Container service is once again departing from the Portland waterfront. New York-based American Feeder Lines has ended its container-shipping service at the Port of Portland, citing weak demand and a loss of private investment money to fund it.
The weekly service among Boston, Portland and Halifax, Nova Scotia, began last summer, marking the first time Portland had regular cargo service in three years. According to the Portland Press Herald, the service was used by L.L.Bean, White Rock Distilleries and a handful of Maine paper mills. But Rudy Mack, COO of American Feeder Lines, told the Journal of Commerce there wasn't enough business to support the cash flow needed to keep the service running. He also said German investors who helped launch the company last year decided to pull out because it wasn't breaking even. The service was also funded through three, $200,000 loans from each city, including money from the Maine Port Authority that came from port revenues.
American Feeder Lines had ambitious plans for the service. It intended the New England-Halifax Shuttle to be the first service in a network that would connect up to 18 ports along the East and Gulf coasts. The company planned to use large container vessels to offload their imported cargo to a fleet of 10 "feeder" ships it would build for transport to smaller ports. Mack told the Journal of Commerce that that plan is now dead.
John Henshaw, executive director of the Maine Port Authority, said there's interest in the service from Maine companies and that another operator could resume the service, according to the Press Herald.