Port Report: 2M ship largest to call on U.S. as lots of empty containers wait to be reshored

Big ships come to U.S. even as backhaul cargoes still lacking, and truckers deal with terminal shut-outs and chassis imbalances.

The largest container ship ever to call on the United States is arriving this week at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, part of a 2M alliance service offering.  

Big ship vessel calls are always a point of pride as they allow a port to show off their readiness to handle ever larger container ships. But big ships also illustrate the troubled economics for ocean carriers and difficulties on the landside for handling those larger ships.  

The MSC Eloane, which is rated to handle 19,500 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU), is scheduled to call at the APM Terminal at Los Angeles March 13 and Total Terminals International dock in Long Beach five days later.

The Eloane, which is regularly deployed on the Asia-to-Northern Europe route, will be the largest container ship to visit the U.S., said maritime consultancy Dynamar. The previous record was set by CMA CGM’s 17,900-TEU Benjamin Franklin.

While the Eloane’s exact manifest is unknown, according to some logistics professionals a big part of its dispatch to the U.S. will be to pick up empty containers.

The U.S. has largely always been a net importer, so a backlog of empty containers is not unusual, particularly after the holiday rush. But the imbalance is a growing concern to ocean carriers looking for backhaul cargoes.

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