Horizon Lines ready to join Matson in serving China

By Howard Dicus - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Horizon Lines Inc. says it will launch express shipping service from China to the U.S. West Coast in mid-December, using five containerships.

This puts Horizon Lines into direct competition with Matson Navigation for the China business. Matson and Horizon are the top two maritime shipping lines to Hawaii.

"Market receptivity to our new service remains very strong," Horizon Senior Vice President Brian Taylor said in a statement. "We are now over 45% subscribed on the first sailing."

Horizon says the service, which it calls Five Star Express, will sail from Shanghai to Long Beach, California, in 11 days. The company, based in Charlotte, N.C., is adding more than 12,000 containers to handle the traffic it expects.

Matson, already serving Shanghai with its own China Express service, recently leased five more containerships to expand its service to include stops in Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta in addition to serving Xiamen, Ningbo and Shanghai.

Both Matson and Horizon have for years had to contend with the fact that its ships sail full from the West Coast to Honolulu, continue to Guam, then return to the West Coast almost empty.

Matson's original idea was to keep going to China and perhaps be able to sail back full. The service has been so successful that the five extra ships just leased don't even stop in Hawaii or Guam but sail directly to Hong Kong.

The eastbound route for both its original and new China Express service is from Shanghai northeast between Korea and Japan, then through the strait between Japan's main and northern islands, then straight across the Northern Pacific.

For both Matson and Horizon, the selling points to customers are that their containerships, smaller than the ones trudging between Hong Kong and Long Beach, are both faster and quicker to unload.

Horizon has used the Maersk shipping line for international deliveries, the maritime shipping equivalent of a code share alliance, but that agreement for China ends Dec. 10. Five Star Express will launch Dec. 13.

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