Mar 12, 2015

Common use of MC-3 CT at Yokohama port to begin April 1

MC-3, a new container terminal (CT) at Yokohama port's Minami Monmoku Pier with a depth of 20 meters, one of the largest in the world, is likely to be put to common use starting April 1, 2015. This was disclosed recently by multiple related sources.

"The near-term priority challenge our company needs to address is the consolidation of Minami Honmoku Pier MC-3 Terminal that is one of the largest/leading-edge CTs in Japan. We are pushing ahead with consolidation work to make MC-3 a higher-standard CT than conventional ones in terms of response to the growing trend of deploying larger-size ships and earthquake resistance as well as environmental friendliness, so the most important point is to complete MC-3 as planned," Masayuki Takashima, president of Yokohama Port Corporation (YPC) said at an inaugural press conference in July 2012 when he assumed the presidency. Since January 2007, the Yokohama municipal government and YPC have pressed ahead with consolidation work for the deep-water berth MC-3 which they have positioned as a priority project for years. As a result, MC-3 is due to be put to common use in early fiscal 2015 as initially planned.

Hapag-Lloyd will be the first operator to make regular calls at the berth. Starting April 1, it is slated to call at MC-3 in its AME1 service on the Yokohama-China/Mexico route. With this, the berth is set to kick off its formal operation. AME1 is an independent service Hapag-Lloyd offers via eight 5,600-6,700-TEU containerships. Port rotation will be: Yokohama, Ningbo, Shanghai, Qingdao, Pusan, Yokohama, Ensenada, Manzanillo, Lazaro Cardenas, Ensenada, Yokohama.

In addition to this, Hapag-Lloyd is scheduled to switch its CT at Yokohama port from Honmoku Pier BC to Minami Honmoku Pier MC-3 as from April 19 for one own ship out of four 4,200-TEU ships operated on the Japan-Southeast Asia route jointly with Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK) and Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha (K Line). Service rotation is: Tokyo, Kawasaki, Yokohama, Yokkaichi, Nagoya, Kobe, Singapore, Jakarta, Singapore, Cai Mep, Tokyo. Hapag-Lloyd intends to regularly call at MC-3 in these two loops for the time being.

Also, CMA-CGM is set to change its CT at Yokohama from BC to MC-3 in its Japan-South Korea feeder service offered with one 990-TEU unit, starting April 7.

At Minami Honmoku Pier, two consecutive berths MC-1 and MC-2 with a water depth of 16 meters and a total extension of 700 meters went into operation in April 2001 as leading-edge terminals capable of accommodating large-size containerships. MC-1 was jointly leased by Maersk Group and Nissin Corp. and MC-2 by Maersk alone, with Mitsubishi Logistics Corp. in charge of operating both berths.

The Yokohama municipal government and YPC have pushed forward with consolidation work for another two consecutive berths MC-3 and MC-4 with a water depth of 20 meters and a total extension of 900 meters, located on the opposite side of MC-1 and MC-2. In April 2013, Mitsubishi Logistics was chosen to lease MC-3 due to go into operation this time. Since the entity which leases MC-3 was required to operate/manage MC-3 and the two existing berths at Minami Honmoku Pier in an integrated way, industry attention has been focused on specific contents of integral management of the three berths by Mitsubishi Logistics.

Mitsubishi Logistics has yet to disclose its ways of integrated operations in detail, but it has long been deemed certain that one of operators for which Mitsubishi Logistics serves as terminal operator will call at MC-3. Hapag-Lloyd uses terminals at Yokohama port route by route. In its AME1 loop, Hapag-Lloyd used to call at MC-1 and MC-2 where Mitsubishi Logistics is in charge of operation. So, it appears Hapag-Lloyd was able to shift its terminal to MC-3 with relative ease.

At MC-3, on top of its 20-meter-deep berth, Japan's largest-class gantry cranes capable of coping with containerships loading 24 containers in nine tiers, the first in Japan, was introduced in four units in 2014 as its cutting-edge stevedoring equipment. This makes it possible for MC-3 to engage in stevedoring work for ultra-large 18,000-TEU-class boxships.

Meanwhile, as Hapag-Lloyd's boxships to call at MC-3 are limited to 7,000-TEU ones, the new berth will initially become overqualified for its calling ships. Currently, the largest boxships calling at Japanese ports are 13,000-TEU type deployed on the Japan/China-Europe route by "2M" which was created by Maersk and Mediterranean Shipping Co. (MSC). The 13,000-TEU ships of 2M will continue calling at MC-1 and MC2 with inferior specifications than MC-3 both in berth water depth and stevedoring equipment.

"To ensure the most effective utilization of port assets, MC-3 should be allotted to those operators who really need a deep-water berth," one shipping source pointed out, and this view is gaining ground in the industry. Under such circumstances, it seems the next challenge facing Yokohama port will be "how best to utilize facilities as a whole", as one related source put it, at Minami Honmoku Pier boasting of the world's deepest berth.

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