BOSTON-HALIFAX FEEDER SERVICE TO BE REPLACED BY NY BARGE ROUTE

BOSTON-HALIFAX FEEDER SERVICE TO BE REPLACED BY NY BARGE ROUTE

One of the Port of Boston's oldest cargo routes, the Yankee Clipper feeder service from Halifax, Nova Scotia, is being discontinued in favor of a new dedicated barge route from New York.

After 15 years of weekly calls, Hapag-Lloyd (America) Inc. announced that the familiar Yankee Clipper containership will make its last voyage from Boston to Halifax on Oct. 8. The chartered vessel is being returned to its owners, the company said.The old route connecting Boston, Halifax and Portland, Maine, will be replaced in October by the New York-Boston-Portland service. Hapag-Lloyd said it remains "100 percent committed" to Halifax, however.

The line has recently increased its allocation of space on Atlantic Container Line's "A" service to serve the port from Europe. The company also said it will pursue additional Halifax cargoes via truck and rail.

Officials said the new routing makes sense because of Hapag-Lloyd's three- continent services in cooperation with Far East carriers connecting Asia, North America and Europe.

The weekly Far East vessels and twice-weekly ships from Europe cross paths in New York, making the new link to Boston more practical, said T.P. Collins, vice president of operations. The fixed-date dedicated service will use a Columbia Coastal Transport Inc. barge, Mr. Collins said.

A company official also confirmed reports from port officials that the relatively small Yankee Clipper with a capacity of 149 20-foot-equivalent units (TEUs) has been running only 60 percent to 70 percent full.

The declining cargoes on the route appear to be due to a number of factors. First, the total business in Boston is generally down because of a recession in Europe. Also, traditional cargo patterns among carriers are changing following the start of direct outbound service to Northern Europe by New Orleans-based Lykes Bros. Steamship Co. in March, port officials said.

The officials said some of the Yankee Clipper's cargoes, which are transshipped at Halifax for European ports, have gone to Lykes Lines. Others may have been lured away by Mediterranean Shipping Co. and the vessel-sharing arrangement of Sea-Land Service Inc., P&O Containers Ltd., Nedlloyd Lines, OOCL (USA) Inc. and Maersk Inc.

But the officials also said all of Boston's business appears to be going through a major realignment. They said cargo balance on the big Atlantic-class containerships operated under the vessel-sharing arrangement has become more heavily weighted toward imports than any time since the start of the service to Boston.

Massachusetts Port Authority figures show that 18,769 TEUs have come into Boston on the Atlantic-class vessels' direct inbound service from Europe so far this year, while 2,457 TEUs have gone out, an inbound-outbound ratio of nearly 8 to 1. The shift is only partially due to Lykes' direct outbound service, the officials said, although they are uncertain as to what other factors may be involved.