New Crowley barge makes first Puerto Rico voyage

New Crowley barge makes first Puerto Rico voyage

A container-carrying barge that Crowley Liner Services added to fill a void left by Horizon Lines’ exit from Puerto Rico is scheduled to arrive Monday in San Juan on its first voyage.

Crowley and Sea Star Line added container-on-barge capacity in the domestic Jones Act trade to Puerto Rico after competitor Horizon exited the trade at the end of 2014. Horizon is being sold to Matson, which will take over Horizon’s Alaska service. Horizon’s Hawaii service will be transferred to Pasha.

The additional barge capacity put added pressure on Trailer Bridge, which also operates towed barges and is the smallest major carrier in the trade. Crowley and Sea Star parent TOTE also are building self-propelled ships that will be able to operate on liquefied natural gas.

“We completely understand that there has been some stress on the island’s supply chain, given the abrupt departure of Horizon from the market,” said John Hourihan, Crowley senior vice president and general manager. “We have responded aggressively to replace the void they left, and are confident that current concerns will be short-lived and that the island’s overall supply chain will be back to normal very soon.”

Crowley said the deployment of its new barge is one of several moves that have increased its weekly capacity in the trade by about 78 loads in the wake of Horizon’s departure. Crowley said it previously had capacity for about 1,000 loads a week on its multideck barges.

“Before Horizon left the trade, we had, on average, about 230 empty container slots each week on Crowley vessels. That space has been absorbed by customers,” said Jose “Pache” Ayala, Crowley vice president, Puerto Rico.

Ayala said Crowley’s barges were modified in mid-December to add capacity for another 100 loads a week, and that since Jan. 15 the carrier has increased weekly capacity by 250 loads by running the barges at faster speeds. The new flat-deck barge will operate on a two-week rotation that adds capacity of 200 loads in weekly capacity.

Contact Joseph Bonney at jbonney@joc.com and follow him on Twitter: @JosephBonney.