Freight News, Sea

New Carrier SM Line Looking to Expand

[ June 2, 2017   //   ]

Newly formed South Korean ocean carrier SM Line is launching China Pacific Express, its weekly service between China, Korea and the U.S., which made its debut at the Port of Long Beach in late April.

Its initial fleet of five 6,500-TEU vessels will connect Long Beach to ports in Busan, South Korea, and Shanghai and Ningbo in China. The company’s SM Long Beach, the first ship in its service, arrived at the Port of Long Beach’s Pier A on April 30.

“The Port of Long Beach welcomes SM Line with open arms,” said Dr. Noel Hacegaba, Managing Director of Commercial Operations and Chief Commercial Officer at the Port of Long Beach. “We are pleased that the newest entrant to the trans-Pacific has chosen to call Pier A.”

To some industry observers, SM Line is the phoenix emerging from the ashes of the world’s seventh-largest ocean carrier, Hanjin Shipping, the fallen South Korean company whose collapse last August stranded an estimated $14 billion worth of goods around the world.

Founded in 1996, Seoul-based construction and manufacturing services firm Samra Midas Group – which also owns bulk operator Korea Line and has a majority stake in Samsun Logix – formally created SM Line in December to buy Hanjin’s assets, including its equipment, workforce and Pacific and Asian routes.

SM Line, helmed by Korea Line president Kim Chil-bong, reportedly wants to grow a fleet of 110,000 container slots by next year, which would place the upstart carrier among the world’s 20 biggest global carrier firms.

The company is also interested in expanding its service between Asia and U.S. East Coast ports and possibly acquiring shipbuilder STX.

SM Line wants to rebuild the industry’s trust in Korean shipping, SM Line President Kim said.

“It would take a long time for the Korean shipping industry to recover as more overseas shipowners than we think have turned their back on the nation’s shippers after the Hanjin Shipping collapse,” he told Maeil Business News Korea affiliate Pulse News in March.

For the Port of Long Beach, SM Line will be a welcomed visitor to Pier A.

“SM Line has aggressive plans to grow market share in the trans-Pacific,” Hacegaba said. “This will bode well for Pier A, which has a track record of reliability, speed and efficiency.”

The 200-acre Pier A container terminal is located in the Port’s Inner Harbor, equipped with 10 gantry cranes and an on-dock rail yard. Operated by SSA Marine, the facility was opened in 1997 and served as the second of Hanjin’s three Long Beach terminals.