Cargo giant MSC returns to Port Miami
By Scott Blake
A giant of the sea cargo industry has re-established a presence at Port Miami.
Mediterranean Shipping Company S.A., or MSC, has started weekly service between Miami and Central America. The new route will connect Miami-Dade County's seaport with Puerto Santo Tomas De Castilla in Guatemala, Puerto Cortes in Honduras, Freeport in the Bahamas and the Port of Jacksonville.
Prior to initiating the new service, MSC stopped service at Port Miami years ago and has since focused its business at Port Everglades near Fort Lauderdale, said MSC Executive Vice President Allen Clifford.
Now, however, an MSC cargo vessel will call upon Port Miami once a week, handling containerized imports and exports, such as building materials and hospitality industry supplies, Mr. Clifford said. He said he expects exports to account for most of the Miami business.
In Miami, he said, MSC typically will operate a vessel with a cargo capacity of 2,000 TEUs, or 20-foot equivalent units, the capacity of a standard intermodal container.
"These are not huge vessels," he said during an interview Tuesday with Miami Today. "But we hope for them to be full."
The addition of MSC in Port Miami's lineup of cargo shippers should help the seaport continue to improve its cargo volumes.
In fiscal 2011, for example, Port Miami handled 8.22 million tons of cargo — the highest annual total for both imports and exports since 2006. In following years, however, the port's total cargo tonnage declined before bottoming out at 6.83 million tons in fiscal 2009, when the recession was in full effect.
Port Miami's cargo tonnage peaked in fiscal 2005 at 9.47 million tons, statistics show.
Geneva, Switzerland-based MSC is the world's second-largest shipping line with more than 430 cargo vessels. MSC also is the parent company of MSC Cruises, an international cruise line.
MSC's first call at Port Miami for its new Central America-Freeport service recently arrived with the vessel Northern Delight V. South Florida Container Terminal will handle the new service at its Port Miami cargo yard.
Mr. Clifford would not discuss specifics about why MSC's cargo operation left Miami long ago and is returning now.
"You always want to go where the cargo is," he explained. "Situations change, volumes [of cargo] change, needs change."
On the new Miami route, the company expects the heaviest shipments to come and go from Honduras. MSC also has a central operation in Freeport. In addition, MSC has a South Florida office with about 40 employees, offering full import/export customer services.
Mr. Clifford said the new weekly service wouldn't have an impact on the company's staffing in South Florida.
MSC currently does not have plans to add to its new cargo operation in Miami.
"MSC is a company that plans for everything in the future," Mr. Clifford said. "MSC always keeps an eye open" for new opportunities.
"At this time, however, nothing else is planned," he added.
Still, the company has made a commitment to the local seaport, and does not anticipate that the new service will be short-lived.
"MSC," he said, "is the kind of company that sticks around."
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