An additional weekly container service is expected to begin calling on the Port of Wilmington in May, according to an announcement Tuesday from N.C. Ports.
The news release said N.C. Ports has a new partnership with container shipping group THE Alliance with the addition of the EC2 all-water Asia-U.S. East Coast container service.
The weekly service includes some of the largest vessels that will consistently come to and leave from the Carolinas.
“Our comprehensive port coverage continues to improve at North Carolina Ports,” said Paul Cozza, executive director of N.C. Ports, in the release. “This new partnership with THE Alliance, a recent announcement
with the 2M Alliance, plus our existing services, provide regional importers and exporters with a plethora of options through our Port of Wilmington.”
THE Alliance includes container carriers NYK Group, “K” Line, MOL, Yang Ming and Hapag-Lloyd. Their transpacific service rotation includes direct access to the markets of Qingdao, Ningbo, Shanghai and Busan. The North Asia service will traverse the expanded Panama Canal on its way to U.S. East Coast Ports, Tuesday's announcement said, promoting fast transit times as well as the deployment of modern and efficient ships, 8,500 TEUs in capacity.
“Today’s announcement will help further establish the Port of Wilmington as a major gateway for the Carolinas,” said the ports' Chief Commercial Officer Greg Fennell in the release. “We are excited to welcome these new carriers and for the return of Yang Ming and 'K' Line.”
Both Yang Ming and “K” Line have a long history at the Port of Wilmington. Yang Ming, in particular, called the port for more than 35 years, according to the release.
The release said the carriers "eagerly await" their return to North Carolina this spring after the collapse of then partner and container carrier Hanjin this past fall.
“The capital investments being made in our infrastructure continue to drive the decisions of these container carriers and we are expecting even more good news in the near future,” said Tom Adams, board chairman of the N.C. State Ports Authority, in the release.
As part of its ongoing infrastructure investment plan, N.C. Ports recently announced the order of two New Panamax ship-to-shore cranes
with an option to purchase two more from designer Shanghai Zhenjua Heavy Industry Co. Ltd.
According to the release, between the new cranes, turning basin expansion project, various berth improvements and the expansion of the container yard, N.C. Ports will spend more than $120 million on its infrastructure over the next few years.
"These investments, along with the operational efficiencies associated with North Carolina Ports, have led, in part, to recent service additions at the Port of Wilmington," the release stated.
The EC2 container service could also attract more agricultural exports through the Port of Wilmington Cold Storage facility (PWCS).
"The demand for pork and poultry is particularly high and it is anticipated that the new EC2 container service, dovetailed with the capabilities of the PWCS facility, will give North Carolina farmers the opportunity to significantly grow their export business to Asia through North Carolina Ports," the release stated.