Cargo Business Newswire Archives
Summary for March 12 - March 16, 2012:

Monday, March 12, 2012

Top Story

China trade imbalance at decade high

China posted its highest trade imbalance in over a decade for February, as imports surged over exports, leaving the Asian Giant with a gap of $31.5 billion.

China's imports grew a robust 39.6 percent in February; far surpassing growth estimates of 27 percent and more than its double export growth of 18.4 percent for the month, Reuters reported.

"It's a very mixed picture," said Zhang Zhiwei, chief China economist at Nomura in Hong Kong, who pointed to a weeklong shutdown of factories in China in January for the Chinese Lunar New Year as having some impact.

"But there is a bright spot in that imports, particularly imported components for export purposes, were weak in January but became a bit better in February. My expectation is that March and April exports will pick up a bit from this level," he told Reuters.

The Chinese government has said its official growth target for the year is at about 10 percent for exports and imports, although analysts predict more modest growth for the first quarter at just over 8 percent, down from almost 9 percent for the previous quarter.

"Imports were strong in February partly due to restocking among manufacturers in anticipation of rising commodity prices. That led to a big trade deficit in February but we should not worry too much about it," said Hua Zhongwei, economist at Huachuang Securities in Beijing.

"Europe and the U.S. are slowly recovering. We should not be too pessimistic about China's exports. Export growth could be around 10-15 percent (in 2012). We will have a trade surplus for the whole year," Hua said.

For the full Reuters report:

Maersk's stock rises on hopes for sustainable freight rate increases

The stock price of Denmark's container-shipping giant hit its highest price level in a week in Copenhagen over reported speculation that freight rates increases can achieve a sustainable level.

By April 1, Maersk has said it plans to raise Asia-Europe rates another $400 per-TEU and at the same time is cutting capacity a reported in that tradelane by 9 percent.

Maersk stock rose as high as 1 percent to 45,360 kroner, the ocean carrier group's highest price level since March 5, and was the second highest gainer on the Copenhagen 20 index, according to a Bloomberg report.

"Spot rates on Asia-Europe are holding up," according to a message to clients from Nordea Markets.

"We are therefore confident that our estimates for Maersk Line are achievable; we foresee a 4 percent higher average rate and a break-even result in 2012," Nordea Markets said.

For the full Bloomberg report:

YRC Worldwide to sell China unit

YRC Worldwide Inc. announced it has reached an agreement to sell its majority interest in Shanghai Jiayu Logistics Co., Ltd. to its joint venture partner that currently holds 35 percent.

"This is another important step in the continuing process to sharpen our focus on North American less-than-truckload shipping," said James Welch, CEO of YRC Worldwide in a statement.

"This transaction allows us to further simplify our portfolio and streamline our operations as we concentrate on regaining the North American LTL market leader position," Welch said.

The company said the transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2012. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

COSCO introduces Asia-U.S. Gulf service

China Ocean Shipping Company's Americas division announced it is introducing a new Asia-U.S. Gulf service via the Panama Canal.

"The new GME (Gulf of Mexico Express) service is an example of COSCO's efforts to simplify the lives of our shippers, by constantly adding services that respond to the need for speed and cost efficiency," said Tim Marsh, COSCO's vice president of North American sales in a statement.

The container-shipping line said the service is scheduled slated to launch from Shanghai April 29, with calls at Ningbo, Xiamen, Yantian, Colon, and Houston.

"The inaugural run will also be the maiden voyage of the new MV COSCO Auckland, celebrating her addition to the COSCO fleet," the company said.

Bi-state lawmakers to scrutinize NY-NJ port's finances

In what is being called an unusual development, a bi-state, bi-partisan group of lawmakers from the neighboring states of New York and New Jersey are reportedly going to hold a joint hearing April 30 over the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey's financial accountability.

"The Port Authority is well on its way to becoming an out-of-control agency focused more on building a real estate empire rather than its mission of providing affordable and reliable transportation and port facilities," said Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), chairman of the Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee, in a statement.

Wisniewski will co-chair the joint hearing with New York State Sen. Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., a Long Island Republican, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, the New Jersey Star-Ledger reported.

Lawmakers from both states have also been reportedly considering legislation that would improve transparency at the joint agency on the heels of a controversial toll hike at the Authority's four bi-state bridges and two tunnels that by 2015 would rise to $12 for E-Pass users and $15 for customers paying with cash.

The bi-state lawmakers also referenced what they claim has been a 20-percent payroll increase at the port authority over the past five years; excessive overtime pay; and an additional $3.8 billion in the projected cost of the World Trade Center redevelopment project over its original estimate.

For the full New Jersey Star-Ledger story:


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Top Story

Senate to pass transportation bill

The U.S. Senate is about to pass its transportation bill, an overhaul of highway and transit programs that gives states greater leeway over how to spend federal monies, streamlines environmental procedures to get projects fast tracked and encourages greater private funding for transportation projects.

Tuesday is expected to be a marathon day of voting in the Senate, with more than 20 amendments scheduled to be decided.

The popular bipartisan bill would spend $109 billion over two years, much less than what two congressional commissions have said will be necessary to maintain and expand the country's aging transportation infrastructure to meet population growth through 2050.

The bill will increase highway aid to states by adjusting current funding for inflation. States, which would have greater discretion over how to spend money, must meet performance and eligibility requirements aimed at meeting national goals.

Congress must pass the bill by March 31, when their ability to levy federal fuel taxes and spend money from the transportation trust fund will expire.

- The Washington Post

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OOCL drops on 90 percent profit loss, grim 2012 forecast

Orient Overseas Container Line, Hong Kong's largest container-shipping line, dropped 2.9 percent to its lowest level since Feb 23. The company recorded a 90 percent plunge in profits in 2011 due to overcapacity, fuel costs and low rates.

Orient Overseas has predicted a "difficult" 2012, noting the year is unlikely to be profitable because of slow growth in Europe and North American and an expected increase in new ship deliveries, adding to overcapacity.

The company's net income plunged to $181.6 million in 2011 from $1.9 billion in 2010.

Orient Overseas has partnered with the G-6 Alliance on Asia to Europe routes starting March 1, in an effort to collectively raise rates. Neptune Orient, Hapag-Lloyd and APL are also members. Orient Overseas will charge $450 per TEU starting April 1 on Asia-Europe trips.

- BusinessWeek

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OOCL drops on 90 percent profit loss, grim 2012 forecast

Orient Overseas Container Line, Hong Kong's largest container-shipping line, dropped 2.9 percent to its lowest level since Feb 23. The company recorded a 90 percent plunge in profits in 2011 due to overcapacity, fuel costs and low rates.

Orient Overseas has predicted a "difficult" 2012, noting the year is unlikely to be profitable because of slow growth in Europe and North American and an expected increase in new ship deliveries, adding to overcapacity.

The company's net income plunged to $181.6 million in 2011 from $1.9 billion in 2010.

Orient Overseas has partnered with the G-6 Alliance on Asia to Europe routes starting March 1, in an effort to collectively raise rates. Neptune Orient, Hapag-Lloyd and APL are also members. Orient Overseas will charge $450 per TEU starting April 1 on Asia-Europe trips.

- BusinessWeek

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Port of Seattle commissioner to run for Congress

On Monday, Port of Seattle Commission President Gael Tarleton announced her bid to run for the 36th District House seat to be vacated by State Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Seattle. She will run on four key issues: job creation, protecting women's health and reproductive rights, higher education and the environment.

Reportedly, the 53-year-old lifelong Democrat has raised nearly $20,000 in the past 48 hours.

Tarleton was re-elected for a second term to the Port of Seattle Commission last year with 59.5 percent of the vote in King County, the third woman ever to be elected to the Port.

She has worked at the University of Washington for the past eight years, most recently serving as strategic advisor at the Institute for National Security Education and Research.

Hamburg Süd general rate increase in S. America-U.S. Gulf

Hamburg Süd North America announced it would implement a general rate increase, effective April 15, 2012 on all containerized cargo moving via U.S. Gulf Coast ports to the South America East Coast. The shipping line said in a statement that its new rates will be $150 per-TEU and $300 per FEU for dry, reefer, tanks and special equipment cargo.

19 rescued after Italian ship runs aground

According to the coast guard, an Italian ship ran aground in rough weather conditions on Saturday off the coast of Sicily. The 500-foot Gelso M was driven onto rocks as it approached the port of Syracuse and started taking on water.

The position of the ship made a surface craft approach impossible.

Four helicopters lifted 19 crewmembers to safety after the captain ordered all to abandon ship.

Rescue services implied the captain had been sailing too close to the coast, given the adverse weather conditions.

- The Telegraph

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Top Story

Trans-Pac lines pursue $400 per-FEU rate hike in April

On the heels of an announced $300 general rate increase in mid-March and in advance of another planned price hike in May, trans-Pacific shipping lines announced they are pursuing yet another rate hike of $400 per-FEU by April 15 that they said would "address rates that remain below baseline levels."

"Carriers operating in the Pacific are at a critical juncture," said Brian Conrad, the executive director of the Transpacific Stabilization Agreement, representing 15 major container-shipping lines in the eastbound Asia-U.S. trade.

"Once again, as in 2009, we are back to a situation in which nearly all major carriers in the trade are moving cargo at a loss," Conrad said in a statement.

The latest announcement of a freight rate increase would precede the shipping lines' planned increase of $500 per-FEU for Asia-U.S. West Coast cargo, and $700 per-FEU for all other destinations.

The TSA members said they plan to stick to implementing separate bunker and inland fuel surcharges, in addition to a peak season surcharge later in the year.

"Supply and demand is no longer the only or even the primary consideration in carrier pricing," Conrad said.

"The conversation needs to focus on sustained carrier viability and service quality in a major, recovering trade lane with complex and sophisticated service needs," he said.

CN to launch new services between Prince Rupert, Calgary and Edmonton

The Canadian National Railroad announced it plans to launch new intermodal services between the Port of Prince Rupert, B.C., and Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta in June.

The Rupert-Calgary service is already in service, and the CN said in a statement that it intends "to support Alberta's growing transportation requirements" for consumer goods, industrial materials on the inbound and forest products, plastics, agri-products for export.

Canada's largest Class One railroad is relocating its Calgary Intermodal Terminal to a new, larger $200 million, 680-acre logistics park near Calgary's airport. The facility is scheduled to open in January 2013.

New tech products like iPad could boost Asia's 2012 airfreight volumes

Asia's airfreight carriers could reportedly ride an 8 percent rebound this year, thanks in part to Apple's newly released, latest iPad that exports out of China.

"The near-term outlook remains challenging but hopefully we'll have some potential upside surprises from the tech sector's restocking and new iPad shipments in the second half of this year," said Corrine Png, a Singapore-based analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in a Bloomberg Businessweek report.

Other new technology product releases could boost factories in Asia, such as by the iPad's manufacturer Foxconn that also produces Hewlett-Packard computers, Sony televisions and Microsoft game consoles.

The world's busiest airfreight carriers are based in the Asia-Pacific and after 12 straight months of faltering volumes, this year's second half could reportedly benefit from a new tech product consumer surge.

"Whenever you've got a hot new item, the consumer says, 'I've got to have it now,'" said Seattle-based Boeing spokesman Bob Saling to Bloomberg.

"That can be a real driver of air cargo demand," he said.

For the full Bloomberg Businessweek story:

Trammel Crow and Clarion Partners to open $27 mil logistics center in Phoenix

Dallas-based Trammell Crow Co. and New York's Clarion Partners reportedly plan top open the first 600,000 square-foot phase of the $27 million, one million square-foot Coldwater Depot Logistics Center in May of this year.

Large blocks of industrial space are reportedly becoming scarcer, influencing the TCC-Clarion partnership to go with one big block.

"In the southwest submarket of Phoenix, there's been a huge decline of availability during the last 18 to 24 months," said Trammell Crow Senior Development Manager Cathy Thuringer about Coldwater Depot Logistics Center to Globe

"Anyone seeking 250,000 square feet to 300,000 square feet is limited to one building these days," she said.

Phoenix's western metro region is reportedly gaining in popularity for industrial warehousing and distribution, especially warehouse and distribution due in part to proximity to Interstate 10, a direct, 5-hour route to California and the Long Beach-Los Angeles container port complex.

Arizona also has reportedly lower taxes and fewer in regulations than California for logistics and distribution companies.

For the full Globe story:

Death toll hits 112 from Bangladesh ferry-cargo vessel collision

The death toll has reportedly hit 112 of the approximate 200 people on board a Bangladesh ferry that had a deadly collision with cargo vessel on the Meghna River on Tuesday morning, according to rescue workers going through the salvaged wreck and from retrieving floating bodies. The ferry sunk after the collision with survivors reportedly either rescued from the water or swimming to shore. Ferry accidents are reportedly common in Bangladesh, a delta region with over 230 rivers. In 2009, approximately 150 died in three separate ferry accidents, according to the Associated Press. For the full A.P. story:


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Top Story

Senate passes $109 bil transportation bill

On Wednesday the U.S. Senate passed a two-year, $109 billion surface transportation bill, 74-22.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid and Democrats touts the bipartisan legislation as a "jobs" bill. The jobs to be saved or created are mainly derived from construction jobs that will be lost if federal funding-the "highway trust fund" for infrastructure projects-ceases on April 1 of this year.

House Republicans, whose five-year transportation bill links infrastructure spending to oil drilling in the Artic National Refuge and the U.S. East Coast, face opposition from both sides.

Senator Barbara Boxer of California and Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma wrote the Senate bill. It keeps the scope of surface transportation projects intact, while giving the states flexibility to identify priorities.

- New York Times

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Container rate war carries $11B price tag

The price war that's gone on between container-shipping lines for the past 14 months on the two most-traveled routes has cost the industry $11.4 billion dollars, according to SeaIntel Maritime Analysis.

In 2011, container-shipping lines undermined each other on Asia-to-Europe and the Asia-to-U.S. freight voyages, reducing rates to keep their corner of the market, the research company reported. Falling rates failed to cover costs. Orient Overseas Container Line, which saw a 90 percent decline in profits last year, cited higher fuel costs, industry-wide vessel overcapacity and depressed rates.

The price war is likely coming to an end, with lines raising rates to 2010 levels, and addressing overcapacity, said Lars Jensen, SeaIntel's CEO, to Bloomberg. Freight rates are set to rise March 15 on the Asia-to-U.S. routes, and a second increase is expected on April 1 for Asia-to-Europe trips.

Container-shipping lines are sharing vessels, reducing speed, and taking ships out of service to regain market share.

- Manila Bulletin/Bloomberg

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Savannah's mayor plugs port expansion at White House

On Monday, Mayor Edna Jackson of Savannah lobbied President Obama to support deepening the Savannah River to allow bigger ships to call at the city's port.

Jackson was among a group of city leaders who met with the President Monday. Each official reportedly had one minute with the commander in chief to talk about pressing concerns in their respective cities. During her minute, the mayor pushed Savannah's $600 million port expansion project, talking about the high poverty rates in her region and the jobs the project would create.

Obama has included $2 million in federal funding for the project in his budget, after giving the port $600,000 for the expansion in 2011. Overall, the Savannah port needs $350 million in federal funding for the dredging venture, with the state of Georgia covering the rest.

Savannah is in a race to increase the depth of its port facility to accommodate the gigantic cargo vessels that will call at East Coast ports once the Panama Canal expansion is completed in 2014.

- Huffington Post

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Illinois to build $42M transportation, logistics center at college

The state of Illinois and City Colleges of Chicago are partnering to build a $42 million center to train students for jobs in transportation logistics, according to an announcement made by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The Transportation, Distribution and Logistics Center at Olive-Harvey College on Chicago's South Side will prepare students for higher paying jobs in the sector.

- Chicago Tribune

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