Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Report: U.S. retail imports rise above Sandy to surge 5.9 percent in November
U.S. imports at retail container terminals will surge 5.9 percent in November even with delays caused by Hurricane Sandy, according to a report issued by the National Retail Federation and consulting firm Hackett Associates.
"Sandy certainly caused major problems that are still being cleaned up, but retailers managed to get their cargo into the country and will have plenty of merchandise on store shelves for the holidays," said Jonathan Gold, NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy. "While there was clearly a regional impact, at this point the storm is not expected to have a major effect on holiday sales numbers."
The Global Port Tracker report covers the U.S. ports of Long Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades and Miami on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.
The named ports handled 1.42 million TEUs in September, which was the same as August and up 3.3 percent from September 2011. The volume for the peak months of August, September and October combined is expected to go up 5.8 percent for a total of 4.3 million TEUs, said the report.
The October forecast estimates 1.46 million TEUs, a 10.7 percent increase year on year; the November forecast is at 1.37 million TEUs, up 5.9 percent; and December is predicted to reach 1.34 million TEUs, up 9.4 percent, the report said. January is expected to yield 1.39 million TEUs, jumping 8.2 percent from January 2012.
NRF is predicting that holiday sales will reach $586.1 billion this year, and increase of 4.1 percent.
"The full extent of the impact from the mayhem and destruction of Hurricane Sandy is still being assessed, but it should hopefully not have too much of a detrimental effect on trade," Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said. "The New York/New Jersey terminals were impacted for a short period but cargo destined for there was handled elsewhere until service returned. Rebuilding of infrastructure and homes should cause an uptick for imports of construction materials."
Workers file labor complaint, allege warehouse firm NFI guilty of retaliation
NFI, a big warehouse concern in Southern California, has been accused of illegally firing and reducing the hours of workers who participated in a strike and protest demonstration in September.
The warehouse operator, which recently settled unfair labor practice complaints, faces new charges filed with the National Labor Relations Board last week. Thirty-three workers allege management at NFI's Mira Loma warehouse illegally penalized workers who participated in a 15-day September walkout, which was prompted by reported unsafe working conditions and prior workplace retaliation.
Warestaff, an employment company that placed a number of workers at the NFI warehouse, was also named in the complaint.
Other unfair practices complaints were filed with the NLRB in July and August against NFI and WareStaff.
The charges are part of an effort by Warehouse Workers United to organize low-wage workers in the Walmart supply chain. Warehouse Workers United is an organization started in 2007 by a national coalition of unions with a collective membership of five million.
Most of the workers are hired as temporary employees by agencies such as WareStaff in order to protect Walmart from liability for unsafe working conditions and wage violation claims, according to worker advocates.
In May, NFI settled retaliation claims with six workers at three warehouses in Chino. Most of the workers were rehired and given back pay, said Elizabeth Brennan, communications director of Warehouse Workers United, although the NFI did not admit liability.
Two sets of worker safety complaints have been filed with the California Division of Occupation Safety and Health, naming NFI's Mira Loma warehouse, alleging lack of equipment safety training and blocked exits.
"Just in the last week, we've seen the warehouse operators scrambling to replace broken and unsafe equipment, they've rented fans to increase ventilation, and they've added more water coolers," Brennan was quoted by the Huffington Post. However, the strikers who returned to work have continued to face retaliation, many times getting their hours cut from 35 down to eight, she said. Some of these warehouse workers will join striking Walmart workers on Black Friday, Brennan said.
Warehouse and distribution hubs in other parts of the country are also involved. A California worker who said he experienced workplace retaliation, plus other warehouse workers from Illinois, met with Walmart management at the store's headquarters in Arkansas. "We continue to take this matter seriously because it's important to us that workers in our supply chain are treated with dignity and respect," said Walmart spokesman Dan Fogleman.
For more of the NBC News story: nbcnews.com
Port of Oakland director retires; receipt proves he attended $4500 strip club outing expensed to port
A 2008 receipt indicates Port of Oakland head Omar Benjamin was part of the group at a Houston strip club that racked up a $4,537 tab that was expensed to the port. Benjamin, who was on paid leave pending the investigation, notified the port on Monday that he is retiring from his position, according to a port statement.
Acting Executive Director Deborah Ale Flint will continue to guide port operations.
The port released the complete version of expense account records on Friday. Previous versions released to the press had redacted Benjamin's name from the receipt, which was submitted for reimbursement by maritime director James Kwon. According to port reimbursement rules, Benjamin should have submitted the receipt, since he held a higher rank.
"I am cooperating with the Port inquiry and will do whatever I can to resolve this matter constructively and in the interests of the Port of Oakland," Benjamin said via email.
Kwon, the port's maritime director, remains on paid administrative leave.
The port hired an outside firm to audit port records for other expenditures, to include other nightclub outings in Asia and Oakland expensed to the port by staff.
"The Board is eagerly looking forward to the conclusion of the investigation, and is confident that more definitive developments will be announced soon," Gilda Gonzales, board president, said in a written statement that she read during a special board meeting on Friday.
The group of BNSF Railway who were allegedly being entertained in Houston has said they have no record of being at the club or in Houston on that date.
For more of the Oakland Tribune story: insidebayarea.com
A. P. Moller-Maersk ups annual outlook on surging container business
A.P. Moller-Maersk upgraded its annual outlook after third quarter profits surged on higher container rates. The group forecast increased its 2012 net profit to $3.7 billion from its previous prediction of "slightly above" $3.4 billion.
Maersk Line, the largest container carrier in the world, reported a profit in the second quarter after four consecutive quarters of loss due to overcapacity and the global economic downturn. Along with other shipping lines, the company managed to hike rates in the third quarter, although spot rates on the Asia-to-Europe trade routes started to go down again this week.
A.P. Moller-Maersk's net profit surged to $933 million in the third quarter from $371 million year on year. Maersk Line reported an operating profit of $547 million compared with a loss of $255 million for the same period in 2011, while its oil and gas division, Maersk Oil, reported a 33 percent drop in operating profit to $1.16 billion, lower than analysts' forecasts.
"I think one should be careful expecting that this is now very stable," chief executive Nils Smedegaard Andersen cautioned. "It does not mean there is no chance of a relapse for prices on some routes."
"I believe the unit will hold up in the fourth quarter but that rates will fall to unprofitable levels at the beginning of next year," said Alm Brand analyst Jesper Christensen.
For more of the Reuters story: reuters.com
47 African immigrants saved by Spanish maritime rescue team
On Saturday, a Spanish emergency rescue team saved 47 African immigrants as they were sailing across the Strait of Gibraltar in three delicate boats in danger of foundering.
The first boat was located two miles from the port of Tarifa in southern Spain. A total of 28 people were on board, including 14 women, nine men and five babies.
Spain's maritime rescue patrol then found the second boat with 12 people aboard, all sub-Saharan men. The third vessel was spotted carrying seven immigrants, but because they were still in Moroccan waters, only two were extracted to receive medical attention in Spain.
All rescued passengers were taken to Tarifa to be examined by the Red Cross.
For more of the Fox News story: latino.foxnews.com
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Maersk executive predicts 6 percent growth in global container business
Global container traffic will continue to grow between 5 to 6 percent in coming years, predicts Kim Fejfer, chief executive of the terminals division of A.P. Moller-Maersk, even though port backups in developing areas will continue to hinder trade.
Fejfer, who spoke to reporters in Singapore on Wednesday, said government officials in Africa, Latin America and India must add more capacity and efficiency to their ports.
The Maersk executive also said shipping lines should adapt to slower Asia-Europe trade. He added there were huge gains to be made in intra-Asian trade and between Asia and nations in Africa and South America.
For more of the Fox News story: foxbusiness.com
2013 Seattle port budget focuses on capital improvements, jobs
The 2013 Port of Seattle budget plan, which received initial approval Tuesday from the port commission, includes $225 million for capital projects.
Specific port projects planned for next year include dock improvements at container Terminal 46, constructing a truck roadway from East Marginal Way to the Union Pacific Argo Yard, improvements at Shilshole Bay Marina and Fishermen's Terminal, and upgrades to piers 91 and 66 for cruise ship activities.
The port said in a statement that it intends to award at least 10 percent of its construction contracts to small businesses.
Approximately $8.3 million has been allocated for clean air, habitat restoration, and lower Duwamish cleanup measures.
The port said 2013 budget forecasts revenues of $ 550.6 million, a 6.5 percent increase from 2012. Next year's port operating expenses are estimated at $328.9 million, and the net income is predicted to be $ 221.7 million, an increase of 7.1 percent compared with 2012.
For the seaport division, the Port of Seattle said it anticipates operating revenues of $110 million for 2013, an 11.9 percent increase year on year. After expenses, net operating income is forecast at $63 million, a 21.5 percent increase compared to 2012.
London Gateway will bolster UK supply chain, say logistics experts
The new London Gateway port, set to open in 2013, will help U.K. distribution networks stay competitive in global markets, according to participants in the Jones Lang LaSalle agent's briefing in Birmingham last week.
London Gateway, DP World's new deep water port and logistics hub in the U.K., will save millions of pounds in avoidable UK supply chain costs by bringing a port closer to exporters and manufacturers, according to Peter Ward, DP World's cargo supply chain manager at the London Gateway. The complex, set to open next year, occupies 860,000 square meters and is situated 147 miles from Birmingham.
In order to adapt to changes in global sourcing and multiple market channels, companies will likely need to establish multiple stocking locations, according to Ward. "In the UK it may prove optimal for a major distribution center in the South to complement another operating in the Midlands," Ward said.
"From a Midlands occupier perspective, the opening of DP World London Gateway next year is perfectly timed for a number of end users that are grappling with the challenges of the recession and are having to accommodate multiple channels to market," said Lisa Fitch, associate director of supply chain consulting at BNP Paribas.
Cameron Mitchell, Jones Lang Lasalle director of national industrial and logistics, said the country could be facing a shortage of distribution facilities, since the recession resulted in a lack of speculative builds over the last two years. "We therefore welcome DP World London Gateway's commitment to offer a substantial common-user facility from which businesses can either benefit from incubator or shared space - whilst gaining flexibility in their supply chain - and if the business case is right for them to later move into their own facility."
Billionaire investor Icahn takes 10 percent position in Greenbrier
Billionaire Carl C. Icahn, an investor who holds a majority interest in American Railcar Industries, has acquired 9.99 percent of the Greenbrier stock, according to a company statement. Greenbrier, based in Oregon, is a leading supplier of transportation equipment and services to the railroad industry.
Icahn notified Greenbrier president and CEO Bill Furman yesterday of the investment, expressing his belief that Greenbrier shares are undervalued, according to the company, and keeping the door open to further strategic opportunities.
"Mr. Icahn is a respected investor," said Furman, "and we have had considerable interaction on several occasions in the past with him and ARII. We are joint venture partners with ARII in Ohio Castings.
"We believe this purchase of Greenbrier shares validates our business model and strategic decisions," said Furman. "Our business plan has led to growth in our new railcar market share in North America to 24 percent of deliveries, double ARII's market share. This is a result of decisions to expand our product offerings in covered hopper cars, tank cars, and other diversified railcar types, with additional capacity within our low cost manufacturing footprint. We agree that our stock is a very good value opportunity at present pricing."
Greenbrier builds new railroad freight cars in its three manufacturing facilities in the U.S. and Mexico and marine barges at its U.S. facility. It also repairs
Gold and whiskey cargo adds to mystique of famous shipwreck
The Westmoreland, a propeller steamer that sank on Dec. 7, 1854 in Lake Michigan's Platte Bay during a blizzard, was supposedly laden with gold coins and whiskey. After 155 years of searches, Grand Rapids native Ross Richardson found the wreck in 2010.
Diver and shipwreck enthusiast Richardson found the wreck of the Westmoreland sitting upright on the lakebed, 200 feet under the surface of the bay.
"It is probably one of the most well-preserved shipwrecks from the 1850s on the planet," said Ross Richardson, who found the wreck on July 7, 2010. "It's in amazing condition."
Crewmembers who survived the 19th century sinking of the Westmoreland spread rumors that the ship carried $100,000 in gold coins in her safe and 280 barrels of whiskey in her hold.
For more of the Michigan Live story: mlive.com
Thursday, November 15, 2012
Third conflict exacerbates Portland labor troubles, “strike possible” says port director
Photo credit: Motoya Nakamura/The Oregonian
U.S. October imports drop 4.8 compared year over year
U.S. import rates dropped 4.8 percent in October year-on-year to a total of
1,433,446 TEUs. That’s a 6.8 percent from September 2012, according to trade data experts Zepol Company.
China-to-Mediterranean container rates plunge on Europe debt crisis
“Fundamentals on the Asia-Med are dire and we’re hearing demand is very, very low,” said Richard Ward, an analyst at ICAP, which provides ship broking services. “That’s led to the decline in rates as carriers look to secure what cargo they can.”
Overseas Shipping Group files bankruptcy
Overseas Shipping Group, the largest tanker operator in the U.S., filed for bankruptcy. The fiscal health of the group, which owns 11 tanker vessels that transport oil and natural gas globally, suffered after shipping rates fell and they were unable to secure a federal loan guarantee.
Wooden cargo ship explodes and sinks of UAE coast
A cargo ship foundered off the coast of the United Arab Emirates after fishermen heard a “huge explosion” Monday morning, according to Arabic paper Al Ittihad.
Friday, November 16, 2012
TSA lines postpone Dec. 1 Asia-to-U.S. general rate increase to Dec. 15
Container line members of the Transpacific Stabilization Agreement announced they would postpone the intended rate increase on the Asia-to-U.S. trade route from December 1 to December 15, according to the TSA.
The rescheduling will reunite the various effective dates voluntarily implemented by individual shipping lines, and is timed to better align with end-of-year cargo contract negotiations, TSA said in a statement.
TSA member carriers recommend a dry cargo general rate increase of $400 per-FEU to the U.S. West Coast, and $600 per-FEU for all other destinations, effective December 15. The rate hike is critical "amid flat or declining rate levels in many commodity segments," said the TSA in an October statement, "particularly as lines head into the winter season and begin laying a foundation for negotiation of compensatory 2013-14 service contracts."
Portland port security guards will strike Nov. 25 if contract not reached, dockworkers will not cross picket line
Port of Portland security officers, members of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 28, intend to strike on Nov. 25 if contract talks are not yet resolved. The impact of the 25 workers will stop port business in its tracks, stranding millions of dollars of cargo, because fellow ILWU members will refuse to cross picket lines.
"We will meet with the port tomorrow and if we can't find agreement, we will strike on Sunday, Nov. 25," said ILWU Local 28 Steward David Vale, in an email Thursday to the Oregonian. "We do not want to strike but we want parity with other port employees, and we want to prevent the port from replacing us, which they now threaten to do."
This is another blow to labor relations at Portland terminals, with two other management-labor disputes underway. Contentious contract talks continue between Pacific Northwest grain terminal managers and the ILWU after the contract expired Sept. 30, plus the ILWU is fighting for two reefer maintenance jobs at Terminal 6 that have been assigned to the electrical union.
The strike isn't a certainty, but if it happens Portland's economy could take a big hit. Terminals 6, 2 and 4 would close and freeze the cargo transport at the port, including container goods, auto vessels, soda-ash exports, liquid bulks, other commodities and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredge material.
It's possible an agreement will be reached today with the help of a mediator. However, a successful end to negotiations became less likely when the port filed an unfair-labor-practice complaint against Local 28 on Thursday.
For more of the Oregonian story: oregonlive.com
JaxPort CEO Anderson offered CEO position at Port of Tampa
Paul Anderson, CEO of the Jacksonville Port Authority, was offered the position of executive director and CEO at the Port of Tampa. The Tampa Port Authority board chose him as the best candidate at a meeting on Tuesday after a four-month search, reports the Tampa Bay Times.
"We got the top-notch," said Tampa's port board chairman William "Hoe" Brown. "We got the best of the best."
Anderson is currently negotiating his pay package with the Tampa port, whose former director made about $50,000 less than Anderson's current JaxPort salary of $320,000.
Anderson's pending move is a loss to the city, according to port officials, workers and port customers. Serving as JaxPort's CEO for almost two years, he has proved an effective leader, luring state and federal dollars to the port and creating jobs for the region. For example, Anderson secured $30 million for construction of a railroad yard at Dames Point to ease the cargo transfer between trains and ships, according to First Coast News.
"I think there is no doubt that his contributions have been deep, and many and long lasting, and I do believe the momentum is with us," said Nancy Rubin, JaxPort's director of communications. Jim Citrano, chairman of the JaxPort board, said Anderson is a wonderful guy, and has not yet resigned from JaxPort.
Y. Hirakawa, president of TraPac, said the company is disappointed that Anderson is leaving and urged officials to convince him to stay. The TraPac terminal at JaxPort is key to port expansion plans there, reports the Florida Times-Union.
"We have worked with a number of port executives throughout the United States and internationally, yet Mr. Anderson has proved, at least to us, that he is the most capable," Hirakawa wrote in a letter to City Council members and the JaxPort board.
Anderson also helped repair a relationship in Jacksonville with the local dockworker's union, according to First Coast News.
"I was really disappointed," said Lewis Johnson after hearing the news. Johnson, president of the International Longshoremen Association Local 1408, has been a longshoreman at the port for 30 years. "When Paul came in, he was interested in what could help us and how we could help the port, and we developed a pretty good relationship."
Port of Long Beach cargo volumes surge 8.7 percent in October
The Port of Long Beach saw an 8.7 percent October hike in cargo volumes year- on-year after months of declining numbers.
October imports increased to 276,698 TEUS, a 15.2 percent rise compared to October 2011. October exports rose 12.8 percent year over year to 133,503 TEUs.
"It's better than a year ago and reflects the optimism that importers have about the holiday season," said port spokesman Art Wong.
Wong said some retailers, worrying about the result of labor East Coast labor talks, may have chosen to move their goods through the West Coast ports and that Long Beach received a lift from MSC line, which now calls at the port.
For more of the Long Beach Press-Telegram story: presstelegram.com