Bernuth Lines adds Caribbean cargo ship
By Scott E. Pacheco
Bernuth Lines added its 11th cargo ship this month and the 500-container vessel is currently on its first voyage as part of the company.
That Bernuth has added a ship signals its relative strength in a weak economy, says Executive Vice President Tom Paelinck.
"Our immediate competition has seen 20% to 25% reduction," he said. "We've been able to keep our same volumes, which indicates that we've been able to grow market share."
The Bernuth Calypso sailed from Miami on Oct. 16. Its 14-day Caribbean run includes stops at St. Martins, St. Kitts, Dominica, St. Lucia and St. Vincent.
Those markets, the Caribbean, and Central and South American markets were strong markets for the Port of Miami for most of the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, said Kevin Lynskey, assistant director for business initiatives.
"Our Central, South and Caribbean market held on very strongly all the way through spring," he said. "It only started showing softening in the summer.
"We brought in two additional services — ATL and NYK. Where we might have seen some softening from our pre-existing shipping lines, those two lines kind of filled the hole for us."
While September numbers aren't yet in, the port expects cargo to be down about 2.5% for the fiscal year, he said, adding that Miami and Jacksonville have been alone in weathering the recession with relative stability as other major US ports have been hammered.
"We're very pleased," Mr. Lynskey said. "If you look at averages that are coming off the East Coast and West Coast, you are more likely to see a 20% dip — most everybody else is down in 20% range."
In 2007-08, the Port of Miami moved 830,000 TEUs — the 20-foot equivalent used to measure capacity in container transportation. This year that number should fall to about 809,000 TEUs.
Meanwhile, Bernuth's Mr. Paelinck said he attributes the company's success to the "longevity, regularity, trustworthiness of the company," which has been around since 1972.
The Bernuth Calypso is not new — it's 10 years old — but that still leaves it with a usable life of "20 to 25 years easily," Mr. Paelinck said.
Still, he said, the recession has affected customers, which in turn does affect Bernuth, which operates out of Terminal Island and transports just about anything that fits in a container.
"Obviously with our ships we are in the transportation business," he said. "We don't buy, we don't sell, we only transport. The real question is how the economies of those destination islands are doing."
So far, he said, goods such as furniture and electronic appliances are moving OK. Also, shipping of "used pleasure boats" in the 30-foot range is picking up as owners dump boats they bought when the economy was stronger.
However, anything to do with construction and development — a new hotel, a resort renovation — has ground to a halt.
He suggested keeping an eye on the upcoming tourist season, December through April, as the economies of many island nations depend on tourism. If it's a strong season, he said, the economies in those places will pick up, along with shipping.
According to Bernuth.com, Bernuth vessels in 2002 began calling at Terminal Island, a private, deepwater terminal that allowed the company to employ "newer, larger and faster ships" than at the Miami River terminal where it had operated for about 30 years.