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Maritime Challenges – Fires, Economic Uncertainty, and “Dark” Tanker Fleets 

cargo ECS Weship tanker

Maritime Challenges – Fires, Economic Uncertainty, and “Dark” Tanker Fleets 

While shipping losses were at a record low in 2022, cargo and hull fires, economic uncertainty, and “dark” tanker fleets are safety challenges on the horizon for the maritime sector. Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS) is a corporate insurance carrier providing risk consultancy and insurance solutions worldwide. The company’s annual Safety & Shipping Review looks at loss trends and risks for the maritime sector and the 2023 version is officially out. 

The most notable headline of the report is the continued decline in shipping losses. Thirty years ago it was common for 200-plus vessels to go missing every year. It has been six years since triple-digit losses have been registered and last year there were fewer than 40. The “loss hotspot,” however, continues to be South China, Indonesia, Indochina, and the Philippines. Congested ports, extreme weather, and older fleets are the primary loss culprits. 

While losses are down, cargo and hull fires are a growing concern. Decarbonization efforts have introduced new types of cargo. Battery-powered goods featuring lithium-ion (Li-ion) are highly flammable and represent a concerning risk for carriers. Electric vehicle (EV) sales are increasing and the overall battery market is expected to grow by 30% annually between now and 2035. 

Decarbonization has also led to larger vessels and carriers seeking greater efficiencies. While larger vessels may prove more efficient, higher container cargo exposure and accumulation have led to more fires. Li-ion battery fires are additionally very difficult to extinguish. An AGCS analysis concluded that fire is the most expensive cause of loss – eating up approximately 18% of the value of the total claims. 

“Dark” tanker fleets, also known as “shadow” or “ghost” fleets, are unregistered tankers that slip through regulatory controls. Oil sanctions, as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, have resulted in Russia and some of its allies to implement dark tanker fleets to transport and sell Russian oil. Energy embargos are difficult to enforce, and according to Tanker Trackers, of the 900 ultra-large tankers at the global level, roughly one-fifth were breaking sanctions with Venezuela, Iran, and Russia. An uninsured dark tanker exploded in Southeast Asia in May killing crew. Tanker explosions result not only in loss of life but also environmentally toxic oil spills.   

Finally, the report is especially concerned with economic uncertainty. The sector is suffering from lower demand and depressed freight rates where shipping a container between Asia and the US in April 2023 costs roughly 80% less than at the same time in 2022. Commodity prices are up as are labor costs, and the price of steel is crippling manufacturing budgets. Between 2020 and 2022 some estimates point to an 18% + increase in ship repair costs alone. 

Inflated prices have been baked into the present figures based on the global inflation figure of 8.8% in 2022. The inflation outlook still remains uncertain adding to some very real challenges over the remaining four months of 2023.    

chapman freeborn

Global aircraft charter specialist Chapman Freeborn Airchartering has appointed NAQEL Express as its exclusive partner in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

NAQEL Express, as well as Chapman Freeborn, are both well-respected companies in the aviation industry. This partnership will enable clients to receive a complete end-to-end solution, delivering an entire range of logistics covering all industries. The collaboration will strengthen both partners’ presence and coverage in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as well as support the Kingdom across multiple industry verticals.

Neil Dursley, Chapman Freeborn Chief Commercial Officer Cargo comments:

“We believe that this new strategic partnership will allow us to grow and develop our offering to our global clients and suppliers. Chapman Freeborn has almost five decades of experience within the air charter industry globally, this new partnership with NAQEL will allow us to service our clients’ needs far more effectively and efficiently, now more than ever.

The combined strength of Chapman Freeborn, its parent company Avia Solutions Group, and NAQEL Express will give existing and new potential clients in the Kingdom a fantastic service offering. Capabilities include access to our family members’ fleets of both passenger and freighter assets globally and in the region.

Chapman Freeborn has decades of experience in the Middle East Region and neighbouring countries and has supported missions in many challenging environments for many years and continues today with innovative solutions to support our clients.”

Michael Harradine, NAQEL Express Director, Global Freight Forwarding Division says:

“NAQEL enables the world to do business in Saudi Arabia with simplicity and transparency. The new partnership with Chapman Freeborn enhances our offerings.

This strategic partnership gives our clients within Saudi Arabia a direct access to the vast cargo air charter, passenger charter, and on-board courier capabilities of Chapman Freeborn.

Now there will be direct control with transparency for the fulfilment of air charter needs of global and local firms in Saudi Arabia.

NAQEL Express is one of a select group of firms operating as Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) for Saudi Customs.

We are also the leading and largest overland express carrier with the largest reach among any express carriers in KSA.

NAQEL is a key player in building transparent connectivity between KSA and its global economic partners, as part of Saudi Arabia’s VISION 2030.

NAQEL is also a committed leader in developing its people by enhancing leadership (Future Leaders Program) and business management skills”.


About Chapman Freeborn:

The Chapman Freeborn group was established in the UK in 1973. The company has offices worldwide including North America, Europe, Africa, Russia, Asia, and Australia. In the cargo market, Chapman Freeborn Airchartering specialises in the charter and lease of aircraft for a wide-ranging customer base, including freight forwarders, multinational corporations, governments, humanitarian agencies, and a host of industries around the globe.

In addition to freight services, Chapman Freeborn offers specialist passenger services including private jet charters for executive travel and large aircraft for crew rotations and international group travel. As well as on-board courier services. Chapman Freeborn is a family member of Avia Solutions Group, a leading global aerospace services group with almost 100 offices and production stations providing aviation services and solutions worldwide.

Avia Solutions Group unites a team of more than 7,000 professionals, providing state-of-the-art solutions to the aviation industry and beyond.

For more information, please visit /

About NAQEL Express

NAQEL Express’s journey started as Hala Express in 1993 with 150 vehicles. In 2005, NAQEL Express was born as a joint venture between Saudi Post and Hala Express.

NAQEL Express is providing seamless end-to-end logistics solutions for most industrial sectors in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Being the largest logistics network in the Kingdom, with 5000+ employees and 4000+ vehicles, they serve the remotest locations and deliver to both businesses and individuals.

They offer door-to-door air and sea freight services from the rest of the world into Saudi Arabia and Middle Eastern countries.

Their freight service desk based out of the United States, Europe, United Kingdom, China, India, and Egypt ensures that you have a smooth and hassle-free experience in importing your goods from around the world.

NAQEL Express clears your shipments based on their multi-modal presence at the key airports, land ports, and seaports. They have own facilities at all the three key airports – Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam.

They are the first logistics company in the Kingdom that received a customs clearance license. They clear your shipments as well as deliver them to your doorstep.

NAQEL Express has now expanded their operations to 16 countries – Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, UK, Turkey, China & Hong Kong, USA, Germany, India, Russia, and Qatar. This presence helps their vision of uniting across borders and horizons a reality.

They are further expanding in line with their mission of giving you access to new markets and removing distance as a constraint for your business operations.

For more information, please visit

circle logistics

Splice Introduces Its Yard Management System and Changes the Spelling of Its Name

Today Splice announced the launch of Yard Spot, its integrated yard management system application built on the foundation of Splice. The cloud-based application combines numerous sources of data in a common operating view to reduce turn-times, avoid detention fees, and increase productivity of container yards.

Yard Spot displays location data from global positioning system (GPS) and electronic logging devices (ELD), operational data from transportation management systems and terminals, and real-time locations from fixed and mobile cameras. The integration of disparate data sources provides a complete picture of the yard to find equipment quickly and simply, and it helps prioritize movements for dispatch operations.

“Yard Spot enters the market when efficient yard management is essential,” said Kevin Speers, CEO of Splice. “Its benefits extend well beyond knowing where equipment is. Yard Spot helps retain precious truck power, reduce equipment-late fees and alleviate yard congestion.”

Yard Spot’s visual representation of yards has numerous benefits:

-Know where containers and equipment are in real-time to allow trucks in and out of your facility quickly.

-Prioritize dispatch movements to reduce per diem and detention fees by having last free day, gate in/out, empty/full mapped to the location of equipment.

-Audit the yard from anywhere, anytime and use the common operating view to see potential problems and immediately solve them.

“Yard Spot is powered by Splice’s integration platform, and it shows how we can stack applications that otherwise cannot talk to each other to build an altogether new tool,” said Chris Ruddick, COO of Splice. “Splice is continually adding integrations that will strengthen Yard Spot and our overall ability to improve supply chain logistics. Splice can integrate EDI, APIs, sensors, and IoT devices, which opens a whole new level of visibility, analytics and automation for Yard Spot users.”

Additionally, Splice announced that it has changed the spelling of its name. “The magic of Splice is analogous to splicing rope. We take existing applications and data and weave them together to make something stronger and more useful for supply chain and logistics operations,” said Speers. “The name highlights many facets of our value, and by using the accepted spelling of splice, we can better articulate the benefits of our solutions.” Formerly written as Splyc, the company is rolling out updates to its visual identity and branding. Learn more about Splice at

For more information about Yard Spot, visit


About Splice

Splice is a solutions platform for supply chain logistics that helps applications that otherwise are disconnected share data and talk to each other. It grew out of the need for integration-driven innovation to speed up information flows, streamline supply chains, and eliminate manual and error-prone processes. We make it easier to work with partners and across organizations. Splice accelerates digital transformation through integration-enabled automation, and we are continuously building our library of integrations. By stacking applications and data sources on top of Splice, we can create point solutions like Yard Spot, our integrated yard management system. We value interconnectedness and inclusion, and we look forward to hearing from you. Learn more about Splice at

For media questions and conversation, please contact Kevin Speers at 757-530-5300 or



The truck driver shortage presents an ongoing challenge for the logistics industry.  However, many people understandably wonder why it’s still a problem. 

One often-cited challenge is that there are not enough new drivers entering the workforce as veterans retire. A recent study confirmed that there were more than 14 million truck driver job postings between 2019 and 2020. That tremendous amount details the extent of the issue and suggests it will take time to address.

The research also concluded that nearly 57 percent of all truck drivers are older than 45. Then, almost a quarter (23 percent) are in the 55+ age bracket. 

A paragraph in the study explained, “The workforce composition suggests that young workers are not being recruited at rates that will replace current workers as they exit the market due to age or disability. This issue is further compounded by a relative dearth of younger workers overall compared to the abundance of baby boomers.”

Finding Women to Fill the Driver Shortage

Some trucking companies have dealt with the issue by ramping up their efforts to recruit women, a historically underrepresented group in the sector. One excellent way to do that is to focus on safety. 

Ellen Voie, the CEO of the Women in Trucking Association, says that the females who speak to her about the industry often cite safety as their top priority. However, maintaining safe working conditions and environments benefits everyone. 

She clarified that safety doesn’t only mean addressing one aspect: “That [safety] includes the maintenance of the equipment, the perception of when a driver should or should not drive in inclement weather or in areas of civil unrest, and how safe the loading dock is for drivers. Is it well lit, secure or in a dangerous neighborhood? Those are all aspects of a carrier’s safety culture.”

Canada’s Skelton Truck Lines found that recruiting women became easier when more females filled leadership roles in the company. It currently has nine female department managers. It’s notable that more than 30 percent of its drivers are women. The company also offers team freight so that women could do runs with their spouses. 

Efforts to recruit more women in the industry won’t account for all the aging workforce issues. However, they help, while making trucking a more gender-balanced industry. 

Industry Turnover Rates Exacerbate the Driver Shortage

Some people who get trained and licensed as truckers ultimately discover that they don’t want to make long-term careers out of the endeavor. However, some recent changes in the industry aim to provide more flexibility, which could reduce turnover rates.

More specifically, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published new rules that went into effect at the end of September 2020. 

One of them is that drivers must take 30-minute breaks after driving for at least eight hours. There is no requirement that they are consecutive hours, and drivers can count periods when they are on-duty but not driving while calculating the eight hours. There is also an updated definition of what constitutes adverse driving conditions.

Pay Tops the List of What Keeps Drivers Committed

A 2021 study about truck driver retention showed some gender-based differences in what makes a person stick with the career and particular companies. However, the top concern for both men and women was that the company provided them with enough pay or settlement. 

Having a work/life balance was also more important for women, the study showed, as females ranked it as their third priority, and men chose it as their seventh. 

Carriers Mention Retention as a Pressing Concern

Another survey, this one published in October 2020, showed that trucking carriers brought up retention as their second most urgent problem. However, of the more than 1,000 drivers who responded, compensation was one of their primary concerns. 

Paying drivers more could be a vital step in making them feel that companies value them and their service. Moreover, it is ideal if compensation goes up according to a person’s experience level and reliability. Then, truckers should be more willing to stay in the career rather than looking for opportunities they perceive as more attractive. 

Another study indicated that 50 percent of drivers polled saw their current wages as uncompetitive. On top of that, many found that companies did not offer career paths for them. Data from that research also found that half of respondents did not feel safe on the road. If drivers struggle with feeling unsafe and realizing that they could earn more in other jobs, many will see what other possibilities exist. 

Obstacles Persist in Getting New Drivers Road-Ready

Getting more people interested in entering the trucking sector doesn’t solve the driver shortage. Industry leaders expect that COVID-19 restrictions could cause persistent backlogs that prevent new drivers from getting on the roads as efficiently as they otherwise might. 

For example, many Department of Motor Vehicles facilities delayed certain services during COVID-19 lockdowns and enforced social distancing rules that limited the number of people a location could serve in a given day. That affects all people who drive vehicles, including those who need to get their commercial licenses to operate trucks for the first time. 

Relatedly, some driver training centers had to close or hold smaller classes to abide by the applicable COVID-19 restrictions. Some people who were eager to get the necessary education may have found that they had to wait longer than anticipated to meet that goal. 

Drug Testing Crackdowns May Make Potential Drivers Wary

Another recent development related to the truck driver shortage is that the FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse took effect in 2020. It has already kept thousands of drivers from staying on the roads. 

New rules require all trucking companies to register in a database and conduct yearly queries on each driver. During 2020, the Clearinghouse system caught more than 56,000 violations, although just over 1,200 were alcohol-related. Marijuana was by far the most common drug found among drivers’ substance usage. Some people familiar with the matter attribute that statistic to the growing number of states that have legalized it.

When speaking about the 2021 driver shortage outlook, analyst Avery Vise noted that the Clearinghouse has “culled another 40,000 or so drivers directly from the market, and probably thousands more have exited because they think they might not pass a drug test.”

Other parties who specialize in driver recruiting noticed a decrease in new applicants. The tighter regulations for drug testing were not likely the sole reason for that trend. However, it could prove an important factor. For example, a person who uses legal drugs recreationally during their off-time might worry about getting called for a surprise drug test and not passing it because of their recent usage. 

That’s one example of how stricter regulations could worsen the driver shortage. If a trucker tests positive for marijuana, that does not necessarily mean they were smoking it while on duty. A person who keeps their legal drug use out of their work may ultimately decide that trucking is not an ideal industry after all due to the drug testing aspect. If they worry about their downtime choices affecting their careers, people may investigate other work opportunities. 

A Multifaceted Issue That Needs Strategic Solutions

This overview emphasizes that the industry could not target only one area to end the truck driver shortage. It’s an ongoing challenge that COVID-19 and other recent events negatively affected. 

However, one excellent starting point is for trucking company representatives to research the top things that their current drivers like and dislike about their jobs. That way, it’s easier to determine what to address first. If most people say that they enjoy their schedules but don’t get paid enough for what they do, that’s valuable information that could shape positive changes. 


Emily Newton is an industrial journalist. As Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, she regularly covers how technology is changing the industry. Learn more at


The Logic of Logistics for the New Normal: How the Trucking Industry Is Changing Amid Covid-19

Like all businesses and sectors, the trucking industry has been forced to respond rapidly to the COVID-19 pandemic. The past year has demonstrated the importance of essential services preparing in advance for unforeseen catastrophes, and the need to be creative and flexible in industry operations.

Well, after the coronavirus has been brought under control, lasting changes will linger. Some of them will be positive, and others still will permanently improve the trucking industry’s status quo.

Beneficial Changes for the Sector

There are three key areas where trucking fleets’ daily operations could be positively affected by the pandemic.

1. The proliferation of contactless tech

Paperless and contactless technology has boomed during the spread of COVID-19. The highly contagious nature of the virus has forced industries, including the trucking sector, to implement new technologies to keep customers, clients, and drivers safe.

Experts predict that we will see significantly more paperless and contactless operations in the future. In terms of sales, virtual meetings will become the new norm, while electronic bills of lading are being normalized on truck drivers’ sides.

Contactless technologies are quicker, more efficient, and often more reliable to use, which could also save effort and costs during truck drivers’ orientation processes. The age of automation holds the potential to streamline trucking and delivery while minimizing the human margin of error involved.

The spread of contactless technology has not only improved safety and sanitation, it has enhanced the general efficiency of the trucking industry too. It’s drastically lowered the number of times drivers need to walk from their trucks to security booms and warehouses. At first glance, this may not seem significant, but those small-time savings can accumulate quickly, and translate into vast improvements in operational time frames.

The pandemic has created more opportunities for innovation. This is especially true with the way that the trucking industry uses its most powerful resource: its dedicated drivers and staff teams. Employees’ well-being is being taken into account on a level never seen in the sector, and as it turns out, this has been exceptionally good for business as well.

2. The re-imagination of the traditional office

The traditional office structure has been turned upside down by the COVID-19 crisis, regardless of the industry in question. Many trucking companies have instructed most, if not all, of their office staff members to work from home. It has required only upper management members to remain in the office, either on an as-needed or consistent basis.

This re-imagination of the classic office set-up has created an unexpected perk. Those employees who started working from home quickly became accustomed to operating in low-stress environments and become more effective workers as a result.

Remote work could allow companies to scale down their offices, saving money that could instead expand their trucking fleets. Commercial real estate is in a major state of flux as working from home steadily cements itself as the ‘new normal’.

People may also be required to spend less time on the road traveling, even once it’s been deemed safe to do so. A combination of in-person meetings and virtual operations will help to balance trucking companies’ cost savings while reducing work-related travel costs for the sector’s employees during financially challenging times.

3. The development of new ways to onboard truck drivers

COVID-19 has forced companies to change the ways they classically onboarded truck drivers. This external pressure has made the process more efficient, which will benefit businesses long after the pandemic is over.

Some companies are moving parts of their driver orientation processes online—especially the paperwork. Others adopted fully virtual orientation practices, which also proved to be successful. It’s expected that many more will use electronic document signatures and orientation videos in the near future to maintain social distancing and streamline their onboarding systems.

It’s been noted that some drivers are better suited to virtual orientations than others. A solution to this issue could be to develop a hybrid model that offers an in-person orientation, with certain parts of the process completed online. Ultimately, it’s essential to strike a fine balance to preserve a company’s onboarding efficiency while prioritizing safety at every step of the way.

Additional Unanticipated Changes

There are several other facets of the trucking industry that could be permanently altered because of the effects of the virus. Certain sectors may struggle as the pandemic strangles national economies. Smaller businesses and owner-operators may be particularly at risk of closure or financial difficulties.

On the other hand, other sectors may thrive because of the crisis. The grocery supply industry is a great example of a sector that is booming as consumers’ demand for staple items rises.

Truck drivers may be able to look forward to a decrease in traffic too, and as congestion is a serious, costly issue, this is a major advantage. Millions of people have turned to working from home (or become unemployed) in 2020, and traffic congestion is noticeably diminished. This trend could persist even after businesses reopen, as many employees will continue to work from their living rooms after the pandemic has blown over.

The Bottom Line

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly created disruptions for the trucking industry. Companies around the world have had to grapple with supply chain interruptions, changing consumer demands, infections in their workforces, and the challenges that come with switching to remote work technologies.

With all that said, there is a silver lining on the horizon. Many of the adaptations the trucking sector has been forced to adopt will prove beneficial for business, in both the long and short term.

Companies can use remote and contactless technologies to improve their operations, prioritize safety and sanitation, and potentially boost their profit margins. Truck drivers will be less pressed for time as a result, and office workforces may become progressively more productive as it encourages them to work from home.