Demand drives US-Latin America network expansion

Demand drives US-Latin America network expansion

Crowley and others are rushing to take advantage of growth in the US-Latin America trade.

Crowley and King Ocean are the latest carriers to expand their offerings to tap growing demand between the United States and Latin America and Caribbean, with US imports from the region up 6.2 percent in the first half to 1.2 million TEU.

The new vessel-sharing agreement (VSA) with King Ocean strengthens services to Costa Rica and the Caribbean. The new weekly service and VSA come just weeks after Seaboard Marine upgraded and added services between the United States and Latin America.

Crowley on Wednesday will begin fixed-day, weekly sailings between the Florida ports of Jacksonville and Everglades and Costa Rica and Panama. Ships will leave Jacksonville on Wednesdays and call in Everglades Fridays from then on, calling at Puerto Limon in Costa Rica on Tuesdays, and Manzanillo, Panama, on Wednesdays.

The VSA between Crowley and King Ocean involves King Ocean alternating ships weekly with Crowley on the Jacksonville-Everglades-Costa Rica-Panama service, and also authorizes Crowley to charter space to King Ocean on the US East Coast-Trinidad trade, while King Ocean can charter space to Crowley between the East Coast and St. Lucia and Barbados.

Trade between the US and Costa Rica and Panama has been surging in the first half, with imports from Costa Rica up 20.3 percent to 115,496 TEU, and those from Panama up 10.9 percent to 10,863 TEU, according to PIERS, a sister product of JOC.com. Exports to Costa Rica are down 12.4 percent to 48,676 TEU, but those to Panama are up 1.8 percent to 47,598 TEU.

Behind the new services are surging volumes of key commodities, many of which have already surpassed their 2016 totals at both ports and from both countries, although volumes between Jacksonville and Costa Rica have been stronger than those between Jacksonville and Panama. The reverse is true for Everglades, with stronger volumes from Panama.

For example, rubber and rubber articles imported from Costa Rica through Jacksonville totaled 1,079 TEU in the first half, compared with 354 TEU in all of 2016. Other Costa Rica commodities that have already surpassed Jacksonville’s 2016 totals are paper and paperboard and pharmaceutical products, both of which have more than doubled to 458 TEU and 355 TEU, respectively, in terms of total trade. For Everglades, imports of edible fruits, nuts, and citrus fruit were the best-performing Costa Rica commodity, coming to 4,420 TEU in the first half, compared with 4,104 TEU for all of last year, according to PIERS.

Everglades’ best-performing commodity in terms of overall trade with Panama in the first half was miscellaneous edible preparations, surpassing last year’s total by nearly 500 TEU for 1,880 TEU.

The new services will bolster the growth both ports have experienced so far this year, with total traffic at Jacksonville up 2.4 percent to 386,174 TEU, while Everglades is up 3 percent to 383,762 TEU.

Jacksonville’s imports are up 8.2 percent to 185,439 TEU, while Everglades’ imports have risen 6.4 percent to 151,492 TEU. Export volume at Jacksonville slipped 0.1 percent to 234,681 TEU, while Everglades’ export volume declined 1.5 percent to 198,322 TEU.

Contact Dustin Braden at dustin.braden@ihsmarkit.com and follow him on Twitter: @dustin_joc.