Larger Ships Prompt APL to Switch Oakland Terminals

Larger Ships Prompt APL to Switch Oakland Terminals

APL is completing negotiations with SSA Marine to move its Northern California vessel operations from Eagle Marine Services’ Global Gateway Central container terminal to the nearby SSA terminal in Oakland.

Gene Seroka, APL’s president for the Americas, said the move will prepare APL for the introduction of the large 9,200-TEU capacity vessels that the carrier will phase into its trans-Pacific operations next year.

The SSA facility has the water depth required to handle vessels with a capacity of 9,200 20-foot container units, but the facility in Oakland operated by APL’s Eagle Marine subsidiary does not.

In an advisory to its customers, APL stated that Eagle Marine Services will cease its operations in Oakland next year. “APL is completing negotiations with the Port of Oakland to terminate the existing GGC terminal lease effective June 30, 2013,” the bulletin stated.

West Coast ports over the next few years could experience a shuffling of tenants as carriers introduce ever-larger vessels into their trans-Pacific services. CMA CGM last week announced that it is taking an equity stake in SSA’s Pacific Container Terminal in Long Beach. CMA and its partners in vessel-sharing operations are introducing vessels as large as 13,000-TEU capacity into their trans-Pacific services.

The Alphaliner consulting firm noted that carriers over the next three years will add 110 vessels with a capacity of 10,000 TEUs or greater into their global fleets. As those vessels enter service in the high-volume Asia-Europe trade, they displace vessels of 8,000 to 10,000-TEU capacity, many of which move to the trans-Pacific.

The normal rotation for vessels in Pacific Southwest services is to make Los Angeles-Long Beach the first call inbound. The vessels then steam up to Oakland, which is a large export port, to take on outbound cargo.

The steady deployment of ever-bigger ships into these services is therefore pressuring terminal operators in Southern and Northern California to provide the large terminals and deep water needed to accommodate mega-ships.

Contact Bill Mongelluzzo at bmongelluzzo@joc.com and follow him at twitter.com/billmongelluzzo.