WILMINGTON — A new trade route with Asia will bring massive new ships to the area. Port of Wilmington officials hope the new deal will have a positive impact, specifically on North Carolina’s pork industry.
Cliff Pyron, a spokesman for the port said, “the ships on this route are the largest ships to visit Wilmington for a weekly service – in fact, they’re the largest ships providing consistent service to the east coast.”
The ‘EC2’ route – operated by THE Alliance – will connect Wilmington with weekly service from Shangai and other Asian ports by 8,500 TEU (20-foot equivalent) vessels. In comparison, the Maersk and MSC ships that will begin service from northern Europe to Wilmington next month are less than 5,000 TEU (a full-sized 18-wheeler pulls a 2-TEU container).
THE Alliance, a massive international group of shipping companies, will begin operations in April, with service in Wilmington to begin in May. It was formed, in part, to take on the massive 2M alliance of the world’s two largest shipping company, Maersk and the Mediterranean Shipping Company.
Cliff Pyron said the 2M Asia-to-Wilmington route, opened in November of last year, quickly attracted interest from the new competition.
“I think they saw the growing business here, and what the port can handle after some of our recent infrastructure investments, and decided it was definitely worthwhile to open a second route from Asia,” Pyron said.
Increased demand for American pork – specifically North Carolina pork – has increased in China in the last several years, including the purchase of Smithfield by Chinese company Shuanghui Group. Pyron said officials at the Port of Wilmington are optimistic about the positive impact of the second major shipping route on the port industry.
“We’re very optimistic about the impact on pork farmers and agriculture throughout North Carolina,” Pyron said. “The shipping services available at the port, combined with the Cold Storage facility, make it ideal for our local business looking to expand growth.”
The Cold Storage facility, which opened last year, already provides refrigeration and fast-freezing services for North Carolina pork producers. President Charles McCarthy said the facility looks forward to increasing business, saying, “everything at the facility was built with expansion in mind.”
Chairman of the North Carolina State Ports Authority Board of Directors, Tom Adams, said in a statement that, “investments being made in our infrastructure continue to drive the decisions of these container carriers.”
Pyron echoed him, saying, “the investments in our port, our expanded turning basin, our post-Panamax cranes, these things are paying off, for shipping businesses and for the business through southeast North Carolina.”
THE Alliance is composed of Hapag-Loyd, “K” Line, MOL, NYK Group and Yang Ming, which are shipping companies from German, Japan, South Korea and other nations (an ongoing merger between German Hapag-Loyd and the United Arab Shipping Company would further increase the size of the group). Yang Ming called on the Port of Wilmington for 35 years until last year’s Hanjin bankruptcy.