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Summary for February 26 - March 2, 2007:

Morgan Stanley acquires container port of Montreal

Morgan Stanley (MS) announced Thursday that its infrastructure investment group has entered into an agreement to acquire an 80% interest in Montreal Gateway Terminals from Germany's TUI, a leading tourism and shipping group. The Port of Montreal serves as a key entry point for trade between Europe and Montreal, Toronto and the Midwest US.

Hapag-Lloyd, TUI's shipping subsidiary, is a major customer of the container terminals and will retain a 20% stake in Montreal Gateway Terminals. Hapag-Lloyd focuses on global container liner shipping and is one of the top five shipping companies in the world.

Montreal Gateway Terminals operates the Racine and the Cast terminals on the St. Lawrence River in Montreal, Quebec. In 2005, Montreal Gateway Terminals handled 1.1mn TEU, representing 89% of all containers handled in Montreal.

"We are seeking a broad array of stable infrastructure opportunities, and this investment represents another important step in the build-out of our infrastructure business," said Sadek Wahba, Managing Director for MS's infrastructure investments.

Computer chips now lead Virginia exports

The computer chip has replaced coal and cigarettes as the new leader among Virginia exports.

Virginia chipmakers shipped $1.5bn of the devices overseas last year according to the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.

Chip exports were almost twice those of coal, at $882.9mn, and triple those of cigarettes, at $510.8mn, reported the state authority charged with increasing the commonwealth's economy.

It's the second time semiconductors topped the state's exports. The first was in 2002, but back then the chips, made by one of Virginia's newest industries, weren't so far ahead.

Pat Otte, director of Micron Technology Inc.'s Manassas chip fabrication plant, attributed last year's surge in the value of chip exports, up from $645.6mn in 2005, to strong global demand for semiconductors, especially in the emerging consumer markets of China and India. The $250bn worldwide semiconductor market is growing by about 15% annually, he said.

Grant will help train current, new workers at ports

Workers at the Port of Houston and other Gulf Coast ports will benefit from training paid for by a grant of almost $1mn from the Texas Workforce Commission.

The grant could pave the way for 570 new maritime workers to be trained, with another 1,060 current workers getting training for upgraded jobs, according to the West Gulf Maritime Association.

The number of workers in the Houston-area maritime industry is expected to grow by at least 10% annually for the next decade, Walter Niemand, president and chief executive of the association, said Feb 23.

"That means a tremendous increase in volumes of work, and the jobs that will be created will provide high wages, salaries and benefits," Niemand said. "With equipment and technologies becoming more sophisticated, a highly skilled and trained work force will be essential."

The training will be for all marine terminal operations, including longshoreman, industrial truck operator, clerk/checker, gang and walking foreman, container handlers and yard tractor operators.

Railroads roll out eco-friendly locomotives

Union Pacific and General Electric are on a whistle-stop tour through California parading five of their newest "green" locomotives.

The tour is part of a massive public relations campaign taking place as the federal government considers new emissions standards for railroads, which some conservationists and health officials say should face tougher regulations.

Trains in the San Joaquin Valley are responsible for nearly 25 tons of nitrogen oxide emissions each day; the oxides are a major precursor to smog.

"The communities near the railroads and ports have been extremely vocal about the public health tragedies of lung illness and asthma attacks," said Bonnie Holmes-Gen, a spokeswoman for the American Lung Association of California, which was not involved in Wednesday's tour stop at the UP yard in Stockton.

About half of Union Pacific's 8,500 locomotives are certified under existing EPA laws passed in 2000. But the availability of cleaner-burning diesel fuel makes stricter emission rules practical in just a few more years, the agency says.

It could cost several billion dollars in technology upgrades but would lead to fewer premature deaths and health problems, the federal officials say. Railroaders do not dispute that.

Yodobashi to smooth shipping by expanding smart-tag system

Yodobashi Camera Co will this May 2007 start managing shipments of small items by attaching smart tags to their roughly 20,000 containers, a move expected to reduce distribution costs by hundreds of millions of yen a year.

Yodobashi is said to be among the first major mass merchandisers to install a smart-tag system on such a large scale. It ships small products to its stores nationwide in 50 x 35 x 30cm plastic containers.

Each container will bear a radio tag, enabling tracking of the flow of goods by quantity and type. The retailer is asking about 60 small-item suppliers to cooperate, with about half expected to comply by May 2007.

This will eliminate the need for Yodobashi to count items arriving at its distribution centers.

Yangtze ports seek 8bn yuan investment

Mainland port authorities for the Yangtze River, the third-longest in the world, will invite investors to develop terminals involving investment of more than eight billion yuan.

The pitch will be made at a port conference in April 2007 in Shanghai. Global shipping firms such as Maersk and CMA CGM will send reps, and officials from ports along the river will also attend and offer projects at ports including Wuhan, Tongling, Jingjiang and Yibin.

Wuhan Port will seek interest in the second phase expansions of Henyang container terminal and Yangluo Terminal for a total investment of 1.4bn yuan. Tongling Port, Jingjiang Port and Yibin Port will market their bulk and container terminal projects for a total investment of 5.4bn yuan.

The Yangtze River project is part of the government's "Go West" policy started in 2000 to develop 12 western provinces and cities, such as Chongqing, Yunnan, Sichuan, Tibet and Shaanxi.

To aid the Go West policy, the central government has earmarked 15.3bn yuan to build transshipment and warehouse facilities in Nanjing, Wuhan and Chongqing; construction work started in 2005.

Increased investment in the western provinces has boosted demand for cargo transport along the river.

Brazil port says GMO soy won't cause delays

Transgenic soybean deliveries will not be the cause of logistical delays at the Paranagua Port in southern Brazil if traders abide by port rules, according to the port's director.

The week of Feb 18, a two-mile backup of trucks carrying transgenic soybeans was caused by soy trading companies without port storage capacity who didn't negotiate prices with the private terminal owners and didn't have ships registered to receive cargo. These traders are only allowed to transport soy if a ship is waiting for the load or if space has been rented at a private terminal warehouse.

A federal court ordered Paranagua to allow transgenic soy at its private terminals in 2006. Nearly half the current crop will be genetically modified since the government granted permission late in the 2006 season to plant transgenic soy.

The port's one public silo still doesn't allow transgenic soy, in order to guarantee public space for conventional soybeans.

Soy traders here say that Paranagua's massive public silo has the capacity to store more than 100,000 metric tons of soybeans, and should allow GMO soy to be stored there. Port director Eduardo Requiao has said that companies "bombarded" the port with transgenic soy as part of a pressure tactic to get port management to turn that silo into a transgenic soybean silo.

Requiao said the two soy types couldn't be mixed in the public terminal, but private terminals had plenty of space. He said a second public silo will be ready for the 2007-08 crop, and could store transgenic soy if there is demand.

Overseas Shipholding Group to buy Heidmar Lightering

Overseas Shipholding Group Inc (OSG) will buy Heidmar Lightering, which handles the transfer of crude oil and petroleum products at sea, from Morgan Stanley Capital Group Inc (MS).

Financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

Heidmar Lightering includes a fleet of four International Flag Aframax tankers and two US flag workboats, which provide lightering services primarily in the Gulf of Mexico. The business manages a portfolio of one-to-three year fixed rate cargo contracts.

Overseas Shipholding said the deal also includes a 50% residual interest in two specialized lightering Aframax tankers.

MS bought the Heidmar group of companies in August 2006.

Brazil CVRD projects coal production of 30mn tons by 2010

Brazilian mining giant Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD) expects to produce 30mn metric tons of thermal and metallurgical coal by 2010, company executives said Feb 26.

CVRD recently purchased AMCI Holdings Australia Pty for $835mn. AMCI holds stakes in several joint-venture coal projects that produce 8mn metric tons per year.

CVRD also holds 25% stakes in two coal joint ventures in China that yield 2mn metric tons of coal output.

The biggest piece in CVRD's 30mn ton coal target comes from the Moatize coal deposit in Mozambique. Moatize is expected to begin initial production at 12mn metric tons of coal per year.

CVRD director of nonferrous mining Jose Lancaster said the company is currently in negotiations on logistics in terms of railroads and ports in order to export the coal via ship.

CVRD also expects the Belvedere coal deposit, currently in pre-feasibility study, to produce about 8mn metric tons per year by 2010 or 2011. The Belvedere deposit is located in Australia's Queensland state, close to the mines currently under development by AMCI.

China becomes net importer of coal for first time

China became a net importer of coal in Jan 2007 for the first time, an official said Feb 26.

China imported 4.7mn tons of coal in Jan 2007, a rise of 81.1% from a year earlier, according to figures from the customs bureau.

Coal exports in Jan 2007 fell 20.4% to 3.29mn tons, the fourth consecutive month of year-on-year declines.

Increased demand from China’s energy-hungry economy could push international coal prices higher, much in the same way the nation of 1.3 billion people has driven oil prices higher.

China became a net oil importer more than 10 years ago and its increased demand has been one of the factors behind higher oil prices over the last few years.

The coal shortage was brought on by transport bottlenecks and a change in tax rebate policy, said Hao Xiangbin, an official with the China Coal Transport and Distribution Association.

The official said China is strong in productivity but has difficulty transporting the coal from mine sites to the coastal areas, so the coastal areas are importing. He added it was the first time that China has had to import more coal than it exported.

Also affecting import patterns was the cancellation of tax rebates, Hao said.

Proposed route to Mexico seaport possible threat to farmers

A proposed new Mexican seaport could provide Union Pacific Railroad with a major business opportunity - trainloads of shipping containers of imported goods to haul to points across the US.

Southwestern Arizona farmers say that opportunity for Union Pacific could spell trouble for them.

UP revealed its possible involvement in a multi-company project to build and operate a seaport at Punta Colonet in Baja California. Plans are still under development but UP has started acquiring options to buy property for the US portion of a 200-mile spur that container trains could travel between UP’s east-west “Sunset Route” main line near Yuma and the proposed seaport.

The US portion of the proposed new line would need up to 30 miles of track in Yuma County in an area where farmers now grow lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower and other crops on irrigated fields between the city of Yuma and a Marine Corps base on the west and a sprawling military bombing range to the east.

Farmers say the prospective new line would take some farm land and trains traveling the route would disrupt agricultural operations and pose environmental and safety risks.

UP spokesman Mark Davis said UP expects the Mexican government to solicit proposals for Punta Colonet in spring 2007 and to pick successful bidders in late 2007, with port operations starting in 2012.

Vietnam urged to invest in new deep-water ports

Vietnam needs to invest in new, deep-water ports and improve its inland infrastructure to achieve its economic potential, according to an executive of Neptune Orient Shipping Lines (NOL), a major shipper in the country.

A report by NOL, the Singapore-based owner of APL, a leading container carrier, says that infrastructure weaknesses could hold back the country's rapid economic growth.

Vietnam enjoyed gross domestic product growth of 8.2% last year and is expecting still faster growth this year. However, the shallow water round its shores means it is unable to handle container ships larger than short-distance feeder vessels, which take cargo to Hong Kong, Taiwan or Singapore for loading on to larger, long-distance ships.

Most large shipping lines are taking a close interest in Vietnam after it joined the World Trade Organization on January 1.

Investment in deep-water ports would enable Vietnam to handle its own trade on larger ships, which cost less per container to use. At present, according to the report, moving a 40ft container from Ho Chi Minh City to Yokohama costs $1,070 (€813, £545), while the same journey from Hanoi costs $1,480. From Singapore to Yokohama, the cost is only $940.

Vietnam approves South Korean $500mn shipyard project

South Korea's STX Group recently got the nod from the Vietnamese government for its $500mn project to build a shipyard here, company officials said Feb 27.

The South Korean group has been seeking to build the shipyard, with an annual production output of 2.6mn tons, in the central coastal province of Khanh Hoa.

All administrative procedures will be completed by the end of March 2007, and the construction of the shipyard will be finished by 2010, said Ko Young-sam of STX Group's Vietnamese operation.

South Korean shipyards are expanding overseas to lower costs and increase capacity, as higher oil prices are driving demand up for vessels.

Toyota builds new plant in Mississippi

Toyota officials Feb 27 announced that they have chosen a 1,700-acre site in Blue Springs, MS to build its eighth North American vehicle assembly plant.

The new plant, to be located just outside of Tupelo, will have the capacity to build 150,000 vehicles annually of Toyota's popular Highlander sport utility vehicle. Production is scheduled to begin by 2010.

The new plant represents a $1.3bn investment by Toyota and is expected to create approximately 2,000 new jobs for the region and indirectly create work for many more. Operations at the plant will include stamping, body weld, plastics, paint, and assembly.

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, speaking at a news conference held in Tupelo, welcomed Toyota's decision to set up operations in MS.

Site preparation and construction for the plant is scheduled to begin in spring 2007.

US engineering group signs contract with French LNG terminal

Jacobs Engineering Group Inc., Pasadena, has received a contract to provide conceptual engineering studies and owner engineering support for an extension of Gaz de France's (GDF's) LNG terminal at Montoir-de-Bretagne in France.

Jacobs said the project is phased to increase overall capacity by 65% in accord with plans announced December 2006 when GDF said it would extend the Montoir-de-Bretagne terminal to meet growing demand for LNG in France and Europe.

At the time, GDF said the terminal's annual delivery capacity of 10bcm would be gradually increased by 6.5bcm to 16.5bcm over a four-year period.

GDF said initial work – scheduled to be completed at the beginning of 2011 – would boost overall annual capacity by 2.5bcm to 12.5bcm by enhancing the terminal's regasification facilities.

It said a second increase of 4 bcm by 2014 would then raise the total annual capacity to 16.5 bcm following construction of a fourth large-capacity LNG tank as well as the additional strengthening of the terminal’s regasification and emission facilities.

Shifting from highways to waterways

The US Maritime Administration may lend federal backing and financial support to a new plan to send cargo containers up and down the James River by barge.

Sean T. Connaughton, MARAD's administrator, said Feb 27 that the planned service -- designed in part to reduce traffic congestion on Interstate 64 between Norfolk and Richmond -- fit squarely in with the organization's goal of shifting cargo from roads to waterways.

The agency, he said, is looking to get some pilot programs under way to show that a barge alternative would work. The James River operation is one of two or three lines nationally being considered for grants.

T. Parker Host, a Norfolk shipping agency, hopes to begin in late 2007 what it's calling the "James River Barge Line" -- and has asked for $500,000 in seed money.

With a privately owned terminal being built in Portsmouth by APM Terminals, a Maersk sister company -- as well as a new state-owned container terminal planned at Craney Island -- containers moving through the port could increase fourfold in the next two decades.

The James River Barge Line shows "real potential," Connaughton said, and leaders at the Ports of Richmond and Hampton Roads are on board with the project.

Another barge line that the agency is looking at, Connaughton said, is a service between Bridgeport, CT, and New York.

China’s new quality controls for car exporters

China is launching March 1, 2007 its quality control licensing system for car exporters with a landmark regulation that will force out underperforming companies from an overcrowded market.

While the country surpassed Japan in 2006 to become the world's second-largest car market, Beijing knows that fostering a homegrown industry like Japan's and South Korea's requires a product in demand overseas.

Consequently, a push for exports of "domestic branded cars" was included in the 11th five-year plan.

The government, which has yet to elaborate on the licensing system since announcing it at the end of last year, only said that the intention was to weed out the weaker players and create a few national stalwarts.

For the carmakers competing in a growing domestic market, this means that if they fail to establish a foreign beachhead, they will also end up being sidelined at home, according to analysts.

Last year, China - which bought 7.2mn cars - exported 342,400 vehicles, an increase of 98.13% over 2005. The export value was $3.13bn, up 96.62%, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

Saudi Arabia to invest $95mn in oil and natural gas

Saudi Arabia plans to invest some $95 million to develop its oil and natural gas industry over the coming 4-8 years, according to the Kingdom’s advisor to the oil minister.

Saudi Arabia plans to invest $70bn to increase its oil and gas production capacity until 2015 and invest $25bn to increase its refining capacity before 2011, according to Majid Al Moneef, advisor to Saudi Oil Minister Ali Al Naimi, in a speech at the Jeddah Economic Forum.

Al Moneef confirmed previously announced plans to increase the country’s upstream output capacity from 11.3mn b/d to 12.5mn b/d by 2009, as well as to step up downstream refining capacity by some 50% to 6mn b/d.

Brazil’s CSN ships first iron ore cargo to int'l market

Brazilian integrated steelmaker CSN has made its first international iron ore shipment through its Sepetiba port terminal in Rio de Janeiro state, business daily Valor Economico reported.

According to Valor, a ship containing 65,000 tons of iron ore left the port on February 25 headed for Bahrain, though the purchasing company's name was not disclosed. Further shipments are planned for March and April 2007, targeting Asia and the Middle East.

CSN recently expanded its port terminal in order to export, starting this year, iron ore from its Casa de Pedra mine in Minas Gerais. The terminal is due to reach 30mn t/y capacity by 2008 and 50mn t/y capacity by 2010.

Port of Stockton ships millionth ton of rice

The Port of Stockton, CA announced that the one-millionth metric ton of bagged California rice exported in the new millennium was loaded aboard the M/V Blue Ocean on Feb. 24, 2007.

Destined for delivery to Japan, the bagged rice was provided by Connell Rice and Sugar, Inc, and loaded aboard the vessel by SSA Marine. The total tonnage exported on this particular ship was 13,000 metric tons.

“We are especially pleased to have reached this milestone as quickly as we did,” stated Port Director Richard Aschieris. “With the acquisition of the former Navy properties on Rough & Ready Island in 2000, complete with more than a mile of commercial docks and more than 5mn square feet of covered storage, we knew that we would be able to service this very important segment of California agriculture.”

NYK to receive Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport Award

Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK) will receive the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport Award at the 16th annual Earth Environment Awards ceremony sponsored by the Fujisankei Communications Group. NYK will be the first recipient of this newly established award.

The Earth Environment Awards are given to corporations, local governments, universities, colleges, and citizens’ groups that make signification contributions to environmental preservation activities. This will be the second time for NYK to be recognized, following the company’s receipt of the Nippon Keidanren Chairman Award in 2005.

NYK will be honored this year for global activities that have focused on environmental protection and maritime pollution-prevention measures, particularly NYK’s invention of an original system to fundamentally and dramatically reduce maritime pollutants generated in engine rooms during shipping operations. NYK has adopted the system as a standard for company ships and has succeeded in effectively reducing the disposal of treated bilge and subsequently preventing maritime pollution.

After the invention of NYK’s new system, related industries, in addition to the Japanese Shipowners’ Association and the Japan Ship Technology Research Association, came together to establish government standards for maritime pollution and an international standardization by maritime organizations. The development, operational technology, and expertise of NYK’s proprietary system were fully utilized in the process of international standardization.

The Earth Environment Awards ceremony will take place on Thursday, April 12, 2007, in the presence of Prince and Princess Akishino at Meiji Kinenkan in Tokyo.

Indiana Ports set record

Steel shipments helped the Ports of Indiana set a record of $1.89bn of cargo handled in 2006 at its locations, and the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor in Portage saw the majority of that.

The climb is a 23% hike from 2005, which had been the previous 36-year high. Steel accounted for $955mn of the 2006 shipments, a 45% increase from the previous year.

In 2006, the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor set a new record for steel shipments, which were up 57% from 2005.

Steel shipments at the port totaled $584mn in 2006, according to Jody Peacock, director of corporate affairs for the Ports of Indiana. Total shipments at the local port were at $820mn.

Sharing boundaries with two of the largest steel mills in the country — Arcelor Mittal Steel and US Steel — the Portage port handles a wide range of steel-related cargos including about 15% of all US steel trade with Europe.

SE Iowa commission plan calls for intermodal freight system

The Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission has laid out transportation priorities for the next 20 years in a long-range planning report.

SEIRPC gathers data from communities it serves and compiles the plan, including what projects local governments would like to see accomplished in the next 20 years.

The plan calls for an intermodal freight system in either Keokuk or Fort Madison. This would be a place where freight could be transferred between barges, rail and trucks, according to Mike Norris of SEIRPC.

A highway project included in the plan upgrades Highway 218 from Highway 61 to Donnellson into a four-lane.

Besides the establishment of the Port Authority and Foreign Trade Zone, which are well under way, some water improvements the commission recommends include the dredging of the Mississippi River to allow barge traffic during low flow and rehabilitation of the lock and dam system.

Another highway plan includes completion of the Highway 61 bypass of Fort Madison. The SEIRPC plan also asks for an interchange at Highway 103.

Norris said SEIRPC will help as much as it can on the Highway 103 interchange. He said it could help find funding through the regional surface transportation grant and help the cities and count lobby for an earmark for the project.

SEIRPC works with local governments to obtain funding for projects.

NAFTA trade posts rare retreat in December 2006

Trade using surface transportation between the US and its North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partners Canada and Mexico declined in Dec 2006 from the year before, the first such decline since Aug 2003.

The Dec 2006 trade total was valued at $59bn, and was 0.15% lower than in Dec 2005, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) of the US Department of Transportation.

BTS reported that total North American surface transportation trade fell 8.9% in Dec 2006 from Nov 2006.

Month-to-month changes can be affected by seasonal variations and other factors, the report notes.

About 90% of US trade by value with Canada and Mexico moves on land.

Total North American surface transportation trade value in Dec 2006 was up 54.4% compared to Dec 2001, and up 76.8% compared to Dec 1996, a period of 10 years. Imports in Dec 2006 were up 95.6% compared to December 1996, while exports were up 56.6%.

Evergreen upgrades its online reporting services

Evergreen has enhanced the 'e-Report' online services available on its ShipmentLink website, making it easier for customers to manage and monitor their shipments. The Event Notification, Tracking Report and Shipment Statistics functions have been improved in response to customer feedback.

The summary allows customers to manage their shipments by country of receipt and/or delivery, period of receipt/delivery or export/import vessel.