Boston Direct Call Port Update

By Don Hardy

Opinion

We reported back in February that there is some speculation that the CKYH+E alliance may cease all water direct call service to Boston. Depending on who you talk to there are different opinions on the future of direct port calls to Boston from Asia. The port is optimistic that there will continue to be a direct call to the port of Boston.  The ocean carrier sales representatives are advising that the direct call service to Boston will stay.  However, when chatting with the ocean carriers in China, there seems to be some doubt.

The ocean carriers are moving to much larger ships and fewer port of calls. For the very short term it seems likely that the carriers will continue to call on Boston albiet with reduced capacity and calling frequency.  In the long term, the threat that direct carriers may eliminate calling Boston still looms.

Key Events

  • Recently, Cosco moved an 8500 container ship through Boston (Paul W. Conley Terminal) and was successful in handling the vessel.
  • The CKYH+E alliance is supposed to make a short term decision on port calls in the next 60 days.
  • In late June 2016, the widened Panama Canal is set to open. Some carriers are considering increasing their Panama all water vessel size this summer from 4500 TEUs to 8000 TEUs, and there is concern that smaller ports like Boston will not be able to handle the larger vessels.
  • In late 2017, the navigational clearance at the Bayonne Bridge will be completed, raising the structure to accommodate larger ships sailing underneath. Maher Terminal, APMT, Global Terminal and PNCT at the port of NY/NJ require vessels to pass under the Bayonne Bridge to access their facility.

Challenges

  • Boston port can only handle container ships stacked five containers high. This is a limitation of the cranes that unload the containers, but larger vessels can stack eight containers high.
  • Due to FAA restrictions, the cranes cannot be raised as they are too close to Logan Airport flight paths.
  • Boston has a nine foot tide swing. Vessels have to call the port on high tide.
  • Container ships call on NJ/NY ports first before heading north to Boston. After calling Boston, vessels travel southwards to southern ports.

Our  Options

Worldwide Logistics will continue to closely observe any new information regarding direct all water transit service to Boston.  For the short term, the carriers are providing rates and sailing schedules for Boston port calls.  Fortunately, two of the key carriers we work with, namely Cosco and Yang Ming, have long featured a direct call at Boston in their vessel rotation.

However we need absolute preparedness in the event that this service is suspended or disrupted to the point where other options are required.

Similar to Boston, Worldwide Logistics currently services tens of thousands of containers without service disruption through the port of NY/NJ.  Some terminals at NY/NJ are congested and some have high tolls leaving the area. Our primary terminal is not congested and is not subject to the toll.   Thanks to our expansive drayage network, we will be able to provide customs clearance in either New York or Boston ports.

We are hoping that the carriers will continue to recognize the important client base in New England. We are trying to deliver that message, however we must be prepared for the reality of the mega-ships and reduced ports of call.  Worldwide Logistics always endeavors to be on the front end of any regulatory, market or industry changes, keeping clients equipped with effective solutions.