Mediterranean Shipping is shifting some containerized cargo the carrier normally transships at its Bahamian hub of Freeport to other ports in the Caribbean.
The container ship operator has moved some of its normal flow to transshipment hubs at both ends of the Panama Canal and in Nassau in the Bahamas, according to Nicola Arena, chairman and CEO of MSC (USA).
“This has been going on for a while. Because of the size of the new ships that are being deployed, we had to do some adjustments,” said Arena, speaking at an MSC board meeting in Freeport, Bahamas.
The cargo shift has raised concerns among business leaders in the Bahamas that MSC plans to quit Freeport entirely, but Arena said this is not true. “I would like to categorically affirm that we have no intention whatsoever to leave the Port of Freeport,” he said. "Freeport is strategically very important for MSC, particularly in view of the bigger ships which will come in the near future. It is our strong intention to remain here.”
MSC moves about 700,000 20-foot equivalent containers units through Freeport per year, but because of the slowdown in the growth of container trade with the U.S., the carrier no longer needs to move as many containers through the Freeport Container Port, which is operated by Hutchison Port Holdings.
MSC has shifted some transshipment activities to the HPH terminal in the Port of Balboa on the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal and to HPH’s Cristobal Container Terminal in Colon at the canal’s Caribbean entrance. “This is just an arrangement according to the size of the ships and the requirements of the market and the final destinations,” Arena said.
Arena said the shift of some of MSC's transshipment activities to other Caribbean hubs is temporary, but he could not say how long it would last. Some traffic has been moved to the Port of Nassau, Bahamas, which he said “is becoming an important port for us.”
As MSC takes delivery of more large container ships, it plans to continue to use Freeport for transshipment, because “with 50.8 feet of water depth, it is ideal for big ships,” he said. “It is the best port in the American hemisphere.”