Crowley to Increase Jones Act Puerto Rico Trade Capacity Amid Horizon Lines Exit

Photo courtesy Crowley Maritime Corporation
Photo courtesy Crowley Maritime Corporation

Jacksonville-based Crowley Maritime Corporation has announced plans to increase capacity for its U.S. mainland to Puerto Rico service amid Horizon Line’s recent exit from the trade.

Crowley’s liner services group on Monday said it will be adding a 400 FEU capacity, flat deck barge to its South Atlantic Puerto Rico service in the first quarter of this year, increasing the rotation between Jacksonville, Florida, and San Juan to four sailings each week. The company will also replace the existing 580-foot, triple-deck barges with larger, recently modified 730-foot, triple-deck barges in the North Atlantic – Puerto Rico trade, sailing between Pennsauken, New Jersey, and San Juan, increasing capacity by over 40% in that lane, according to Crowley.

To support the increased capacity in both services, Crowley says it will be adding over 6,000 pieces of cargo carrying equipment including a combination of dry and reefer containers and chassis.

Crowley says it will be placing the flat deck barge into service on a two-week rotation once it has been outfitted for container carriage. When combined, the flat deck barge, along with the existing six, triple-deck, roll-on/roll-off (Ro/Ro) barges, ranging in size from 580 feet long to 730 feet and sailing on an accelerated schedule, will allow for four weekly southbound and northbound sailings per week between Jacksonville and San Juan.

“With the changes in the marketplace, we expect strong demand for space on our vessels, and we are stepping up to provide improved capacity, equipment and sailing frequency to benefit our customers,” said John Hourihan, senior vice president and general manager, Puerto Rico. “This service enhancement is another indication of our commitment to the people and businesses of Puerto Rico, whom we have been pleased to serve for over 60 years.”

Crowley’s announcement follows struggling Jones act shipper Horizon Lines’ termination of its liner service between the U.S. and Puerto Rico beginning at the end of 2014, which Horizon Lines said previously was due to continuing losses without the prospect of future profitability. As recently as 2012, Horizon operated four vessels, but it was had been forced to remove two vessels from the Puerto Rico service due to prolonged falling demand and the need to cut costs. The company’s exit ended its 56-year history in the Puerto Rico trade, which started with SeaLand Service, Inc. in 1956.

Crowley has been serving the Puerto Rico market since 1954, currently with nearly 200 Puerto Rico employees. Crowley is also building two new LNG-powered container ships to be deployed in the trade in 2017.

In November, Horizon Lines announced separately that it had also reached two separate definitive agreements with Matson, Inc. and The Pasha Group that would result in the sale of the entire company.