Cargo Business Newswire Archives
Summary for November 18 through November 22, 2013:

Monday, November 18, 2013

Top Story

Drewry: Freight rates double on the Asia-Europe trades

The Shanghai-to-Rotterdam freight rate has increased from $1,403 to $ 2,498 per-FEU, more than doubling spot pricing after months of declines, according to last week's World Container Index.

Drewry Maritime Research's weekly World Container Index, which captures freight rates with a contract validity of up to one month, verified that the price increases of $750-$1,000 per-TEU announced by container carriers starting November 1 were largely accepted by the market.

"The recovery in pricing comes at a critical time for ocean carriers, midway through 4th quarter negotiations for 2014 contract rates," said Richard Heath, director of the World Container Index. "Carriers will attempt to use the rally in spot rates as leverage in contract negotiations with shippers."

The recent increase in rates follows a period of low pricing in which the World Container Index's Shanghai-Rotterdam freight rate assessment had fallen more than 55 percent since early August.

The sustainability of current rate levels depends on what steps carriers take to limit capacity hereon," said Martin Dixon, Drewry's research manager of freight rate benchmarking. "With many more ultra large container vessels due to enter service, Drewry warns that a reliance on skipped sailings alone will not prevent rate erosion."

Drewry emphasized that week-to-week increases in rates are less significant than the length of time the increase holds.

Year-to-date average rates for the Asia to Europe trade routes are below the average for 2012. Although this week's GRI has been broadly successful, it has not made up for the rate erosion of the past three months.

Drewry urges shippers to consider adopting index linking as a means to avoid contract default in the current atmosphere of major price volatility.

Evergreen and Hanjin to launch Southeast Asia service

Evergreen Marine and Hanjin Shipping will launch a joint service targeted at the Southeast Asian market, according to an Evergreen statement.

The new Ho Chi Minh service, to begin on Nov. 22, will run with one 2,500-TEU Evergreen ship and three Hanjin vessels.

The service will originate in Kwangyang, South Korea, and stop at Busan in South Korea, Shanghai and Shekou in China, Singapore, and Port Klang, Penang and Tanjung Pelepas in Malaysia.

The route then heads back to Singapore and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam before returning to Kwangyang to finish the 28-day journey.

For more of the Focus Taiwan story:

Oakland port truckers association meets with mayor, air regulators

Mayor Jean Quan and air regulators met with members of the Port of Oakland Truckers Association last week regarding upcoming pollution rules.

Frank Adams, a spokesman for the truckers, said they want grant funds and a yearlong extension of the January 1 emissions deadline. According to air regulations, trucks that work at the port must feature engine models made in 2007 or after, as of the first of the year.

The group also noted most of the trucks currently working the port would still be compliant for the rest of California until 2017.

"What that means is that they can't drive as of January 1st in the port," said Adams. "They can drive a half a mile over here to Downtown Oakland legally. It doesn't make any sense. If it's legal in California until 2017, how come it's not legal to drive these trucks in the port?"

Port spokesman Isaac Kos-Reid said the law has been in the books for five years and about 80 percent of truckers have already switched to the cleaner vehicles.

"Already these regulations have helped us clean up the air by 88 percent from trucks. That's a huge accomplishment for cleaner air and also for communities that are impacted by diesel emissions," he said.

Adams said replacing the trucks could cost between $60,000 to $80,000 and he forecasted that approximately 800 port workers would lose their jobs over the new law.

For more of the CBS Local story:

U.S. Postal Service lightens annual losses to $5B

On Friday the U.S. Postal Service reported a $5 billion net loss for the 2013 fiscal year ending Sept. 30, a meaningful improvement over 2012's record $15.9 billion loss.

Mail volume and revenue are in decline as U.S. consumers increasingly turn to electronic forms of communication, but online shopping deliveries are offsetting some losses.

Total mail volume was 158.4 billion pieces, down from 159.9 billion pieces in FY2012. Operating revenue was $66 billion, up from $65.2 billion year-over-year. Over all, operating expenses were $72.1 billion, down from $81 billion last year.

"It's the first growth in revenue since 2008," said Joseph Corbett, CFO at the Postal Service, who said that despite the growth in revenue, this was the agency's seventh consecutive year of net loss. He said the growing loss indicated the need for Congress to pass legislation to overhaul the USPS.

First-class mail, its primary revenue source, is in decline. Total volume dropped to 65 billion pieces for the fiscal year from 68 billion pieces the previous year. Revenue fell 2.4 percent, to $28.1 billion from $28.8 billion, a more gradual decline than the FY2012's 5 percent fall.

Shipping and packaging grew 8 percent to 3.7 billion pieces, and revenue increased to $12.6 billion from $11.5 billion year-over-year.
For more of The New York Times story:

Cargo ship catches fire off coast of Norway

A fire was finally extinguished Sunday on the Danish cargo ship, Britannia Seaways, which was sailing off the coast of Norway, according to officials.

The fire started Saturday in a container on the upper deck of the cargo vessel. The container was carrying fuel, said Bjorn Aamlid, rescue coordinator with the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre of Southern Norway.

The 20 crewmembers, 12 military personnel and 9 firefighters aboard the ship helped to put the fire out.

For more of the CNN story:


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Top Story

Port truck drivers on West Coast protest costs, working conditions

Truckers at three West Coast ports are protesting poor working conditions and low wages as they haul freight to and from container terminals.

Truck drivers from three companies at the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach began a 36-hour strike on Monday, and Port of Oakland truckers have threatened to walk out next week.

The truckers at the ports of L.A. and Long Beach said they are protesting unfair labor practices and wages, alleging that incidences of harassment, intimidation, and other Federal labor law violations triggered the strike.

Striking drivers who work for Green Fleet Systems and American Logistics International in Southern California say they have endured unlawful retaliation as a result of their efforts to organize a union with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Green Fleet says the majority of their drivers don't want to join a union and that the company offers competitive wages and benefits. Green Fleet spokesman Alex Cherin said the organizers are "trying to force their agenda on an industry that time and time again has rejected them."

Truckers at Pacific 9 Transportation say they are classified as "independent contractors" and are demanding recognition as full-time employees.

Port of Oakland truckers have threatened to walk out next week if they don't receive some kind of funding to help them meet new clean air standards that go into effect Jan. 1, according to the Port of Oakland Truckers Association.

Truckers are giving the port until Wednesday to agree to fiscal offsets to help offset the costs of air quality rules that mandate all trucks feature engines made in 2007 or later by the first of the year to meet new emissions standards. A request to the California Air Resources Board by the truckers association to push the deadline back another year was turned down.

Approximately 800 Port of Oakland drivers need assistance to upgrade their vehicles to cleaner standards or could lose their jobs. Older trucks can be used only if they are modified at a reported approximate cost of $80,000.

The truckers' organization wants the port to pay an emissions fee of $50 per load to help mitigate the cost of greening the trucks, plus a $50-an-hour fee after the first two hours a trucker must wait in line at port terminals to pick up a load.

Port of Oakland officials said the truckers were notified of the impending change five years ago, saying that 80 percent of them have already upgraded to the new standard.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan has said she would look into providing city money to truckers who need help.

For more of the CBS Los Angeles story:

For more of the CBS San Francisco story:

Port of Long Beach Harbor Commission in disarray as director search continues

Although the leadership of the Port of Long Beach Harbor Commission is currently in question, the board moved Monday to increase the maximum offer it would make to recruit a new executive director to replace Chris Lytle, who now leads the Port of Oakland.

Commissioners approved a salary resolution that could raise the salary cap for an executive director to $350,000 a year. The increase, meant to make the port more attractive to candidates who may be considering other ports, will now go to the city council for final approval. Former ED Chis Lytle's salary at Long Beach was $275K, and after his shift to Oakland his salary jumped to $325K.

The board on Monday asked staff provide a draft request for proposals for an executive search firm and an updated job description at the next board meeting on Dec. 6.

Many commissioners are reportedly reluctant to move on the executive director position until the commission gets its own house in order. Mayor Bob Foster is pushing to remove Board President Thomas Fields from his post, saying he has lost confidence in Fields and questions his travel expenses. Fields says his travel is justified and said Foster wants him removed because they disagree on port issues.

The decision on whether or not to remove Thomas Fields as board president will go before the City Council on Tuesday, Nov. 19. A two-thirds vote of the nine-member council is required to approve Foster's request.

Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske said she was shocked by the recommendation.

"It's publicly embarrassing to the Harbor Commission and to the Port of Long Beach," Schipske said.

The move has left some in the industry asking questions.

"Why is the mayor doing this?" said John McLaurin, president of Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, which represents shippers and marine terminal operators. "He is decimating the leadership at the Port of Long Beach, which is the economic engine of the city."

Some members of the Harbor Commission think the executive director recruitment should be postponed until the leadership issue is resolved.

"We need to build up trust and confidence as well as show our stability before I go forward with any selection," said Nick Sramek, vice president of the harbor board, of the executive director search. "I can't see us recruiting anybody worthy of heading up this port while we're in this state of disarray."

"We should make some statement to our willingness to move forward today," said Commissioner Rich Dines, "and I agree with the vice president that this board is not in a position to move forward in the selection process of an executive director today."

For more of the Press-Telegram story:

CBRE: Demand for extra large warehouse space increases

According to the latest research from CBRE, online retail has triggered an increase in demand for extra large warehouses of more that 164,000 square feet.

Factors driving the demand for expanded space include growth in the number of product lines and order complexity, customer demand for faster delivery times, and the need for flexibility to cope with demand variability.

These are particularly significant for supply chains that support online retail outlets.

In the major European markets, take-up of extra large warehouses rose to over 8.2 million square feet in 2012 and is running at a similar level in the first half of 2013.

"We are undoubtedly seeing growth in demand for XXL warehouses arising from supply chain reconfiguration and the consolidation of operations into fewer, larger centralized hubs," said Amaury Gariel, head of EMEA Industrial and Logistics at CBRE. "These hubs supply a large hinterland area more cost-effectively than might be possible from traditional networks."

CBRE said investor demand for larger industrial property schemes is also growing strongly in Asia Pacific and the Americas, where institutional investors regard this type of asset as an opportunity to deploy capital on a scale that would otherwise involve multiple acquisitions.

The retail sector, including online retail, accounted for more than two-thirds of take-up in XXL warehouses from 2010-2013.

For more of the Property Magazine story:

Cargo volume up at Port of Long Beach, down at Port of Los Angeles

Coming off the peak holiday shipping season, the Port of Long Beach had a surge in cargo volume in October compared to a year ago, and Port of Los Angeles cargo handling dropped in line with its loss of market share to Long Beach.

Terminals at the Port of Long Beach moved 576,502 TEUs in October, an 8.7 percent hike year-over year. Imports jumped 7.8 percent at 298,271 TEUs and exports increased 6 percent at 141,457 TEUs.

The Port of Los Angeles handled 684,207 TEUs in October, a 4.76 percent drop when compared to October 2012. Imports fell 5.14 percent to 346,137 TEUs and exports decreased 5.7 percent to 169,568 TEUs.

Last year, Mediterranean Shipping Co. shifted from Los Angeles to Long Beach, and shipping lines OOCL, MSC and CMA CGM all expanded their business in Long Beach.

The Los Angeles port has been working on measures to help bolster its market share, including exploring port industrial and economic development, and last week its Board of Harbor Commissioners approved the Ocean Common Carrier Incentive Program, which will award shipping lines with more money for every additional container it ships through the port in 2014.

For more of the Press-Telegram story:

U.S. Navy hospital vessel being prepared to help typhoon survivors

The Navy is readying the hospital ship USNS Mercy to travel to the Philippines as part of U.S. disaster relief response to Super Typhoon Haiyan, according to a Navy statement. The Mercy has the capacity to simultaneously treat hundreds of patients.

"If ordered to deploy, Mercy would get underway in the next several days and could arrive in the Philippines sometime in December, joining other U.S. Pacific Fleet units already supporting Operation Damayan," according to the Pacific Fleet statement.

If given the order to deploy it would arrive in the region sometime in December, according to the Navy. The 69,000-ton ship would carry a crew of civilian mariners and more than a 1,000 military medical personnel.

At least 580,000 people have been displaced following the landfall of Haiyan near the islands of Samar and Leyte.

For more of the Reuters story:


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Top Story

Long Beach City Council removes harbor commission president Thomas Fields

Thomas Fields, president of the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners, was removed from office last night after the City Council voted 6-3 to confirm Mayor Bob Foster's recommendation to oust Fields, who has been criticized for his port-related travel expenses.

Foster said the former board president showed an unwillingness to "harmonize" the interests of the city with the port on security, the relocation of the port's headquarters, and other subjects.

"The loss of confidence is not simply a recent event but an accumulation of issues over the last three years," Foster said.

"Every decision I have made as a member of the commission has been based on what is best for the port and this city," Fields said.

The authority of the mayor to remove Fields reflects new powers granted to the office by voters in 2007. Previously, the mayor could ask to remove a commission member only for serious cause such as incompetence and malfeasance.

A line of supporters spoke in favor of Fields for an hour before the vote. Councilman Al Austin, who voted no, said removing Fields "without just cause" felt like an injustice.
Frank J. Capo, senior vice president and CCO of Total Terminals International, said Fields' removal would be "yet another mark against the city and the port, once again illustrating the instability at the port in the eyes of the transportation industry."

Fields has said he was sometimes asked to travel by other commissioners who could not make the trips, and said his trips attract business to the port. He said he has not had a "single blemish" on his record spanning 15 years of public service, and asked council members to delay a decision until January to see the results of an audit on harbor commissioner travel.

According to public documents, Fields spent $77,196.37 on eight overseas trips between Oct. 29, 2011 and June 1 of 2013. Commissioner Susan Anderson Wise spent $34,279.91 on four trips, Nick Sramek spent $40,154.36 on four trips, Doug Drummond spent $33,297.35 on five trips and Rich Dines spent the lowest with $32,620.23 on five trips during the same period.

Just prior to the council meeting, Foster met with Fields and asked him to resign. Fields refused.

"I told him that if I resigned, it validates all the smears that are out there ... I'm not going to validate them."

John McLaurin, president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, told the Press-Telegram that Foster intends to appoint a new harbor commissioner to replace Fields on Wednesday.

For more of the Press-Telegram story:

U.S. beef exports up, pork exports down

U.S. beef exports in September remained higher than 2012 levels, as U.S. pork exports faced more challenges, including restrictions in Russia and a downturn in the Japan market, according to USDA data compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

The volume of U.S. beef exports increased by nearly 5 percent in September, and are up 1 percent for the year, driven by a surge in demand, according to the UMEF. U.S. beef exports were 37 percent higher to Japan, 65 percent higher to Mexico and 102 percent higher to Hong Kong.

The value of the exports increased by 16 percent to Japan, 56 percent to Mexico, 182 percent to Hong Kong and more than 41 percent to South Korea, driving the value of U.S. beef exports up 14 percent for September, according to the USDA data. This puts them 10 percent ahead of the 2012 pace that set a record of $5.51 billion.

U.S. pork exports continued to be plagued by access restrictions to Russia and a very competitive market in Japan continued to keep pork exports down 5 percent in value and more than 9 percent in volume for the month and 5 percent in both categories for the year.

"On the beef side, the industry aggressively pursued the opportunities available for U.S. product when market access was expanded in Japan and Hong Kong, and we are seeing exciting growth in both those markets," said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. "On the pork side, we are continuing to face challenges from strong competition in Japan that is driving down our market share, and access issues with Russia continue to hamper our industry, both in pork and beef."

Price of terminal renovation doubles at Port of L.A.

The cost of the TraPac terminal upgrade at the Port of Los Angeles is more than twice what it was when the City Council approved it in 2009, due to design changes that were not approved by the city council. Legal questions have been raised about whether port officials should have sought approval for project changes from the harbor commission and council.

The construction budget for the 173-acre terminal development has risen to $510 million, up from the original $245-million estimated cost, according to a new report by city budget analysts.

The latest increase in the project's budget has been estimated at $145 million. Lawmakers will also review an amendment to a lease agreement with TraPac, the company that will operate the container terminal, which reflects the revised improvements. Over the 30-year term of the lease, the port will receive an estimated $2.3 billion in revenue from the deal.

A review of the TraPac project was requested by the harbor department this year and was conducted by city analyst Fernando Campos. Campos reportedly concluded that the port failed to make an "optimal" deal with TraPac — one that would have required the company to be responsible for a larger share of the improvement costs.

A spokesman for Mayor Eric Garcetti said the overruns were "unacceptable" and pledged that new leadership at the port would require outside experts to review large-scale projects. He declined to say whether the recently announced departure of the port's top executive, Geraldine Knatz, was connected to the container terminal project.

Under the original project plan approved in 2009, the port would redevelop the wharves, expand the terminal's size and construct new buildings.

But TraPac and port officials soon changed the scope of the project, choosing to install rail-mounted automated cranes instead of using cranes with rubber wheels, records show. Port officials received a proposed amendment to the TraPac lease agreement from the city's lawyers reflecting the changes in August 2010 and a report to the commission on the project changes also was prepared. But neither was submitted for more than three years, according to the draft of Campos' analysis.

On Monday, port spokesman Phillip Sanfield, acknowledged the project and lease agreement changes should have been presented sooner to decision makers. "Measures will be put in place to make sure this does not happen again."

For more of the Los Angeles Times story:

Hampton Roads container volume up 17.8 percent

Hampton Roads handled 206,597 TEUs in October, up 17.8 percent year-over-year and breaking a container volume record set in July, according to the Virginia Port Authority.

Container imports grew nearly 25 percent in October, and exports were up 12 percent from a year earlier.

It was the port's second-best month on record in terms of total rail containers moved at 39,448, a 19.4 percent increase over October 2012.

Port spokesman Joe Harris said the uptick in volume reflected retailers preparing for the upcoming holidays.

"It's the absolute thick of the peak season," Harris said. "October is it."

Port of Long Beach repeals container infrastructure fee

This week, harbor commissioners at the Port of Long Beach unanimously repealed a long-postponed container fee that was put in place to help pay for port infrastructure projects.

Canceling the fee, which was scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1, puts the port in a better competitive position, according to board members.

The Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles first approved the Infrastructure Cargo Fee in January 2008, agreeing to charge shipping lines $15 per container unit starting Jan. 1, 2009. Due to the subsequent economic downturn, the fee was never collected and has been delayed ever since.

The Port of Los Angeles commissioners repealed the fee in September 2013.

For more of the Press-Telegram story:

China refuses U.S. GMO corn shipment

China rejected a shipment of U.S. corn because it contained a genetically modified strain that is not approved for import, according to a trade source that spoke to Reuters.

The source said the cargo included Syngenta AG's Agrisure Viptera corn, also called MIR 162.

"It's confirmed," said the source, who requested not to be identified by name. "It's one cargo and MIR 162 was the problem."

The U.S. is the world's top corn source, exporting between 10 and 20 percent of its harvest each year.

For more of the Reuters story:


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Top Story

Asia-U.S. shipping lines plan to proceed with phased Dec-Jan rate increase

Container carriers engaged in the eastbound Asia- U.S. trade lanes want to take advantage of the demand for late holiday shipments in December as well as the pre-Lunar New Year period in January with the intention to implement a two-stage freight rate increase, according to a statement from the Transpacific Stabilization Agreement forum.

TSA container lines recommend two across-the-board increases—one $200 per-FEU hike on December 20, 2013 and another $300 per-FEU jump to be effective January 15, 2014.

With freight rate levels still well below sustainable levels on the trade route after the successful November 15 increase, TSA shipping lines say they must take full advantage of any periods of strong demand in order to build a healthier baseline for 2014 contract negotiations.

"The central truth in this market is that every carrier is operating at a loss," said TSA executive administrator Brian Conrad. "Some may achieve net profit from cost cutting, but the revenue line in each case is lower, and that has long-term service implications for customers."

Conrad acknowledged the difficulty of raising rates in a highly competitive market, but notes that stress on carriers from capital markets and parent companies to improve profits are starting to surpass supply-demand considerations.

"There is an unrealistic perception that we have a huge capacity gap from Asia to the U.S. and therefore that rates charged in the short term transactional market, should serve as benchmarks for the entire trade in 12-month contracts," Conrad said. "This thinking devalues the service provided, ignores rising fuel, equipment and operating costs, and has now begun to affect the ability of container lines to access capital markets and even government support for the future."

Hampton Roads, with record cargo volume, posts $4.8M operating loss

Although Hampton Roads was fastest-growing container port on the East Coast in 2012 and hit an all-time container volume high last month, it reported an operating loss of $4.8 million for the first four months of its new fiscal year.

"Human beings make mistakes," said Rodney Oliver, the authority's interim executive director, when asked how the multimillion-dollar loss occurred after the port had forecast a $1.7 million operating profit.

Oliver and other port officials said budgeting errors, some large one-time expenses, and discounts to shippers that grow with increases in container volume were all factors in operating loss.

Oliver said the biggest factor was a $2.7 million under-calculation of the rent due to APM Terminals for use of its Portsmouth facility. Other costs that contributed to the budget variance included $750,000 to KPMG, which audited Virginia International Terminals Inc., the Port Authority's operating arm; $350,000 for "Project Insight," a confidential boardroom strategic initiative; and $100,000 for the recently concluded search for an executive director.

The Virginia port's success in luring rail-shipped containers, which last month were up nearly 20 percent compared with October 2012, has been particularly tough on the budget. To steal rail business away from other ports, Virginia officials have offered volume discounts, which grow for customers as the volume increases.
According to Oliver, the port still has positive net income, after all of its costs and revenue streams, including state funding, are sorted out.

For more of the Virginia-Pilot story:

Study: Washington state maritime industry worth $30B

The maritime industry was worth $30 billion to Washington state's economy in 2012, according to the Washington State Maritime Cluster Economic Impact Study.

In addition to the $30 billion in direct, indirect and induced revenues in 2012, the maritime industry is responsible for more than 148,000 jobs, the study reports. Maritime wages in general are greater than the state median wage of $51,000, averaging $70,800 per year. The industry, as a whole, paid nearly $4 billion in wages in 2012.

"We've long known that the maritime sector is a vital component to the economic strength of the region, but without current and comprehensive data, it was difficult to convey that to the community and prospective businesses in a meaningful way," said Jeff Marcell, president and CEO of the Economic Development Council of Seattle and King County, in a statement.

The maritime jobs are located in five sectors: passenger water transportation; boat and ship building, repair, and maintenance; maritime logistics and shipping; fishing and seafood products; and maritime support services. Fishing and Seafood Processing accounted for nearly 60% of the industry's revenues, with Maritime Logistics and Shipping accounting for another 25%.

The study was conducted Seattle-based research firm Community Attributes conducted interviews with more than 35 regional leaders in the maritime sector, and sought to quantify the impact of the maritime industry across Washington State. The Economic Development Council of Seattle and King County and the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County commissioned the study, with support from the Puget Sound Regional Council.

Retailers set new standards for Bangladesh factories

North American and European retailers announced upgrades to fire and safety inspection standards for up to 2,000 factories in Bangladesh that source big retailers as Gap, Wal-Mart and H&M.

The groups agreed to streamline standards for inspector qualifications and monitoring requirements, but conflict between them is high, with both entities disagreeing on how to finance safety improvements.

European retailers have agreed to finance fire and safety reforms for buildings that do not meet requirements, while the North American group, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, promised $100 million in loans to factory owners to finance safety upgrades.

"The reason garment factories continue to be unsafe is not for a lack of common standards," said Theresa Haas, a spokeswoman for the Worker Rights Consortium, a labor rights group that is a member of the European-led Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. "It is because the monitoring visits carried out by brands were not conducted by competent engineers, not done in manner that is transparent, and did not include any commitment by brands and retailer to finance repairs."

"It's up to the factory owner to decide if they want to remediate. We can't force them to make these changes," said Jeffrey Krilla, president of the American-led alliance, who called the agreement a huge step forward.

Individual retailers can voluntarily remove their business from factories that do not meet safety requirements.

Bangladesh garment factories and the working conditions they provide have been scrutinized since the April collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex killed more than 1,100 garment workers and a November 2012 fire at the Tazreen factory killed 112 workers.

Great Lakes shipping up but recession lingers

October cargo on the Great Lakes was up more than 14 percent year-over-year, but the increase mainly reflects 2012's dismal shipping volume due to Hurricane Sandy.

"We do have to be honest about this," said Glen Nekvasil, vice president of the Lake Carriers' Association. "A year ago, the fleet went to anchor for almost 2,000 hours because of the storms after Hurricane Sandy. So, it's a bit of an invalid comparison. We lost an awful lot of time a year ago, compared to this year."

Great Lakes freighters carried 9.8 million tons of dry, bulk cargo in October, up 14.4 percent from the same period last year. Iron ore shipments increased almost 16 percent and limestone shipments surged 20 percent.

Nekvasil says, discounting the Sandy hit in 2012, it looks like this shipping season will be similar to last year for U.S. lake freighters, but they're still feeling the recession of 2008. "So, we have six vessels that have not operated this year," Nekvasil said. "That tells you that we have not fully recovered from the recession."

For more of the Wisconsin Public Radio story:

Canadian feds require railroads to notify cities of dangerous cargo passing through

The Canadian government is requiring rail companies to inform municipalities when they transport dangerous goods through their communities.

Transport Minister Lisa Raitt has issued this "protective direction" to promote better communication with rail companies and improved safety for municipalities.

The order is effective immediately, and will require that Canadian Class 1 railway companies that transport dangerous goods provide municipalities with detailed dangerous goods information every three months.

The directive responds to the fatal July 6 derailment and explosion in Lac-Megantic, which killed dozens of people and decimated the center of the picturesque Quebec town.

For more of the National Post story:

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