MOL is upgrading its CX1 feeder service from the Amazon River port of Manaus, Brazil, to Manzanillo, Panama, via a vessel-sharing agreement with Mediterranean Shipping Co.


The service will last until April when the global vessel-sharing agreements reset, but until that time shippers needing international service to and from the heart of Brazil will be able to utilize six departures from Manaus per month.


Two MSC ships have already called Manaus under the new deal and the first MOL vessel, the Easter Island, with a capacity of 1,800 twenty-foot-equivalent units, is expected to load its first containers Feb. 4. MOL also has 300 TEUs of capacity on the MSC ships, which have regular connections to the Caribbean hub ports of Caucedo and San Juan.


From Manzanillo, the CX1 service connects to Shanghai and Qingdao via the NYX service operated with Hyundai Merchant Marine. The CX1 also connects with the PA2 to Japan and China, and AMS connecting Manzanillo with Mexico, Colombia, and China. The AMS is a joint service with NYK Line, APL, and Nile Dutch.


MOL also operates the CX2 out of Manzanillo with connections to Cartagena and Barranquilla, Colombia, and the GPX service with transshipment from Balboa, Panama, to Peru and Ecuador.


Although Manaus — home to major manufacturers such as Panasonic, LG Electronics, Yamaha, Nokia, Microsoft, Pioneer, and Coca Cola — has   suffered from recession  like the rest of Brazil, there are signs that business is recovering, according to an MOL manager.


“Although volumes through Manaus have decreased drastically in the past year, by around 40 percent, we have seen here in Manaus recently that things are picking up,” said the manager.


“Various indicators are showing that the more open economic policies of [President] Michel Temer have created more demand and more confidence and we expect this trend to continue throughout 2017. We already know there will be a great volume in March to Manaus, from Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, and India as well as from China, and we believe that these increases may last until at least June or July.”


That recovery will be welcome news to the port of Manaus as well as MOL, which last year announced it   would be merging  with Japan’s other major container lines ‘K’ Line and NYK Line. MOL is the only of the three Japanese carriers to have an office in Manaus, where it has maintained a strong presence for years.


Traffic at Manaus’ container terminals Porto Chibatao and Super Terminais fell 38 percent year-over-year in the first 8 months of 2016 to 264,000 TEUs, according to the most recent data available.


Full-year traffic at Manaus is expected to come to 402,000 TEUs, according to a local shipping agent. If it holds, that would be a significant decrease from the 554,000 TEUs in 2015 and 630,000 TEUs in 2014.


The outbound service from Manaus often carries iron and scrap metal as well as fully assembled ATMs headed to China, Mexico, and India.


The MOL service to Manzanillo also calls at Vila do Conde at the mouth of the Amazon River, where ships often pick up refrigerated cargo such as fish, acai berries, and other Amazonian fruits, as well as Brazil nuts in dry containers, the MOL manager said.


Inbound cargo to Manaus is mostly electronic components for motorcycles, including Harley Davidsons and Yamahas, as well as components for mobile phones and televisions.