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Summary for February 14- February 18, 2011:
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Monday, February 14, 2011

Top Story

U.S. exports up almost 17 percent in 2010

The biggest increase in U.S. exports since 1988 was reported for 2010 by the U.S. Department of Commerce on Friday.

Amid a widening trade imbalance, exports from the U.S. hit $1.8 trillion – an almost 17 percent surge from the previous year that was mired in the Great Recession.

The U.S. trade deficit also grew 32.8 percent to almost $498 billion.

The U.S. is now the world’s second largest exporter behind China, and ahead of Germany.

Manufacturing accounted for 74 percent of U.S. exports, led by export growth from aircraft, refined petroleum products, pharmaceutical goods and soybeans. High-tech, which represented one fourth of U.S. exports a decade ago, were down to only one eighth of that total in 2010.

The U.S. gross domestic product grew 3.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010 due in large part to the growth in exports.

China’s imports jumped 51 percent in January

The Chinese government reported the world’s second largest economy’s imports leapt 51 percent in January, slashing the country’s trade deficit in half to $6.5 billion. China’s exports grew 37.7 percent.

Analysts in various news reports have attributed to the closing of China’s trade imbalance to high levels of trade preceding the recent Chinese New Year, and to expect softening of trade numbers for February.

Vietnam’s government says port growth stymied

Vietnam’s port development and growth needs better investment and planning, according to the Southeast Asian country’s Ministry of Planning and Investment.

A seaport development masterplan that was released in 2009 failed to balance demand and capacity, the Ministry said. A new seaport masterplan has been released that reportedly seeks to better define the role of Vietnam’s network of 39 seaports, dividing them into six geographical groups.

The new 10-year plan includes the call for capital investments that further develops public infrastructure that connects to seaports.

Total investment outlined in the seaport masterplan is for $22 billion by 2020.

The new plan also calls for more investment in what the government feels were previously under-funded ports in Ho Chi Minh City and Hai Phong, where the majority of the country’s goods are transported out to the southeastern and northern regions, respectively.

Estimated goods transport in Vietnam is estimated to double by 2020 at 2,100 million tons, according to the masterplan.

DHL become logistics partner of world’s most popular soccer club

The world’s most popular soccer club, Manchester United, has signed a three-year sponsorship deal with global freight giant DHL, to be the team’s official logistics partner.

Terms of the deal are that DHL will manage all of the logistics operations for England’s Premier League team.

Argentina confiscates property from U.S.A.F. cargo plane

Argentina has confirmed that customs officials there confiscated U.S. government property from a U.S. Air Force cargo plane last week.

The Argentine government said it confiscated 1,000 cubic feet of material from a C-17 transport plane last Thursday, saying those items had not been declared on the cargo manifest provided by the U.S. Embassy.

The cargo that reportedly included firearms, surveillance equipment, GPS units and medications, was reportedly intended to be used in a training course for Argentine security personnel.

Argentina’s government is reportedly upset that U.S. President Obama is bypassing that country on his Latin American swing next month.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Top Story

Obama budget nets mixed reaction from seaports group

President Barack Obama sent his $3.7 trillion fiscal 2012 budget to Congress this week, and the response from the association that represents the nation’s seaports was mixed over the level and direction of the proposed transportation and infrastructure funding.

Kurt Nagle, the president and CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities, said that a potential bright spot for seaports in the Administration's proposed fiscal 2012 budget is what his group feels is the plan's heightened commitment to infrastructure investment.

The President’s budget includes a six-year, $556 billion surface transportation authorization proposal, as well as $50 billion up-front in the first year that includes $2 billion for a National Infrastructure Investments program, that is similar to TIGER grants, that funded $95 million for seaport-related infrastructure last year.

As expected, the President’s budget proposal includes setting up a U.S. infrastructure bank for the Department of Transportation – termed “I-Bank” – where federal money would be used through a mix of grants and loans for projects considered to be of national and regional significance, such as road and rail access to ports.

"AAPA applauds the Administration's desire with the DOT budget to prioritize transportation infrastructure investments. However, we're concerned that the expanded variety of modes in the I-Bank compared to TIGER could cause funding for seaport-related infrastructure to be overshadowed by high-profile initiatives such as transit and intercity rail," said Nagle. "There needs to be a heightened federal focus on freight transportation," he said.

"While we're optimistic that certain seaport-related infrastructure could be funded through the I-Bank, the Administration's proposed budget cuts for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Civil Works program misses the mark by failing to adequately fund the waterside infrastructure that is critically needed to restore the economic security of the nation, increase exports and create the jobs necessary for full economic recovery," Nagle said.

The AAPA said it is concerned that if the current budget is approved, funding for the Corps' Civil Works program in fiscal 2012 would drop by more than a quarter-billion dollars to $4.631 billion, including a $6 million reduction in the draw from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) to $758 million.

"Because development and maintenance of our federal navigation channels are critical for safe and secure access to America's seaports, AAPA is greatly disappointed with this portion of the Obama Administration's proposal," Nagle said.

"It would cut more than 5 percent from last year's civil works program budget request that was already 10 percent less than what was requested in fiscal 2009," he said.

"The annual Harbor Maintenance Tax revenues that are collected specifically for maintenance dredging must be fully utilized, and used as intended by law for this purpose only," said Nagle.

Funding for the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act is zeroed out in the Administration's budget proposal and the Port Security Grant Program is at the same $300 million level as last year, Nagle referenced.

Texas port pursuing partnership with Carlyle Group, Hutchison Port Holdings

The Port of Galveston, Texas’ board of trustees voted on Monday to pursue a potential public-private partnership with the investment group, Carlyle, and terminal operator, Hong Kong-based Hutchison Port Holdings.

The process towards Monday’s vote began last April, according to the Galveston County Daily News.

The port’s board of trustees hired the Bank of Montreal at that time to search for possible private investors to potentially invest and take over management of at least some of the port’s facilities, the Daily News reported.

The Carlyle-HPH team have reportedly asked for: a 75-year master lease giving them control of 100 acres of property where a cargo operations would be developed on Galveston Island; a 20-acre ro-ro terminal to be developed; port land on Pelican Island; the two cruiseship terminals.

In return, the port authority, which is located near the bustling Port of Houston, would receive approximately $60 million in debt paid off by investors; cash up front; capital expenditures over 10 years; annual expense payments; and profit sharing from the cargo and cruise operations.

No agreement has been reached yet and would need to be approved by the port’s board of trustees.

For the full Daily News report:

JAXPORT handed delay in shipping channel fix

A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study has reportedly determined the $3 million removal of part of a “training wall” would not fix a navigational issue in the Port of Jacksonville’s shipping channel.

The Army Corps study finding is the improvements needed to dissuade unpredictable currents in the Intracoastal Waterway in the St. Johns River would not be completed until 2014 at an estimated pricetag of $40-$45 million, the Florida Times-Union reported.

Computer modeling reportedly showed the training wall removal procedure would not adequately fix the adverse current, and could cause shoreline erosion.

The Army Corps is also studying feasibility for a $500-$600 million dredging project at the port.

For the full Times-Union story:

Fuel costs, bad weather causes FedEx to cut earnings forecast

Rising fuel process and record adverse winter weather are at the root of Memphis-based freight giant FedEx cutting its quarterly earnings forecast for the quarter ending February 28.

FedEx’s revised forecast could mean a loss of $150 million in revenue for the current quarter, or approximately 3 percent of the company’s $5 billion in domestic revenue for the period, according to a Bloomberg report.

“We experienced significant network disruptions in the U.S. and Europe and unusually high costs from severe winter storms,” said Chief Financial Officer Alan Graf yesterday. “In addition, fuel prices continued to escalate since we provided our earnings outlook in December,” he said.

For the full Bloomberg story:

Rhine River fully operational

Germany’s Rhine River, a major thoroughfare for freight shipping, is back to normal operations in both directions after a tanker carrying 2,400 tons of acid capsized on January 13, according to reports out of the region.

The tanker is owned by the German transportation group Lehnkering and was carrying the acid for German chemical company BASF from Ludwigshafen, Germany to the Port of Antwerp in Belgium.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Port of Oakland plans for slow, steady, green growth

By Richard Knee for CBN in Oakland

Oakland, Calif. - A bright, green future looms for the Port of Oakland, port and city officials told some 400 stakeholders over breakfast near the airport there on Thursday.

The seaport had a banner year in 2010, with its second-highest-ever export volume and 14 percent total growth in container traffic to 2.3 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEU), and the planned development of a Trade and Logistics Center on port property should enable Oakland to keep the number-five spot among the nation’s busiest container load centers, said Omar Benjamin, the port’s executive director.

At Oakland’s airport, which the port authority operates, cargo volume rose 4 percent while there was “modest growth” in passenger traffic despite a 7 percent dip in available seats due to airline industry consolidations, Benjamin said. Oakland topped the nation in on-time arrivals in 2009, he said.

The strong numbers on the maritime side “do not mean we’ve fully recovered” from the national recession, he said. “Pre-recession year-over-year growth in maritime trade was obviously not sustainable for our economy. And to be a sustainable port, we have to plan realistically and conservatively. Thus, we are basing our budget and projections going forward on modest, year-over-year growth. … We must work hard to preserve existing business and attract new business,” he said.

“We are doing that by enhancing our facilities, ‘greening’ our operations, making the port more secure, pursuing external funding and working with you, our partners and your customers, to market the port aggressively.”

In June, the port and Evergreen Line agreed to a five-year extension of the carrier’s lease agreement, to 2018, at the Ben E. Nutter Terminal, where Evergreen has installed three new, $10 million cranes, and in September, the port completed a $27 million renovation of the Outer Terminal operated by TraPac, he said. TraPac is a subsidiary of Mitsui O.S.K. Lines.

“In November,” he added, “we traveled to China and signed an innovative memorandum of understanding with China Merchants Holdings International to develop and implement a supply-chain linkage that will connect our port with California’s (agriculturally rich) Central Valley and food exporters on both sides of the Pacific.”

That business is key, he said, to developing and sustaining the Trade and Logistics Center, which is envisioned for a parcel that the port reacquired from the Army, across the street from several marine cargo terminals.

Benjamin also outlined steps the port is taking to reduce diesel particulate matter in the air, but whether that helps reduce carbon emissions is questionable.

“In January 2010, we banned all pre-1994 trucks and any pre-2004 trucks not properly retrofitted with diesel particulate filters from entering the port. This means that 1,521 trucks are either retrofitted or replaced, which translates into an estimated 86 percent reduction of diesel PM from those port drayage trucks … in just one year,” he said.

The port has also taken nearly 650 trucks off local residential streets by providing parking at the former Army base, he said.

In addition, the port commission in September approved a plan to provide shore-based electrical power to docked vessels, enabling them to turn off their auxiliary engines and reduce soot emissions, he said.

But this raises the question of how that electrical power is being provided. A port spokeswoman said the port gets its electricity from Pacific Gas & Electric, an investor-owned utility that critics say is shifting too slowly to renewable sourcing such as solar, wind and geothermal.

NOL beats Q4 profit estimates

Singapore’s Neptune Orient Lines Ltd., Asia’s second-largest container-shipping line, beat its estimated fourth-quarter profit with net income of $177 million compared to a $211 million loss for the same period a year ago.

The shipping line’s estimated profit had been $75 million according to analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

NOL’s sales jumped 37 percent to $2.8 billion for the period, with container volumes experiencing 13 percent growth due in large part to economic recovery in the U.S. and Europe, the company said.

Sales for the firm’s APL shipping leapt 40 percent to $2.4 billion in the fourth quarter, while transporting 829,000 FEUs with average revenue per box surging 24 percent to $2,757.

Chief Executive Officer Ron Widdows said the outlook for 2011 shows some slowing down: “There will be some moderation in growth in overall trade,” Widdows said. APL is scheduled to take delivery of 10 ships in 2012, 10 in 2013 and two in 2014.

Three U.S. shipping companies land $77 mil in MARAD contracts

Three U.S. shipping firms landed $77 million in contracts to operate 10 National Defense Reserve Fleet ships through 2015, according to a statement released by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

“This money will help make sure these important Defense Reserve Fleet ships are manned with skilled mariners and are ready when our Nation calls,” LaHood said.

The contracts were awarded to Ocean Duchess Inc. of Houston, Texas for $16,618,430; Keystone Ocean Shipping of Bala Cynwyd, Penn. for $30,212,588; and Interocean American Shipping Corporation of Moorestown, N.J. for $30,533,710. The companies are responsible for maintaining the ships and ensuring crews are available when needed.

Eight of the ships are reserve-status cargo ships, part of the Department of Transportation’s Ready Reserve Force, and two ships are used to assist Missile Defense Agency operations. Ready Reserve Force ships have been activated 91 times since 2002.

“Missions in Haiti, Iraq, and Afghanistan, as well as rescue efforts following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, show the need for a prepared and ready-to-act fleet of ships,” said Maritime Administrator David T. Matsuda. “We rely on the U.S. merchant mariners for the day-to-day operation of these reserve duty and special-mission ships.”

The contracts are funded through Department of Defense and implemented by MARAD under the Ready Reserve Force program.

Opponents of Longview, Wash. coal terminal allege project bigger than represented

A proposed coal terminal in Longview, Wash. that is to be developed by an Australian company is under fire from local opponents of the project for alleged mis-representation over its size and scope.

Millennium Bulk Logistics said publically it planned to export 5.7 million tons of coal per year, according to a story in the Longview Daily News.

Internal company documents have reportedly revealed Millennium did not make public plans to expand the operation to handle anywhere from 20 million and 60 million tons of coal in a year, making it the biggest coal-handling facility on North America’s West Coast – rivaling the venerable Westshore coal terminal at Deltaport, B.C., Canada.

The Daily News story reports that the internal documents reveal company executives cautioning against releasing expansion plans too quickly so as not to appear disingenuous about the scope of the project.

The documents were published on the website of an environmental group - Columbia Riverkeeper.

The Cowlitz County director of building and planning, Mike Wojtowicz, was quoted as saying the new information about Millenium’s alleged expanded plans is “surprising” and that the county is setting up meetings with concerned parties, including the state’s Department of Ecology.

Millennium’s CEO Joe Cannon reportedly said this week that expansion for the terminal has been on the table but not for the near term due to major financial, environmental and transportation challenges.

For the full Longview Daily News story:

Norwegian shipping magnate on pirates: "sink their boats"

Pirates captured in international waters should not be arrested but sunk along with their skiffs, according to a Norwegian shipping magnate who is taking a lot of heat for making the statement in Norway’s financial newspaper Dagens Naeringsliv.

Jacob Stolt-Nielsen, founder of the Stolt-Nielsen shipping group was quoted in the paper as saying: "Pirates captured in international waters have always been punished by death, often on the spot… Not arrest them and say, 'naughty, naughty, shame on you,' and release them again, but sink their boats with all hands…The pirates won't be frightened by being placed before a civilian court."

The president of the Norwegian Seafarers Union has since called out Stolt-Nielsen’s opinion as "barbaric," and that killing pirates could endanger the lives of the 700 seafarers currently held as hostages in Somalia.

For the full A.P. story:


Thursday, February 17, 2011

U.S. Chamber, AFL-CIO push Senate for infrastructure investment

Strange bedfellows came together to push the same message before a Senate subcommittee – rebuild the crumbling U.S. infrastructure.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue and AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka testified in favor of infrastructure investment before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

"At a time when many of our citizens—and our competitors—believe that America is falling behind…that it can no longer compete…that it has lost its capacity to achieve great things. I say it is time to astound the world again with our ingenuity, ambition, and dreams. Sufficient, smart, and judicious investment in infrastructure is where it all begins. The sooner we start, the better. We don't have a moment to lose." Donohue said in his testimony.

The Chamber claims that through charting its own trend benchmarking "the status quo in infrastructure effectiveness over the next five years will result in $336 billion in lost economic growth."

The AFL-CIO released a statement responding to President Obama's proposed FY2012 budget.

"$9.5 billion in cuts will further cripple our lagging transportation and infrastructure systems while costing 300,000 jobs," the largest U.S. union said.

Donohue outlined before the Senate what he termed "key objectives of a successful surface transportation reauthorization bill:"

  • Make safety the bill's "guiding star"
  • Ensure federal transportation policy, programs, and resources are oriented around national needs.
  • Adopt strategies and technologies that will reduce congestion, improve mobility in urban areas, and maximize the use of existing assets.
  • Help ensure rural connectivity.
  • Develop a comprehensive freight program to ensure adequate capacity, reduce congestion, and increase throughput at key highway, rail, waterway, and intermodal choke points.
  • Maximize the use of existing infrastructure and speed project delivery for new infrastructure.

"There needs to be a vigorous dialogue on funding and financing, but first we have to agree on the direction we're going. Everyone needs to keep an open mind. I am well aware of the fiscal constraints facing this Congress and the nation. But we must avoid cutting off our nose to spite our face. Without proper investment and attention to our infrastructure, the United States' economic stability, potential for job growth, global competitiveness, and quality of life are all at risk," Donohue said.

North American spot market truck freight up 62 percent in January

North American Freight Index for spot market truck freight was up 62 percent in truckload freight availability for January, according to the trend monitoring firm Transcore.

Load availability in January, which is typically a seasonally slow period for freight, declined by 2.8 percent compared to December, compared to the 15 percent average month-over-month decline from December to January of the past ten years Transcore reported.

Rates increased on the spot market for all truck types in January, according to TransCore's Truckload Rate Index. Compared to January 2010 dry van rates increased by 14 percent, flatbed rates rose by 11 percent and refrigerated rates were up by 6 percent.

Compared to December, 2010, rates declined for all truck types in January: reefer van rates decreased by $0.05 (3.4 percent), dry van rates fell by $0.03 (1.6 percent) and flatbed rates were $0.01 per mile lower. Spot market rates are paid by freight brokers to the carriers.

Southern California box ports recorded strong January

January 2011 was good to the bellwether container ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, posting 10.8 percent and 15.28 percent respective gains for the month counting empty containers.

The Port of Long Beach moved 474,960 TEUs, with imports up 11.3 percent at 242,444 TEUs, and exports up 12.7 percent at 127,546 TEUs.

The port said in a statement the increase in business was notable given the loss of one of its container terminal operators – California United Terminals – in December.

The Port of Los Angeles handled 660,518 TEUs, with imports up 14.28 percent at 338,607 TEUs, and exports up 12.61 percent at 159,051 TEUs.

Iranian warships attempting passage through Suez

Iran has reportedly been lobbying Egypt to grant passage for two of its warships through the Suez Canal.

Iranian warships have not entered the Mediterranean through the canal since 1979, according to an AFP news report.

Israel reportedly has said that Iran's attempt to sail its warships in close proximity to its waters would be a dangerous "provocation."

Reports out of the region are conflicted as to whether Egypt would allow the passage or not.

-For the full AFP story:

Maersk Alabama pirate sentenced to 33 years

A 33-year sentence was handed down today by U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska to Somali pirate Abduwali Muse for leading the hijacking of the containership Maersk Alabama in the Indian Ocean in 2009.

Muse pled guilty in May to two counts of hijacking maritime vessels, two for kidnapping and another two for taking hostages, who included Captain Richard Phillips being held for five days.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Report: Maersk to order ten 18,000-TEU vessels

Denmark’s A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S, the world’s biggest container-shipping, is going to order 10 o18,000-TEU containership, according to a Bloomberg report that cites three people sources.

The box ship deal is reportedly with Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. and includes options for another 20 such vessels.

The deal would be worth more than $4 billion if all 30 ships are ordered, according to Bloomberg’s sources.

Maersk forecasted last month that the global container market could grow by more than 8 percent this year.

Maersk has a 14.5 percent global market share and Geneva, Switzerland-based Mediterranean Shipping Company has 12.8 percent of the worldwide container-shipping market, based on container-fleet capacity, according to Alphaliner.

-For the full Bloomberg report:

U.S. Maritime Administration Celebrates First West Coast ship recycling facility opens

Maritime Administrator David Matsuda was on hand today with California state and local officials in a ribbon-cutting ceremony officially opening the first ship recycling facility on the West Coast in Vallejo, Calif.

“The Obama Administration is making good on its commitment to clean up the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “This targeted transportation investment will bolster our efforts to remove obsolete ships while creating jobs, improving the local economy and protecting the environment.”

Prior to the creation of the new facility, obsolete ships were cleaned before removal from the Bay Area and then towed 5,000 miles through the Panama Canal to MARAD-approved recycling facilities located along the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic coast. Allied Defense Recycling, using the former Mare Island Naval Shipyard, will both remove marine growth on their dry dock and recycle the ships, which will generally result in decreased recycling costs and reduced delays associated with the process of cleaning and recycling ships in separate facilities.

“A West Coast recycling facility just makes sense,” said Maritime Administrator Matsuda. “It’s efficient, increases competition and creates jobs. ADR will help MARAD meet its mission while helping to revitalize the local economy.”

Most of the Mare Island complex has been shut down since the United States Navy left in 1996. In 2009, ADR received approval to open a ship dismantling and repair service on the site. Since receiving the contracts from MARAD, the company has hired 50 people, many of which are former base employees.

New JAXPORT CEO “ready to fight” for waterway funding

The new CEO of the Jacksonville, Florida Port Authority told his local Propeller Club in a “State of the Port” address on Thursday that he is “ready to fight” to ensure the port gets the funding it needs in the wake of news last week that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers it could not make a quick fix to a shipping channel tidal issue, according to the Jacksonville Daily Record.

The currents where the St. Johns River meets the Intracoastal Waterway reportedly reduces the window of ship turnaround time when a vessel is fully loaded.

The Army Corps last week said a much cheaper, short-term fix was not feasible and both the timeline and pricetag went up significantly.

“We shouldn’t still be chasing authorization for Mile Point in 2011. The Panama Canal expansion is due to be completed in 2014. It is one of the largest construction projects in the world. Our country should be able to do a $30 million project in the same time…The Army Corps has to be more efficient in how they manage the projects for infrastructure in this country,” said Anderson.

For the full Jacksonville Daily Record story:

Port of Tacoma’s box volume up 13 percent in January

The Port of Tacoma reported its container volume for January increased 13 percent year-over-year to 105,289 TEUs. International containers were up 18 percent, while domestic containers increased by about 5 percent, the port said in a statement.

The Puget Sound container port said its international and domestic intermodal intermodal rail lifts were up by 12 percent.

“These are encouraging numbers, and help us to be more optimistic about the year ahead,” said Don Esterbrook, the port’s chief commercial officer. “I am confident that we are headed in the right direction,” he said.

Oil leak from containership off Norway’s coast reportedly stopped

An oil leak from a grounded containership off Norway’s coastline has reportedly been stopped, according to the Norwegian Coastal Administration.

The full extent of the vessel’s spill had not been assessed as of this report, although it apparently has reached the coast of Fredrikstad in Southern Norway.

The Norwegian and Swedish coastguards have been working together since the containership Godafoss went aground Thursday evening near the Swedish border, aprox. 100 meters from the coastline.

Oil has reportedly drifted into Outer Hvaler natural park.

The Godafoss was carrying approximately 800 metric tons of heavy fuel oil, or 204,800 gallons. There are reportedly holes in two of the ship's fuel tanks.

The ship is registered in Antigua and Barbuda and is part of the Icelandic shipping company Eimskip - CTG AS fleet. The vessel was on its way from Fredrikstad, Norway to Helsingborg in Southern Sweden.

-For the full Wall Street Journal story:


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