Horizon Lines, Inc. (NYSE: HRZ) announced it will launch express intermodal container service to key inland U.S. cities when it begins the new Five Star Express (FSX) trans-Pacific liner service in December.
The maiden FSX voyage is scheduled to depart Ningbo, China, on December 14, Shanghai on December 15, and arrive in Los Angeles on December 26. Approximately 60% of the initial voyage is already subscribed, as the company continues to make steady progress toward its goal of 75% bookings for the first sailing.
"As other carriers reduce service locations and slow service speeds, U.S. shippers continue to tell us they want fast and reliable service alternatives not only port-to-port, but inland to final destinations as well," Brian Taylor, Senior Vice President of International Services at Horizon Lines, said in a presentation to journalists. "At a time when U.S. retailers are maintaining lower inventory levels and placing more logistics responsibilities on their manufacturing partners here in China, our Five Star Express service offers a fast and reliable transit schedule to keep supply chains running smoothly."
Horizon Lines plans to offer some of the fastest inland transit times in the industry, including 15-day availability in Kansas City from Shanghai and 16-day availability in Dallas, using scheduled intermodal rail service from Los Angeles every week. The carrier also will offer express inland service to Chicago, Memphis, Atlanta and Charlotte using on-dock rail connections to avoid drayage fees on the West Coast, saving customers time and expense. Horizon Lines plans to expand the inland express network to other locations throughout the United States next year.
Horizon Lines is able to offer a cost-effective inland service because of operational synergies with the carrier's domestic U.S. shipping network serving export customers to Puerto Rico, Alaska, Hawaii and Guam. Delivering imports inland to these markets will provide a more stable supply of containers in locations where many shippers struggle to find available container capacity. Horizon Lines maintains strong relationships and direct electronic data interchange integration with the nation's railroad operators, facilitating the delivery of quality service.
"We do not operate in a one-size-fits-all supply chain," Taylor said. "Our niche focus to provide reliable scheduling, fast transits and quality customer service offers a compelling alternative in the market at the right time."
Five of Horizon Lines' vessels currently call ports in China under its transportation services agreement with Maersk Line, and this trans-Pacific service has been in place since December 1999. Once this agreement expires on December 10,Horizon Lines will begin transporting general cargo from Ningbo and Shanghai on behalf of direct commercial customers. Sales and marketing efforts for the service have been formally underway since March.
In addition to offering customers a trans-Pacific import alternative, the new Five Star Express service will allow Horizon Lines to better accommodate an expanding military presence in Guam, where trade is expected to grow significantly in coming years. The Five Star Express service will connect with Horizon Lines' warehousing and distribution capabilities on the U.S. West Coast and intermodal rail service to inland destinations to create an integrated import/export solution.