Cargo Business Newswire Archives
Summary for April 25 through April 29, 2016:

Monday, April 25, 2016

Hapag-Lloyd and UASC in merger talks

Hapag-Lloyd is in talks with United Arab Shipping Co. on a possible merger of their container businesses, as the ocean carriers grapple with chronically low freight rates.

Hapag-Lloyd would account for 72 percent of the combined entity's value and UASC for 28 percent, the Hamburg-based company said Thursday in a statement. The carriers haven't reached a binding agreement and may not complete a deal, it said. Hapag-Lloyd's stock jumped to a three-month high, the biggest gain since the company's initial public offering in November.

The joint company would rank fifth in an industry dominated by Maersk Line. Hapag-Lloyd now holds sixth place after its 2014 merger with the container business of Chilean rival CSAV amid a wave of deals in response to losses stemming from plunging prices.

A merger would give Hapag-Lloyd access to some of the largest container ships available since UASC, headquartered in Dubai, operates six vessels with a capacity of 18,800 TEUs, a size the German carrier lacks and that is key to operating on Asia-Europe trade routes.

"Hapag-Lloyd so far shied away from ordering the biggest vessels though stakeholder Kuehne has pushed publicly in that direction," said Oliver Drebing, an analyst at Hamburg-based Alsterresearch. "If the merger works out, Hapag-Lloyd would no longer have to make the decision to order bigger ships."

For more of the Bloomberg story:

SC Ports Authority looks at Dillon, S.C., for second inland port facility

The South Carolina Ports Authority has announced plans to explore opening a second inland port facility, driven by the success of Inland Port Greer and demand for container trade between the Port of Charleston and growing markets in South Carolina and North Carolina.

"Inland Port Greer is one of SCPA's most successful investments, as the growth of intermodal container volume movement in our state and region requires appropriate facilities in the interior to ground loaded and empty containers and to leverage the efficiency and sustainability of rail transportation," SCPA president and CEO Jim Newsome said. "If it is feasible, an additional inland port will be a great diversification of our logistics footprint."

Approximately 23 percent of containers imported or exported through Charleston last year moved by rail, with nearly 260,000 international intermodal rail lifts handled in 2015. Intermodal volume has seen staggering growth of 166 percent since 2011, driving increased demand for additional inland port facilities.

"While our discussions are preliminary, the success of Inland Port Greer demonstrates the market demand for additional intermodal hubs to support growing volumes of cargo moving to and from Charleston by rail," Newsome said. "We are working with CSX to determine the viability of Dillon, South Carolina as the location for our next inland port and hope to finalize our plans by the end of the year."

The Dillon site under SCPA consideration offers access to an existing CSX mainline, which provides access to Southeastern markets as well as the Midwest. Proximity to I-95, a critical transportation artery in the Southeast, is an important benefit of the location as well as current port users in the area.

"A second inland port in South Carolina would expand transportation options in the state, lowering shipping costs for South Carolina businesses and improving competitiveness," said Dean Piacente, CSX Vice President, Intermodal. "This project would also generate substantial public benefits by creating jobs, spurring economic development and reducing traffic congestion on I-26 and I-95."

The facility design and footprint, costs, and construction timeline are being studied by Hamburg Port Consultants (HPC). SCPA is pursuing federal infrastructure funding assistance through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program to supplement the capital investment required for the project.

China pursues Arctic shipping route

China's Maritime Safety Administration recently published a 356-page, Chinese language guide including nautical charts and descriptions of ice conditions for the Northwest Passage, said the China Daily newspaper, which is published by the government.

"There will be ships with Chinese flags sailing through this route in the future," it quoted administration spokesman Liu Pengfei as saying.

"Once this route is commonly used, it will directly change global maritime transportation and have a profound influence on international trade, the world economy, capital flows and resources exploitation," he added.

Last year, Chinese shipping company COSCO said it plans to launch regular services through the Arctic Ocean to Europe by way of the "Northeast Passage," an Arctic shipping route north of Russia.

COSCO ships travelled that route in 2013 and 2015. State-owned COSCO has since merged with China Shipping Group.

China does not border the Arctic and has no territorial claim to any of it, but joined the Arctic Council as an observer two years ago.

Observers say Beijing recognizes the area's potential for scientific research and its strategic value.

G6 Alliance announces Asia – North America updates

In response to the upgrade of the Panama Canal and seasonal changes in market demand, members of the G6 Alliance announced new service updates for the Asia – North America trade effective this summer.

Enhancements for Asia - North America East Coast Services
Effective from Week 23, the G6 Alliance will upgrade the Asia – North America East Coast product with the following details:

• Introduction of new service - NYX:
G6 Alliance will launch a new service called the NYX, focusing on coverage between Central and North China/Korea to the U.S. East Coast with the following port rotation: NYX port rotation: Qingdao – Ningbo – Shanghai (Yangshan) – Busan – Panama Canal – Manzanillo (Panama) – New York – Norfolk – Savannah – Manzanillo (Panama) – Panama Canal – Busan – Qingdao

• PA1 Enhancement:
Linking Asia to the U.S. and Europe, the PA1 will feature following new port rotation: Busan – Shanghai (Yangshan) – Kobe – Nagoya – Tokyo – Vancouver – Tacoma – Oakland – Los Angeles – Panama Canal – Manzanillo (Panama) – New York – Halifax – Southampton – Antwerp – Bremerhaven – Rotterdam – Halifax – New York – Norfolk – Savannah – Manzanillo (Panama) - Panama Canal – Los Angeles – Oakland – Yokohama – Busan

• PA2 Enhancement:
The new PA2 port rotation will also be enhanced
with an additional call to Shanghai: Tokyo – Kobe – Busan – Shanghai (Yangshan) –Panama Canal – Manzanillo (Panama) – Miami – Savannah – Jacksonville – Charleston – Norfolk – Manzanillo (Panama) – Panama Canal – Balboa – Los Angeles – Oakland – Tokyo

• CEC Enhancement:
CEC coverage will be widened to include port calls at Kaohsiung: Kaohsiung – Hong Kong – Shekou – Yantian – Singapore – Suez Canal – New York – Savannah – Charleston – Norfolk – Suez Canal – Jeddah – Singapore – Vung Tau – Kaohsiung

As a result of the above enhancements, the current NYE/SCE Combo and NCE services will be suspended.

Enhancement for Asia – North America West Coast Services
The G6 Alliance will resume the CC2 service in Week 21 with the following port rotation:

• CC2 port rotation:
Ningbo – Shanghai (Waigaoqiao) – Busan –Long Beach – Ningbo

As a result, the CC4 service will resume its original port rotation as a shuttle service between Central China and the U.S. West Coast as follows: Shanghai (Waigaoqiao) – Ningbo – Los Angeles– Oakland – Shanghai (Waigaoqiao)

The G6 Alliance members are: APL, Hapag-Lloyd, Hyundai Merchant Marine, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Nippon Yusen Kaisha and Orient Overseas Container Line.

Fatal crash kills truck driver at Port of New York/New Jersey

The victim of a fatal crash at the Global Container Terminal Thursday morning has been identified as a 53-year-old Brooklyn man, officials said.

The 10 a.m. crash took place on the terminal and involved more than one truck driver, according to John Atkins, president of GCT USA.

Joe Pentangelo, a spokesman for the Port Authority, said the Brooklyn man was standing outside of his truck when he was hit.

A second victim – who has been identified as a 58-year-old man – was taken to Jersey City Medical Center-Barnabas Health with non life-threatening injuries to his upper body, Pentengalo said.

The terminal remained closed for the rest of the day. The Regional Medical Examiner arrived on scene sometime before 1 p.m. and the body was removed about a half hour later, Pentangelo said.

Pentangelo said no arrests have been made at this time, and the crash is still under investigation.

For more of the New story:


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Featured Story: Ports and Carriers Need a Productivity Tango

Photo credit: Bloomberg

By William DiBenedetto, CBN Feature Editor

The challenge facing U.S. ports in a time of economic and labor uncertainty, low freight rates, high infrastructure costs, mega-ships, and an expanded Panama Canal is finding ways to maintain and expand productivity.

It's a tough conundrum, which helps to explain why the ten most productive ports are not located in the U.S. – or the Western Hemisphere for the matter. Nine of the ten most productive ports are in Asia, with the top three being Shanghai, Tianjin and Shenzhen.

According to an International Transport Forum report, the workload for terminals to service container vessels has increased 709 percent since 1975, and the average workload performed by each crane has risen by 382 percent. But the number of container cranes deployed to work a ship has increased by only 87 percent.

"At first sight, the differences in berth productivity between the top 10 ports could be surprising," said Olaf Merk, administrator of ports and shipping at the ITF. "I think there are three main explanations: automation, customer base and location. Ports with automated terminals will be able to achieve higher berth productivity levels, but it might come at the cost of terminal flexibility."

But even the largest ports in Asia and Europe are seeing a decline in berth productivity, according to Andy Lane, partner at the CTI Consultancy. In an article Lane wrote for this month's 20th TOC Asia Conference & Exhibition in Singapore, he said, "The prospects for liner shipping in 2016 and beyond look bleak right now, to say the least. The lines have achieved much over the past eight years since the global financial crisis bowled them a googly and, if not for their grand efforts to reduce costs, several would by now be history. But that might still happen in 2016, and new efforts in new focus areas are required to avoid that outcome – whether a line has been profitable or not."

The key for carriers and ports is how to best leverage new "network synergies." Liner networks "are extremely complex, and even more so within large alliances – although, contrary to some popular belief, they are not so similar to airline networks."

A major component is port productivity, Lane continues. "With today's lower fuel prices, this is arguably less important to carriers than it was 18 months ago, but it still holds a lot of value – and improvements can often be win-win for the various stakeholders involved."

He notes however, that productivity has decreased "by more percentage points than the average call size has declined in all regions except for North Europe, which achieved a modest 2 percent gain on 'call-size weighted berth productivity.' Overall, though, productivity has dropped relative to call size."

Congestion is not the full explanation for this, he explains, because "congestion cannot be endemic, as most terminals only use their quay assets 50 percent of the time, and, when actually operational, at a mere 70 percent efficiency!" Improving productivity (efficiency) will also increase capacity, making congestion less likely, networks more robust and - importantly for the terminals - sweating more TEU (revenue) through the same fixed-asset base. So why is productivity in decline, when it is win-win to improve it?"

Lane writes it is a matter of mindsets, a lack of awareness and a lack of cooperation. Mindsets embody a set of myths and misperceptions that are often touted as insurmountable constraints instead of the "wonderful opportunities" that they are. One mindset is that big ships cause demand surges and peaks. But Lane notes this has always existed: "hence the reason why terminals are only 50 percent utilized, and it is caused by lines and shippers who try to funnel a week's worth of demand through a 1-to-2-day window – and then bemoan it. Big ships might be magnifying the challenge, but do not prevent it from being overcome."

Another mindset is that big ships cause longer crane cycle times, which of course is true. "However the impact is maybe only 3-4 percent. So if you could, once-upon-a-time, cycle 40 times an hour, now you are limited to 38.5 – but in reality achieve less than 30. There are many other causes of crane efficiency loss which create more negative impact. These can be fixed, but the width and height profile of the ships are what they are."

A third mindset to overcome is that big alliances cause and increase complexity, true enough, but Lane says this applies only to the alliance members, because ports in general deal with one party per ship — the ship operator. "Any inefficiency present will be due only to poor processes. These can be fixed, whereas the complexity of alliances cannot."

A lack of awareness: "An absence of objective and external benchmarking hides the truth of whether you are comparably competitive or not." He says a lack of awareness is also a result of a "failure to acknowledge and recognize that performance is substandard and to make a commitment towards improvement. Handling a container is handling a container wherever you are in the world!"

Finally, and here's perhaps the most crucial productivity aspect: collaboration. "Increasing productivity will result in win-win benefits, and it is therefore a shared responsibility," he says. "The key business drivers for terminals and lines are far more congruent than they are conflicting. Finding the common ground will not happen, however, without further collaboration, cooperation and constructive dialogue."

Food for thought, but until mindsets change and collaboration breaks out in real and lasting ways, ports are mostly left to their own devices when it comes to productivity.

Earlier this month, The Northwest Seaport Alliance – meaning Tacoma and Seattle – approved a $141 million project for Tacoma's Husky Terminal that eventually will allow two 18,000-TEU vessels to dock there simultaneously. Construction is estimated to conclude in 2018.

The Husky Terminal upgrades include reconstruction of Pier 4 to align it with Pier 3, creating a contiguous 2,960-foot berth, as well as the purchase of two more super-post-Panamax cranes to join two ordered previously.

The reconstructed berth will also include a conduit for future shore power, allowing ships to plug-in while at dock.

Drewry Container Intelligence says that for reasons beyond terminal operators' control, costs are rising while revenue is not increasing at the same rate. That means financial returns likely will decline, exacerbated on the West Coast by the "slowdown in growth triggered by the economic and political changes in China."

Last year, global container port growth was only approximately 1 percent, and it is not expected to rise above 2.5 percent in 2016, Drewry noted. It's time for ports and carriers to cooperate like never before.

Hanjin Shipping seeks to restructure debt

Hanjin Shipping Co., South Korea's largest container carrier, said it will work with lenders to restructure debt after years of weak demand resulted in losses and cash erosion.

The shipping company said it would submit an application to its creditors this week and will disclose details of the revamp plan once they are firmed up, in a regulatory filing Friday. Banks will review the request before deciding, said state-owned Korea Development Bank, in an e-mailed statement.

Hanjin Shipping is the latest among the nation's liners recasting their debt after Finance Minister Yoo Il Ho said the industry needs to be overhauled after years of weak demand that has eroded companies cash. Operators worldwide have been slashing their workforce and considering consolidation to stem losses as slowing global trade and overcapacity squeeze transportation rates.

Hanjin has been unprofitable for the last five years. Its cash on hand fell 56 percent from a year earlier to 241 billion won ($211 million) at the end of 2015, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Hanjin Group, whose units include Hanjin Shipping and Korean Air Lines Co., said in 2013 that it plans to raise 3.5 trillion won by selling shares and other assets as part of its efforts to reduce debt. Under the plan, Hanjin Shipping sold its bulk-shipping and some terminal operations.

For more of the Bloomberg story:

Union Pacific Q1 earnings beat expectations

Union Pacific Corp. reported first-quarter profit higher than expected as the railroad cut costs and increased prices to offset a big drop in cargo demand, pushing shares to their highest value in five months.

Earnings declined to $1.16 a share from $1.30 a year earlier, the company said in a statement Thursday. That beat the $1.10 average of 25 analysts' estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Core pricing increased 2.5 percent, easing the impact of an 8 percent drop in freight volume.

The company reduced its workforce by 5,175 last year and has put 1,400 locomotives in storage to adjust to the reduced shipping.

"The commercial team really did an excellent job of securing 2.5 percent price in an environment where volume is down 8 percent," CEO Lance Fritz said in an interview. "There are a lot of headwinds, as you can imagine in those conversations."

For more of the Bloomberg story:

Venezuela owes shipping lines up to $1 billion

Venezuelan state agencies have accrued close to $1 billion (695 million pounds) in debts with shipping firms due to delays in returning containers, potentially boosting the cost of importing goods as the country struggles with product shortages and an economic crisis.

The agencies have held containers for months or simply never returned them, at times leaving the boxes for years in oil industry facilities or on provincial farms even though this costs $100 per-day per container, according to industry sources.

The debts have piled up over the last six years, coinciding with a steady rise in the role of state agencies in importing goods to Venezuela, particularly food. The country is served by industry giants such as Maersk Line and Hamburg Sόd.

The container debts put shipping lines on a long list of industries ranging from international airlines to telecommunications giants that have complained of being unable to collect on billions of dollars in unpaid Venezuelan bills.

For more of the Reuters story:

Train derails at the Port of Tacoma

An empty tanker train derailed at the Port of Tacoma on Friday, with 18 cars off the tracks.

The train belongs to Tacoma Rail and all of the tank cars were empty.

Tacoma firefighters at the scene said there were no spills and no one was hurt.

Tacoma Rail called in a crew from Eastern Washington to help get the cars upright again.

For more of the KIRO TV news story:


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Hanjin chair to give up control of shipping unit as part of debt restructure

South Korea's Hanjin Shipping, long struggling with operating losses, said on Monday that it has presented an application to its creditor banks to restructure its debt in an effort to get back on its feet.

The self-rescue measures submitted to its creditors led by the state-run Korea Development Bank included a promise by Hanjin Group Chairman Cho Yang-ho that he will give up managerial control over the shipping unit, along with sale of assets, according to sources at the creditors.

Hanjin Shipping is planning to sell off assets, which may include its office building in London, which is worth around $58.1 million, the sources said.

But it has yet to be confirmed whether creditors and Hanjin Shipping discussed any contribution of the private properties of Chairman Cho and other family members with stakes in the shipping company as part of its self-rescue measures.

The sources said the creditor banks plan to ask Hanjin Shipping to supplement its self-rescue measures by the end of this week before determining whether to approve them.

Hanjin Shipping and other local shippers have been struggling with falling freight rates amid a protracted slump in the world's economy. Hanjin Shipping has to pay off or refinance $435 million worth of debt that matures in the first half of the year.

Earlier on Monday, South Korea's financial regulator said it will open an investigation into the controversial sale of Hanjin Shipping stocks by the family of its former chairwoman.

The Financial Supervisory Service said it will look to see if Eusu Holdings Co. Chairwoman Choi Eun-yeong, former chairwoman of Hanjin Shipping, sold the financially troubled shipping company's stocks using undisclosed information to avoid big losses.

For more of the Korea Times story:

Port of Oakland trucker develops new app for fellow drivers

A new mobile phone app, the invention of a harbor truck driver, has been developed to get truckers out of line at the Port of Oakland.

Filex Fok, a licensed motor carrier at the port, introduced the new app last week. Called Jupigo, his technology helps harbor truckers exchange empty cargo containers without ever entering the port. The objective is to keep truckers on the road, not waiting at busy terminal gates.

The app is the third introduced at the Port of Oakland this month to shorten truck lines at terminal gates. The others, called DrayQ and DrayLink, gives drivers real time metrics on gate queues and terminal transaction times. They were developed for the port by Reston, VA-based tech firm Leidos.

Jupigo functions like a dating app for truck drivers who have equipment needs. Drivers who have empty containers to return, post their equipment availability on Jupigo. Truckers searching for empties post their requirements as well. The app automatically alerts both drivers, who can then initiate a container exchange.

"Imagine the benefits when there is a match on this platform," said Fok, "two trucks off the waiting line and on the road making productive trips."

Fok said the benefits of his app include reduced diesel emissions and fuel consumption because truckers won't wait in line to return empty containers; less crowding at marine terminal gates; and bigger paydays for drivers who can haul more cargo by making fewer port visits.

"Everyone gains from this development," said Port of Oakland Maritime Director John Driscoll. "But what I like is that this was created by truckers for truckers."

Container swaps executed outside marine terminals are known in the industry as street-turns. They're desirable because they spare drivers the need to pick-up or return empties in the port. Oakland truckers have used email or online chats in the past to arrange street-turns.

Fok said Jupigo will be more efficient because of its automatic matching feature, SmartMatch. But he added that his app can't finalize street-turns. Truckers must still contact the shipping lines that own the empty containers. That's usually done through an online form.

Jupigo estimates there are 2,000 to 3,000 street turns conducted by Port of Oakland drivers weekly. The company hopes to more than double the number with its new app. For every street-turn it enables, two more trucks are kept out of line at Oakland terminals.

Jupigo should be available in app stores next month at no charge, Fok said.

For more of the Star story:

EU watchdog expected to approve CMA CGM takeover of NOL

This week, the European Union's antitrust watchdog is expected to approve CMA CGM's $2.4 billion purchase of Singapore's Neptune Orient Lines, a person familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal.

Amid a raft of consolidation in the container-shipping industry, regulators have been cautious about approving deals that might give carriers concentration of market share in various alliances they have long had with competitors.

CMA CGM, the world's third biggest container operator, said last week it was forming Ocean Alliance, a new grouping that includes China Shipping Cosco Group, Hong Kong's Orient Overseas Container Line and Taipei-based Evergreen Marine. Ocean Alliance will eventually make room for NOL, which is currently part of a different alliance called G6.

"The watchdog will give the green light for the takeover, after CMA CGM's assurance that NOL will be pulled out of a competing shipping alliance," the source said.

Ocean Alliance, which is itself subject to approvals by U.S., European and Chinese regulators, is set to begin operations early next year and will rival the dominance of No. 1 Maersk Line, part of Danish giant A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S, and No. 2 Mediterranean Shipping Co. of Switzerland, in the lucrative Asia-to-Europe ocean trade.

For more of The Wall Street Journal story:

New Maersk service links Europe to Cuba

Shipping giant Maersk Line started its first ever connection between northern European ports and Cuba last Friday, promising the fastest freight transit times between Europe and the Cuban port of Mariel.

The service will link the ports of Bremerhaven in Germany, Rotterdam, Tilbury in the UK, Cork to Mariel and onto Panama.

In the past month, Maersk has acted on rising demand from Irish-based customers by starting a new direct service between Dublin and Algeciras in Spain.

The Cuba development will not only be a boon for Port of Cork but will also act as a significant development for Irish exporters, providing a new opportunity to directly target the Latin American market.

In the past few years the containerized market in Cuba has been growing at between 10 percent and 15 percent per year; main drivers being infrastructure investments and modernization projects, including the terminal at Mariel and the creation of the Special Economic Zone of Mariel.

Maersk — one of the first movers since the removal of economic sanctions — is confident the new service will support the development of the Special Economic Zone, which is set to be the main engine of growth for the country.

For more of the Irish Examiner story:

Victim identified in accident at Global Container Terminal

The identity of the man killed in Thursday's accident at the Global Container Terminal in Bayonne has been released.

Hon L. Lok, 53, of Brooklyn, was killed Thursday when he was hit while standing outside his truck, according to Port Authority spokesman Joseph Pentangelo.

The second victim is a 58-year-old man also from Brooklyn. He was taken to Jersey City Medical Center Center-Barnabas Health Thursday with non life-threatening injuries. He was in stable condition as of yesterday afternoon, according to JCMC spokesman Mark Rabson.

The investigation into the accident is ongoing, according to Pentangelo. The vehicle involved with the accident was impounded according to Port Authority protocol, he said.

Pentangelo said Thursday that no summonses or arrests have been made.

For more of the New Jersey Journal story:


Thursday, April 28, 2016

South Korea to shore up shipping and shipbuilding sectors

South Korea said it will employ more active measures to help their shipping and shipbuilding industries survive amid crushing debt and the long-term shipping slump.

Lenders will regularly review the progress of restructuring plans submitted by shipping lines and builders, including Hyundai Merchant Marine Co. and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co., the Financial Services Commission said this week. The statement ruled out mergers among the country's biggest companies in the two industries as inappropriate, the statement said.

A drop of more than 50 percent in oil prices over the past two years has rocked South Korea's shipbuilders, which reported losses last year amid delivery delays and cancellations. Orders for new vessels have shrunk, while shipping liners battling losses or smaller profits are paring their workforce and considering consolidation after years of overcapacity depressed freight rates.

"The focus of the restructuring is to deal with overcapacity and loss of competitiveness for companies involved," said Yim Jong Yong, chair of the Financial Services Commission, at a briefing in Seoul. "Companies and creditor banks can't do this alone. We all need to work together and fast to make this happen."

The commission said that Hanjin Shipping Co. and Hyundai Merchant Marine, the country's two biggest container carriers, need to lower charter rates for ships they have leased from ship owners and reach an agreement with individual bondholders to restructure the debt before creditors start providing support.

Reducing charter rates will be vital for Hyundai Merchant's survival, Yim said, adding that it has until the middle of May to negotiate the fees. Freight rates have declined 25 percent this year, the commission said.

A realignment in global shipping alliances recently has increased the urgency for Hanjin Shipping and Hyundai Merchant to improve their financials, the commission said.

Daewoo Shipbuilding will need to submit additional reform plans to creditors, including more job cuts, the commission said. Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. and Samsung Heavy Industries Co. will be required to submit their own plans, which will be closely monitored by their banks.

For more of the Bloomberg story:

National Labor Relations Board says trucking company misclassified truckers

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters' efforts to unionize a truck drivers who haul goods to and from the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles has received a boost from a National Labor Relations Board official, who says the company's misclassification of its workers as independent contractors violated their collective bargaining rights.

The office of NLRB Regional Director Olivia Garcia in Los Angeles on Wednesday filed an unfair labor practice charge against Intermodal Bridge Transport, saying the company treated its drivers at the port as contractors in order to block the Teamsters from organizing them. The National Labor Relations Act permits only employees to join unions.

For more of the Reuters story:

CN drops full-year financial forecast on low demand

Canadian National Railway Co., Canada's largest railroad, lowered its annual profit target for the first time in eight years amid weaker-than-expected demand for commodities from coal to crude oil.

Adjusted earnings this year will be in line with 2015's $3.53 a share, the Montreal-based company said in a statement Monday. The railroad had earlier forecast a "mid-single digit" increase for the full year.

Like its major peers across North America, Canadian National has seen volumes for several commodities weaken. Carloads this year will decline 4 percent to 5 percent, with pricing staying above inflation, the company said. Coal, crude oil and sand shipments will continue to be weak this year, CEO Jean-Jacques Ruest said on a conference call.

Shipping crude by rail has become "broadly unattractive" because of low oil prices and excess pipeline capacity, Ruest said. "The volume is weak, will get weaker, and the pricing is not the greatest."

Canadian National said a strengthening of the Canadian dollar versus its U.S. counterpart also contributed to the forecast revision. About 55 percent of the railroad's sales occur in the U.S., according to Bloomberg Intelligence data.

For more of the Bloomberg story:

Panama Canal to hold drawing for 1st ship to transit the expanded waterway

The Panama Canal will hold a drawing on Friday, April 29, to select the first vessel to transit through the expanded canal at its inauguration on Sunday, June 26. The drawing will take place at the Panama Canal Administration Building and a Notary Public will serve as witness.

The Panama Canal invited its top 15 customers to participate in the draw for the inaugural transit. Of the invited customers, those interested in participating were required to indicate the Neopanamax vessel's name, type and dimensions that it plans to deploy on the inauguration day. The executive vice presidency for operations will verify that each vessel complies with the Panama Canal's requirements.

The proposed vessel is required to not surpass a maximum beam of 49 meters and a maximum overall length of 366 meters. In addition, the maximum draft or point of immersion for the inaugural transit will be 12.5 meters. For security purposes, gas carriers will not be considered for the inaugural transit.

The draw will be carried out with ballots labeled with the name of each participant. A child will select the first ballot and hand it to the Public Notary who will announce the winner of the draw. Afterwards, the same child will pick a second ballot for the shipping line that will be able to deploy a vessel for the inaugural transit in the event that the winner informs the Panama Canal by May 10 that it will not be able to deploy an approved vessel for the inauguration.

The winner will incur all costs associated with the transit, including booking fees and other marine services, which will be charged in accordance with Panama Canal published tariffs.

Only one Neopanamax vessel in the southbound direction will be allowed to transit the Expanded Canal for its inauguration during daylight hours. Regular commercial transits through the Expanded Canal will commence on June 27.

El Faro data recorder found

Federal investigators have located the voyage data recorder, or black box, belonging to the cargo ship El Faro, which sank last October near the Bahamas after sailing into a hurricane.

In a statement late Tuesday, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson announced that the National Transportation Safety Board had located the recorder under 15,000 feet of water, and were working to retrieve it, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The U.S. Coast Guard searched for survivors for a week after the 790-foot cargo ship sank Oct. 1 while transporting cars and consumer goods from Jacksonville, Fla., to Puerto Rico as Hurricane Joaquin was moving through the region. All 33 crew members aboard died, making it the worst disaster involving an American cargo vessel in decades.

The NTSB located the ship on the bottom of the ocean near Crooked Island in the Bahamas in November, but said at the time that the navigation bridge, the section of the vessel where the black box was affixed, had detached from El Faro.

Investigators resumed their search last Monday, several months after Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, who chairs the Senate committee that oversees the NTSB, had urged the agency to try again. This time, investigators used a remote-controlled underwater robot to comb the ocean floor.

For more of The Wall Street Journal story:


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