, was built in 2007, and has capacity of 6,200 TEUs, according to the Maersk Line Website.
“These eight newer vessels, along with the global transportation network that connects them, demonstrate our commitment to our customers. We are proud to serve the U.S. military and to deliver U.S. food aid worldwide,” said John Reinhart, MLL’s president and chief executive officer. “MLL is focused on continual improvement, and these ships will further increase reliability and shrink our environmental footprint.”
All eight vessels will join the U.S. government’s Maritime Security Program (MSP) and Voluntary Intermodal Sealift Agreement (VISA).
“We are pleased to bring more modern and useful assets into the MSP and VISA fleets,” Reinhart said. “The vessels will augment our nation’s security and sustain jobs for the U.S. Merchant Marine, the fourth arm of our national defense.”
The ships are reflagged to make sure they meet the stringent safety, environmental, operational and compliance standards required by the U.S. Coast Guard and other U.S. maritime authorities. MLL engineers determine whether there are any modifications needed to bring each ship into compliance with Coast Guard requirements. Once a vessel meets those requirements and receives all U.S. government approvals, it can come under the U.S. flag, making it eligible to carry cargo for the U.S. military, other government entities and commercial shippers.
Maersk said the other seven ships will be named after Atlanta, Columbus, Denver, Detroit, Hartford, Memphis, and Pittsburgh— “American cities that have brought industrial vitality to the U.S. economy through manufacturing, finance, transportation, and exports.” – Chris Dupin