Horizon Lines will start a “marine highway” service between Houston and Jacksonville, Fla., and restore capacity on the Jacksonville-Puerto Rico lane next month.
Horizon Lines said its ship Horizon Producer
, which today operates in a 14-day loop between Houston and San Juan, will now make an intermediary stop in Jacksonville on the eastbound leg of its voyages.
This will allow the company to offer both a short-sea shipping service from Houston to Jacksonville and a mid-week departure from Jacksonville to Puerto Rico on a fortnightly basis, all while maintaining the current service between Houston and Puerto Rico.
In addition to its service from Houston, Horizon operates weekly services between Philadelphia
(moving there from the Port of New York and New Jersey earlier this year) and San Juan and Jacksonville and San Juan. Horizon had offered two sailings per week between Jacksonville and San Juan, but discontinued a mid-week sailing in January, citing the weak economy in Puerto Rico.
By adding the additional stop in Jacksonville on its Houston-San Juan loop, the company will be able to once again offer a mid-week sailing from Jacksonville to San Juan, albeit every other week, and offer the new short-sea service from Houston to Jacksonville.
Sam Woodward, Horizon’s president and chief executive officer, said the change was a “customer-focused service enhancement that is economically attractive, as well as socially and environmentally responsible.”
The first sailing of the new service is scheduled to depart Houston on Friday, June 7, arriving in Jacksonville on Tuesday, June 11. Cargo destined for destinations in the Southeast will be offloaded and moved via Horizon’s intermodal network to final destinations such as Miami, Orlando, Savannah, Atlanta, Charleston, and Charlotte. The vessel will then load additional cargo in Jacksonville and depart on the same Tuesday, arriving in San Juan on Friday. It will return directly to Houston from San Juan on Friday, arriving in Houston on the following Friday, maintaining the current 14-day roundtrip
Joe Rodriquez, vice president of sales and marketing, said the company expects the Houston-to-Jacksonville service will be attractive to shippers of chemicals, resins, building materials, packaging, food and beverage.
The company said its research suggests the marine highway service will be attractive to shippers moving heavy cargo from Texas who must deal with highway weight restrictions and whose cargo “weighs out” before a truck “cubes out.” Horizon’s ships carry 20-, 40-, and 45-foot containers as well as ISO tank containers.
Horizon also noted that finding backhaul cargo is sometimes a challenge for truckers serving shippers moving cargo out of Texas, forcing up truck rates for those who must subsidize an empty leg back from the Southeast to Texas, in essence turning a 900-mile trip into one that is 1,800 miles long.
Horizon added the service will move cargo over the weekend when it can be particularly difficult to find long-haul truckers to move loads.
Rodriquez said Horizon believes it may be able to offer shippers currently using trucks to move cargo from Houston to Jacksonville a transportation savings of 25-30 percent.
While Horizon will have to speed up the eastbound leg of its Houston service to accommodate the Jacksonville call, the ship will be able to maintain its current speed on the trip back to Houston.
Horizon said demand for service from Houston to Puerto Rico has been flat for some time.
Another carrier, National Shipping of America (NSA), announced this month it would start up a fortnightly service between Houston and San
Juan. It is timing its voyages so that its ship arrives in Houston and San
Juan on the weeks that the Horizon Producer
is not in port.
But Rodriguez said Horizon added the call in Jacksonville on its own and has been investigating short-sea shipping services for some time. If reception is good, Horizon could look to add other ports or marine highway services. - Chris Dupin