Zim boosts Portland’s fortunes
Israeli container line Zim Integrated Shipping Services Ltd. will switch its Pacific Northwest port of call to Portland from Seattle this summer, North American President Tommy Stramer confirmed.
Portland’s The Oregonian first reported last week that Zim was considering whether to bring its service to the Columbia River port and that Taiwanese carrier Yang Ming had already committed to do so.
In an interview, Stramer said the ocean carrier had made a decision to drop Seattle in favor of Portland for its weekly AMP service.
“We are more or less concluding our negotiations. It does look like we will start” in June, Stramer said.
The news marks an important turnaround for the inland port, which lost two-thirds of its transpacific container business when “K” Line and Hyundai Merchant Marine pulled out of the Portland market in 2004. “K” Line decided to feed its own terminal in Tacoma and Hyundai’s move was motivated by a desire to streamline the number of Pacific Northwest destinations, with the channel depth limitations on the Columbia factoring into the decision.
Hanjin Shipping is the only remaining carrier with service to Asia, although CP Ships operates a small service from the U.S. West Coast to the Mediterranean. The port reported that container volumes were off 40 percent to 160,479 TEUs in 2005 from 2004 (container volume reached a peak of 339,571 TEUs in 2003), but the drop was not as severe as anticipated because Hanjin and CP Ships increased volumes by 46 percent and 25 percent, respectively.
Port officials have aggressively worked to court carriers to pick up the slack, citing Portland’s lack of congestion compared to Southern California ports and intermodal connections. The port recently added a third post-Panamax crane, with plans for three more as part of 10-year expansion of its container terminal. Dollar Tree and Kroger are two major retailers who have established major transloading operations in Portland within the past few years.
Other factors that attracted Zim are that Portland has less competition than Seattle and a bigger export market.
Zim is interested in starting intermodal service to the Midwest, and is working with the BNSF Railway and Union Pacific to get a train started, port spokesman Eric Hedaa said.
“Our ability to attract and retain a service here is really going to depend on our ability to do a gateway” to the rest of the country, he said.
Zim’s Asia Mediterranean Pacific service operates a 13-vessel string between the Slovenian Port of Koper in the Adriatic Sea, Haifa, Israel; Colombo, Sri Lanka; Shanghai; Pusan, Korea; Vancouver and Seattle. The vessels are on the order of 3,500 to 4,000 TEUS, but the company will upgrade the ships to 4,500 TEUS in the next 12 months, Stramer said.