File photo of a U.S.-flagged MLL containership

File photo of a U.S.-flagged MLL containership

Maersk Line, Limited (MLL), the U.S.-flagged arm of Denmark-based Maersk Line, says it is spending $500 million on the purchase and reflagging of eight newer and larger containerships to improve services provided to its U.S. military, government and commercial customers.

MLL says that the investment in the eight vessels will improve the quality of service to the Middle East and Mediterranean Sea from the U.S. East Coast. Since 2000, MLL says it has invested over $1.75 billion dollars to modernize its fleet in support of the U.S. government and military.

“These eight newer vessels, along with the global transportation network that connects them, demonstrate our commitment to our customers. We are proud to serve the U.S. military and to deliver U.S. food aid worldwide,” said John Reinhart, MLL’s President and CEO. “MLL is focused on continual improvement, and these ships will further increase reliability and shrink our environmental footprint.”

The vessels are about 10 years younger than the outgoing ships, and offer improved fuel efficiency and environmental performance, according to MLL.

The vessels will join Maersk Line’s weekly Middle East Container Line service (MECL1) throughout May and June, which serves commercial customers and the U.S. military, as well as transports U.S.-grown food aid. MECL1 will be the industry’s only direct U.S. flag service to and from the U.S. East Coast and Pakistan, and the service includes a new stop in Algeciras, Spain.

All eight vessels will join the Maritime Security Program (MSP) and Voluntary Intermodal Sealift Agreement (VISA), MLL said.

“We are pleased to bring more modern and useful assets into the MSP and VISA fleets,” said Reinhart. “The vessels will augment our nation’s security and sustain jobs for the U.S. Merchant Marine, the fourth arm of our national defense.”

“The efforts of the mariners onboard the transitioning vessels and colleagues ashore have been excellent, assuring a timely and smooth progression of the reflagging process,” Reinhart added.

MLL works with four U.S. maritime labor unions to crew its fleet of 56 U.S. flag vessels and employs about 1,200 American seafarers.

Reflagging a ship ensures that it meets the stringent safety, environmental, operational and compliance standards required by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and other U.S. maritime authorities.

MLL’s engineering team will need to perform a gap analysis on each ship to assess its compliance with USCG requirements and makes any necessary modifications. Once a vessel meets and receives all U.S. government approvals, the vessel can come under the U.S. flag, making it eligible to carry cargo for the U.S. military, other government entities and commercial shippers.

“We want to express our gratitude to the U.S. Transportation Command, the Maritime Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard, and our labor union partners,” said Reinhart. “With their support, these eight ships will increase the versatility of the U.S. flag fleet. We believe that the addition of these ships, achieved through our successful cooperation, will benefit all of our customers and their vital missions.”

The eight incoming vessels are named in honor of great American cities. The ship names are Atlanta, Chicago, Columbus, Denver, Detroit, Hartford, Memphis, and Pittsburgh. Maersk Chicago was the first of the eight vessels to be reflagged on May 1, 2013.

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