FOLLOWING the lifting of the US trade embargo on Vietnam, American president Lines (APL) has started regular container transportation services linking Vietnam and the major markets of North America, Asia and the Middle East. The company has also opened an office in Ho Chi Minh City. APL will start a full export service from Vietnam immediately. Some import activity into Vietnam will also begin, with the remainder subject to technical restrictions that are expected to be lifted soon, the company said. Taiwan's Evergreen Marine Corp has also registered its new Vietnam service with the US Federal Maritime Commission and is now in the process of filing specific freight rates. APL will serve all key regions of Vietnam, including the northern port city of Haiphong and Hanoi, Vinh and Quang Ninh; the central coast port of Danang; and the southern port of Ho Chi Minh City, with overland service to Vung Tau, Can Tho and Nhatrang. Ho Chi Minh City will be served four times a week, while both Haiphong and Danang will be served twice weekly. To help ensure reliable deliveries, APL said it would monitor all cargo movements to and from Vietnam through its satellite-based telecommunications system. Vietnam bill-of-lading and shipment data will be loaded on a regular basis through co-ordination with the company's Taiwan customer support centre, according to Mark Weaser, APL's regional manager of sales and marketing in Taipei. Shipments will move via connecting feeder vessels between Vietnam and APL's terminals at Hong Kong, Taiwan or Singapore, where they will connect with the company's fast line-haul or intra-Asia container ships. Representative transit times from Ho Chi Minh City will be three days to Singapore, 10 to Yokohama, 20 to Los Angeles or 25 to New York (intermodal transit). For shipments to Ho Chi Minh City, representative transit times are four days from Hong Kong, five from Kaohsiung, 19 from Bombay and 24 from Seattle. Shipments will move under a single APL document and a single through rate from origin to destination. APL is the first US-flag ocean carrier with an approved representative office in Vietnam. The company will be represented in Ho Chi Minh City by Chi Hui Sung, a Vietnamese American who previously worked with APL's San Pedro operation. Saigon Container Enterprise (SCE) will act as APL's exclusive agency in Vietnam, responsible for expediting cargo through the ports and customs formalities. SCE will also provide over-the-road intermodal service to and from interior points. Feeder ships that are deployed between Vietnam and APL's Asian terminals are operated by EAC Saigon Shipping and Gemartrans, both Saigon-based shipping agencies. The vessels are self-sustaining. This means they are able to load and discharge containers at Vietnamese ports using shipboard gear rather than shore-side gantry cranes, which are not yet available in Vietnam.