Shipping giant Maersk Line announced Tuesday that its first service to depart the Port of Charleston would begin its repositioning to Savannah, Ga., and Wilmington, N.C., on Sunday.

Maersk's South Atlantic Express service, which calls twice a week in Charleston, will make its final stop in the Holy City on March 3.

The Danish container carrier, which accounts for about 20 percent of the port's business, announced late last year that the South Atlantic Express would mark the beginning of its gradual exit from Charleston.

The container carrier announced it intentions to take its business elsewhere after it was unable to make cost-saving changes to its contract with the State Ports Authority that the International Longshoremen's Association would agree to. Maersk officials said the company will no longer call at all in Charleston by the time its contract with the SPA expires at the end of 2010.

Discussions between the SPA, the ILA and Maersk subsidiary APM Terminals to salvage the business were to continue today. Whatever the outcome of those talks, a Maersk spokesman said the South Atlantic Express service will not return to Charleston "any time in the near future."

But if the SPA and the ILA can offer a proposal that alleviates Maersk's concerns, the company would reconsider pulling more business, according to the spokesman. A new deal could be presented to the steamship line by the end of the week, according to SPA interim Chief Executive John Hassell.