Thursday, March 4, 2010

Horizon Re-Ups Tacoma Lease, Plans Asia-West Coast Service

Jones Act ocean carrier Horizon Lines, which in recent days had been looking at a possible move from the Port of Tacoma, has signed a lease with terminal operator APM Terminals North America that will see the carrier continue to call at the Tacoma port facility at least through 2015.

Horizon's lease with APMT– which covers five ports including Tacoma – was set to expire at the end of the year and rival Puget Sound ports were reportedly vying hard for the carrier's Tacoma business.

Last year, ocean carrier Maersk left the APMT facility at Tacoma to move to the nearby Port of Seattle, leaving Horizon as the lone customer calling at the Tacoma terminal. The carrier currently has three ships per week calling at Tacoma – one to Hawaii and two to Alaska – which according to Tacoma port officials translate into about 150 terminal and terminal-related jobs.

Financial terms of the lease, which included an optional two-year extension, were not released.

In related Horizon news, the carrier also announced plans to kick off a weekly trans-Pacific service between Asia and the US West Coast, set to commence in December.

The new service will utilize five of the carrier's 2,824-TEU US-flagged Hunter-class containerships that currently call on Guam and continue on to China as part of a space-charter agreement with Maersk Line. In preparation for these plans, Horizon Lines and Maersk Line have mutually agreed not to renew their current Asia space-charter agreement when it expires on December 10, 2010.

To support development of the new Asia service, Horizon has named Brian Taylor as Senior Vice President, International Services. In the new role, Taylor, formerly President and Chief Operating Officer of Horizon Logistics, LLC, will oversee the Asia expansion.

"After looking at the various alternatives for our Hunter-class vessels, our management team determined that an Asia service offers the best potential for long-term growth,” Taylor said.

"The trans-Pacific trade, consisting primarily of China-US commerce, continues to be the largest and most dynamic market in the world. We believe we are entering the market at an opportune time."