The Port of Tacoma commission, by a 4-1 vote, selected John Wolfe, the port’s current interim director, as its newly titled chief executive officer on June 11 at its meeting.
The commission’s decision to go with Wolfe, a native and longtime resident of the region, included an “enthusiastically yes” proclamation by Commission President Don Johnson of the port’s decision. The vote for Wolfe came with mostly collective support for the job he’d performed with the port during his half-year in the position since he replaced the embattled outgoing executive director, Tim Farrell.
Farrell had resigned toward the end of 2009 after the global shipping recession hit the port’s container business hard, as it did many other U.S. ports, and culminated at Tacoma with major Japanese shipping line NYK backing out of a large-scale terminal agreement.
The port subsequently launched a formal RFP process in February and selected the search firm Shey Harding to conduct a search that pulled in 59 initial candidates. That pool narrowed to 12, and then down to five finalists.
The final group of candidates also included: Brian Boyle, vice president of operational excellence and engineering with the largest U.S. terminal operator Ports America; Bernard S. Groseclose, former CEO at the South Carolina Ports Authority for 12 years; Ned LaGoy, vice-president and general manager for Sea Star Shipping in Puerto Rico; and Ali Nikkhoo, former senior manager for Sea-Land Service Maersk Line for 24 years.
The lone dissenter on the approval of Wolfe came from the newest commissioner at the port, Don Meyer, who admitted he didn’t have a benchmark on past port directors to go by, but felt SeaStar’s LaGoy’s experience was “exceptional” and that he would represent “new blood” at the port. “I clearly come down on the side of Mr. Lagoy,” he said.
Longtime port commissioner Connie Bacon countered with “Is new blood the answer, or is a person who has been here…the answer?”
Bacon said she didn’t see the “added value” of Lagoy. She praised Groseclose, who she said “far and away” had the most experience and performed well in his interview.
In the end, however, she said she witnessed a “180-degree turnaround” at the port during the six months Wolfe had been on the job as interim director in terms of staff morale “and particularly the passion and commitment and need to win in his DNA was extremely impressive.”
Most of the other commissioners seemed to line up with Bacon’s assessment of Wolfe, including commissioner Dick Marzano, who said: “He’s a born leader.”
Forecast: Retail box traffic to rise 15 Percent in June
Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to be up 15 percent in June compared with the same month a year ago, , according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
The report also projected double-digit increases should continue into the fall as the U.S. economy recovers.
“Cargo import numbers are up but retailers are looking closely at other economic indicators to make sure they are sourcing the appropriate amount of merchandise based on consumer demand,” said NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold.
“Job creation remains a key factor that’s going to affect consumer spending and retail sales,” he said.
U.S. ports handled 1.15 million TEUs in April, up 7 percent from March, and a jump of 16 percent from April 2009. The numbers also registered the fifth month in a row to show a year-over-year improvement after December broke a 28-month streak of year-over-year monthly declines, the report said.
May’s box traffic was estimated at 1.16 million TEUs, a 12 percent increase over last year as spring products hit store shelves with summer merchandise season hitting, the report said.
The June forecast is expected to plateau at 1.16 million TEUs, up 15 percent from last year. The July forecast is for 1.23 million TEUs, up 11 percent from last year; August at 1.27 million TEUs, up 10 percent; September at 1.31 million TEUs, up 15 percent; and October – traditionally the busiest month of the year – at 1.34 million TEUs, up 12 percent, the report said.
The first half of 2010 is expected to total 6.6 million TEUs, up 12 percent from the same period last year. Imports for 2009 totaled 12.7 million TEUs, down 17 percent from 2008’s 15.2 million TEUs, and the lowest since 12.5 million TEUs in 2003, the report said.
“Virtually all of the ocean carriers now seem to accept that there will not be a relapse into a second-dip recession nor an end to the growth,” said Hackett Associates’ principal Ben Hackett.
“Not a day goes by without a new announcement of additional services or re-instatement of services that had been withdrawn,” Hackett said.
Ningbo port files $1.9 bil IPO on Shanghai Exchange
The Ningbo Port Company filed to be listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange, where the group wants to raise $1.9 billion in an IPO, according to the Paris-based consultancy Alphaliner.
The funds would be used to develop port projects, purchase new port equipment and provide working capital, the Alphaliner report said.
Ningbo handled 10.5 million TEUs in 2009, down 6.4 percent over the previous year. For the first four months of 2010, the port has handled 3.8 million TEUs, up 25 percent over the same period last year.
Delaware, Maryland, Virginia launch joint freight transport study
Delaware, Maryland and Virginia have launched a joint study of commercial freight shipments on the Delmarva Peninsula to examine potential bottlenecks and investigate ways to improve shipping by water, rail and truck.
The project will examine the impact of potential infrastructure changes or breakdowns in freight movement, looking at the carrying capacities and identifying bottlenecks at key points.
The study will examine the three major types of freight -- truck, water and rail.
Three stowaways, one dead, found at Port of Charleston
Three stowaways were found aboard a cargo ship from the Dominican Republic that pulled into the Port of Charleston on Saturday.
One of them was dead in a container.
There was no indication the stowaways were a threat, but officials said they took the breach seriously.
The M/V MSC Debra left the Dominican Republican on Wednesday and arrived at the Wando Welch Terminal at noon Saturday, according to Brian Welch, a local supervisor with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The three men made the three-day trip hiding in a container. A hole had been cut in the top of the container to let in air and allow them to enter and leave.
Dockworkers unloading the ship reported seeing men climbing out of a container Saturday afternoon. A joint team from Border Protection and the Coast Guard responded.
Partial transcript of Part I of PBS one-on-one with Matt Rose, CEO, BNSF:
SUSIE GHARIB: Investors from around the world will head to Omaha this weekend to see Warren Buffett. The billionaire CEO of Berkshire Hathaway will headline its annual meeting answering questions on everything from the economy to Berkshire's businesses. I'll also be asking him questions as well, when I interview him on Saturday. Also on hand, Matthew Rose. He heads Burlington Northern Santa Fe. That's the giant railroad Buffett bought this year for $44 billion, the biggest deal in his career of big deals. So, why is Buffett betting on of all things, a railroad? The CEO of Burlington Northern has the answer.
Matt, when Warren Buffett announced that he was buying Burlington Northern he said that this is an all in bet on America's economic future. Most people think of railroads as being kind of old-fashioned, not exactly a growth engine. So give us your case why railroads are the future.
MATTHEW ROSE: The future part of it is really, when we think about the challenges facing our country, we think of as a three-legged stool. Reduce our dependency on foreign oil, reducing our carbon footprint and improving America's highways for commuters and highway transportation. And the railroads, quite frankly, are the future to be able to do that.
GHARIB: So did Warren Buffett buy at the right time? Is the economy picking up enough to give a boost to the rails?
ROSE: Well, you have to remember Warren was a shareholder for a number of years. And so he had different entry prices. He was a holder of 22 percent of the company for a number of years. But certainly if you think about Warren's view of a long-term value, he will do very well with this investment.
GHARIB: As you know, there is talk in Congress to re-regulate the industry. If that happens, how does that change the growth outlook for the railroad industry?
ROSE: Sure it possibly could. And we'll just have to see the devil in the detail of that. But certainly we believe that a free market approach to transportation has served this country very well. And you can still have partial changes to the regulatory environment and allow the railroads to do what they need to do. And that is to add more capacity to the industry.
GHARIB: Now that Burlington is part of Berkshire Hathaway, do you feel that you have more freedom to invest and expand?
ROSE: We're in about month three now. And this month we're here today is typically our annual meeting month. It's typically our quarterly release month. Two things that I'm not doing. So it is a little different. And when we think about how that will translate into how we run this company again, I think all that will be very positive that we will be focused over a little bit longer term horizon than perhaps what is going on in a given quarter.
GHARIB: So do you have a wish list of projects that you just couldn't do as a public company but now seem possible.
ROSE: There is no doubt that Warren has been very clear he wants us to reinvest in the railroad. And if you think about, if you are a public company, in terms of generating free cash flow, you really have three different alternatives. Buy back your stock. Dividend out to your shareholders or reinvest in your company either your own company or through a strategic acquisition. We no longer can buy back our own stock because we don't have any so we're down to dividending (ph) up to Berkshire as the parent or reinvesting in our company. And I think Warren's made it clear that he wants to see us reinvest back in the railroad.
For the video of the interview and full corresponding transcript (second part concludes tomorrow):
California stands to gain some jobs this year but recovery will be sluggish, and the state's inland areas will bear the brunt of the continuing economic pain, according to a forecast scheduled to be released Tuesday by UCLA's Anderson School of Business.
The state's unemployment rate will average 12.1% this year, economists said, and will not return to single-digit levels until 2012.
California's recovery will depend heavily on the behavior of shoppers across the country. Retail spending drives traffic at Southern California's ports and in its inland logistics centers, which are major regional employers. But U.S. consumers are unlikely to splurge until businesses start hiring again, which will happen only gradually. The U.S. unemployment rate will decline slowly to 8.6% by 2012, according to the UCLA forecast, with U.S. gross domestic product growth staying below 3% in 2011 and 2012.
Deepwater Horizon rig’s foreign flag not directly under U.S. safety regs
The Deepwater Horizon oil rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico was built in South Korea. It was operated by a Swiss company under contract to a British oil firm. Primary responsibility for safety and other inspections rested not with the U.S. government but with the Republic of the Marshall Islands — a tiny, impoverished nation in the Pacific Ocean.
And the Marshall Islands, a maze of tiny atolls, many smaller than the ill-fated oil rig, outsourced many of its responsibilities to private companies.
Under International law, offshore oil rigs like the Deepwater Horizon are treated as ships, and companies are allowed to "register" them in unlikely places such as the Marshall Islands, Panama and Liberia — reducing the U.S. government's role in inspecting and enforcing safety and other standards.
Some offshore drilling experts, as well as some survivors of the explosion that led to the massive spill, say foreign registration also permitted a confusing command structure and understaffing — factors that may have contributed to the disaster.
The familiar sights and sounds of massive cargo ships are returning in growing numbers to the waterways that surround San Francisco.
But freight traffic in the Bay slowed down after overstretched credit markets collapsed in late 2008. The subsequent credit shortage slowed trade worldwide.
The economic collapse reduced imports into the Port of Oakland by 18 percent from April 2008 to April 2009, figures show. Exports fell by 4 percent during the same period.
But worldwide trade is picking up again, meaning there are more ships streaming through the Bay every day, Port of Oakland figures show. Imports rose 14 percent from April 2009 to April 2010, while exports increased 0.5 percent.
$2 mil worth of cocaine found in container at Delaware port
Officials in Delaware have discovered 63 pounds of cocaine concealed in the ventilation system of a refrigerated shipping container at the Port of Wilmington.
The discovery was made back on June 6 when Customs and Border Tactical Operation officers from the Port of Philadelphia and CBP officers from the Port of Wilmington conducted a joint container inspection. Two brick-like objects found in the container's ventilation system prompted the search.
The search revealed a total of 26 bricks, weighing 28.6 kilograms (or about 63 pounds) with a wholesale value of about $750,000 and a street value of as much as $2 million.
The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach reported significant increases in cargo shipments in May, officials announced this month.
The Port of Los Angeles handled 689,421 cargo containers last month, a 19.9 percent hike from May 2009, officials said. Exports increased 5.3 percent from a year earlier and imports were up 12.5 percent, while the number of empty containers passing through the port jumped 57.8 percent.
Overall, shipments were up 11.3 percent during the first five months of 2010, compared with the same period last year.
The neighboring Port of Long Beach handled 524,715 shipments last month, a 25.1 percent increase from May 2009, officials said. Imports were up 26.8 percent and exports were up 14.5 percent. Year-over-year figures reflect an overall 18.5 percent increase in shipments coming through Long Beach.
Construction begins on Georgia’s first inland port
Construction on the state’s first inland port is underway in south Georgia. Officials say the first-phase of the freight transportation facility in Cordele should be up-and-running by fall of this year.
Jonathan Lafevers with the Port’s management group, Cordele Intermodal Services (CIS), says tens of thousands of truckloads of freight will soon be moving on rail between Cordele and Savannah’s Port.
But just as important he says, companies will look to build new distribution and manufacturing centers in south Georgia:
Cordele's port is modeled after a successful facility in Front Royal, Va. CIS officials say that port has been in operation 20 years, and has spurred thousands of jobs there.
Lafevers says Cordele's port will cost about $8.5 million.
Officials are counting on a handful of federal and state grants to fund the construction.
Statoil declares force majeure on Maersk’s rig in Gulf of Mexico
Danish shipping and oil group A.P. Moller-Maersk said on Wednesday that Norwegian Statoil had declared force majeure on a contract on a Maersk oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Maersk Developer rig has been working for Statoil at the Tucker prospect in the Walker Ridge area in the Gulf.
But an order by the United States last month halting 33 exploration rigs in the Gulf in response to the BP oil spill suspended that project and another Statoil exploration project in the Gulf. [ID:nLDE6510A8].
Nordea senior analyst Finn Bjaerke Petersen said in a note to clients the force majeure would cost Maersk Drilling 100 million crowns ($17 million) this year, up to 200 million in 2011 and 2012, and 155 million in 2013.
Petersen said the rig was likely to move to West Africa or Brazil and be sublet to others.
Challenges ahead for high-speed passenger and freight rail?
DES MOINES, IA – The U.S. is at a similar point to where it was at the dawn of the interstate system in the 1950s, and high-speed rail is a big component of the new infrastructure vision, Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told a gathering of transportation officials from Canada, Mexico and the U.S. here this week.
“America’s getting into the high-speed rail business,” he proclaimed, citing Europe’s success in this area.
To accomplish this, the Secretary referenced the need for cooperation with the freight railroad community, and with $765 million in federal grants already being allocated towards that network; he said the D.O.T. is helping the Class One Railroads “so they help us.”
The freight railroad industry has expressed some of its issues with the federal government’s initiative, especially when it comes to paying for network upgrades that would help ensure high-speed rail runs on time. If those passenger trains don’t run on schedule, the railroads could be paying back several billion dollars in federal grant money, according to a report in the State-Journal (Ill.) Register.
The federal government is allocating $8 billion in grants, the largest-ever in rail infrastructure by the U.S., and in return it needs right-of-way passage through private railroads, where in many cases freight is projected to accelerate as the economy picks up.
An example is more than $1.1 billion in grant money to pay for high-speed rail between St. Louis and Chicago via Springfield, Ill. where the Union Pacific owns the right-of-way, the report said.
To potentially complicate matters, the Federal Railroad Administration released standards last month that freight carriers could be forced to repay federal grants if passenger trains that run on their tracks don’t meet their schedules, while at the same time, freight rail companies could have to help pay for passenger train improvements on their tracks.
The Association of American Railroads has objected to financial penalties for its members because passenger trains might be delayed due to freight priority.
However, Mark Davis, Union Pacific spokesman was quoted in the Register’s story with: “We have a number of issues with these guidelines, and we made our concerns known to DOT (the Department of Transportation) and FRA,” Davis wrote. “Our discussions are constructive, and everyone remains committed to the goal of advancing the President’s high-speed rail program.”
Secretary LaHood told the transportation audience in Des Moines that he recently had a constructive meeting with the Class One Railroad top executives at his office over these and related matters. He also praised the U.S. Class One system as being the best in the world, saying the U.S. needs the same level of excellence in high-speed rail.
Speaking afterwards to a group of reporters, the Secretary said of the high-speed system: “If you build it, they will come,” and that he sees that passenger network being fully functional in “probably two decades.”
-Peter Hurme in Des Moines
FedEx posts profit; expects stronger demand for services
FedEx Corp. said the economic recovery is building, citing businesses restocking inventories, growing shipments from Asia and no signs of a downturn in Europe.
The Memphis, Tenn.-based package-delivery company is a bellwether for economic activity. It said shipments from Asia rose 41% and its U.S. ground delivery volumes rose 7% in the quarter ended May 31.
Mr. Smith said he expects inventory restocking to continue as FedEx forecast global gross domestic product will grow 3.1% in its current fiscal year ending May 2011. The U.S. economy is expected to grow 3.2% over the same period, with domestic industrial production up 5% or more—growth rates that will help spur demand for shipping.
FedEx reported a profit of $419 million, or $1.33 a share, for the quarter ended May 31, compared with a prior-year loss of $876 million, or $2.82 a share. The year-ago results included a write-down, stemming primarily from FedEx's earlier acquisition of Kinko's Inc.
Revenue jumped 20% to $9.42 billion. Wall Street had expected the company to earn $1.32 a share on $9.04 billion in revenue.
Dry-bulk shipping stocks continued to slide Tuesday, some reaching new 52-week lows, despite what had been a strengthening trend in freight rates.
The Baltic Dry Index Tuesday stood at 3,579, down 4% from the previous reading. The going rate per day for a Capesize ship, the largest dry-bulk haulers on the high seas, slipped to about $48,000 after having reached nearly $60,000 last week. A year ago, by comparison, amid a surging Chinese importation frenzy, capesize rates were at $72,000 a day.
Motivations for the steep decline in dry-bulk stocks Tuesday -- and the last few weeks -- have pointed to risk aversion amid highly uncertain times. For one thing, the euro-zone debt crisis has pushed the U.S. dollar ever higher, weighing on commodities prices and commodities-linked stocks, especially high-beta dry-bulk stocks.
For another thing, the world remains skittish about a slower-growing China and just what that will mean for commodities, as economic recovery in the U.S. and Europe doesn't look robust enough to make up for an even slightly weaker China, by far and away the world's most rapacious consumer of raw materials.
Tampa Fire Rescue had 143 firefighters on duty Wednesday morning.
At least 100 of them had a part in extinguishing a blaze that burned for hours on a 742-foot ship at the Port of Tampa.
The main reason for the unusually high manpower: the need to rotate firefighters under a sweltering summer sun that sent five of them to a hospital for heat exhaustion.
The blaze started sometime before 9 a.m., when some of the 32 crew members with the Liberian-flagged Sophie Olendorff noticed smoke coming from a conveyer belt that had been off-loading rock and gravel for about a day. They tried to fight the fire, but realized they needed help.
When rescue crews responded, they faced several challenges, said Tampa Fire Rescue Capt. Bill Wade.
The first was access, with the fire-damaged conveyor belt arm hanging high above the dock. Then there was the nearby sulfuric acid pipeline that, though not in use, was still a threat.
Then a power line on the dock fell onto a fence and started several small grass fires.
The Patriot, the department's new fireboat, passed its first test, shooting 6,000 gallons of water every minute.
The conveyor was destroyed, but the ship remained intact.
A tarmac worker was shocked so he called police when he discovered 50 human heads in the cargo hold of a Southwest Airlines jet at Little Rock International Airport.
The cargo handling workers are supposed to call police whenever anything suspicious is found, and this startling find qualified on so many levels.
FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford in Fort Worth says no rules on packing or transporting hazardous materials were found, so for that agency, it's a case closed.
But the Pulaski County Coroner has confiscated the 50 human heads and he plans on keeping them at the county morgue until he can determine the heads were obtained legally in the first place.
The heads were wrapped and packaged on the airliner, shipped by a company in Conway, Arkansas called JLS Consulting. The company's founder told a local newspaper that it was all handled above board. She said the heads are destined for a Fort Worth entity that trains physicians.
She told the paper that paying for human body parts may not be legal, but her firm is paid to pack and ship them, and that is perfectly legal.
No time table was divulged by Pulaski County Coroner Garland Camper as to when his office may be finished with its investigation on the origin of the heads.
Only then could the severed heads be released back for shipment to Texas.
China all about infrastructure, infrastructure and…infrastructure
In late 2008, with the financial crisis rippling through the global economy, China's leaders embarked on a two-year, $586 billion spending program to try to stave off a recession and keep the Chinese economy growing.
Forget the tax cuts; in China, it was infrastructure, infrastructure and more infrastructure.
The result, 18 months after the stimulus was introduced, is an astonishing frenzy of building -- highways, subways, airports, bridges, high-speed rail lines and even new cities constructed, literally, in the middle of nowhere.
China is building tens of thousands of miles of expressways at a pace unseen since the U.S. interstate boom in the 1950s, and it is on track to pass the United States in total highways in the next decade. Among other infrastructure projects -- which now amount to 15 percent of China's gross domestic product -- are nearly 100 new airports, some serving isolated cities few outsiders have heard of, and dozens of subways.
Several economists said it was difficult to determine the worth of all the spending because there is no official, centralized list of projects -- making it difficult to untangle whether projects are funded from stimulus loans, from local governments floating bonds or from some combination of the two.
Even skeptics here agree that the stimulus worked at staving off a recession. The Chinese economy grew by 8.7 percent in 2009, while the economies of the United States and Europe -- China's most important export markets -- contracted or remained flat.
In the United States, the $787 billion stimulus was financed by the federal government running large deficits. In China -- where the size of the stimulus as a percentage of the economy is several times that of the U.S. package -- most of the spending came from the country's state-run banks making loans to local government entities.
Economists estimate that out of the 4 trillion yuan (about $586 billion) stimulus package, the central government spent just over a quarter of the money, with the rest coming as bank loans to local governments. Also, many local governments took out additional loans on their own to finance public works projects. As a result, economists said, local governments are now sitting on a total potential debt bomb of 7 trillion to 11 trillion yuan.
China's economy is showing signs of softening after its strong stimulus-fueled rebound last year, the World Bank says in its latest quarterly update.
Industrial production and other key indicators show the pace of growth moderating albeit remaining relatively strong, supported by real estate investment and a recovery in export demand, said the report, released Friday.
The World Bank likewise forecasts "favorable" prospects for the global economy, with growth estimated at 3.2 percent for this year and 3.3 percent for 2011. But it said risks to that outlook were large because of the debt mountains that some countries are burdened with.
The run-up in debt in countries using the euro "could turn into a real and contagious debt crisis" that threatens still fragile economic recoveries in Europe and the U.S., it said.
In China, private real estate investment has helped make up for an easing in government-backed stimulus spending, the World Bank said. But concerns that excess investment and speculative purchases were driving prices to unsustainably high levels prompted a tightening of bank lending, cooling growth in the property sector.
Spot market freight index for truckloads increased 216 percent in May
Truckload spot market freight availability increased by 216 percent in May over the same period in 2009, according to Portland, Ore.-based TransCore’s North American Freight Index.
The spot-market upsurge reflected the strongest volume for the month of May in at least 10 years, the freight index report said.
Spot market freight availability has been higher than normal since January, especially for dry and refrigerated vans in advance of the peak summer season, the report said. Spot freight for flatbeds fell by 15 percent compared to an exceptionally high level in April, the report said.
“Brokers, 3PLs, carriers, and owner-operators in North America are on track to list more than 60 million loads and trucks this year across a variety of services feeding TransCore’s DAT Network,” the company reported.
“As a result of this high volume, TransCore’s North American Freight Index is representative of the ups and downs in spot market freight availability throughout the U.S. and Canada,” the company said.
Coalition seeks $400 mil to build double-stack rail tunnel under Detroit River
A public-private coalition has been formed to lead the effort to raise money and build a new rail-only tunnel under the Detroit River.
The Continental Rail Gateway group seeks to replace a century-old tunnel between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. The new $400 million tunnel also would be built to accommodate double-stacked containers and multilevel rail cars used by shippers and automakers.
The coalition was formed when the Windsor Port Authority joined Canadian Pacific Railway and Borealis Infrastructure, part of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System.
Backers hope to open the tunnel by 2015 pending environmental and other reviews.
A tunnel allowing double-stacked trains was built and opened in the 1990s between Port Huron and Sarnia, Ontario.
Two container ship stowaways discovered and arrested in Charleston were charged this morning with federal crimes.
Eddy Martinez Reyees, known as "El Barron", and Jose Miquel Crisostomo-Perez, or "ChiChi", made their first court appearance this morning, where formal charges were announced. Reyees is charged with reentry of an alien subsequent to a conviction for an aggravated felony. Crisostomo-Perez is charged with improper entry of an alien.
The men were discovered on a ship at the Wando Welch Terminal in Mount Pleasant, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The charges against Reyees carry up to 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. Crisostomo-Perez faces half a year in prison and a $5,000 fine if convicted.