Matson-Swire join forces in South Pacific service

Pictures: ocean shipping containers stacked on a ship and all are bearing the Matson logo

Pacific Ocean specialist carrier Matson (NYSE: MATX) and Swire Shipping (a trading arm of the famous China Navigation) have entered into a vessel-sharing partnership to help serve the South Pacific islands.

Swire Shipping will charter and deploy a vessel on the new service (details to be announced); meanwhile, Matson will deploy the Imua II and the Olomana. Both ships are 8,000 deadweight and the new service will begin in January next year.

The service will depart Auckland, New Zealand, and will serve Tonga, Samoa (Apia), the Cook Islands and Fiji with a departure from Auckland every 10 days.

“Today’s launch will enable us to offer expanded global coverage into the Pacific Islands, as well as specifically providing New Zealand customers with a new direct service alternative… We will be working closely with customers… to explore opportunities for landside delivery in the Pacific Islands as well as offering innovative digital solutions,” said Jeremy Sutton, General Manager, Swire Shipping.

Executives involved with the South Pacific Islands trade have previously confirmed to FreightWaves that there has traditionally been extensive and extremely hard fought competition between the carriers to/from this region.

That’s somewhat surprising as the trade is largely a low-margin, one-way grocery trade and there have, historically, sometimes been problems for shipping lines in getting their containers back post-delivery of cargo. This reporter has visited some of the South Pacific Islands and has observed ocean shipping containers being repurposed into mobile storage, mobile refrigeration for cafes and, occasionally, as a cow-shed. Meanwhile, executives from independent carriers working in the South Pacific have also traditionally been somewhat fearful of Matson’s entry into the South Pacific. 

Matson originally entered the South Pacific trades in the 1920s. It re-entered the trades in 2012/2013 after it bought Auckland’s Reef Shipping, which entered into receivership. Today, Matson offers several services to the South Pacific Islands from Australia, New Zealand and the West Coast of the United States.