Cargo Business Newswire Archives
Summary for November 26 - November 30, 2012:

Monday, November 26, 2012

Top Story

Big holiday weekend for retailers, spending jumps 13 percent

Consumer spending over the long Thanksgiving weekend rose 13 percent, according to the National Retail Federation, with retailers hoping to sustain gains into this week. Spending in stores and online totaled $59.1 billion over the four days.

"What was Cyber Monday is now Cyber Weekend," said Poonam Goyal, a Bloomberg Industries analyst, to Bloomberg in a phone interview. "It is no longer a one-day event. Year over year, Black Friday sales were strong and margins should have also been strong."

Individuals spent $423 on average this weekend, an increase of 6.3 percent year-on-year, NRF said.

Black Friday online sales rose 26 percent to more than $1 billion for the first time ever, said research firm ComScore Inc. Online sales rose 16 percent in the first 23 days of November to $13.7 billion, and on Thanksgiving Day increased 32 percent to $633 million.

The NRF predicts holiday sales, including online, will rise 4.1 percent to about $586.1 billion for 2012, compared with a 5.6 percent gain in 2011. However, the organization said it might change its holiday forecast once it is known whether the government will be able to avoid the "fiscal cliff" of tax hikes and budget cuts in 2013.

A turnaround in the U.S. housing and the job market, along with a decrease of household debt, has led more customers to say they'll spend more over this holiday, according to a recent survey by the Credit Union National Association and the Consumer Federation of America. Twelve percent of polled participants said they would buy more, the highest level since 2007.

For more of the Bloomberg story:

Port of Portland strike avoided, security officers sign new contract

Due to last minute contract talks mediated by Oregon's top mediator, the Port of Portland avoided a strike of union security guards on Sunday that could have shut down all three terminals and turned shipping lines off the port permanently.

After 17 months of negotiations, the 25-member security force and port officials agreed on a new contract that guarantees work for the security workers through June 30, 2015, regardless of changes in agreements with Terminal 2, 4 and 6 lessees.

"We're relieved," said David Vale, one of the officers and the steward for Local 28 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. "The Port was remarkably open to getting this settled."

"The goal throughout the negotiations was to ensure a fair contract for our workers and minimize impacts to our customers," said Bill Wyatt, Port of Portland's executive director. "Our job is to make it as easy as possible for shipping lines to call here and for area businesses to get products to market. If something like a labor dispute complicates calling here, shipping lines may choose to eliminate their Portland calls and then it is very difficult to get them back."

Oregon's state conciliator Bob Nightingale, brought in by Gov. John Kitzhaber to fix the disagreement, put the two teams in separate rooms at port headquarters, alternating between them until he brokered the agreement.

"That's the way I usually work," Nightingale said. "Emotions get pretty high."

Another contract dispute that could also have dangerous repercussions for the port is between Northwest Grain Terminal managers and longshoremen, who are considering a "final" contract offer that expires Wednesday. A lockout or strike at Portland could result if the terms are not accepted.

For more of the Oregon Live story:

Shenzhen to unseat Hong Kong as #3 busiest port in the world

Shenzhen is set to unseat Hong Kong as the world's third-busiest container port this year for the first time.

This comes as total box volumes through Shenzhen's four main facilities have continued to climb despite the downturn in global trade, while Hong Kong's overall volume has decreased.

Hong Kong is set to handle about 23.2 million TEUs in 2012, according to South China Morning Post estimates based on January through October data. Jon Windham, head of the Asian industrials equity research at Barclays, predicts Hong Kong will handle 23.5 million TEUs this year. He forecasts Shenzhen will handle 25 million TEUs.

"Yes, we are losing out," Said Alan Lee Yiu-kwong, head of the Hong Kong Container Terminal Operators Association. He added Shenzhen would definitely beat Hong Kong next year if it failed to do so this year.

Lee said Hong Kong had really already lost the number three ranking because 60 percent of Hong Kong's container volume is transshipment cargo, for which each container is counted twice.

Windham forecast that Shanghai container volume would hit 34.9 million TEUs in 2012, remaining the world's top port, and that Singapore would stay in the number two spot with 31.6 million TEUs.

More questionable use of public funds at Port of Oakland

Documents prove that the maritime director of the Port of Oakland gifted a number of extravagant items to customers of the port, adding up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Watches, perfume, top grade scotch, and five-star meals were just some of the items Maritime Director James Kwon bought in China and Korea at the port's expense, according to receipts examined by and hired experts. Some receipts were for hundreds or even thousands of dollars, they said.

The investigation into the misuse of public funds at the Port of Oakland started when a port business receipt surfaced from 2008 when Kwon and Executive Director Omar Benjamin spent more than $4,500 at a strip club in Houston, supposedly entertaining shipping executives. Omar has since resigned. Kwon is on paid administrative leave.

In an email to KTVU, the attorney for James Kwon said his client did not take part in any "adult entertainment." He said Kwon's expensed charges were examples of the "proper use" of public money in order to attract and maintain international customers such as Evergreen Shipping. Evergreen invested $30 million dollars in new cranes at the port in 2010.

"Somebody's asleep at the wheel to not be keeping track of these expense reports and to not call this out a lot earlier," said Kellie McElhaney, faculty director of the Center for Responsible Business at U.C. Berkeley.

For more of the story:

Crewmember rescued from cargo ship off coast of B.C.

A crewmember was recovering in the hospital on Thanksgiving day after being rescued from a cargo ship 80 miles northwest of Vancouver Island.

A Panamanian-flagged cargo vessel issued a medical distress call Wednesday afternoon.

The medical emergency triggered Search and Rescue 422 Squadron to use a Cormorant helicopter and Buffalo airplane to perform an airlift of the ailing sailor in heavy seas.

For more of the Global BC story:


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Top Story

Trans-Pacific ocean carriers seek to merge into one discussion group

The ocean carrier members of the Transpacific Stabilization Agreement announced they have filed an amendment with the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission that seeks to merge the group's eastbound and westbound factions.

The amendment, if approved by the FMC, would initially be for a 24-month trial period and likely mean the end of the Westbound Transpacific Stabilization Agreement, according to a statement released by the TSA.

Cost cutting and "streamlining the agreements" were primary reasons for the merger, the TSA said.

"The same lines carry the cargo in both directions on the same vessels, as part of their round-trip service rotations," said TSA Executive Administrator Brian Conrad.

"Since they operate their business on round trip basis, it only makes sense to view the two segments as an integrated whole from an Agreement perspective as well," he said.

"Maintaining separate carrier agreements, each with its own meetings, dedicated carrier staff support, compliance requirements and administrative overhead is less justifiable than in the past, especially given the sustained low-revenue environment seen in recent years," the TSA statement said.

Conrad said a single group that covers the shipping lines' roundtrip services represents most of the other major trade lanes with carrier agreements.

ILWU asks grain terminal owners to extend deadline to avoid Thursday lockout

In order to avert a strike or lockout, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union has asked that dock worker contract negotiations be extended past the midnight Wednesday deadline set by Northwest Grain Terminal officials to accept the employers' final offer.

An ILWU representative told the Associated Press that union leaders still feel that talks could progress and requested that the owners of the six grain terminals in Portland, Puget Sound and Vancouver consider additional negotiation dates. Reportedly, the earliest the union could hold a contract vote by the membership is Dec. 21 and 22.

The grain terminal owners did not respond on Monday. But reportedly, it appears the six terminals are preparing for a lockout or strike, possibly by Thursday. Employers have already planned to hire substitute workers to load the grain if either occurs, which would trigger longshoremen to protest by land and by sea, according to the Coast Guard.

Talks have intensified since the union's contract with Grain Terminals expired on September 30. A federal arbiter was brought in, but employers are demanding concessions similar to those accepted early in the year by longshoremen at a Longview, WA terminal, a contract broadly criticized by union membership as being a bad deal for members.

A lockout at the terminals could adversely affect 25 percent of the country's grain exports.

For more of the Oregon Live story:

Mississippi River shippers look to Army Corps for assistance

Companies that ship their goods on the Mississippi River, which has dropped to historically shallow depths, have appealed to the government for help.

On Friday the Army Corps of Engineers started to decrease the outflow from an upper Mississippi reservoir to mitigate drought conditions in that area. Unfortunately, that will lessen the amount of water flowing into the Mississippi River, and might trigger more limits on barge traffic or close the river entirely from St. Louis to Cairo, Illinois.

Businesses and trade organizations have asked the corps to reestablish the flow, and to make the removal of destructive rock formations on the river a priority.

For more of the Bloomberg story:

China-Cosco to offer $1 billion U.S. bond

China-Cosco Holdings, the main arm of China Ocean Shipping, announced it intends to offer a $1 billion, 10-year U.S. dollar bond offer for the general corporate purposes of its offshore units and affiliates.

Cosco Holdings said it would make the Reg S issue with an annual interest rate of 4.00 percent, payable semi-annually. The Reg S category means it doesn't need to be registered with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, but also prevents it from being sold to U.S. investors.

Cosco Holdings is struggling with finances amid the global downturn in the shipping industry. In August, its losses for the first half of the year amounted to the biggest first-half loss since 2005, increasing to $774 million from $443 million in 2011.

If Cosco Holdings experiences a second consecutive annual net loss 2012, it might be put on the Shanghai Stock Exchange "special treatment" list, which marks it as a business with continued losses. If a company reports three straight years of net losses, Shanghai would delist it.

For more of the Wall Street Journal story:

Record cargo traverses North Sea route in 2012

A record amount of cargo was shipped through the Arctic shortcut between Europe and Asia this season, according to the Barents Observer.

The navigational season on the North Sea route is winding to a close, and there has been a tenfold increase in traffic in just two years. So far this year, 46 ships have sailed the route, compared with 34 vessels in 2011 and four in 2010.

The total cargo that traversed the route in 2012 was 1,261,545 tons, a 53 percent increase from 2011. A total of 894,079 tons of diesel fuel, gas condensate, jet fuel, LNG and other petrol products were transported on 26 vessels in 2012.

Eighteen tankers sailed west to east, eight sailed east to west.

For more of the Oil and Gas Eurasia story:

Injured man airlifted from container ship

An injured man who was winched from a container ship by rescuers off the coast of Australia was recovering from surgery at the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney on Tuesday.

The foreign national, 51, had experienced a chest injury a month before and was incapacitated, unable to get out of bed.

The Special Casualty Access Team received a call for assistance from the ship on Monday and flew by helicopter to render assistance. The medical team had to be winched onto the vessel.

After the SCAT team gave the man anesthetic to help control his breathing, he was strapped to a stretcher and winched to the helicopter. The rescue took two hours.

For more of the story:


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Top Story

Clerical workers strike at Port of Los Angeles

Sixty-seven workers from the Office Clerical Unit of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 set up a picket line outside the APM Terminal at the Port of Los Angeles Tuesday.

An arbitrator ordered the striking dock and clerical workers at the Port of Los Angeles to return to work, but they remained on strike Wednesday morning. The arbitrator ruled Tuesday night that the clerical workers had "failed to bargain in good faith" and that the picket lines are invalid, according to a press release from the Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Employers Association.

"I don't think the operative part of this ruling is whether or not the clerical workers have to return to work, but whether the longshore workers have a basis for respecting the picket line," said ILWU spokesman Craig Merrilees to the Long Beach Business Journal Wednesday. Either way, he said, "the workers don't feel (the arbitrator's) ruling is valid."

The HEA reports that will try to use contractual grievance procedures to force the striking workers "to honor the arbitrator's award and return to work."

The strike is a result of failed contract talks between the clerical worker's union, represented by the ILWU, and terminal operators at the ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach represented by the Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Employers Association. The office workers are responsible for much of the paperwork involved in the loading and unloading of cargo at the ports, which are the top two container ports in the country. Their contract expired June 30, 2012.

The APM terminal was the only location impacted Tuesday by the demonstrating workers. All other terminals at both ports were able to operate normally.

The Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Employers Association said in a statement that it has offered the union "absolute job security" and generous increases in pay and benefits. The statement also accused the union of "'featherbedding," which is the practice of mandating managers to call in temporary employees and hire new permanent employees even when there is no work to perform.

Union officials say the major sticking point is the fear that management is trying to outsource jobs to nonunion labor.

"We've been meeting with the companies for more than two years, but they're still concealing their outsourcing -- even when they've been caught red-handed," said Local 63 Office Clerical Unit President John Fageaux.

"Not one OCU job has been sent overseas, or anywhere else," said the management group in the statement. They asserted all the union's claims that 51 jobs have been outsourced have no merit.

"We know both sides understand the critical importance of keeping cargo moving through the San Pedro Bay port complex," said Phillip Sanfield on behalf of the Port of Los Angeles. "We urge them to work diligently toward finding a mutually agreeable solution."

For more of the Los Angeles Times story:

Port commissioner puts off budget measure to add personal assistants

Port of Seattle Commissioner Rob Holland has tabled his proposal to allow commissioners to hire interns as personal assistants.

Although Holland said he planned would submit his proposal formally at the port's meeting Tuesday, Holland withdrew the budget amendment he had planned to introduce last-minute.

He said he still supports the idea of giving all five commissioners the ability to hire their own graduate level interns to help answer e-mail and phone calls, summarize meetings and do research, but that it needs further discussion before formal consideration.

It's possible Holland may not have had enough votes to pass the 2013 port budget amendment, according to the Seattle Times, since. Commissioners Bill Bryant and Gael Tarleton had expressed opposition to the idea.

Tarleton reportedly has called Holland's proposal "half-baked" and said it undercuts the port's current internship program by hiring what she said would really be personal assistants.

Each of the elected, part-time commissioners makes less than $19,000 a year, plus gas mileage and health insurance. They share six employees: a chief of staff, a policy analyst, two administrative assistants and two record-keepers

Holland got his start as an intern for the Port of Tacoma.

For more of the Seattle Times stories: and

Report: Global shipbuilders face gloomy forecast

According to a new report, global shipbuilding is facing a difficult future as the global economic downturn and ramifications of long-term vessel overcapacity catch up to the newbuild industry.

Shipbuilding remained at record high rates in 2010 and 2011, hitting 50 million compensated gross tons (CGT), and 2012 predictions indicate it will remain close to 2011 levels, according to a new report from Drewry, "World Shipbuilding Annual Review and Forecast."

However, moving forward, contracts for new ship builds are reducing sharply due to the lessened workload, dropping to extremely low levels beyond 2014, the report said.

Drewry said over-tonnaging and operating inefficiencies have hidden the extent and impact of fleet underutilization. Since most current ship contracts are for bulk carriers and containerships, hardest hit in terms of overcapacity and hence plunging cargo rates, the report notes ship-owners have badly miscalculated in their ordering practices, overshooting market demand for "quite some time."

The report said it "seems almost inevitable that new ordering levels will remain low for some time to come," since supply will out-meet demand for the foreseeable future and financing will be hard to come by. Ship builders will have to "fight for survival" by procuring an adequate slice of the limited new ordering that will be available in the next two years, Drewry said.

Northwest Grain contract expires tonight, says Oregonian.

Thursday strike/lockout looms at Northwest Grain terminals

A strike or lockout by longshore workers looms as management at Northwest Grain terminals pressures the ILWU to accept its final contract offer by midnight.

The "last, best and final offer" was obtained by The Oregonian, which reports that the deal heavily favors the owners of the terminals that handle 25 percent of the country's grain exports.

Provisions dear to the union, such as paying dock workers for 30 minutes for working six minutes into an hour and grievance procedures for workers who oppose equipment modernization, are not included in the offer.

The Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association could just impose the contract, prompting a dockworker strike supported by the full weight of the ILWU membership.

And although the union may still capitulate or talks may be extended, if the ILWU rejects the deal longshoremen could be locked out of the six grain terminals in Portland, Vancouver and Puget Sound. And The Oregonian reports a strikebreaking company based in Delaware, which provides security officers and substitute workers in case of a lockout, has been working with the owners for months.

A disruption in the shipment of U.S. wheat, corn and soybean exports would have an impact on growers that would ripple across the country, causing considerable economic hardship.

For more of the Oregonian story:

33 asylum seekers drown on the way to Christmas Island

33 asylum seekers drowned on their way to Christmas Island in Australia in a boat tragedy that may have gone unreported but for the sole survivor.

Habib Ullah, 22, told Fairfax Media how he survived three days in the ocean watching his shipmates, ethnic Hazara men from Afghanistan and Pakistan, drown one by one.

Ullah said he paid $5,500 to a people smuggler known as Sikander, based on talk among refugees in Indonesia that ''he succeeded in taking many boats'' to Australia.

The vessel sailed towards Christmas Island the morning of October 26, but the engine and all the pumps stopped after 13 hours and the ship phone didn't work. About 2:00 a.m. the next day, the boat sank ''in two or three minutes.''

On the verge of death, Ullah was picked up by a passing Indonesian fishing boat and brought to Jakarta.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority and Indonesian rescue agency Basarnas say that they have no record of the vessel. However, concerned relatives from Australia, Pakistan and Afghanistan, have clamored to talk to Ullah to get details about missing loved ones.

For more of the Brisbane Times story:


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Top Story

Office worker strike shuts down ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach

The clerical workers of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach expanded their strike Wednesday, effectively shutting down the number one port complex in the U.S. The 10,000 ILWU dock workers who work at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports honored the strike, declining to cross the "lightly manned" picket lines, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The National Retail Federation today asked President Obama to immediately get involved in the stalled contract negotiations, citing the 10-day 2002 West Coast ports lockout, which cost the nation's economy $1 billion a day.

"A prolonged strike at the nation's largest ports would have a devastating impact on the U.S. economy," read the letter from NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay to Obama. "We call upon you to use all means necessary to get the two sides back to the negotiating table."

The strike is the largest work stoppage at the ports in ten years, according to Reuters.

The Office Clerical Unit of ILWU Local 63 broadened its picketing to seven of the eight container terminals at the Port of Los Angeles.

"You are stranding goods at ports that handle 40 percent of the nation's import trade," said Jock O'Connell, an international trade economist, to the LA Times.

The workers also protested at three of the six terminals at the Port of Long Beach, which is the second busiest container port in the U.S., second only to Los Angeles in container cargo volume.

In a statement issued by ILWU Tuesday, logistics clerk Trinie Thompson said the workers were "drawing the line against corporate greed and outsourcing that's destroying the good-paying jobs that support working families in our community." The clerks say the Harbor Employers Association wants to outsource jobs they currently handle to nonunion labor in foreign countries with low wages.

But the employers insist they have not outsourced any clerical jobs. The management group said its final contract offer provided the port's clerical workers with "absolute job security" and generous wage and pension increases.

On Wednesday, the management group said the union "shows an irresponsible willingness to jeopardize port operations and thousands of jobs in the Los Angeles area."

"I stand in solidarity with the hard-working clerical workers, most of whom are women, of the ILWU Local 63's Office Clerical Unit, who are striking today to prevent their jobs from being sent overseas," Congresswoman Janice Hahn (D-San Pedro) said in a statement. "These workers have been bargaining in good faith for over two years, and I urge a fair resolution that keeps these good-paying jobs" at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Stephen Berry, top negotiator for port management, told Reuters if the strike continues, "the negative effects on jobs and the economy will be felt nationwide."

For more of the Los Angeles Times story:

Matson raises rates for Hawaii service

Matson, a leading U.S. shipping line in the Pacific, said yesterday it will raise rates for its Hawaii service by $175 per westbound container and $85 per eastbound container, effective January 1, 2013.

Matson will raise terminal handling charges by $50 per westbound container and $25 per eastbound container, also effective January 1, 2013.

Matson estimates the combined increase will result in shipping costs rising by an average of 5.6 percent.

"This rate increase will help offset rises in operating costs and support ongoing investments in our Hawaii service," said Dave Hoppes, senior vice president, ocean services.

China ports' cargo volume in October rises 8.3 percent year over year

China's state ports handled 850 million tons of cargo in October, an increase of 8.3 percent over the same time frame in 2011.

Coastal ports moved 570 million tons, and inland ports moved 280 million tons. From January to October, the cargo throughput for all ports was 806 million tons, a jump of 6.7 percent.

Since the Chinese economy got a boost from government stimulus funds in August, bulk goods, oil and foreign trade have rebounded. Cargo throughput increased by 16.54 million tons, increasing by 2 percent compared to September data.

In October, imports increased by 2.4 percent, the same rate as September.

For more of the Morning Whistle story:

Shipping may shut down upriver, says Port of Memphis

Barge service for Memphis businesses and utilities that depend on it to travel to and from upriver ports may soon be disrupted, depending on how the Missouri River is managed during this dry period, the Memphis-Shelby County Port Commission was informed Wednesday.

Randy Richardson, Port of Memphis executive director, said commercial navigation on the Mississippi between St. Louis and Cairo, Illinois, could be stopped for three months if routine yearly plans are followed that involve sending Missouri River basin water to Midwestern reservoirs rather than allowing it to flow through the Missouri into the Mississippi. November rain usually increases river depth, but not this year, he said.

"It's a water war," Richardson asserts, that puts recreational and environmental interests in the Missouri basins in opposition to commercial shipping along the Mississippi. Concerning the water that flows by Memphis, he added, 40 percent comes from the Ohio River and 60 percent from the Missouri and Upper Mississippi basins.

The Memphis port will stay open and the lower Mississippi will remain passable, but no freight would be able to move north of Cairo.

The Army Corps of Engineers is considering getting rid of some rock from the riverbed between St. Louis and Cairo in an effort to keep the section navigable regardless of how the Missouri water is managed.

For more of The Commercial Appeal story:

Eleven dead when Chinese fishing boat founders

A fishing boat sank off the coast of Dalian in China on Wednesday. Eleven died and five are missing, according to maritime authorities.

The rescue efforts saved a sole survivor, who was taken to a hospital in Liaoning province.

The boat foundered in the early hours of Wednesday in rough waters during an attempt to hook the boat to a larger ship.

For more of the Fox News story:


Friday, November 30, 2012

Top Story

Office worker strike at L.A.-LB ports enters third day; costs est. at $1 bil per day

Contract talks resumed Thursday between the striking Office Clerical Unit of ILWU Local 63 and the Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Employers Association after the strike virtually shut down the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach this week. Talks are expected to continue Friday.

Stephen Berry, lead negotiator for the Harbor Employers Association, said he wrote a letter to the ILWU president Thursday to ask him back to the negotiating table without preconditions, according to the AP.

ILWU spokesman Craig Merrilees confirmed a meeting would take place Thursday to discuss the two-and-a-half year contract dispute, AP reported.

The clerical workers of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach continued their third day of protests at the two ports on Thursday, supported by longshoremen who won't cross the picket lines. The cost of the strike is estimated at $1 billion a day.

ILWU spokesman Craig Merrilees said of the 14 terminal operators working at the ports, two of them—Stevedoring Services of America and Pasha Stevedoring & Terminals—had signed contracts with the union. Their facilities are open. When asked how long the strike would continue, he said: "It will go on until the companies honestly face the issue of outsourcing and keep good jobs at home."

"The City of Los Angeles needs both of you to get back to the bargaining table this week, to work with a mediator, and to hammer out a settlement before further harm is done to our local economy," Los Angeles Mayo Antonio Villaraigosa said in a letter to the ILWU and the Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Employers Association. "There is no time to waste."

Geraldine Knatz, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles issued a statement yesterday urging the two sides to return to negotiations. "We are starting to see ships divert to other ports, including to Mexico," she said. "This dispute has impacted not only our port workforce but all stakeholders who ship goods through our complex."

If the strike lasts, ships will start rerouting to Oakland, California, or Seattle ports, impacting railroads, truckers and warehouse operators, said John C. Martin, an economist at Martin Associates. Perishables such as fruits and vegetables might start to rot, and shipping lines will have to spend as much as $70,000 more a day to operate vessels, he said in a telephone interview to Bloomberg.

The National Retail Federation wrote a letter to President Obama yesterday, asking him to help with stalled contract negotiations. "A prolonged strike at the nation's largest ports would have a devastating impact on the U.S. economy," read the letter from NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay to Obama.

The strike is the largest work stoppage at the ports in ten years, according to Reuters.

The Office Clerical Unit of ILWU Local 63 broadened its picketing to seven of the eight container terminals at the Port of Los Angeles.

The workers also protested at three of the six terminals at the Port of Long Beach, which is the second busiest container port in the U.S., second only to Los Angeles in container cargo volume.

The employers insist they have not outsourced any clerical jobs. The management group said its final contract offer provided the port's clerical workers with "absolute job security" and generous wage and pension increases.

On Wednesday, the management group said the union "shows an irresponsible willingness to jeopardize port operations and thousands of jobs in the Los Angeles area."

"I stand in solidarity with the hard-working clerical workers, most of whom are women, of the ILWU Local 63's Office Clerical Unit, who are striking today to prevent their jobs from being sent overseas," Congresswoman Janice Hahn (D-San Pedro) said in a statement. "These workers have been bargaining in good faith for over two years, and I urge a fair resolution that keeps these good-paying jobs" at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Stephen Berry, top negotiator for port management, told Reuters if the strike continues, "the negative effects on jobs and the economy will be felt nationwide."

For more of the Bloomberg and Huffington Post stories: and

Mississippi closure puts jobs, wages and $7 billion in commodities at risk

Further navigational limits or a possible Mississippi River closure to barge traffic in mid-December could cause big economic damage to the region, according to the American Waterways Operators and the Waterways Council Inc.

In a November 27 letter, AWO, WCI, and 16 national organizations sent a letter to the President and FEMA, asking for an emergency declaration to expedite action to keep the Mississippi River open to navigation.

AWO and WCI said that $7 billion in key products such as corn, grain, coal, petroleum, chemicals and other products would be at risk for December and January alone, including agricultural products chemical products, petroleum products, crude oil and coal.

The letter cites how the low water levels that have restricted traffic on the Mississippi have worsened since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has begun the reduction of water to the Mississippi River from reservoirs on the upper Missouri River.

A closure would have an immediate impact on jobs and wages, they said in a joint statement. Louisiana, Illinois and Missouri would be hardest his, with thousands of jobs and tens of millions of dollars in wages at risk.

"This is further evidence that there is a regional economic crisis in the making that necessitates action from the President, and these figures only take into account the months of December and January," said Tom Allegretti, AWO's president and CEO. "Given the number of jobs at stake if commerce on the Mississippi is crippled, and especially given the ripple effect on local economies up and down the river, the Administration cannot afford to remain silent on this critical issue."

Wal-Mart Merced distribution center project moves forward

A lawsuit that tried to block construction of a Wal-Mart distribution center in Merced, California was rejected Thursday by the 5th District Court of Appeal in Fresno.

The city will move the project forward in the near future, according to City Attorney Greg Diaz.

Wal-mart has signaled it will break ground only after all litigation has been resolved. The decision can be appealed to the state Supreme Court, which would then decide whether it wants to hear the case.

The 24-hour distribution center will be a 1.2-million-square-foot facility on a 235-acre site south of Childs Avenue at the northwest corner of Gerard Avenue and Tower Road.

The center will have an estimated 450 trucks moving into and out of the facility daily. The plan includes a 17,000-square-foot truck-maintenance building with two underground oil storage tanks and a fueling station with two 20,000-gallon diesel fuel storage tanks.

For more of the Merced Sun Star story:

Credit Manager's Index rises for November

The Credit Managers' Index (CMI) reading of 55.2 for November is back to the levels seen in August and September, but still shy less than levels reached in February and March (55.8 and 56.2, respectively), according to the National Association of Credit Management.

Sales climbed from 57.4 to 60.4, marking the best sales month since August at 62, NACM said. However, the best improvement in the favorable factors was in dollar collections, improving from 54.6 to 61.3.

"That is an impressive showing by any measure, and suggests that companies are seeing enough improvement in revenues to start catching up on their debt," said Chris Kuehl, PhD, economist for the NACM.

Kuehl noted that the full-point jump in the amount of credit extended indicates more demand from customers than in the past few months.

"As companies begin to get current on their credit, they are often motivated by the need to ask for more credit for expansion," he said. "First they catch up and then they ask for more credit and that appears to be happening again."

The only favorable factor that weakened was new credit applications, which fell from 56.6 to 56.5.

Hazmat cargo derail in N.J., 14 go to hospital

Friday morning, a number of tanker cars derailed on a rail bridge in Paulsboro, New Jersey, falling into a creek. The cause of the derailment is unknown.

Residents in three towns were told to stay inside after the derailment, since one of the train cars was hauling hazmat cargo. The Department of Environmental Protection says the car leaked vinyl chloride as a gas and all of it has since dissipated. Vinyl chloride can cause nausea and trouble with breathing.

Fourteen people went to the hospital with respiratory complaints related to the accident.

For more of the Washington Post story:

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