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Tuesday, June 14, 2011
U.S., California proposals draw ag shippers' fire
By Richard Knee for CBN in San Francisco
Relations between U.S. agricultural product shippers and carriers appear to have warmed but the former still have their battles, the adversaries being agencies or officials in Washington and Sacramento, and at some California ports.
To be sure, carriers and shippers still have issues to work out, including export container availability, controlling chassis supplies as carriers join a trend to sell off their fleets, and improving shipment documentation accuracy.
But discussions at the annual conference in San Francisco of the Agriculture Transportation Coalition – which lobbies on freight issues for agribusiness – on June 9-10 made it apparent that communication between the two sides has significantly improved, which was underscored by the fact that top executives from a number of vessel, railroad and truck operators stayed the entire event instead of merely putting in brief appearances.
What now has farm- and forest-product shippers hopping mad are a proposal to shorten the deadline for post-sailing filing of export documents with the Census Bureau, and continued support by some California legislators and port authorities of Teamsters Union efforts to organize independent truck drivers taking cargoes to and from the docks. Shippers are also fighting a Department of Transportation proposal to lower the hours-of-service cap for truck drivers.
The proposal to halve the filing time window to five calendar days, which Census floated last January, is at least temporarily on hold, largely because of objections raised by AgTC and other shippers' organizations.
"I can tell you: We will not implement those changes," William Bostic, assistant director for economic programs at Census, told AgTC members near the close of the conference.
Many exporters must file their documents, known as Shipper's Export Declarations, at least 24 hours before their goods are loaded onto a vessel or plane, under a rule enacted to tighten supply-chain security after the devastating 9/11/01 attacks on New York and Washington.
The so-called 24-hour rule created a big problem for shippers of chilled and frozen foods and other time-sensitive items, which are often sold within an extremely short time frame. So the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection created an "Option 4" category allowing frequent, high-volume shippers with good track records and adequate supply-chain security to file their documents up to 10 days after their goods leave port.
AgTC has warned Census that the proposed Option 4 deadline change would make U.S. exports less competitive, impede the flow of outbound goods and work directly against President Obama's National Export Initiative aimed at boosting foreign sales of U.S. products.
A number of shippers and freight forwarders at the conference said that even with the current deadline, they must file some export documents a second time because data for the first filing were incomplete. Shortening the deadline will exacerbate the problem, they said.
Even if Census doesn't change the deadline, filing 24 hours before loading will remain a requirement for all Europe- and China-bound shipments because those governments insist on it. "Those regulations will impact your ability to use Option 4," Robert C. Rawls, outbound program branch chief with the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, told the gathering.
Census received 53 position statements from freight interests by the formal-comment deadline of March 22 and is encouraging the trade community to continue direct communications with the bureau, said Dale C. Kelly, the agency's assistant division chief for data collection. She displayed her e-mail address on screen: HYPERLINK "mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" email@example.com.
Attendance at this year's gathering topped 300 participants "and we had to cut off registration," Peter A. Friedmann, AgTC's executive director, said at the start of the conference. Accordingly, next year's gathering will be locked out to shippers that aren't members of the organization, he said. The welcome mat will remain out for other freight-community sectors, he said. AgTC members at this year's event control about 1.4 million 20-foot containersful of cargo among them annually, he said. Other conference highlights:
? A California measure (Assembly Bill 950) to classify independent drivers as employees of their client drayage companies is dead for the current legislative session, president John McLaurin of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, reported. Freight interests represented by the association say such a mandate would triple drayage costs. The Teamster-backed bill is co-authored by Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles) and member Sandré Swanson (D-Oakland). McLaurin said it was "curious" that the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents West Coast dockworkers in labor contract negotiations, took no position on the legislation.
? The outcome of Teamster efforts to get driver working time shortened and break time increased is at this point uncertain, said Kevin Knight, chief executive officer of Knight Transportation, a $730.7 million-a-year trucking firm. Knight said the proposed hours-of-service rule changes are "draconian" and would be costly because they would cut productivity. While the changes are purportedly aimed at making roads and highways safer by reducing driver fatigue, they would in fact do just the opposite by heightening traffic congestion, he said. Furthermore, statistics show that highway accident rates have been at their lowest ever in recent years, he said.
Clean-truck programs at the ports have produced good news and bad news, Knight said. The cleaner emission systems required for trucks carry costs "for our customers and for us," he said. The good news is that the air is "much cleaner" at the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports, he said. "The air coming out of a stack is cleaner than the air going in," he said.
? The premium for daytime pickup or delivery of shipments at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles will go up 20 percent on July 4, to $60 for a 20-foot container and $120 for a 40-footer. Bruce Wargo, president of PierPass, which collects the fee, said the increase is necessary to move the agency's bottom line toward the black.
Wargo said efforts to reduce truck turn times from their current, 51-minute average and to encourage more cargo pickups and deliveries during off-peak hours were in progress. One problem, he said, is that drivers tend to arrive en masse at 8 a.m., 1 p.m. and 6 p.m., creating long gate lines and road congestion. Operators of four marine terminals have established appointment systems to try to spread the traffic more evenly, but the results have been mixed, he said. Of the 30,000 truck visits a day, about 16,000 are during off-peak hours, he said.
? Several speakers said economic signs point to continuing growth in U.S. exports. Eugene Seroka, Americas president at American President Lines, said April trans-Pacific traffic rose 9.7 percent westbound and 12.5 percent eastbound. Particularly with the dollar weakened, export traffic should "continue strong through fiscal 2011," he said.
Chanda Beckman, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agriculture Trade Office in Chengdu, China, said that country relies on grains and produce from abroad because only 10 percent of its land is arable and much of its water is polluted. Agriculture accounts for 9.6 percent of China's gross domestic product and 38 percent of its labor force, she said. Sino-U.S. agricultural trade amounted to $6.65 billion westbound and $14.32 billion eastbound in 2009, she said. A lot of infrastructural development remains to be done in China, she said.
China and India are building highways, railroads and electric power plants but are 10 to 15 years away from becoming the world's economic engines, said Walter Kemmsies, chief economist at the globally active engineering firm Moffatt and Nichol. While he is "very bullish" on U.S. agricultural exports, competitors such as Brazil have gained an advantage that appears set to widen, especially if the dollar rebounds, he said.
More ships at U.S. Ports
Vessel calls in the U.S. were up by 13 percent in 2010 after dropping 8 percent the previous year, according to a report by the U.S. Maritime Administration.
Port Everglades, Florida East Coast Railway cleared to negotiate agreement on intermodal facility
The Broward County Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved a proposal for Port Everglades to negotiate a memorandum of understanding with the Florida East Coast Railway company to develop a near-dock intermodal container transfer facility on the port authority's property.
The proposed ICTF would handle both domestic and international cargo.
Meanwhile, the Florida Department of Transportation will break ground in July for the $54 million Eller Drive overpass project, which would allow for at-grade rail connection directly into Southport, according to Port Everglades. The four-lane overpass project is fully funded by the state, the port said.
Crowley vessels awarded for safety by Chamber of Shipping
Thirty-nine Crowley Maritime Corporation vessels and their crews were awarded the 2010 Jones F. Devlin Award for safety during this month's Chamber of Shipping of America (CSA) Annual Safety Awards Luncheon, according to a press release.
Together, the vessels account for 160 total years without a lost time incident.
California shipwreck diver to search for bin Laden's remains
Osama bin Laden was reportedly killed by U.S. Navy Seals on May 1 of this year in a compound near Islamabad, Pakistan and subsequently buried in the North Arabia Sea
However, Bill Warren, a shipwreck diver based in Oceanside, Calif. has a two-week mission planned to recover his remains from the sea bottom.
Warren says that if he locates the corpse of the once most wanted terrorist in the world, he will photograph it and get DNA samples for all of the conspiracy theorists out there.
For the full L.A. Times story: blogs.laweekly.com
Tuesday, June 15, 2011
NOL embarks on $1.54 bil ship orders, upgrades
Singapore’s Neptune Orient Lines Ltd. announced it would invest $1.54 billion in ship orders and upgrades for its APL container-shipping unit that is to include bigger vessels for the Asia-Europe trade with others destined for the trans-Pacific market.
Would the Bar be set too high in SF Bay Area?
There is a battle being waged in Northern California between the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association on behalf of cargo ship owners, operators and a California legislator’s bill to raise the pay of the San Francisco Bar Pilots by 1.5 percent per year over the next four years.
Port Newark terminal to get $500 million upgrade
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced it has restructured a lease with Port Newark Container Terminal that is to include a $500 million derived from private capital to upgrade the facility.
L.A. -Long Beach box volume increased for May
The ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles collective shipping volume increased just over 1 percent for the month of May over the same period last year at 1.23 million TEUs, despite the slow recovery of a major Asian trading partner.
Over $1 million seized at U.S.-Mexico border
This week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported a seizure of over $1 million in undeclared U.S. currency at the Port Nogales, Ariz. Border with Mexico.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Union Pacific refuses to pay $400 mil in U.S. -Mexico border fines
The Union Pacific Railroad has been hit with border security fines totaling almost $400 million due to drugs found in its rail cars at the border with Mexico, and the largest U.S. freight rail carrier refuses to pay.
U.S. beef exports continue momentum
U.S. beef exports in April were not quite up to March’s record-breaking levels, but were still 38 percent ahead of the previous year’s numbers at 227.5 million pounds worth $427.7 million, according to the U.S.D.A. and U.S. Meat Export Federation.
Pacer expands Mexico intermodal service
Pacer International, Inc. announced it has expanded its double-stack intermodal service between Guadalajara and the U.S., Canada.
PANYNJ: Bayonne Bridge will be raised by 2016
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced this week it would raise the Bayonne Bridge so post-Panamax containerships can sail beneath it by 2016.
Fire rages through cargo ship held by Somali pirates
A fire tore through a Panama-flagged cargo vessel on Wednesday night held by pirates just off the coast of Somalia, according to a news report by All Headline News.
Thursday, June 17, 2011
The United Kingdom’s Department for Transport announced it has restricted where United Parcel Service can deliver its inbound air cargo in that country until the parcel giant’s security procedures are improved.
Maersk CEO not so bullish on Asia-North Europe trade
Maersk Line’s chief executive says freight rates in much of the world are “developing quite well,” however Asia-North America “remains tough” and that “most of the Pacific is flatter.”
Washington State niche port’s log exports booming
Olympia, Washington is home to the state’s capitol as well as a cargo port that sits at the furthest southern tip of the Puget Sound shipping lane,
where business is booming again with log exports to Asia.
China flexes maritime muscle in Singapore over South China Sea dispute
China has dispatched a patrol ship to Singapore as tensions mount over a maritime territory dispute in the South China Sea.
Chief engineer of ship sentenced to six months over oil dumping in Baltimore
According to news reports, the chief engineer of the Liberian cargo ship M/V/ Capitola was sentenced to six months in prison for dumping waste oil overboard at the Port of Baltimore.