New Wuhan office plans for Sea-Land

SEA-LAND Service Inc plans to open a branch office in Wuhan either next year or in 1995, says the group's vice-president for Central Asia, Gary Gilbert.

He said the fast-developing area was presently servedby the carrier through its Nanjing office.

''I think improvements are going on quickly in China as volumes build up, like we saw in Fujian and Shanghai, and it makes moving cargo from these ports more cost effective,'' Mr Gilbert said.

China has given Sea-Land and American President Lines approval to set up branch offices which, unlike representative offices, had the authority to issue bills of lading and carry out various other duties.

Growth of Sea-Land's business in China was an important part of its future plans, Mr Gilbert said, a philosophy the company had demonstrated through its relations with China and Hong Kong.

Mr Gilbert said Sea-Land had taken the 300-TEU (20 ft equivalent unit) Sea Lady off the Xiamen route and replaced it with the 450-TEU Explorer to keep abreast of the volume of business.

He said the Explorer, which also has 80 reefer plugs, would call at both Xiamen and Fuzhou.

Mr Gilbert said Sea-Land had recorded a 25 per cent growth in business volumes this year compared with last year and was offering more services to its customers such as the express services to Europe and a new express service between the US and Hong Kong.

Sea-Land's customers were enjoying the hard work put in by the carrier's employees since it first went to China in 1978, he said, adding that the line had seen real growth in the past five years.

Mr Gilbert said the carrier, which had a joint venture with Trans Siberian Railway, was moving about 20 containers a week from China to republics of the former Soviet Union.

In another development, Mr Gilbert said Sea-Land's wholly owned, Hong Kong-based subsidiary, Orient Trucking and the Guangdong branch of the China National Foreign Trade Transportation Corp (Guangdong Sinotrans) has set up a joint-venture Guangdong Orient Trucking (GOT).

Last month the company bought 40 trucks and has begun operating between Hong Kong and China.

GOT will open offices in Guangzhou and Shenzhen and expects to move at least 15,000 loads a year.

The carrier uses agents for its warehousing and works closely with a company Buyers Consolidators, he said.

Sea-Land also is studying mainland railway projects and is interested in becoming involved in this area of business, Mr Gilbert said, adding that its parent company CSX operates railway services in the US.

Mr Gilbert, who is also chairman of Sea-Land Orient Terminal (SLOT), said Berth 3 handled 530,000 TEUs and Berth 4 handled 190,000 TEUs last year under an arrangement with Hong Kong International Terminals.

He expects terminal's throughput this year to be similar or slightly higher.

The group, which also operates the Asia Terminal (ATL) at Kwai Chung - the world's largest container freight station - expects the whole building construction to be completed by middle of next year.

ATL expects full occupancy as the market is strong for quality warehousing facilities, Mr Gilbert said.