Maersk’s ‘OC1’ service starts ‘land bridge’ to bypass the Panama Canal


Maersk’s ‘OC1’ service starts ‘land bridge’ to bypass the Panama Canal
In response to ongoing restrictions in the number of vessels that can pass through the Panama Canal, as well as limitations of the ships’
permissible canal draft, Maersk will implement a ‘land bridge’ alternative on its ‘OC1’ service.

The drought-related problems in the Panama Canal, where a lack of rainfall critically reduced water levels, and extended delays in Australian ports, have prompted Maersk to split its US East Coast – Oceania ‘OC1’ service into two separate loops:

One section will cover the Pacific and one Atlantic. Going forward, the vessels on each respective ‘sub-loop’ of the ‘OC1’ will no longer pass
through the Panama Canal.

Maersk’s move marks the first time that a carrier is taking such an initiative. Instead, the Danish carrier will organize a cargo ‘land bridge’ that uses rail to transfer container across the 80 km isthmus of Panama, connecting Balboa on the Pacific coast with Manzanillo on the Atlantic.

The ‘OC1’ Pacific loop will turn at Balboa, connecting with the Australia and New Zealand ports, while the Atlantic loop will turn at Manzanillo, covering the US East Coast ports.

Besides the split, the modified ‘OC1’ will no longer call at Cartagena and Cristobal. These ports will however remain covered by other Maersk services.
Brisbane meanwhile, which just replaced Sydney in late December, will continue to be part of the rotation.

The ‘OC1’ is so far covers Philadelphia, Charleston, Balboa, Tauranga, Brisbane, Melbourne, Port Chalmers, Tauranga, Manzanillo, Cristobal, Cartagena, Philadelphia with eleven ships of 3,100 – 3,800 teu.
After the split, the details of the two separate strings of ‘OC-1’ are as follows:

OC-1 Pacific (‘PSW’) loop : calling at Balboa, Tauranga, Brisbane,Melbourne, Port Chalmers, Tauranga, Balboa (Duration: 8 weeks / 8x 3,100 teu – 3,800 teu) >OC-1 Atlantic loop : calling at Manzanillo, Philadelphia, Charleston, Manzanillo (Duration: 3 weeks / 3 x 3,500 x 3,800 teu).

Meanwhile, the earlier removal of the Sydney call from the ‘OC1’, will see Maersk adding Tauranga to its ‘Polaris’ service. This new call will
cater for Latin America and US East Coast imports into Sydney via transhipment in New Zealand.

The revised ‘Polaris’ will turn in four weeks (up one week) using four ships of 1,700 – 2,800 teu, calling at Sydney, Auckland, Nelson, Timaru, Port Chalmers, Tauranga, Sydney.

For now, this new rotation is scheduled to take effect from 31 January from Sydney with the 2,824 teu ARCHER. Before the addition of this ships as a fourth vessel, the ‘Polaris’ loop will only serve Tauranga on an inducement basis.

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