The Puerto Rico Ports Authority has denied that the exit from the market of Horizon Lines has caused a serious crisis.
Horizon Lines ceased its Puerto Rican domestic service in late 2014, at around the same time it was bought by Matson Inc. The company had transported 30% of Puerto Rico’s imports.
The executive director of the country’s Ports Authority, Ingrid Colberg Rodrigues, said on 19 March that freight operations are “stable and secure”.
“The shipping industry keeps undergoing changes amid great challenges and Horizon’s exit is the most recent of these”, she said. “We’ll keep cooperating with [Puerto Rico’s] shipping sector to keep maritime transport operating.”
One of the three remaining shipping companies supplying the island is US-based Crowley Maritime Corporation, which is benefitting from Horizon’s departure.
The company announced in January, that it was adding an 800 teu capacity, flat deck barge to its South Atlantic-Puerto Rico service.
This barge is now on its way to Puerto Rico to begin operations and will increase the rotation between Jacksonville, Florida and San Juan, Puerto Rico, to four sailings each week. A company statement said that this would increase capacity by 200 loads per week.
The company’s vice-president, Jose Ayala, said: “Before Horizon left the trade, we had, on average, about 230 empty container slots each week on Crowley vessels. That space has been absorbed by customers.”
He continued: “In mid-December, we structurally modified our barge layouts to optimise the stow factor, which generated enough new capacity for another 100 loads a week.”
On 15 January, the company began running its vessels at an accelerated speed, increasing the frequency of its service and its weekly cargo capacity by 250 loads.
The company will also replace the existing 177 m triple-deck barges on the North Atlantic – Puerto Rico trade with larger 225 m ones, increasing capacity by over 40% in that lane.
“We completely understand that there has been some stress on the island’s supply chain given the abrupt departure of Horizon Lines from the market,” said John Hourihan, Crowley senior vice president.
“We have responded aggressively to replace the void they left, and are confident that current concerns will be short lived and that the island’s overall supply chain will be back to normal very soon,” he added.