The United States looks set to tighten air cargo security rules both domestically and on international flights into the country, following last week's interception of explosive materials on UPS and FedEx jets.
The discovery of "suspicious" items at both a UPS hub in the UK and a FedEx facility late on Thursday and on Friday led immediately to the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) tightening procedures at US airports.
A DHS statement confirmed "heightened cargo screening" as well as an "unpredictable mix of security layers" taking in passenger flights as well as cargo-only.
Over the weekend US lawmakers called for more permanent measures to extend the security measures currently in place for passenger aircraft.
Representative Edward Markey, who wrote the 2007 law requiring screening of all cargo on passenger flights into and within the US, said on Sunday he would introduce legislation requiring 100% screening of all cargo on all cargo planes.
Both FedEx and UPS have now restricted shipments from Yemen while the investigation continues.
FedEx issued a statement on Friday confirming that it had stopped accepting shipments from the Yemen, and that it was currently cooperating with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and local authorities in Dubai.
UPS issued a statement on Friday afternoon also confirming that it was immediately suspending its services from Yemen.
In the wake of explosives being shipped from Yemen to the U.S. on Oct. 29, Yemeni authorities are stepping up efforts to boost security.
One measure likely to be adopted is 100% air freight screening, says Mohamed Abdul Kader, deputy chairman of Yemen's civil aviation authority. A study is currently underway on what measures to adopt more widely, he notes.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Doha Aviation Summit, the civil aviation authorities from other Gulf states vowed to work with Yemen and provide any assistance requested. None of them have adopted the U.S. ban on accepting air freight from Yemen.
But tighter screening alone is not the answer, government officials warn. "Intelligence sharing is much more important than screening" argues Abdulrahman Mohamed Al Gaoud, Bahrain's undersecretary for civil aviation affairs. "Screening is effective, but it is not the only means" to deal with the situation, he says.
That is echoed by Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi, the director general of the United Arab Emirates civil aviation authority, who notes it was intelligence that allowed authorities in his country stop one package before it was shipped on to the U.S. "Cooperation now is really at a high level," he says, adding he is confident practices now in place will catch any further packages.
Qatar Airways chief says to target country of origin
Qatar Airways confirmed it moved one of the packages from Yemen, via its Doha hub, to Dubai, where the explosive device was discovered. But the airline CEO Akbar Al Baker stresses it was not the airline's responsibility, but that of authorities to conduct the searches.
And, in a statement, the airline says "it is not the responsibility of the country in which the cargo transits to x-ray or inspect the cargo. This responsibility belongs to the country from where the consignment originates. Furthermore, the explosives discovered were of a sophisticated nature whereby they could not be detected by x-ray screening or trained sniffer dogs. The explosives were only discovered after an intelligence tip-off."
Most wanted Saudi is prime suspect in package bomb plot
One of Saudi Arabia's most wanted criminals is believed to be part of a package-bomb plot discovered last week, officials said.
U.S. investigators said they believe Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, an al-Qaida bomb maker listed by the Saudi government as an expert in explosives and poison, is tied to packages containing explosives that authorities in the United Arab Emirates and Britain found Friday, CNN reported Monday.
U.S. investigators said they believe al-Asiri, 28, was involved somehow in the packages in which investigators found the explosive PETN, similar to the material discovered in a failed bomb attack on a Christmas Day 2009 flight as it was approaching Detroit. Al-Asiri also was suspected in that attempt.
U.S. officials said they believe the latest plot originated in Yemen and was conceived by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, an al-Qaida offshoot. During the weekend, Yemeni authorities detained a woman suspected of having a role in the plot, but later released her.
Germany has banned all flights from Yemen from landing at its airports and is considering additional security measures following the discovery of package bombs bound for the U.S.
An intergovernmental working group meeting today will consider expanding a cargo-flight ban to countries other than Yemen and make recommendations for European-wide measures, government spokesman Steffen Seibert said.
One plane with a package bomb landed at Germany's Cologne- Bonn airport last week before continuing to East Midlands Airport in the U.K., where authorities found the explosive device. That bomb and another found in Dubai were bound for synagogues in Chicago.
The bombs were tightly packed in printer cartridges and could have caused considerable damage, a German government official said on condition that he not be identified. One package contained 400 grams of PETN, the same explosive used to target a Northwest Airlines flight on Dec. 25, while the other contained 300 grams, the official said.
Air freight carrier DHL announced it is halting all shipments from Yemen to the U.S.
DHL's announcement followed the emergency alert on Monday by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
On Friday, two parcel bombs sent from Yemen to the U.S. were intercepted on planes in Dubai and Britain.
DHL said in its statement that any shipment originating from Yemen to the U.S. in transit would be stopped at the next available location.
IMO urged to influence use of "panic rooms" in "Pirate Alley"
The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines on Monday urged the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to compel ships using the "Pirate Alley" off Somalia to build in fortified rooms where crew members can hide in the event of an attack.
TUCP secretary-general Ernesto Herrera said the installation of "panic rooms" should be among the additional defensive measures taken by merchant ships to thwart pirates prowling the Gulf of Aden.
He cited the experience of 16 crewmen aboard the German freighter MV Beluga Fortune, who were rescued unharmed after Somali pirates seized their ship on October 24.
The sailors were rescued unharmed after they sent out a distress call, cut off the ship's fuel supply, shut down all power on the bridge, and dug themselves in a safe room before they could be overwhelmed by the pirates. Unable to take charge of the ship, or hold any crew member hostage, the pirates were eventually forced to abandon the vessel.
The marauders were already gone when British and German forces rescued the crew members.
Experts weigh in on election impacts to transport, trade
Today’s mid-term elections will have impacts one way or the other across many front-burner issues, such as those that involve U.S. transportation and trade, as some insiders from a Washington D.C. -based law firm weigh on what those impacts might be.
Congressional imbalance could stall surface transport bill
Partners from the Venable Law Firm include former U.S. Secretary of Transportation James Burnley, who thinks any party rebalance in Congress is unlikely to change the dynamic on passage of a surface transportation reauthorization bill.
“The primary impediment to action is that fuel taxes and other taxes deposited in the Highway Trust Fund are insufficient to cover current programs, much less fund bigger expenditures,” said Burnley.
“The Obama Administration is not interested in increasing fuel taxes, and most Republicans will also be opposed,” Burnley said. “I expect repeated short term extensions of the old bill until after the 2012 election, at least.”
Cap and Trade on transportation unlikely
As for cap and trade legislation, Burnley said he believes that increased Republican strength will significantly impact proposals to reduce greenhouse gases.
“I cannot envision either house in the next Congress enacting cap and trade legislation that regulates transportation,” he said.
U.S. trade and export control remain key issues
On the international trade front, Venable partnerAshley Craig said he expects trade and U.S. export control reform to remain key issues regardless of who controls the House and Senate.
“Many government reforms become stalled in the doldrums of Congress, so it's notable that the President’s ‘Export Control Reform Initiative’ has moved forward so quickly,” said Craig.
“Since Secretary of Defense Robert Gates first discussed the Obama administration’s interagency review of U.S. export controls earlier this year and called for fundamental reform of the current Cold War-era system, many new regulations and executive orders have been, and I expect, will continue to be enacted,” he said.
“These reforms have already affected export controls for several important U.S. industries, such as those dealing in encryption technology and military hardware, items which carried overly restrictive controls under prior regulations,” he said.
According to Craig, U.S. export control authority, which is spread across a handful of agency jurisdictions, is expected to be streamlined under this initiative. However, he said most of the reforms to date have been those that have not required congressional approval.
Craig also expects some movement on various trade agreements, especially if the Republicans capture the House. “Over the past two years, the Obama White House has stayed clear of trade treaties due to political and philosophical concerns. A GOP-lead House may provide the needed boast to restart consideration of various agreements with our trade partners,” he said.
Shipping Act to be widely debated
A not transportation topic is whether to further regulate the international shipping industry with passage of the Shipping Act of 2010 (H.R. 6167), introduced by Representatives Oberstar and Cummings with a week remaining before Congress recessed for the mid-term elections.
“The new Shipping Act would fundamentally alter the U.S. regulatory framework governing international liner shipping, by substantially restricting the almost century-old ocean carrier antitrust immunity, and by providing expanded oversight authority to the Federal Maritime Commission,” said Craig.
“The Oberstar/Cummings bill holds the potential to transform the U.S. international ocean transportation industry, along with the economic, antitrust and trade landscapes – it is expected to be widely debated among industry and regulators.”
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
Who takes Oberstar’s spot on transport committee?
In a surprise, senior Democratic Rep. James Oberstar was defeated in his attempt to win a 19th term in the House. Mr. Oberstar was chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, a position that made the Minnesotan a behind-the-scenes Capitol Hill power broker because his committee approves billions of dollars in federal spending projects each year.
Next year, Mr. Oberstar planned to take the lead in approving a $500-billion transportation-spending bill that is due to expire soon.
To help enact the bill smoothly, Congress will need some senior lawmakers in both parties who know how to grease the skids. With Mr. Oberstar gone, it’s unclear who will replace him in that role.
Next in line for the role is Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia, who narrowly averted his own defeat on Tuesday. Mr. Rahall is currently the chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, so it’s unclear if he would change jobs.
Next in line for the job behind Mr. Rahall is Rep. Peter DeFazio, a liberal Democrat from Oregon who favors increased spending on public-transit projects.
Another Democrat in the running is Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who is the elected representative from Washington, D.C. Because Ms. Norton doesn’t represent a state, she isn’t a full-fledged member of Congress. She is permitted to vote on legislation in committees, but she does not have vote on the House floor.
Vancouver Fraser River port proposes truck license fee
British Columbia’s Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (Port Metro Vancouver) issued a notice of a proposed $300 (Canadian) per year "TLS (Truck License System) Approved Truck Fee" that would be effective January 1, 2011.
"The fee will apply to all container drayage trucks identified and approved pursuant to a License or Permit to haul to, within and from VFPA property," the port authority’s notice said.
"The fee is intended to help recover costs associated with the administration of the TLS Program and the sustainability of the container drayage sector,” the notice went on to say.
There has not been a formal response to the proposal from the region’s trucking industry.
Germany to push EU for new airfreight security measures
Germany wants the European Union to introduce new security measures against militant attacks via airfreight to help improve a patchwork of different rules around the world, officials said on Wednesday.
A German government source said EU interior ministers would discuss next week how to respond to two spates of parcel bombs in the past week -- sent from Yemen to U.S. targets and by bombers in Greece to embassies and European governments.
The bombs from Yemen have been blamed on al Qaeda, while those originating in Greece have been blamed on leftists.
One of the Greek bombs was addressed to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and reached her office in Berlin by air cargo. She was out of the country at the time and the bomb was deactivated before it could do any harm.
FedEx Corp., the second-largest U.S. package-shipping company, said it will buy Indian delivery businesses from AFL Pvt. as economic growth spurs cargo volumes in the Asian nation.
FedEx Express will buy logistics, distribution and express units in the deal, which is expected to be completed in the fiscal quarter ending in February, FedEx said in a BusinessWire statement today, without providing a value for the deal. The Memphis, Tennessee-based company will also acquire AFL affiliate Unifreight India Pvt.
The deal will give FedEx more than 160 service centers in 144 Indian cities, boosting its reach in Asia’s third-biggest economy. The nation’s logistics market is expected to grow to $120.4 billion in 2014 from $75.2 billion in 2009 as both manufacturing and farm output increase, Frost & Sullivan said in a report in January.
Asian Gypsy Moth egg mass found in cargo at Port of New Orleans
The Asian Gypsy Moth’s egg mass was found in a shipment of ceramic sand from Russia at the Port of New Orleans in late October, according to Customs and Border Protection officers there.
The CBP warned that the moth is a “voracious pest of trees that poses a major threat to forest habitats in North America.”
Each female moth could lay egg masses that could produce hundreds of caterpillars with appetites for more than 500 species of trees and shrubs, the CBP said.
Ceramic sand is used in the oil drilling industry for agricultural inspection and upon the shipment’s arrival, agriculture specialists examined several containers and discovered an egg mass that was suspected of being Asian Gypsy Moth or Lymantria dispar, the CBP said.
The infested wood pallet where the mass was found was treated with golden pest spray oil, the CBP said.
“The CBP agriculture specialists at U.S. ports of entry, detect, intercept, and thereby prevent the entry of potential threats such as this invasive species before they have a chance to do any harm that could seriously threaten U.S. agriculture, our natural resources and our economy,” said Robert C. Gomez, director of field operations for the CBP New Orleans field office.
Thursday, November 04, 2010
Maersk takes the lead on emissions verification
Maersk Line, the shipping unit of Copenhagen-based A P Moller Maersk A/S, said it’s the first such company to verify its emissions of carbon dioxide, helping companies such as Starbucks Corp. reduce greenhouse gases.
Maersk is taking the lead among shipping lines on verifying emissions, Lloyds Register Group, a risk-management company, said today in an e-mailed statement. Shipping accounts for about 3 percent of global CO2 emissions, a greenhouse gas linked to climate change, according to the United Nation’s International Maritime Organization, which met Oct. 4 to discuss cutbacks. The European Union has asked the industry to slash emissions by 20 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.
“The next challenge is to get other shipping lines to participate and thereby make independent verification an industry standard,” Jacob Sterling, head of climate and environment at Maersk Line, said in the statement.
Governments from around the world will meet in Cancun, Mexico, later this month for a second round of talks on a climate accord to replace or extend the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. The talks, sponsored by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, failed to result in a deal in Copenhagen last year.
Starbucks, the world’s largest coffee-shop chain, said shipping lines can help them lower their overall greenhouse gas emissions. “Quantified measurement and verification is a step in the right direction,” John Bauer, director of global transportation at Starbucks, said in the statement.
U.S. trucking and logistics company Con-way Inc reported third-quarter profit and revenue below forecasts, but shares rose as it said it has seen improvement heading into the fourth quarter.
Chief Executive Douglas Stotlar said costs for corporate office consolidation and severance reduced profit, but "we've seen variable costs decline, pricing improve and tonnage levels moderate."
Con-way reported a net loss of $8.2 million, or 15 cents a share, compared with a profit of $13.5 million, or 27 cents, a year earlier.
The San Mateo, California-based company said quarterly revenue rose 12.1 percent to $1.27 billion. Analysts had expected $1.32 billion.
Con-way Freight, its less-than-truckoad division, on Monday instituted a 6.5 percent general rate increase on the 25 percent of the business not covered by contract rates, the company said on a conference call.
It also said it has no plans to increase the fleet in 2011 in Con-way Truckload, the company's full-truckload transport business.
Starting a day after Christmas, Horizon Lines will provide a direct service from the U.S. mainland to Guam.
The Five Star Express transit line will begin at three locations on the West Coast and ship directly to the island, bypassing its previous stop in Honolulu, said Kelly Dennison, director of corporate marketing and communications at Horizon Lines.
The change of service will come after a space-charter agreement with global shipping company Maersk Line expires in December.
Freight liners that stopped in Honolulu only did so for about 12 hours to load empty cargo containers on their way to China. The direct line to Guam knocks off about a day of transit time from Los Angeles to the island. The change of service doesn't affect commercial prices, Dennison said.
Currently, it takes about 14 days to ship cargo from Los Angeles to Guam. Once the new service comes into effect, the shipments will only take about 13 days through Horizon.
Cruiseship clears Ft. Lauderdale bridge by about a foot
It was a tight squeeze for a giant new cruise ship sailing from Europe to its home port in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, over the weekend.
Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas passed under Denmark's Storebaelt Bridge with about a foot to spare, drawing applause from people on board the ship.
The normal height of the ship from the water level to the top is about 73 meters (240 feet), said Capt. Hernan Zini, but the vessel couldn't be higher than 65 meters (213 feet) in order to safely go under the bridge, the captain said.
To make that happen, the crew lowered the ship's retractable twin smokestacks, carefully adjusted the ballast so the ship wouldn't be too light (and therefore sitting too high in the water) and boosted its speed.
The plan went off without a hitch, and the ship safely cleared the bridge.
Japanese shipping line MOL announced plans to revamp its WL2 rotation with the addition of a new direct service from Asia to Honolulu, Hawaii.
The revised deployment commences with the departure of the NYK Floresta 1502E from Keelung on Sunday, November 7 with the first direct call at Honolulu on November 23, MOL said in a statement.
The carrier said the new WL2 port rotation would be:
Tokyo (Tue/Tue), Busan (Thu/Fri), Keelung (Sat/Sun), Ningbo (Sun/Mon), Shanghai (Tue/Wed), Nagoya (Fri/Sat), Yokohama (Sat/Sun), Honolulu (Mon/Tue), Manzanillo, Mexico (Wed/Thu), Buenaventura (Mon/Wed), Guayaquil (Thu/Sat), Manzanillo, Mexico (Wed/Thu), Honolulu (Fri/Sat), Tokyo (Tue/Tue).
MOL said both dry and refrigerated cargo will be accepted on the revamped WL2, and the service will continue to accept cargo to Mexico, Ecuador, and Colombia.
Ex-Im Bank breaks export finance record
The Ex-Im Bank announced a record-breaking at the close of its FY 2010, with $24.5 billion in export financing that supported $34.4 billion worth of exports at more than 3,300 U.S. companies.
The bank said highlights of the year included: 1,148 companies used Ex-Im financing for the first time; a 300 percent increase in renewable energy financing; more than $75 billion in total export-financing portfolio; financed a $3 billion liquid natural gas project; smallest transaction of the year provided a $5,400 short-term insurance policy to help a small business in California export hair care products to Russia; and the launch of new products and services, including Solar Express, Export Credit Reinsurance and a Supply Chain Finance Product.
The bank said its record-breaking levels were directly related to implementation of its new strategic plan, which focuses on targeted business development to countries with high potential for U.S. export, specific growth industries and streamlines turnaround time in processing transactions.
In October, export results released by the U.S. Department of Commerce were encouraging. Exports of U.S. goods and services increased 17.9 percent during the first eight months of 2010, according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis of the U.S. Commerce Department.
“These results put us on track to meet the President's goal of doubling exports in five years,” the bank said.
Intermodal volumes surged in Q3
Intermodal traffic surged in the third quarter, driven by a “remarkable” jump in international volume and all-time peak in domestic volume, according to the Intermodal Association of North America’s (IANA) latest “Intermodal Market Trends & Statistics” report.
Total volume climbed 20.3 percent to 3.6 million units compared with third-quarter 2009’s level. ISO container traffic soared 28.1 percent to 2 million units, total domestic equipment volume rose 11.7 percent to 1.6 million units, domestic container traffic jumped 13 percent to 1.2 million units and trailer volume increased 8.5 percent to 428,767.
Domestic container traffic could have been higher because “domestic container shipments may have been limited by capacity constraints,” IANA officials said in the report, adding that the constraints "may have compelled" some shippers to use trailers.
Maersk Line announced it was awarded the “Ocean Carrier of the Year” by The Home Depot back in September.
The award was presented at the Executive Carrier Council meeting held in Atlanta, Georgia.
Alan MacPherson, senior sales director, and Lauris Eglitis, key client manager for Maersk Line North America, accepted the award on behalf of the company.
Scott Spata, senior director, international logistics for The Home Depot said at the ceremony: “Maersk led the way with one of our highest on time performance ratings, with the highest booking acceptance of all others, and their flexibility led to one of the highest percentage lifts for our account. This carrier is the first, and usually the last carrier we pick up the phone to call when we have problems or need solutions.”
Al-Qaida claims responsibility for mail bomb plot
A Yemen-based al-Qaida group is claiming responsibility for the international mail bomb plot uncovered late last week and the crash of a United Parcel Service cargo plane in September.
A week after authorities intercepted packages in Dubai and England that were bound for the U.S., Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula issued a message Friday saying it will continue to strike American and Western interests.
They specifically said they would target civilian and cargo aircraft. The claim was reported by the private SITE Intelligence Group.
A security official in the UAE familiar with the investigations into the Sept. 3 crash of a UPS cargo plane in Dubai and the mail bombs plot told The Associated Press Friday that there is no change in the findings that the UPS crash in September was likely caused by an onboard fire and not by an explosive device.