Chinese ships to dock at Port of Miami
By Suzy Valentine
As many as seven ships from the Far East will dock at the Port of Miami each week when another service begins at the end of this month.
Evergreen/COSCO is providing a China express service expected to reach the seaport next week. After that, one of three vessels the owner rotates will visit the Port of Miami weekly as part of the itinerary.
Each ship is to pick up cargo in Shanghai, Yiantin and Hong Kong before sailing to Cristobal, Panama, and Savannah, GA, and arriving at the Port of Miami.
The vessel's return journey is to involve stops in Cristobal and Shanghai.
The route is the result of several months of negotiations and complements an existing schedule that has facilitated China's movement up Miami's trade rankings from 15th in 2003 to top trading partner for the year ended Sept. 30. China accounted for almost 1 million tons of goods flowing in and out of the seaport last year - about 10% of all trade.
Services between the Far East and Miami average four to six per week, though that rises in summer.
Eleven steamship companies offer service between Miami and the Far East.
"The service should arrive within a week or two," said Steve Erb, vice president of P&O Ports Florida Inc. "We've been working on the logistics for a couple of months, but the lines have probably been planning this for longer. This is a full service, so there will be inbound and outbound cargoes."
Officials are unclear which day of the week the first vessel will dock at the seaport.
"It'll be next week," said port director Charles Towsley, "though we don't have an estimated time of arrival yet. Each of the three vessels will have 500 moves a call. They'll be carrying general goods and electronics from the Far East."
Officials stopped short of making projections about how the additional route will boost trade.
"Until the ships get up and running, it's very difficult to tell how much trade will be done," said Mr. Towsley. "How exports develop remains to be seen. But, where there is one-way traffic, the aim is always to build that into two-way by boosting outbound product."
"It's premature to say what the volumes and 20-foot equivalent (container) unit counts will be," agreed Mr. Erb, who said it was a coup for the seaport to land the deal during a time of increased rivalry with Port Everglades. "In the containerization world, all ports are very competitive."
More services are in the cards, said Mr. Towsley.
"We're in talks to secure additional Far East services later this year," he said, "as well as boosting services to Northern Europe. Both can be expected in the last quarter of this year."
His colleague agreed.
"We're very optimistic for 2006," said Mr. Erb. "There are leads going forward for Far East and other trade lanes."