APL will launch a weekly direct container shipping service linking Ho Chi Minh City to the U.S. West Coast in as little as 15 days.
Vietnam's exporters have been relying on small feeder vessels to connect with larger ships to gain access to the world's major consumer markets. The first departure of the APL-operated service on June 4 will link Vietnam's exporters to the trans-Pacific routes.
"The launch of the service is recognition that Vietnam has not only established a strong market presence among the world's leading shippers and manufacturers, but it is delivering on its commitment to modernize transportation infrastructure such as state-of-the-art port facilities capable of handling large deepwater containerships," said Eng Aik Meng, president of APL.
"Customers are clamoring for direct service to Vietnam, but we haven't been able to start one because of shallow water," said William Rooney, managing director, North and South America, for Hanjin Shipping, at a May 8 seminar at the Weissman Center at Baruch College sponsored by the Journal of Commerce and NYMAR. "That should be fixed in the harbor at Ho Chi Minh City later this year," he said.
A significant jump in cargo volume is overloading Saigon Port, said Le Cong Minh, its general director, in a report to the government last week.
In the first four months of this year, Saigon Port in Ho Chi Minh City handled 6.38 million tons of cargo, up 43 percent from a year earlier, Minh said.
The 4,250 TEU capacity APL Denver, which is deployed on APL's Pacific South 1 service, is scheduled to make one of the first calls at the Saigon Port-PSA facility in the first week of June. SP-PSA is Vietnam's first operational deepwater container terminal serving Ho Chi Minh City.
In early 2007, APL co-authored a research paper examining Vietnam's transportation and logistics environment. The report concluded that over the last 10 years, containerized throughput within the country has been growing at about 19 percent per year.
Vietnam is one of the few countries in Asia projecting solid export growth in 2009. The majority of that trade expansion will be with North America, which is Vietnam's largest export market.
-- Peter T. Leach contributed additional reporting to this article.
Contact Marcy Behrmann Frank at email@example.com.