New shipping route will connect Wilmington to Europe’s largest ports

"To have the top two container carriers in the world come together and provide service options for us on the transatlantic and transpacific side is pretty special.”

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Maersk, the largest shipping container company in the world, is part of a new shipping route to connect Wilmington with northern Europe. (Photo Benjamin Schachtman)
Maersk, the largest shipping container company in the world, is part of a new shipping route connecting Wilmington with northern Europe. (Photo by Benjamin Schachtman)

WILMINGTON – The region’s commercial ties to northern Europe will be strengthened with the addition of the Port of Wilmington to a major transatlantic route.

Starting April 1, the new route will bring a weekly container vessel to Wilmington on its way from northern Europe to New York. The route is operated by the 2M network, a vessel-sharing alliance between the first and second largest shipping container companies, Maersk and the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC).

Maersk and the Mediterranean Shipping Company make up the 2M shipping alliance, which already connects Wilmington to major ports in southeast Asia. (Photo Benjamin Schachtman)
Maersk and the Mediterranean Shipping Company make up the 2M shipping alliance, which already connects Wilmington to major ports in China and southeast Asia. (Photo by Benjamin Schachtman)

“To have the top two container carriers in the world come together and provide service options for us on the transatlantic and transpacific side is pretty special,” Greg Fennell, chief commercial officer for the port, said.

The route, called NEUTAL2 by MSC and TA2 by Maersk, will connect Wilmington to the North Atlantic ports of Bremerhaven, one of Germany’s most important ports, as well as Felixstowe, the largest shipping container port in the United Kingdom.

The other European ports of call are Antwerp in Belgium and Le Harve in France. Across the Atlantic, the route also connects Savannah, Baltimore, Norfolk and New York. Savannah and Wilmington are the latest cities to join the route.

Inclusion on the route is something of a coup for Wilmington’s port, which is considerably smaller than neighboring facilities in Georgia and Maryland. Port of Wilmington’s Executive Director Paul J. Cozza credited ongoing infrastructure projects for bringing major routes – like the TP10/Amberjack route to Asia, which opened late last year – to Wilmington.

“As we continue to invest in our facilities we’ll see even more activity at our Port of Wilmington, thus furthering our economic contribution to the state,” Cozza said.

Port activities sustain about 76,000 jobs in North Carolina and generate $700 million each year in state and local tax revenues, according to Cliff Pyron, senior manager of external affairs.

The port's 1970s-era German-built cranes are being replaced by state-of-the-art models capable of handling post-Panamex ships. (Photo Benjamin Schachtman)
The port’s 1970s-era German-built cranes are being replaced by state-of-the-art models capable of handling post-Panamex ships. (Photo Benjamin Schachtman)

In the past six months, the Port of Wilmington completed the expansion of its turning basin, overhauled its docking and container yard facilities, and announced the addition of two New Panamax ship-to-shore cranes.

Many of these improvements are aimed at keeping the port’s capabilities in line with the largest class of ships traveling though the recently-expanded Panama Canal. Now, the Port of Wilmington’s heightened profile is attracting business from Europe.

The NEUTAL2/TA2 route is serviced by mid-sized 4,867 TEU vessels and opens new opportunities for businesses throughout North Carolina, according to the Port.

According to Pyron, the port plans at least $120 million worth of further infrastructure projects over the next few years. In addition, the Port of Wilmington will soon be connected to Charlotte by an intermodal rail system operated by CSX, further extending the port’s ability to serve the larger Carolina area.