Cargo Business Newswire Archives
Summary for February 8 - February 12, 2010:
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Monday, February 8 , 2010

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Inbound box traffic at retail ports could increase 25 percent in first half

The level of import containerized volume at major U.S. port gateways that handle heavy retail cargoes is projected to be 25 percent higher during the first half of 2010 compared with the same period a year ago, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

"This is a dramatic turnaround over what we’ve seen during the past two years," said Jonathan Gold, NRF’s vice president for supply chain and customs policy.

"Increases in import volumes don’t correspond directly with dollar volumes in sales, so caution has to be exercised when looking at these numbers. But retailers are clearly expecting to move more merchandise this year," he said.

U.S. ports handled 1.09 million TEUs this past December, up 2.6 percent from December 2008, breaking a 28-month streak of declined, year-on-year monthly totals, the NRF reported.

January 2010’s box numbers are estimated at 1.19 million TEUs, a 17 percent increase over January 2009, and February, traditionally the slowest month of the year, is forecast at 1.1 million TEUs, up 30 percent from the previous year, the report said.

The retail group’s March cargo forecast is for 1.18 million TEUs, up 23 percent as retailers begin stocking up for the peak shipping season. April is forecast at 1.25 million TEUs, up 27 percent. May is pegged at 1.3 million TEUs, up 26 percent; and June is projected to hit 1.38 million TEUs, up 36 percent, according to the report.

The sum of the NRF’s first-half containerized volume would be 7.4 million TEUs, up 25 percent from last year’s 5.9 million TEUs, which ended last year down 12.7 percent from the 15.2 million TEUs handled in 2008.

Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett disagrees in the report with other economists who have speculated the economy is in the middle of a “W-shaped” recover – or “double-dip” recession.

"This forecast assumes that we are not in a double-dip recession and that a recovery is underway," Hackett said in the report. "Although 2009 saw decreased import activity levels, the forecast for 2010 points towards growth."

The Global Port Tracker covers the U.S. ports of Long Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston and Savannah on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.

SC port chief: Panama Canal widening could help lure more DCs in region

Traffic through South Carolina's largest port in Charleston has decreased 37 percent in the past five years, while shipping through the neighboring port of Savannah, Ga., has increased 42 percent.

Experts say the change is because Georgia has been more successful in recruiting large distribution centers that need to move items through the port.

"We weren't as aggressive as we should have been," State Ports Authority president Jim Newsome told The State newspaper of Columbia for a story Sunday.

Newsome, who took over as president of the ports in September, said the state will have a second chance at luring some distribution facilities in advance of the widening of the Panama Canal. That will be complete in 2014 and will bring more ships from Asia to the East Coast, he said.

"This will be the most significant event since the start of containerization," Newsome said. "And the state is now attuned to that."

-The State (South Carolina)

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Analysis: Truck freight improves, but not new truck builds

Improving freight levels should help truckers, but not so much the truck manufacturers - unless you have a good parts and service network. Some call it a double dip slowdown or better yet - déjà vu all over again.

While new truck build will continue well for a few more months with the pre-2010 engines (into the 2nd quarter this year), truck “orders” have fallen off to around 6,200 trucks for January - rivaling mid-2002 levels. Truck build and deliveries will continue depressed afterward and through this freight season, also affected by poor truck financing, increased truck prices, a lack of financing and apprehension about 2010 engines (and other reasons).

-Gerson Lerhman Group

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Brief summary: Maersk CEO predicts slow recovery

The head of A.P. Moller-Maersk, Nils Smedegaard Andersen, said:

  • Sees 2010 starting well, but uptick in shipping activity likely temporary.

  • Freight rates returning to acceptable territory, returns still not good.

  • Maersk line vessel orderbook in line with 3-4-year market growth prospects.

  • Maersk says acquisitions not high on agenda.

  • Maersk company likely to issue more bonds in 2010.

-Reuters (UK)

Story source:

Finnish containership lost hazardous cargo in Baltic Sea

Finnish container carrier MS Linda lost three containers into the Baltic Sea off Gotland in Swedish waters on Saturday.

Tidningarnas Telegrambyrå (TT), a Swedish news agency, reported that one of the containers contained several tonnes of toxic chemicals.

TT quoted the Swedish Coast Guard as saying that the bottom container in a stack of four had collapsed, tipping the other three into the sea.

According to Finnish shipping company Langh two of the containers lost overboard contained food and non-hazardous chemicals.

The Swedish authorities assumed that the containers had sunk.

-Helsinki Times

Story Source:

Wednesday, February 10 , 2010

Top Story

Port of Seattle could contribute up to $300 mil on new tunnel, seawall

The Port of Seattle announced its commission has voted to approve a memorandum of agreement with the Washington State Department of Transportation that could account for the port contributing up to $300 million for replacement of the waterfront’s transportation viaduct and seawall.

The aging, elevated Alaskan Way Viaduct is one of only three north-south transport corridors in the Puget Sound region and WSDOT’s plan is to replace it with a bored tunnel at an estimated total cost in excess of $3 billion.
"Tens of thousands of family-wage jobs are generated by our airport, air cargo, container, fishing, and cruise facilities, and if we can't move people and goods efficiently, those jobs are in jeopardy," said Commission President Bill Bryant. 

On the heels of an economically challenged 2009 where the Port of Seattle chopped over 6 percent of its workforce, among other budgetary cuts, the commission established a new policy for how tax dollars are used. The port said has decided its seaport capital investments should be funded with seaport revenues, not levy funds, in order to leverage tax dollars for projects like the Lower Duwamish Waterway cleanup, air and water quality programs, and transportation improvements that support freight mobility.

"Our region faces several key investments right now that affect our quality of life," said Commissioner Gael Tarleton.                                                                                                                    
The port commission announced its contribution to the tunnel and seawall replacement would not exceed $300 million.

Port Vancouver BC buying up industrial land

Vancouver's federal port authority quietly went on a buying spree for industrial land in the region last year to preserve it from being used for condos, spending $115-million to acquire around 340 acres.

And it's planning to continue buying another 800 in the coming years because municipalities can't be counted on to preserve the land needed for economic growth said its new CEO.

"For four million people to live here in the future, there needs to be an economy. And for an economy, there needs to be industrial land," said Robin Silvester, who became the head of Port Metro Vancouver early last year.

-Globe and Mail

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Report: Global trade through U.S. sluggish in January

Global trade through the U.S. declined from December to January of this year, according to a trade trend report by the research firm, Panjiva.

 There was a 5 percent decrease in the number of global manufacturers shipping to the U.S. market and a 7 percent decrease in the number of U.S. companies receiving waterborne shipments from global manufacturers, the report said.

The decline in manufacturers from December to January was slightly less than last year’s December-to-January decline at 6 percent, and slightly more than the decline from December 2007 to January 2008 at 4 percent, the report said.

Panjiva reported some positive trends from its latest analysis including the percentage of what it termed “significant manufacturers,” declined slightly from 23 percent to 22 percent, and the percentage of “significant buyers” having done business with leading suppliers in the preceding three months declined from 33 percent to 31 percent.

Panjiva characterizes “significant manufacturers” as companies that have sent 10 or more shipments to U.S. customers within the last year, and as of the end of January, there were 87,396 such manufacturers.

“Significant buyers” are U.S. companies that have received 10 or more shipments from overseas manufacturers within the last year, and presently Panjiva said it tracks 75,307 of these buyers.

Bear claw cargo seized between Russia and China

In what Russian news agencies described as the largest such interdiction of its kind in recent years, Russian border guards seized 447 bear paws from a truck in the Jewish Autonomous Region, near the frontier with China, on Monday. Smuggling wildlife body parts for use in traditional Eastern medicine and cuisine is rampant along the border between China and Russia.

-NY Times

Story source:

Thirty containers fall off ship near Key West

Approximately 30 containers fell off the deck of a cargo ship about 30 miles south of Key West.

The U.S. Coast Guard reports that the accident occurred Monday afternoon. A Coast Guard aircrew spotted a few containers still floating on an initial pass Monday evening, but no containers were spotted Tuesday during a second flight.

Seaboard shipping, the company that owns the 544-foot container ship, was trying to determine the contents of the lost containers. The ship was heading back to Port of Miami, where Seaboard and Coast Guard officials would develop a plan to safely remove the cargo containers from the sea floor.

-Miami Herald

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Thursday, February 11 , 2010

Top Story

NOL says first half losses likely

Neptune Orient Lines Ltd., Southeast Asia’s largest container carrier, said it may be unprofitable in the first half because of concerns about the sustainability of a pick-up in demand.

Losses in the period are “quite likely,” Chief Executive Officer Ron Widdows told reporters today in Singapore, where the shipping line is based.

Neptune Orient earlier reported a fifth consecutive quarterly loss as a 28 percent slump in rates offset a rise in volumes. Widdows, who has taken a pay cut and idled ships, will continue with cost reductions as a glut of new vessels damps container-shipping fees.

The company had a net loss of $211 million in the fourth quarter compared with a loss of $149 million a year earlier, it said in a statement. The shipping line was expected to make a $129 million loss, based on the median of three analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Revenue fell 12 percent to $2 billion.

- Business Week/Bloomberg

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RailAmerica’s January carloads up 4.6 percent

RailAmerica, Inc., the short line and regional freight railroad owner and operator, reported its total freight carloads for the month ended January 31, 2010 were 67,444, up 4.6 percent from 64,455 in January 2009. The rail carrier’s results exclude the discontinued Ottawa Valley Railway (OVR) operation.

The company said it had increased shipments in January 2010 in seven out of twelve commodity groups compared to January 2009. Much of the increase was due to shipments of agricultural products, chemicals, and metallic ores and metals. The delayed harvest in the Midwest favorably impacted the agricultural products category, the company said. A general increase in economic activity positively impacted chemicals and metallic ores and metals. Continued softness in construction impacted forest products and non-metallic minerals and products carloads. In the central U.S. a reduction in coal shipments resulted in decreased carloads compared to the prior year, the carrier said.

Wal-Mart Canada to open $108 mil green distribution hub

Walmart Canada said on Wednesday it will open a refrigerated distribution center in Alberta later this year that it expects to be about 60 percent more energy-efficient than its traditional centers.

Walmart Canada, a unit of the world's largest retailer, will test hydrogen fuel cells in its forklifts and install low-energy LED lighting throughout the C$115 million ($108 million) hub, which it will build on the outskirts of Calgary.

Hydrogen fuel cells produce only heat and water as by-products and will replace traditional lead acid batteries in the center's entire material-handling fleet. LED lights operate at low temperatures and have long lifespans.

Sixteen solar panels, mounted on the side of the center, will supply clean, renewable energy to heat hot water. A 225-kilowatt on-site wind turbine will produce enough energy to supply 55 average size Canadian homes.

- Reuters

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Virginia man pleads guilty to bribing Panamanian officials for maritime contracts

A Virginia Beach man has pleaded guilty in federal court to bribing Panamanian government officials to obtain contracts for maintenance of lighthouses and buoys.

John Warwick pleaded guilty Wednesday in Richmond to conspiring to make corrupt payments to foreign government officials. He faces up to five years in prison.

According to prosecutors, the 64-year-old Warwick and 53-year-old Charles Jumet of Fluvanna County were executives of a Virginia Beach engineering firm and a Panamanian subsidiary. They allegedly paid more than $200,000 in bribes to secure $18 million in maritime contracts between 1997 and 2000.

Jumet previously pleaded guilty to two charges. Both men will be sentenced March 26.

- Daily Press

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