U.S. Lines name to return to service

U.S. Lines name to return to service

LOS ANGELES -- The venerable U.S. Lines name will be resurrected within the next two months when a group of investors initiates a service between South China, Hong Kong and the U.S. West Coast.

The fixed-day, weekly service will call Shekou, Hong Kong and Long Beach with five vessels, each with a capacity of about 1,700 TEUs.

U.S. Lines' top managers are also equity holders in the new carrier. "This means that shippers can actually talk to the owners of USL, anytime, providing them immediate access to the key decision makers, ensuring customer satisfaction," said Ed Aldridge, president.

Before it went bankrupt in the mid-1980s, U.S. Lines was a leading carrier in the U.S. trades. Its sales staff were instantly recognizable at industry functions in dark suits, white shirts and conservative haircuts. The late Malcom McLean, who founded Sea-Land Service in the late 1950s, incorporated the same clean-cut image at U.S. Lines when he took over the carrier.

Aldridge purchased the U.S. Lines name and will manage the carrier along with industry veterans Kevin Kroft, formerly with Australia-New Zealand Direct Line; Bob Beilin, formerly with Sea-Land and ANZDL; Stephen Aldridge, formerly of "K" Line, Trans-Pacific Lines and Wan-Hai Lines, and Nicholas Hay, formerly with APL Ltd., Orient Overseas Container Line and Seatrain Lines.

Aldridge said U.S. Lines will begin service between late December and late January. Despite its name, it will not operate under the U.S. flag. The carrier will seek a mix of cargo from non-vessel operating common carriers as well as beneficial cargo owners.

Initially, the company will concentrate on eastbound cargo, but Hay's experience in the U.S. export trades could lead to opportunities for westbound cargo, Aldridge said. "We will be looking to identify any and all profitable opportunities," he said. U.S. Lines will not initially offer refrigerated service.

U.S. Lines has not yet decided if it will join the carrier discussion group known as the Transpacific Stabilization Agreement whose members haul more than 80 percent of the cargo in the eastbound Pacific. Importers say that U.S. Lines could establish a niche for itself by remaining independent.

"I think they would provide an excellent alternative for the industry," said Mike Gray, director of international transportation at K-Swiss Inc., the footwear and apparel importer.