Horizon Lines moving division to Phila. port

Horizon Trader pulls into the San Juan, Puerto Rico, harbor. The first ship is due here April 11. Horizon Lines
Horizon Trader pulls into the San Juan, Puerto Rico, harbor. The first ship is due here April 11. Horizon Lines
Posted: March 08, 2013

The Port of Philadelphia will gain a shipping line when Horizon Lines Inc. moves its northeast terminal operations from Elizabeth, N.J., in April.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based shipping company said Wednesday that the Philadelphia port would handle cargo arriving from its operations in Puerto Rico.

Richard Rodriguez, general manager of Horizon's Puerto Rican operations, said in a statement that the company expected the relocation to produce "significant advantages," including faster transit and turnaround times, and expedited cargo inspections.

The Philadelphia Regional Port Authority said the carrier planned to bring 52 vessels a year to the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal in South Philadelphia. The arrival of a new shipper will mean more work for longshoremen, who will unload containerized cargo, said Joseph Menta, a PRPA spokesman.

According to Horizon's annual report, its vessels transport food, household goods, auto parts, building materials, and materials used in manufacturing. Horizon, generating about $1 billion in annual revenue but unprofitable over the last five years, said its big customers include Costco, Lowe's, Safeway, Wal-Mart, and Johnson & Johnson.

Owned by the PRPA, the Packer Avenue terminal is operated by privately held Greenwich Terminals L.L.C., part of Gloucester City-based Holt Logistics Corp.

Tom Holt Jr., chief executive of Holt Logistics, said persuading Horizon to leave the New York-area port where it had operated for 56 years was a "big win" for Philadelphia. Holt estimated the new shipping line will add 400 direct jobs.

Holt Logistics began discussions with Horizon about relocating here four years ago, he said.

Horizon, which is publicly traded, said it expected to record a restructuring charge of about $6 million for the costs of the move and its estimated liability from withdrawing from the Port of Elizabeth's multiemployer pension plan.

Besides North Jersey, Horizon ships cargo weekly between San Juan, Puerto Rico, and two other U.S. ports, Jacksonville, Fla., and Houston. The first Horizon ship is scheduled to dock at the Packer Avenue terminal on April 11.

In December, Horizon announced it was reducing service between Jacksonville and San Juan to once a week from twice a week, starting in January. At the time, Rodriguez noted that "Puerto Rico's economy remains in a prolonged multiyear recession, during which time domestic container volumes to the island have contracted sharply."

Shares of Horizon closed unchanged Wednesday, at $1.49.

Contact Mike Armstrong

at 215-854-2980 or marmstrong@phillynews.com, or @PhillyInc on Twitter.


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