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Intermodal Carrier Starts Shipping Service with Chartered Swire Ships

logistic company launches Pacific shipping service with dedicated ships
Johnelle chartered from Swire arrived in Washington this week starting the Pacific shipping service (J.B. Hunt)

Published Jun 30, 2022 5:50 PM by The Maritime Executive

US-based intermodal transport company J.B. Hunt is becoming the latest logistics company to expand into ocean shipping launching ongoing shipping services between China and ports in California and the Pacific Northwest. The services in being launched this month with two general cargo ships as part of a long-term, multi-vessel service agreement between J.B. Hunt, which is headquartered in Arkansas, and Swire Shipping, headquartered in Singapore. 

Under the agreement, J.B. Hunt will have ongoing cargo shipping opportunities available from the Shenzhen, Qingdao, and Shanghai markets in China to ports in California and the Pacific Northwest. The company said in announcing the new service that it will provide customers with a unique solution for accelerating international cargo movement from Asia while also helping to expedite the overseas transport of new company containers. They said the ongoing service will help customers alleviate supply chain challenges such as equipment dislocation and fluidity, dwell time, and demurrage by streamlining the ocean transport and transloading process.

During the pandemic and the shipping congestion over the past two years, several retailers and transport companies followed a similar strategy, although most were limited in scope and duration. In the summer of 2021, a Wisconsin-based logistic company, Schneider National, chartered ships to move containers from Asia for its customers, and at the beginning of 2022 FedEx chartered three ships to transport new containers from China for its operations while also offering to transport cargo for customers. Recently, this trend has been expanded with German supermarket company Lidl launching its own shipping company and UK-based freight forwarded Allseas Global Logistics also launching a shipping line with chartered cargo ships.

“We’re really solving for two very big challenges with this agreement,” said Darren Field, president of intermodal and executive vice president at J.B. Hunt. “First, we’re adding intermodal capacity, which will provide customers with more opportunity to leverage the cost-savings and sustainability benefits that J.B. Hunt Intermodal offers. Second, we’re greatly reducing the time it takes for customers’ freight originating overseas to be out for delivery in the U.S., something that has troubled the industry for years.”

The first ships for the new services are two 19,600 dwt Liberian registered general cargo ships, which J.B. Hunt renamed Johnelle and Johnnie Bryan in honor of the Hunts that founded their company in 1961. Previously sailing as the Pacific Integrity and Malcolm, both of the vessels were built in 2011 and are 485 feet long. 

The Johnelle initiated the new service earlier in June departing from Hong Kong and Da Chan Bay in China and arriving in Everette, Washington on June 28. As part of her cargo, she was transporting 250 new containers that are part of the company’s efforts to increase its container fleet to a total of 150,000 boxes in the next three to five years. Her sister ship, the Johnnie Bryan departed China on June 20 bound for Port Hueneme, California.

"This is yet another example of our people listening to the needs of customers and developing a creative solution to efficiently deliver on their capacity needs,” said John Roberts, president and CEO of J.B. Hunt. “It is our honor to name two of the vessels helping us charter new waters this year after the original visionaries who knew the potential of what our company could be."

Along with the support of additional vessel capacity, the Johnelle and Johnnie Bryan will continue transporting new J.B. Hunt containers overseas as they become available and provide the shipping service which can be linked with J.B. Hunt’s services that include intermodal, dedicated, refrigerated, truckload, less-than-truckload, flatbed, single source, final mile, and more. J.B. Hunt’s intermodal fleet currently includes more than 109,000 53-foot containers and 6,000 tractors.