BG Freight - Liverpool

Specialist con-ro operator Atlantic Container Line (ACL) is redesigning its transatlantic network to offer more North American connections to Irish exporters through a new agreement with UK feeder operator BG Freight Line.

The agreement will see BG Freight Line-sister company Peel Ports’ Liverpool container facilities become a regional hub for Irish shippers, with the feeder carrier set to re-jig its Liverpool-Ireland BGF feeder service between the UK and the island of Ireland to coordinate its sailings in and out of Liverpool with the arrivals and departures of ACL’s deepsea con-ro vessels.

The parties said that as a result, transit times to and from Belfast and Dublin to North America would be cut by one-to-two weeks.

“This new Irish service is in a totally different league to all other existing sailing options via continental and other UK ports,” said ACL chief executive Andrew Abbott.

Peel Ports’ chief operating officer David Huck added: “It is a really proud moment to be supporting the fastest ever Ireland to North America container service.

“This is a great example of collaboration between all three parties providing real business benefits for our customers and the marketplace.

“Liverpool is the closest deepsea port to both Dublin and Belfast – with continental ports more regularly used often 3-4 times further away – so this is a really positive development,” he explained.

The service will retain the two calls at Liverpool – as the first and final European call. The full port rotation: Halifax-New York-Baltimore-Norfolk-Halifax-Liverpool-Hamburg-Antwerp-Liverpool-Halifax.

The service deploys ACL’s five G4 class con-ro vessels, which offer 3,800 teu capacity along with below-deck holds for ro-ro cargo, and AIS data shows that the line has resumed calls at Baltimore, with Atlantic Sun arriving at the port yesterday and due to depart tomorrow.

Meanwhile the new rotation of BG Freight Line’s Liverpool-Ireland service will be Dublin-Liverpool-Dublin-Belfast-Greenock-Dublin.

The service is operated by one vessel, the 860 teu JSP Anna.

“The fact we operate container terminals in Liverpool and Dublin, and that BG Freight Line is part of the wider Peel Ports Group, means we have much more control over how we manage this service, which in turn helps reduce those transit times and brings a real service differentiator to the market,” Mr Huck added.

ACL and BG Freight Line have agreed to coordinate their schedules to minimise connection times at the Port of Liverpool, while both will also be given berth priority to ensure smooth connections.

“BG Freight Line will arrive in Liverpool immediately after the incoming ACL eastbound ship and immediately before the departing ACL westbound ship,” ACL said.

Koert Luitwieler, BG Freight Line chief executive, explained: “As well as having a quicker transit time, the reliability of this service will significantly improve due to the additional time we now have in the schedule.

“This is great news for importers and exporters and a significant upgrade to existing services,” he added.

There are currently two direct services between the island of Ireland and North America. Independent Container Line launched the first direct connection in 2020 when it included a call at the south-west port of Cork on its TA1 transatlantic express service.

There is also a Cork call on Maersk’s standalone Costa Rica Express service, which connects central America with northern Europe, and also features calls at Southampton and Antwerp.