Matson extends its South Pacific service
by Michael Hansen, Hawaii Shippers Council, April 20, 2018
Matson Inc. (NYSE: MATX) issued a press release on Wednesday, April 18, 2018, “Matson Launches New Tahiti Service“ announcing that they have extended their Honolulu-based South Pacific Express (SPX) service by adding a second containership and calling at two more South Pacific ports doubling the number of range ports.
Previously Matson operated its SPX service with one small, time-chartered containership, the Singapore flag SAMOANA (ex-Tacoma Trader), calling at two South Pacific ports, Pago Pago, American Samoa, and Apia, Samoa (formerly Western Samoa) on a fortnightly frequency. The SAMOANA (ex-Tacoma Trader) began SPX employment with its arrival to Honolulu Harbor on May 30, 2017.
On August 8, 2017, Matson announced they would offer the destination of Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia, on their SPX service by transshipment at Samoa on Kyowa Shipping Co Ltd. / Kyowa Line beginning with Kyowa’s TROPICAL ISLANDER Voyage 119 arriving Papeete September 4, 2017.
In early April 2018, Matson added a second small, time-chartered containership, the Antigua & Barbuda Flag IMUA II (ex-Celia), beginning its SPX employment with departure from Honolulu on April 9, 2018, for Papeete. Previously the IMUA II was employed in Matson South Pacific Limited’s Auckland, New Zealand-based services to South Pacific destinations.
In addition, Matson is swapping out the current service vessel SAMOANA (ex-Tacoma Trader) for another small, time-chartered containership, the Portugal Flag MARIA P (ex-Pioneer Bay). The MARIA P sailed from Honolulu on its first SPX voyage on March 27, 2018, for Papeete. The MARIA P will be renamed SAMOANA for its second Honolulu port call on April 24th.
The new SPX port rotation is Honolulu / Papeete / Pago Pago / Apia / Nuku’alofa (Tonga) / Honolulu. That rotation began with the departure of the SAMOANA (ex-Tacoma Trader) from Honolulu on March 13th.
Employing two small containerships on the new routing, with each ship completing the round voyage in approximately 28 days and the two ships operating opposite one another, together they produce a fortnightly service frequency.
Matson’s intention is to originate a majority of its SPX cargo on the U.S. mainland via its existing main line U.S. West Coast (USWC) / Hawaii services to be relayed over (transshipped at) its Honolulu Terminal on Sand Island in Honolulu Harbor to the SPX ships.
Matson’s SPX service operates in competition with two large international liner companies operating one containership each in a conference arrangement and providing direct service from Oakland and Los Angeles, California, to the range ports of Papeete, Apia and Pago Pago (they do not call directly at Nuku’alofa).
Those competitive services are operated by: (i) Swire Shipping Limited / China Navigation Co. Pte. Ltd.’s Polynesia Line Pte Ltd. with the German Flag POLYNESIA (ex-Hansa Salzburg, built 2011, 1740 TEU profile, cargo gear 2 x 40 tons); and, (ii) Maersk Line / Hamburg Sud’s South Sea service with the Singapore Flag CAP TAPUTAPU (Built 2014, 1,103 TEU profile, cargo gear 2 x 45 tons).
All the ocean shipping companies or carriers operating between U.S. ports in Hawaii and on the USWC and American Samoa employ foreign flag vessels. Although this would seem to be a violation of Jones Act cabotage, it is not because the islands of American Samoa were exempted from maritime cabotage by the Tripartite Convention of 1899 concluding the Second Samoan Civil War. The Convention divided the Samoan Islands between the United States and the German Empire, and gave the United Kingdom control of Tonga.
Matson with the addition of another ship and two more range ports of call to their SPX service has decidedly upped the ante in their competition with the two existing ocean carriers operating off the USWC directly to South Pacific destinations. It will be interesting to see how this new initiative works out.
News Release: Matson Launches New Tahiti Service