The phrase "on the waterfront" may be disappearing from the maritime industry's lexicon. Since ships first sailed the Mediterranean, business and customs offices have been clustered around the docks where oceangoing cargo was handled. But in the Internet age, physical proximity to the sea is no longer a necessity for conducting business, as carriers like Horizon Lines (headquartered in Charlotte, N.C.), Hyundai Merchant Marine (Dallas, Texas), and K Line (Richmond, Va.) have discovered.
The latest ocean carrier to head for the hills—or in this case, the desert—is Neptune Orient Lines. NOL will relocate its Americas regional headquarters from the Port of Oakland, Calif., to the landlocked Phoenix, Ariz., area later this year. NOL shipping subsidiary APL, which has been headquartered in Oakland since the company's founding more than 100 years ago, will pull up stakes, too. No surprise that cost was the main factor in the decision. Every ocean carrier is hurting right now. Many, including APL, have also reduced vessel capacity and restructured their maritime and logistics organizations in order to weather the economic storm.