Shipping bottlenecks experienced during the Covid shipping bubble brought much of the North American supply chain into disarray. “Capacity restraints and port slowdowns crippled the transpacific tradelane,” says Jane Colazzo with UWL. “It drove us to rethink the traditional carrier model, which resulted in UWL, a non-vessel operating common carrier, teaming up with industry leading carrier Swire Shipping.”
Together, the companies brought something completely new to market, a service premised on speed, guarantees, and reliability. It led to the launch of the Sun Chief Express in early 2022. Originally, the line operated directly between Seattle and Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam), but now includes direct westbound calls in Busan (South Korea) and Haiphong (Vietnam). “As a premium solution, Sun Chief Express stands out for its promise of guaranteed equipment and sailings, specifically the service never blank sails,” commented Colazzo.
Reliable, expedited service
“We found there was a gap in the market for a quick and dependable, best-in-class service between Seattle and Vietnam, so we created just that,” shared Colazzo. “It’s a service that’s achieved nearly 100 percent on-time arrivals and departures, something unheard of in the market.” The Sun Chief Express utilizes smaller, more nimble vessels, calling fewer ports directly, enabling some of the industry’s quickest transpacific transits and swift access to feeder connection points across Southeast Asia. “This has allowed us to expand the service scope to Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore to help support more fresh and frozen US exporters.”
Apples, cherries, and pears
Fresh produce currently makes up the majority of the westbound reefer lift. The primary fresh produce varieties being shipped from the Pacific Northwest (PNW) to Asia include apples, cherries, and pears. On the frozen side, the company moves large quantities of French-fried potatoes, as well as non-produce items. Eastbound fresh fruits, such as dragon fruit from Vietnam, are shipped to the US. “However, primary reefer volumes flow westbound.” Last year, during Sun Chief Express’ inaugural year, the service carried over 60 percent of the PNW apple export market. “This year, we started moving cherries. Although they normally ship by air, our fast and reliable service enabled cherry exporters to securely use our service to bring their product to market while slashing costs and on their logistics spend.”
From Seattle, the Sun Chief Express service calls Busan, South Korea as well as Haiphong and Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam. Exporters can also benefit from feeder options connecting from Vietnam to Phnom Penh, Singapore, Laem Chabang, Sihanoukville, Port Klang, and Jakarta. From Seattle to Busan, it’s a 12-day voyage while the Vietnam calls of Haiphong and Cho Chi Minh are completed in 18 and 21 days respectively.
The service has been very well received for both its innovation and performance on the east and westbound lanes. “Just last month, we were awarded the NWSA Cargo Anchor Award in conjunction with Swire Shipping, recognizing the service’s role in driving volumes in the Seattle-Tacoma gateway and promoting economic activity in the PNW.” In addition, the service was named to Supply & Demand Chain Executive's Top Supply Chain Projects list for 2023. “We’re excited to keep innovating and expanding in the reefer market, bringing the benefits of Sun Chief Express to more produce and frozen shippers,” concluded Colazzo.