Jumping Ship

“Maersk staying in Holy City” was the headline. The story in Charleston’s Post and Courier was dated September 18, 2007, and here’s how it ran: “Weeks after Maersk Inc. opened a giant container terminal in Virginia, its chairman said Monday that the shipping giant remains committed to Charleston while continuing what he called the company’s ‘investment cycle.’

“John Clancey laughed off suggestions that Maersk, the world’s largest shipping line, may quit the Port of Charleston after cutting the ribbon on its privately operated $ 450 million cargo terminal in Portsmouth, Va. …”

“‘Charleston has worked wonderfully well for us,’ Clancey said. ‘We’ll stay wherever we’re treated well’. …”

“In his remarks, he said Maersk will continue seeking ways to improve its infrastructure as it prepares for the projected growth in worldwide container volume. Global trade is expected to more than double over the next decade.

“The key, Clancey said, is ensuring those forecasts are correct. ‘If they’re not, we’ll be left with assets we don’t want,’ he said. …”

“Maersk vessels have called at Charleston’s docks since 1953, and the company has since become a major force on the local waterfront. The steamship line accounts for 28 percent of the SPA’s business, agency spokesman Byron Miller said. On a percentage basis, that’s more than any other U.S. South Atlantic port. …”

“‘They’re a huge player in this port and a valued customer,’ Miller said of Maersk.

“Ken Riley, president of International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1422, noted that Charleston is one of the nation’s most productive ports, making it one of Maersk’s favorite ports in the South. ‘We do treat Maersk well, and they treat us well,’ Riley said.”

But less than six months later, this February 13th headline appeared in the Post and Courier:

“Maersk office closing down”… and this time the story was a bit different.

“Maersk Line, the world’s largest steamship company and the Port of Charleston’s biggest client, said Tuesday it will shutter its Charleston customer-service center in a cost-cutting move that will affect 140 local workers … The company said the changes are necessary to lower costs. Last month, Maersk said it planned to cut up to 12 percent of its global workforce, or about 3,000 jobs … in an effort to improve profitability.”

[“ … a huge player … a valued customer … and they treat us well.” Yeah, right.]