Port of New Orleans shippers poised to gain with launch of expanded carrier alliances
The CMA CGM Chicago makes the turn in the Mississippi River crescent on her first call to Port NOLA. The Chicago is part of the PEX3 weekly direct-Asia service.
Tracie Morris Schaefer
Newly launched mega-alliances of ocean carriers offer expanded options and greater opportunities for the Port of New Orleans and shippers it serves.
“We see the new alliances providing shippers with more choices and enhanced service efficiencies through the Port of New Orleans,” said Brandy D. Christian, President and CEO of the Port of New Orleans. “We believe Port NOLA is particularly well-positioned to provide shippers with competitive advantages in this mega-alliance era.”
The April launch of the extended alliances times perfectly with the Gulf export resin boom, which has spurred two straight record-setting years for Port NOLA’s Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal.
Indeed, by having its container operations centered at one terminal, Port NOLA offers shippers a critical advantage over ports where ships of various alliance partners call at different container facilities, which, in the early days of the new alliances, has caused confusion and delays for many shippers through those West and East Coast ports.
Having begun operations in April are the Ocean Alliance, consisting of CMA CGM, China Cosco Shipping, Evergreen Line and Orient Overseas Container Line; and the Transportation High Efficiency Alliance, or THE Alliance for short, of Hapag-Lloyd, “K” Line, Mitsui O.S.K. Line, NYK Line and Yang Ming.
At the same time, the 2M Alliance of the No. 1 and No. 2 global container lines, Maersk Line and Mediterranean Shipping Co. (MSC), adds Hyundai Merchant Marine and Hamburg Süd volumes via slot charter agreements, with Maersk advancing its plan for acquiring Hamburg Süd.
For Ocean Alliance leader CMA CGM, the France-based company that ranks among the world’s three largest container carriers, the combination with China Cosco, Evergreen and OOCL comes as CMA CGM extends its own strategic commitment to Port NOLA, with introduction in early 2017 of new direct Asian and South American services and expanded European coverage via the Napoleon Avenue facility.
Speaking at the Cargo Connections Conference, hosted April 4-6 by the Port of New Orleans, Nick Fafoutis, Senior Vice President of Sales and Chief Operating Officer of CMA CGM (America) LLC, commented, “Just going into West and East Coast ports isn’t enough.”
The CMA CGM Group, which in 2016 took ocean carrier APL under its fold, sees Port NOLA evolving into a significant gateway with value propositions being established with customers, according to Fafoutis.
Port NOLA’s Director of Commercial, Janine Mansour, pointed out that the addition of China Cosco and Evergreen via the Ocean Alliance offers new opportunities in trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic lanes via the Port of New Orleans.
“The new carrier options are very positive for our shippers,” Mansour said.
Shippers who haven’t traditionally relied on Gulf Coast ports are now looking at the increased carrier options in the Gulf and New Orleans.
Robinson Lumber company President W. Garner Robinson said, “Although we have been headquartered in New Orleans since 1893, in recent years much of our company’s traffic has moved to East Coast ports such as Norfolk, Charleston, and Savannah. We are hopeful that the coming carrier alliances and promised service expansion will improve rates and availability here in the Gulf, especially at our hometown port.”
Fafoutis said CMA CGM itself expects a 50 percent increase in container volume through Port NOLA in 2017, largely propelled by exports of petrochemical resins.
As part of efforts to ensure sufficient numbers of containers for carrying exports from Port NOLA, CMA CGM is partnering with railroad, port and terminal operator interests in the SEACOR AMH LLC container-on-barge service along the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge to New Orleans utilizing boxes floated down the river from Memphis.
While barge service extends Port NOLA’s waterborne reach thousands of miles inland, the Mississippi River Intermodal Terminal, opened in 2016 adjacent to the Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal, proficiently links containership docks with six Class I railroads, furnishing cargo connections to such U.S. markets as Memphis and Chicago, as well as into Canada, via CN. And Port NOLA’s truck links have gained efficiency with recent gate automation and appointment system implementation.
Another key to expanded options for Port NOLA shippers comes via the 2M Alliance of Maersk and MSC, each of which is seeing growth in New Orleans.
LEFT: The MSC Ludovica is part of the 2M Alliance with Maersk and seen here being worked at the Port of New Orleans Nashville Avenue Wharf. Photo: Tracie Morris Schaefer RIGHT: CMA CGM’s Senior Vice President of Sales and Chief Operating Officer Nick Fafoutis addressed a crowd at the Cargo Connections Conference in New Orleans April 4-6.
Photo: Paul Scott Abbott
“Extending further options to our customers” was identified by MSC’s Senior Vice President and head of vessel-sharing agreements, Caroline Becquart, as an anticipated result of HMM joining up with MSC and Maersk.
“We constantly explore ways in which we can enhance our client offering and confirm our role as a trusted and reliable transportation partner,” Becquart said in March upon the signing of the formal agreement for HMM to take slots on 2M Alliance vessels in East-West trades. “Today’s announcement is a very positive step which will bring considerable benefits for our customers utilizing the trans-Pacific trade services.”
Meanwhile, the 2M Alliance looks to further add to options, particularly in North-South trades, with Maersk’s acquisition of Hamburg Süd.
Speaking at an industry forum in March, Fabio Santucci, President of Mediterranean Shipping Co. (USA) Inc., enthused, “We’re going to make shipping great again.”
Hapag-Lloyd, which has called the Port of New Orleans for decades and which is providing the lion’s share of tonnage for THE Alliance, has timed that alliance’s April launch with its “MORE Hapag-Lloyd” initiative, making the corporate statement: “Since April, Hapag-Lloyd stands for more connections, more service, more competence and more innovation.”
Hapag-Lloyd is engaged in its own business combination activity, with plans to close on a merger with United Arab Shipping Co. in the months following launch of THE Alliance.
In addition to the services offered by mega-alliance partners, Port NOLA continues to be served by several independent container lines, including Libra, MACS Maritime Carrier Shipping, Seaboard Marine, SeaLand and Zim Integrated Shipping Services, as well as more than a dozen breakbulk carriers.
For its part, the Port of New Orleans is furthering its proactive approach to smoothly accommodating burgeoning volumes, following up on more than $100 million of recent infrastructure investments with advancement of a landmark master plan, securing input of carriers and shippers alike in development of strategies for capital projects for the coming quarter of a century. The initial draft of the strategic master plan is on target for fall 2017 release.
“With active engagement of our shipper and carrier partners, Port NOLA is ensuring ability to meet cargo demands and furnish competitive benefits for generations to come,” Christian said. “The greater options and efficiencies provided by the new ocean carrier alliances represent a significant step forward in this exciting process.”
-Paul Scott Abbott