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Summary for June 11 - June 15, 2007:

Monday, June 11, 2007

US rail traffic down in May

Freight traffic on US railroads was down somewhat during May in comparison with May 2006, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported Jun 7.

US railroads originated 1,636,963 carloads of freight in May 2007, down 79,471 carloads (4.6%) from May 2006. Intermodal volume totaled 1,143,652 units in May 2007, a decline of 23,926 trailers and containers (2.0%) from May 2006.

Five of the 19 major commodity categories tracked by the AAR saw US carload increases in May 2007 compared to May 2006, with the largest gains coming in chemicals (up 1.4%) and petroleum products (up 5.5%).

Most other commodities showed carload declines in May 2007, including coal (down 3.9%, to 683,046 carloads); crushed stone and gravel (down 10.3%, to 112,721 carloads); and grain (down 9.4%, to 96,547 carloads).

US intermodal traffic, which consists of trailers and containers on flat cars and is not included in carload figures, was down 1.2% for the first five months of 2007, to 4,990,830 units.

Total volume for the first five months was estimated at 721.4bn ton-miles, down 3.0% from last year.

Shanghai overtaking Singapore

Shanghai is on track to overtake Singapore next year as the world’s busiest container terminal, according to a senior official of the city’s port operations.

The port posted a 21% increase in throughput in May, handling 2.21mn TEUs.

Wang Qingwei, board secretary of Shanghai International Port Group, commented recently that “Shanghai port is likely to overtake Singapore next year.”

Volume may rise 15% to 25mn TEUs this year, Wang said.

Shanghai increased its container traffic 26% in the first five months of the year to 10.3mn TEUs, the local authority said on its Web site Jun 7.

Singapore’s container traffic increased 14% to 8.8mn TEUs in the first four months of the year, according to figures from the port authority.

Shanghai port has had an increase of more than 3mn TEUs of throughput growth each year since 2003. The city has also been boosted by the $16bn Yangshan deep port that came on stream in December 2005.

It is estimated that by next year, Shanghai is likely to handle about 20% of the world’s container throughput.

Japanese transport ministry to propose tax cuts

Japan’s transport ministry will submit a plan later this year to cut taxes of shipowners, according to a paper distributed by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport recently.

The proposal will be part of a tax revision package the ministry plans to present to the government in September this year in a bid to increase the number of domestically registered ships, the ministry said.

“The size of the cut may be small, but its benefit is that it will help bring the country in line with the global standard,” said Hajime Hitotsuyanagi, an analyst at Daiwa Institute of Research.

The new levy will be based on the weight of cargo being transported, known as a tonnage tax. A similar system is used by 60% of the world’s shipping nations, and it would replace a corporate tax that the Japanese lines currently pay, said the report.

The transport ministry said it wants to boost the number of domestically registered ships to 450, from 95 at the end of last year.

The Japanese Shipowners Association, a group of 107 shipping lines, asked ruling party politicians and transport ministry officials to introduce the tax at a meeting last month.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Port of Baltimore again sets record

The Port of Baltimore had another record-setting year in 2006, its fifth consecutive, Maryland Port Administration officials said Jun 11.

Topping 9mn metric tons for the first time, port officials said in a news release, foreign general cargo tonnage rose from 8.8mn mt in 2005 to 9.3mn mt in 2006. The total for all foreign cargo handled at the port totaled 30.6mn mt.

The total value of cargo moved through the port also hit another high, $36.7bn, the port said. The old record for 2005 was $35.9bn.

“Business at the port has never been stronger,” Maryland Port Administration Director Brooks Royster said in a statement.

State officials said the port ranks first out of the nation’s 361 ports in roll on/roll off cargo, trucks, gypsum imports, and iron ore imports. It is 12th in value of cargo and 14th in tonnage of foreign cargo.

It is second in auto exports, sugar imports, wood pulp imports, and aluminum imports. It ranks third in paper imports and wood imports, the release said.

Panama Canal announces Q2 metrics

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) Jun 11 released operational metrics for Q2 FY2007.

In Q2, there was an increase in net tonnage, total transits, and booking slot utilization. There was also an increase in official accidents, according to the ACP.

Canal Waters Time (CWT) — the average time it takes a vessel to transit the Canal, including waiting time for passage — decreased, despite an overall increase in total transits. The CWT decreased 8.80% — to 27.43 hours from 30.09 hours.

These metrics are based on operations from January through March 2007, the second quarter of the ACP’s 2007 fiscal year, and compared to Q2 of fiscal year 2006.

“We are keeping up with heightened levels of demand for the waterway while keeping transit time consistent, if not reduced,” stated ACP Maritime Operations Director Manuel Benitez.

During Q2, there was also an increase in traffic of supers (vessels 91 ft or more in beam) and container vessels. Transits of supers increased 8.7%, to 1,930 transits from 1,776. Due to size, supers require more time and resources to transit the waterway.

WhereNet MTS tracks, “sees” every container

WhereNet Corp., a Zebra Technologies company (Nasdaq: ZBRA) providing wireless solutions for tracking and managing enterprise assets, Jun 12 announced general availability of the WhereNet(R) Marine Terminal Solution (MTS), version 4.0.

The new marine terminal application “provides the most comprehensive location tracking in the industry, enabling terminal operators of any size or sophistication to ‘see’ every container — even in the most challenging environments,” said WhereNet.

Utilizing the company’s ISO 24730 standards-based, active RFID real-time locating system (RTLS) with the option to add differential global positioning system (DGPS) technology, MTS version 4.0 combines “the best of RTLS technology with the most advanced DGPS tracking technology,” said the company.

“For enterprises with complex operations, there is no such thing as a ‘one size fits all’ technology — it takes a combination of technologies to tackle the typical yard management chaos,” said Louis Bianchin, senior analyst for Venture Development Corp.

“The WhereNet system provides automated, up-to-the-minute status and location data about every container and mobile asset in a marine terminal to the terminal operating system software and personnel,” said the company.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

TSA to increase peak season surcharges

Member carrier lines in the Transpacific Stabilization Agreement (TSA) Jun 11 said they plan to introduce higher peak season surcharges to cover operating expenses beginning in August.

The TSA will adopt a $200 per 40-ft container increase in peak season surcharges from Aug 1-Oct 31, the lines said.

TSA said the surcharge increase is necessary because of nearly full vessels from Asia to all US coast ports and network capacity constraints already producing equipment shortages, resulting in some Asia cargo being delayed.

The TSA lines added that near 20% cargo growth in the Asia-Europe trade and similarly strong intra-Asia demand have also tightened space and equipment availability.

The TSA is an organization made up of 12 container shipping lines, moving freight from Asia to ports and inland points in the US.

Member companies include APL, CMA-CGM, COSCO, Evergreen Marine, Hanjin Shipping, Hapag-Lloyd, Hyundai Merchant Marine, “K” Line, Mitsui OSK Lines, NYK Line, OOCL, and Yang Ming.

Terrorism still a risk in Malacca Strait

The Malacca Strait remains vulnerable to a terrorist strike that would send political and economic shock waves worldwide, Malaysia’s police chief said Jun 12.

Maritime terrorism is a “threat which is real and possible that is lurking in the straits,” Inspector General of Police Musa Hassan told law and shipping officials from more than 30 countries at an ocean security conference in Kuala Lumpur.

Musa said that the straits “must be kept open and safe, and the prime responsibility is with the three littoral states of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.”

The 550-mile-long strait between peninsular Malaysia and Indonesia’s Sumatra Island has been notorious in the past for robberies by sea pirates, who can hide amid narrow channels, shallow reefs, and thousands of tiny islands, he said.

Rear Admiral Agus Suhartono, chief of Indonesia’s western naval fleet, said authorities currently have no specific information of any terrorist plot targeting the Malacca Strait.

Forms of maritime terrorism of “particular concern” included attacks on ships, the hijacking of ships carrying dangerous materials, and the use of vessels to attack ports or land facilities, Musa said.

Penske Logistics, KSS team up

Penske Logistics Jun 12 announced it has secured a multiyear logistics contract with Key Safety Systems Inc. (KSS), a global designer and manufacturer of safety-critical components and systems, including airbags, seatbelts, and steering wheels.

Penske will drive KSS’ logistics efficiencies within its growing presence in the Chinese marketplace. Financial terms were not disclosed.

“Our decision to outsource to Penske was driven by the increasing complexity in coordinating shipments from numerous suppliers in the Asia-Pacific region,” said Steve DuBuc, senior vice president of global purchasing for KSS.

“We chose Penske because of its expertise in international freight movement, automotive industry leadership, and its growing presence in China,” DuBuc added.

Under the agreement, Penske will provide KSS with a customized logistics solution that includes supplier compliance, logistics management, logistics sourcing and administration, and shipment consolidation management.

In addition, Penske will use its technology systems to provide KSS with improved visibility into freight moving from Asia to numerous automotive manufacturing locations throughout the US. Shipments will be handled via air, sea, and road.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

POLB, Yantian sign “green” pact

The Port of Long Beach and Port of Shenzhen terminal operator Yantian International Container Terminals (YICT) Jun 13 announced they have signed an historic environmental Memorandum of Understanding.

The ports, already two of the world’s most environmentally friendly seaport entities, agreed to exchange technical information on their best environmental policies and practices.

“These are two leaders in environmental port policies agreeing to work together to make their ports the ‘greenest’ in the world,” said Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster, speaking from Shenzhen.

“As a world-class port, we recognize our social responsibility and the importance of safeguarding the environment,” said Kenneth Tse, YICT director and general manager.

“By working closely together, our goal is to raise the bar even higher,” said Long Beach Harbor Commission President James Hankla.

YICT and the POLB, with this first comprehensive ecological exchange agreement between major ports, will collaborate on environmental issues such as marine wildlife, air quality, soils and sediments, water quality, sustainability, and community engagement.

The mayor and members of the POLB’s Board of Harbor Commissioners were on a trade mission in Shenzhen.

APL will test cheaper “cold-ironing”

Global shipper APL Ltd. Jun 13 announced a new system for its vessels to plug into shoreside power without expensive retrofits.

APL engineers have devised a system that would let container ships attach a single 3-inch power cable from the port to onboard engines rather than the 10 cables currently required, according to the company.

“Cold-ironing” enables newer ships to shut down their engines and get electricity from cleaner sources on shore, thus curbing diesel emission from ships docked in ports.

APL’s new approach to cold-ironing would cost companies just $225,000 per ship, more than $1 million less than the current cost of fitting cargo ships for cold-ironing, APL Americas President John Bowe said in a statement.

The Singapore-based firm plans to test the new technology next month at the Port of Oakland.

If the tests prove successful, the company plans to incorporate the system into all six APL ships that regularly call at the Port of Oakland, eventually expanding its use more broadly throughout the fleet.

OOCL donates rebates to Long Beach

Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL) Jun 11 announced that the company is donating its clean air rebates — estimated at more than $140,000 — to community groups in Long Beach.

OOCL was recently honored by the Port of Long Beach with Green Flags and discounted dockage rates for improving air quality. The Green Flag program rewards ocean carriers that slow their speed within 20 miles of Long Beach Harbor to improve air quality.

Based on compliance, the carriers were presented with Green Flags and discounted dockage rates. OOCL was the top Green Flag carrier in 2006, with a 100% compliance rate, the highest of the port’s major container lines.

“This is extremely generous of OOCL,” said Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster, in Hong Kong on a trade mission with members of the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners.

“At OOCL, we embrace community responsibility as one of our core values,” said Phillip Chow, CEO of OOCL. “That includes demonstrating our concern for protecting the environment. And it includes reinvesting in communities such as Long Beach, which have contributed so much to our success.”


Friday, June 15, 2007

Houston salutes the late Fentress Bracewell

The Port of Houston Authority (PHA) Jun 14 gave tribute to the late Fentress Bracewell as a port maverick and visionary.

Bracewell, the longest-serving chairman of the PHA Commission, died Jun 13 at the age of 85.

The Fentress Bracewell Barbours Cut Terminal carries his name in recognition of his foresight and drive to convince his fellow commissioners that “carrying cargo in containers was a trend the shipping industry would embrace,” said the port.

Bracewell served the Port of Houston Authority from 1970 to 1985 and played a vital role in building Houston into a world-class port, said PHA. He also served as chairman of the Port Commission in the 1950s.

It was a radical idea at the time that has proven to be the industry standard, said the port authority.

PHA Commission Chairman Emeritus Ned S. Holmes said, “Fentress Bracewell was a true example of integrity, vision, and wisdom.”

Current PHA Commission Chairman James T. Edmonds said, “I had the pleasure of knowing Fentress Bracewell personally. He provided great leadership to the Port of Houston. He was a visionary.”

Matson eyes second route to China

Matson Navigation Co., a US shipping firm operating in the Pacific, is “actively exploring opportunities” for a second route to China, according to senior company executives.

The company last year invested $365mn in vessels, containers, and terminal assets to inaugurate the China-America route, which has port calls in Ningbo and Shanghai as well as Long Beach, CA.

The 15-month-old container shipping route “exceeded our expectations,” with revenue now accounting for about 15% of Matson’s business turnover, said Allen Donae, the company’s chairman.

The weekly service, which handles 50,000 containers annually, passes through Ningbo and Shanghai before arriving 11 days later in Long Beach.

“Our first route is near capacity but we have no plan to add capacity [to the existing route] at the moment,” said James Andrasick, Matson’s president and CEO .

Andrasick added that a second China-US route is now “part of our strategic planning,” but that no specific route has been chosen.

“Our objective is to become an ocean carrier targeting a very high-end market through our reliability and speed,” Donae said.

FedEx Freight Canada unveils new facility

FedEx Freight Canada Jun 14 officially unveiled its new combined national headquarters and 48 dock-door service center in Toronto.

Formerly Watkins Canada Express, FedEx Freight Canada provides less-than-truckload (LTL) all-points coverage to more than 7,000 cities in 10 of the country’s provinces, as well as trans-border service for shipments to and from the US and other locations.

FedEx Freight Canada also offers pickup and delivery service through a growing network of facilities that includes Vancouver, Winnipeg, London, Calgary, and Montreal.

FedEx Freight Canada also plans to add service centers in Ottawa, Cambridge, Edmonton, Halifax, and Quebec City, and open expanded facilities in Winnipeg and Calgary during the next several months.

“When you combine FedEx Freight Canada with FedEx Freight and FedEx National LTL, we provide a full range of complementary LTL solutions throughout North America,” said Doug Duncan, president and CEO of FedEx Freight.

“This new facility establishes a strong base from which FedEx Freight Canada will quickly expand its operations across the country,” said Grant Crawford, vice president and general manager, FedEx Freight Canada.