Maersk Line and BNSF Railway today announced the launch of a day-definite sea-rail service from Asia to the United States that will hit its delivery targets 95 percent of the time, performance levels that the companies called "unprecedented" for this type of service.
The service, called "Flagship," links China, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, and Vietnam with Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Memphis, and Northwest Ohio, via the Port of Los Angeles. The one exception is that Dallas will not be served from Japan or Korea, at least for now.
Maersk began a similar service last year on the Asia-Europe trade.
The new service will rely on dedicated BNSF trains to provide non-stop service to the five inland U.S. markets. The companies said the trains would bypass connecting points along their routes, which will allow for faster train velocity.
For example, a Shanghai-Chicago sailing is guaranteed to reach its destination in Chicago in 19 days. A voyage from Yokohama to Memphis is committed to arrive in 17 days. And a sailing from Malaysia to Dallas is guaranteed to reach its destination in 25 days, according to Maersk's schedules.
Maersk executives said the service is focused on delivering reliable transit times, rather than reducing the time in transit. Many ocean shippers stress predictability over speed so they can better plan and execute their supply chain operations. In fact, with the container ships slowing down their vessel speeds to conserve fuel and reduce carbon emissions, vessel speed will become less of an issue for shippers and importers than ever before.
"While we understand that having a competitive transit is important, speed is not the essence of this service, being on-time is," said Timothy O'Connell, senior director, trade and marketing at Maersk's North American division, in a statement. The service "is not about being faster. It's about being absolutely reliable based on time," O'Connell added.