By Tom Peters

In early January, the port community in Halifax got its first look at the next generation of Atlantic Container Line vessels. The Atlantic Star entered the harbour for the first time around 9:30 a.m. on January 6, 2016.

For Fritz King, ACL’s Managing Director in Canada, it was more than just an inaugural call; it was the start of a new era of ACL service in Canada.

“Having spent virtually all of my working life with ACL and now, the larger part of that located in Halifax, it was certainly not without some sense of pride, as well as satisfaction, that I watched the inaugural voyage of the first of our G-4 vessels, the Atlantic Star, proceed up the harbor and under the bridges this past January,” said King. “Not only was it a physical manifestation of our parent company Grimaldi’s strong faith in the future of the ACL brand but also a testament to the good relationships we’ve effectively established over these many years with our Canadian client base and with our many service suppliers,” he said.

“Those of us who function on the land side of shipping, in administration, marketing, customer service and logistics, too easily forget that the true heart of our operations lies in the vessels themselves, “ King added. “The ships that preceded our new fleet, our G-3’s, were incredibly reliable, long-lived performers operating on the challenging North Atlantic trade lane. As we bid the G-3s farewell, we now eagerly anticipate the many advantages that our uniquely designed G-4s will bring to our expanding business model. It’s a very interesting and exciting time for all of us at ACL.”

The relationship between Atlantic Container Line and Halifax goes back a number of years. ACL has been continuously calling the Port of Halifax since 1970 following the inaugural call of the ACL G1 vessel Atlantic Star in 1969. The newest Atlantic Star is both a nod to the past and a sign of things to come. All five of the new G-4 ACL vessels were named by Andrea Cox, an ACL staff member in Halifax.

The new vessels are the world’s largest combination roll on-roll off/container ships. Each vessel has a container capacity of 3,800 TEUs, plus 28,900 square meters of ro/ro space with capacity for over 1,300 vehicles. The ro/ro ramps are wider and shallower than the G-3 vessels they replace. At up to 7.4 meters high, the G-4 ro-ro decks are higher and wider, with fewer columns, enabling much easier loading and discharge of oversized cargo. Emissions per TEU have been reduced by 65 per cent.

In March, ACL announced it will maintain its twice weekly call at Halifax with its new G-4 vessels and signed an agreement to continue calling the Fairview Cove Container Terminal, operated by Ceres, through 2022.

“We value our long‐term working relationships with the Halifax Port Authority,” said ACL President and CEO Andrew Abbott. “We looked long and hard at various schedule alternatives for our new ships. Some excluded Halifax. But we just could not ignore the close cooperation and support of the HPA and Ceres that removed every obstacle to a long‐term agreement.”

“The quality improvements to the CN Rail service and the consistent cooperation of our ILA colleagues were also influential factors in our decision,” said Abbott, who added that ACL’s volumes through Halifax would eventually double and Halifax would remain ACL’s largest port in North America.

Calvin Whidden, President, Ceres Halifax Inc., recognized ACL’s long and steady contribution to the Port of Halifax and to Ceres. “ACL has been a valuable customer to the Port of Halifax for many years and Ceres is very excited to have ACL as our customer,” Whidden said. “We also look forward to working with ACL to increase their business in the port. ACL is an efficient and knowledgeable shipping line and a pleasure to do business with.”

The Halifax Employers Association, likewise, recognized the importance of the agreement. “The Halifax Employers Association (HEA) was and is thrilled that ACL formally renewed its commitment to the Port of Halifax through its long-term contract renewal with Ceres,” said HEA President and CEO Richard Moore. “ACL has been a valued customer in this port for over 40 years, it is a founding member of the HEA and we hope that it will remain a major player in this port for years to come,” he said.

With the company’s headquarters in Westfield, NJ and offices throughout Europe and North America, ACL offers five, transatlantic sailings each week and handles the Grimaldi services between North America and West Africa and between North America and the Mediterranean. The company also offers oversized cargo service from North America to the Middle East, Far East and Oceania