New Articles

Maersk, CMA CGM in Driving Seat for Highest Earning Carriers in 2021

Maersk shipping containers

Maersk, CMA CGM in Driving Seat for Highest Earning Carriers in 2021

Resulting from record demand and supply chain capacity challenges, container lines saw record earnings in 2021. A.P. Moller – Maersk (Maersk) and CMA CGM are amongst the top performers.

Maersk saw the largest yearly intake, as its ocean revenue increased substantially last year, surging to $48.2 billion, up from $29.2 billion in 2020. This was partially driven by strong volumes and storage income.

“Exceptional market conditions led to record-high growth and profitability in Maersk, however it also led to supply chain disruptions and severe challenges for our customers,” said Søren Skou, CEO of Maersk.

CMA CGM also saw its shipping revenue rise by 88.5 per cent compared to the previous year, reaching $45.3 billion.

The success of its shipping activities was the main driver in the group’s overall revenue of $56 billion.

Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) is also believed to have been amongst the top earners of the year. However, as the business is private, the company’s financial information is not accessible.

COSCO Shipping, a subsidiary of the COSCO Group, reported revenue of $34 billion in 2021. This led to a net profit of $9.5 billion.

Ocean Network Express (ONE) is the only major carrier yet to publish its financial results for Calendar Year (CY) 2021. In its recent Q3 Financial Year 2021 report, it projected its revenue to amount to $29 billion in FY2021.

The company said that seasonal factors, such as Chinese New Year and blank sailings due to supply chain disruptions will have a large impact on its performance in Q4 FY2021.

German shipping line Hapag-Lloyd published its “extraordinarily strong” financial figures in March. The company’s overall revenue surged to $26.4 billion in 2021, up from just $11.8 billion the previous year. These positive results were mainly driven by high freight rates, introduced due to very strong demand for goods exported from Asia.

Lastly, finalising our list of the top earning carriers in 2021 is Evergreen Marine Corporation.

Eric Hsieh, President of Evergreen, announced the company’s financial results for the year at a press conference last month.

The carrier’s revenue was 236 per cent higher than it was in 2020, coming in at $17.6 billion. Transpacific volumes accounted for 60 to 70 per cent of its income, while Asia-Europe cargoes contribute the remaining 30 per cent.

Despite global shipping lines making an astounding combined operating profit of over $110 billion in 2021, vessel reliability was considerably low throughout the year.

dry bulk


Heading into the 2021 holiday shopping season (a.k.a. the strongest part of the year), dry bulk owners could already celebrate a very profitable year with the temporary factors helping the market stay strong expected to continue providing support in 2022.


The dry bulk shipping industry continued in late 2021 to enjoy a bumper year, with average earnings continuing to outshine any profits made in the past couple of years. As is often the case, Capesizes (the largest dry bulk ships) are taking the spotlight, with recent earnings peaking above $50,000 per day. A much more consistent and stable increase is recorded for Handysize and Supramax ships. These saw average earnings rise to $33,087 and $36,832 per day on Sept. 3, 2021. On the same day, a Panamax ship could expect to earn $32,445 per day.


Time charter rates underline the current strength of the market, with charterers currently paying double, if not 2.5 times as much, at the end of August compared with the start of 2021. A one-year time charter on a Capesize ship at the start of the year would have brought owners $16,500 per day. By Aug. 27, the figure was $32,750. Supramax ships have recorded the largest increase, with one-year time charter rates rising by 179.3% since the start of the year to $29,500 per day.

The high freight rates can be partially attributed to the restrictions and problems at ports due to the pandemic, which are tying up ships for longer than usual. On Sept. 1, 2021, 674 dry bulk ships had been waiting in China for two days or more. On the same day in pre-pandemic 2019, only 287 dry bulk ships had been waiting this long (source: Oceanbolt).

As an example of what this means for an individual trade, Oceanbolt data for ships sailing from Port Hedland, Western Australia, to Qingdao, China, shows that the average time for the journey (including waiting time at the load and discharge ports) has risen by 22.7%. In July 2021, it took an average of 33.5 days, while in July 2019 it could be completed in 27.3 days.

As well as congested ports, the recent pick-up in Brazilian iron ore cargoes to China has helped lift the Capesize market. In August, 21 iron ore cargoes were offered on the spot market, compared to 11 in July and the highest weekly number of cargoes since April (source: Commodore). During the first seven months of the year, Brazil exported 198.8m tons of iron ore, a 10.8% increase from 2020 and up 1.0% from 2019. However, it remains 15.0m tons lower than the record-high exports of 213.7m tons that were recorded in the first seven months of 2018.

China has received 65% of Brazilian iron ore exports during the year to date (through September 2021), with volumes on this trade growing by 6.2% over this period. Here, volumes of iron ore have grown compared to 2018, as China has taken a larger share of the total. This is clearly good news for dry bulk demand; the larger the share heading to China, the higher the ton mile due to the long distance.

There has also been strong growth in grain exports from the world’s largest exporters. Grain exports from the biggest exporters grew by 6.3% to a record 162.0m tons in the first six months of 2021. The driver of this growth was the U.S., which has seen its grain exports rise by 39.3%, jumping from 51.3m tons in the first half of 2020 to 71.5m tons. In contrast, exports from Brazil and Argentina have declined. Brazilian exports are down by 0.3% to 61.5m tons, while those from Argentina have fallen by 26.3% to 29.0m tons.

American coarse grains exports have seen the highest growth, up 19.2m tons (+67.1%) in the first seven months of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020. These additional volumes are the equivalent of an extra 257 Panamax loads (75,000 tons). Just behind in terms of volume growth are U.S. soy bean exports, which had a strong off-season, with exports in the first six months of 2021 amounting to 17.8m tons, a 7.8% increase from last year.

The new U.S. marketing year began in September, and exports of soy beans will have once more increased. Compared to the start of the 2020/2021 marketing year, outstanding sales are much lower, currently standing at 17.8m tons, compared with 29.4m tons on Sept. 1, 2020. While more sales will soon be added to the current level of outstanding sales, it is unlikely that volumes in the 2021/2022 season that is now under way will reach the 60.3m tons of soy beans that were exported in the 2020/2021 season.


Around three-quarters of the dry bulk deliveries expected for 2021 arrived, adding 26.7m DWT of capacity and bringing the total fleet to 934m DWT. BIMCO expected the fleet to grow to 940m DWT over the subsequent months, result in fleet growth of 3% for the calendar year.

Of the 26.7m DWT delivered so far this year, half came from the 61 new Capesize ships, of which 51 have a capacity of 180,000 DWT or more, with 10 of these exceeding 300,000 DWT.

At the other end of the lifecycle, only 4.8m DWT of capacity has been demolished. BIMCO expected demolition by the end of 2021 to reach around 7m DWT, less than half of what was removed from the market in 2020, as the earnings potential for ships has incentivized owners to keep their ships sailing. This once again proves that the strength of the freight markets has a much greater influence on demolition than steel prices.

The summer months saw the dry bulk orderbook grow by 67 ships, as 5.7m DWT was ordered in June through August. All but one will be delivered in 2023 and 2024. The orders include 2.3m and 2.5m DWT of Capesize and Panamax ships, respectively.

Including all orders, the orderbook currently stands at 53.9m DWT, a significant decrease from 71.6m DWT in August 2020 and 97.8m DWT in August 2019, as ships have been delivered faster than new ones are being ordered.


In what was seasonally the strongest part of the year for dry bulk—fall/winter—the market looked promising, and operators had already been recording solid profits for the year.

While countries enforce quarantine and testing requirements, and ports face sudden disruptions due to local and regional outbreaks, the congestion that is draining the market of capacity will continue to support earnings in the dry bulk market. The market is expected to stay strong into 2022 until the factors that are currently beneficial to the market such as congestion and pandemic related delays, spill-over from the red-hot container market, stimulus driven demand and strong growth in the manufacturing sector become less so.

In the longer term, however, the underlying volumes may be less supportive. After strong growth in the first half of 2021, the Chinese government seems keen to clamp down on the steel and other heavy industries to limit emissions. One big question is how strictly these measures will be enforced and whether they will start to constrain economic growth. The two largest dry bulk goods imported by China in terms of volume, iron ore and coal, both fell year-on-year during the first seven months of 2021. Iron ore imports fell by 10.5m tons (-1.5%) and coal imports were down by 30.4m tons (-15.0%). Imports of both of these goods stood at a record high in 2020, and as government restrictions come into play, it seems increasingly unlikely that these levels of imports will be repeated.


Peter Sand had been the chief shipping analyst for more than 10 years when Copenhagen, Denmark-based BIMCO, which is one of the largest international shipping associations for shipowners, published this report in September. That same month, Xeneta announced that Mr. Sand had joined the Oslo, Norway-based market analysis company.

global supply chain inequality

Supply Chain Predictions for 2022

After the numerous supply chain issues of the last two years, businesses are hoping for an improved logistics landscape in 2022. While there is somewhat smoother sailing on the horizon, international trade waters will remain choppy in 2022 as logistics issues and government actions continue. Some pressure on the logistics portion of the supply chain may ease, but the cost of shipping will continue to increase. Moreover, new issues are expected to arise in 2022 resulting from government action that will continue to put pressure on the supply chain.

Logistics Issues Will Remain

Logistics-related supply chain pressures may ease during 2022 as a result of lessons learned. During 2020 and 2021, the pandemic upended the logistics industry. Supply chain pressures stretched ports to maximum capacity, and there was (and continues to be) a shortage of truckers. Companies sought to side-step the delays by paying extra to take another company’s spot-on containerships and take other creative actions. Some logistics-related issues likely will ease in 2022 due to companies learning from their experiences during the pandemic. Companies have learned to adapt to the ‘new normal’ and will continue to do so. Recognizing that “just-in-time” supply chains will not return to their prior efficiency, companies will continue to adapt in 2022 by warehousing essential inventory (when possible), diversifying supply chains, and selecting to manufacture closer to the consumer base.

Diversification and relocation will be incentivized in 2022 by high logistics costs and governments (as discussed later). Trucking companies and other logistics companies are experiencing higher costs, such as higher salaries resulting from the tight labor market. Similarly, prices for ocean shipments are expected to reach record highs under annual contracts.  Logistics costs are expected to remain high through 2022 and likely 2023. However, many expect that more supply capacity will come on stream and the demand-side pressures should ease this year.

Congress seeks to address logistics issues with the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2021, which overhauls federal regulations for the global shipping industry. This bill seeks to ensure a more competitive global ocean shipping industry, protect American businesses and consumers from price gouging, and establish reciprocal trade to promote U.S. exports as part of the Federal Maritime Commission’s (FMC) mission.  It also prohibits ocean carriers from declining opportunities for U.S. exports unreasonably and provides additional enforcement tools to the FMC to address injurious ocean carrier practices.

Any ease in logistics supply chain pressures will be countered if there is a COVID-19 outbreak in China.  China’s zero COVID policy has kept most of the country operating under normal conditions.  However, more infectious variants such as Omicron could be a factor, and China’s domestic vaccines reportedly offer less protection than vaccines used in the West. An outbreak and the consequent shutdowns could cripple many companies that rely on goods from China.

Government Action Likely Will Cause Friction

Additional trade friction can be expected in 2022 as a result of action by Congress and the Biden Administration. The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (Forced Labor Act) will cause ripples through the supply chain once implemented in June 2022. A similar result will occur if the Biden Administration decides to initiate an investigation into China’s industrial subsidies under Section 301.

The Forced Labor Act prohibits the import of goods made with forced labor and implements a rebuttable presumption that all goods produced in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) are made with forced labor. Although the focus is on the XUAR, the presumption of forced labor will extend to entities that are not located in XUAR. Moreover, the import ban extends upstream to capture finished goods that use inputs from the XUAR, regardless of where the finished good is completed.  Companies will be required to prove with “clear and convincing” evidence that forced labor was not used at any point in their supply chain. U.S. Customs and Border Protection is expected to issue compliance guidance.

In order to make changes to the Section 301 Intellectual Property tariffs (beyond eliminating them), USTR will need to conduct a new investigation. The potential Section 301 action on industrial subsides in China would authorize the Biden Administration to place tariffs on additional products from China, but also lower (or remove) tariffs on other items. Signals suggest that certain factions of the Biden administration want to impose additional tariffs, but USTR Katherine Tai wants to continue the dialog with her Chinese counterparts. While a breakthrough is possible, China has historically used a dialog to prevent action against it rather than take meaningful action in response to U.S. and other Western government’s requests. Moreover, outside of China, it is not disputed that the Chinese Government provides significant subsidies to a number of industries – including green energy, semiconductors, and automobiles. An investigation will demonstrate as much, relying on Chinese government documents. If action is taken under Section 301, it is likely that the tariffs will be targeted to assist the Administration’s supply-chain and re-shoring goals.

These actions, however, will cause additional disruption on goods from China. China likely will take retaliatory actions in response, including tariff and non-tariff actions on U.S. imports into China. China could also take action on exports leaving China.  It is unclear how China will react, and retaliation may occur in China’s domestic market. The Government could encourage a boycott of certain U.S. companies via Chinese press and netizens. Similarly, the Government of China could take unfounded regulatory action against U.S. and other western countries, as it has done in the past. Even if China does not take retaliatory action, recent regulatory upheaval in China suggests that additional restrictions could come, if China’s leaders think an industry is becoming too powerful or influential.

Business Leaders Should Brace For Higher Costs And Consider Taking Action

Business leaders should brace for higher costs in the near-term, even if goods begin to flow more easily. Inflation will continue to push input prices up, and compliance will add administrative costs and burdens. Nevertheless, supply chain due diligence – although costly – should be conducted to ensure there is no forced labor at any point in a company’s supply chain, because the cost of non-compliance will be far greater, particularly for companies operating in or purchasing goods from China and importing merchandise to the United States. Even if a company is not operating in or purchasing goods from China, due diligence should be conducted to ensure no part or input includes forced labor.

Given the increase in shipping costs and other frictions, business leaders may consider relocating their supply chains. The Biden Administration and Congress are incentivizing business leaders to do just that with two pieces of legislation currently moving through Congress: the America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing, Pre-Eminence in Technology, and Economic Strength (America COMPETES) Act in the House of Representatives, and the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA), in the Senate. The central component of these two bills is the funding for the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors Act (CHIPS), which provides incentives for companies to build semiconductor production facilities in the United States. The bills also appropriate significant funds aimed at countering China’s influence domestically and abroad. These bills have bipartisan support and portions have been labeled as “must-pass” legislation. Included in these bills are proposals to expand the role for the federal government in “strategic sectors” – including semiconductors, drones, wireless broadband, and artificial intelligence – with increased funding, supervision, and regulation of various industries. Other components include tackling supply chain vulnerabilities to make more goods in America, turbocharging America’s scientific research and technological leadership, strengthening America’s economic and national security at home and abroad, and bolstering President Biden’s Buy American agenda. The Biden Administration also will use executive power to provide incentives to business seeking to relocate to the United States, and federal agencies have been directed to assist business in any way they can.


Lee Smith is the leader of law firm Baker Donelson’s International Trade and National Security practice. He advises clients on matters involving export controls, customs compliance, trade remedy investigations, trade policy, market access and free trade agreement interpretation. Smith can be reached at (202)326-5026 or

jersey ports


The South Jersey Port Corporation closed out 2021 with an all-time record-breaking cargo volume of 4,636,097 tons, a 54% increase over 2020, breaking the previous record by 6%.
“That’s the best in the history of the South Jersey Ports and we’re expecting 2022 to be a very strong year that may top 2021,” reported Andy Saporito, Executive Director and CEO of South Jersey Port Corporation at the monthly meeting of the Board of Directors. “This milestone is a testament to the skilled workers and partners who keep goods moving through the supply chain while our team seeks solutions to improve efficiency, attract business and build for the future. The ongoing collaboration with SJPC’s labor force and industry partners lifted the port to this extraordinary record during the challenging time of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Saporito.
The dramatic increases in tonnage came from nearly all the SJPC’s prime cargo sectors: steel, plywood, recycled metals, cocoa beans, cement, and gypsum. The lone laggard, sand exports, is expected to increase as the national infrastructure plan is implemented. Rebounding steel imports led the way with 2,399,076 tons, a 141% increase over 2020. The majority of this increase occurred at the Paulsboro Marine Terminal which moved 1,760,018 tons of steel slabs. Plywood import tonnage increased by 98% totaling 220,812 tons demonstrating the Camden terminals as a premiere plywood portal on the East Coast. Cocoa beans totaled 76,108 tons, a 36% increase verses 2020 totals. Exports of recycled metals increased by 10% and cement increased by 8%.
The number of ship days was 960 days compared to 549 ship days in 2020, a 75% increase. “Ship days is the number of days a ship is loading or unloading at its terminal” explained Kevin Duffy, Assistant Executive Director / Chief Operating Officer. “We’ve worked hard to ensure we continue to operate safely and efficiently to move the increased cargo and have space to meet our customers’ needs”.
Brendan Dugan, Assistant Executive Director / Director of Business Development, expects the cargo activity at South Jersey Ports to remain strong for the foreseeable future due to the national infrastructure plan and New Jersey’s leadership role in the $109 billion offshore wind industry. EEW Group, which is building a $300 million manufacturing plant at the Paulsboro Marine Terminal to provide the massive steel monopiles for the offshore wind farms along the entire eastern seaboard, will ultimately require 150,000 tons of imported steel annually to meet their customers’ demand.  To build on this momentum, SJPC is conducting a study of the Port of Salem, which is a smaller port just down river from Paulsboro that could become an important supply port for the local offshore wind support services industry.
“The challenge is to build the infrastructure to grow the port while operating more efficiently to meet current demands,” said Dugan.  South Jersey Ports received a $6 million grant to upgrade the rail infrastructure at one of their Camden terminals and a $9 million grant for wharf infrastructure improvements at the Salem Terminal. “We identified an old building that we might refurbish to put another 40,000 square feet of storage space online and meet long-term customer demands.”
“We continue to focus on upgrading technology and automation to optimize the fluid movement of cargo through our terminals and to ensure our customers’ storage and inventory needs are met”, added COO Kevin Duffy.
The South Jersey Port Corporation was created in 1968 to operate marine shipping terminals in the South Jersey Port District, consisting of seven counties: Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Salem, Cumberland, Mercer, and Cape May. The South Jersey Ports is a national leader in bulk and breakbulk cargo, shipping and receiving to and from Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe. Their four international seaport facilities in South Jersey handle more than four million tons of bulk, breakbulk and containerized cargoes annually.


Every day seems to bring about more bad news at our nation’s ports. In September, the government reported that auto sales fell because of chip shortages that left car dealers with few vehicles to sell. 

Now, more than ever, how a port communicates with the public and the businesses that rely on it is crucial, especially into the holiday shopping season. That port communication goes beyond just a well-designed website to include apps, social media, email alerts and newsletters all working together to communicate with one voice.

So, how should ports begin to think about their brand and their messaging to the public? 

As an agency specializing in branding and user experience (UX), we learned much through several key projects with the Port of Long Beach (POLB). The challenge was identifying and enabling key user tasks for each of the Southern California port’s audience segments. We designed a role-based dashboard that delivered an effective and streamlined user experience. Meanwhile, an improved content structure and organization made the port’s thousands of information resources easier for users to find and access.

What follows are tips for ports to improve the user experience of their websites and how best to work with an agency to achieve that.

Tip #1 – The Bar is Low, Which Creates Opportunity

Most port websites are average at best in terms of design, UX and content. The bar is very low. That creates a distinct opportunity for those ports that want to establish digital leadership. Thinking in terms of their “brand” presents numerous challenges for ports for many reasons, not least of which is the number of stakeholders involved. While working with POLB, we had a team of approximately 50 core stakeholders that were involved in most of the important reviews and decisions. Additionally, we worked with teams representing all of the port’s different internal groups: marketing, community relations, environment, security, IT, etc. 

Managing, coordinating and communicating with a large, diverse group of stakeholders and constituents is both art and science. Any port should make sure their agency partner has experience with this kind of “crowd control.” Because if not, it can quickly derail a project and add time and cost. A certain amount of political savvy also comes in handy as most port-related projects require some degree of coordination with the harbor commission and local government agencies. 

Tip #2 – Ports are More Democratic than Private Companies, That’s a Good Thing

Ports and all of our public-facing clients tend to be far more democratic than our private sector clients. That means they’re open to trying new things as long as there is consensus, rather than decisions being driven by one owner or a small team of partners, who can easily fall into group-think.

Of course, the democratic approach requires a little more time but we feel like we get better input and results working this way. This approach does, however, require some additional time in the schedule but delivers the advantage of creating a deep and comprehensive understanding of the input we receive from employees, partners and stakeholders. 

Tip #3 – Role-Based Resources

Most ports and their websites are accessed by the same types of users: truckers, port/dock workers, cargo owners, shippers, etc. Developing role-based entry points (i.e. “Click here for Trucker Resources”) will help users connect with the right content quickly. While we see that some ports make efforts to include these types of customer-oriented pages, they are often light on content and functionality that actually enhances the customer experience. It’s also crucial these pages are mobile-friendly since most port workers are accessing the website from a phone or tablet while in or around the port facility. 

Most port websites have hundreds, if not thousands of documents, forms and permits. When these informational resources are difficult to find, it will generate a high volume of unnecessary calls to the port’s call center. Making sure these basic items are easy to find and easy to access will go a long way in eliminating unnecessary customer frustration and calls that could have otherwise been avoided with a better customer experience online. 

This trend in the digital world—the idea of customer self-service—is critical in delivering the right experience online. So, make sure that all of these content elements are well-organized and easily accessible to customers of all types. Not only will this deliver a better experience for those customers, it will also create operational efficiency for ports that are always looking to do more with less. 

Tip #4 – Harbor Commission and Port Politics 

Let’s face it: Ports are political entities, so when you bring in creative partners, it’s vital to choose one that has experience working directly with port commissioners and who understand the nature of the port approval process. Our work with the POLB required frequent meetings with the harbor commissioners to keep them abreast of project decisions and developments. We also coordinated our efforts with the City of Long Beach mayor’s office and the various municipal organizations that fall within the city’s domain. 

That also means making key presentations in forums like public access TV and radio to discuss the strategy with the public. Knowing that this will be a part of the project and approval process allows us to plan ahead and tailor our approach to the unique needs of whatever harbor commission and/or port we are working with.

Tip #5 – Don’t Forget the Port is a Place 

Most ports are large, sprawling areas that encompass a vast amount of physical space. Given this fact, it’s somewhat ironic that many port websites lack an effective port map. For the POLB, we looked at a wide range of map styles and map data sources to identify the right blend of design and information. 

Ultimately, we ended up creating a semi-customized approach (as opposed to simply using Google Maps or MapQuestion right out of the box) so the map could be tailored to the specific needs of POLB customers. 

Tip #6 – Think Long and Hard About Content Volume and Content Migration

Most port websites contain a significant volume of content and have hundreds if not thousands of pages. One of the most critical aspects of any port website redesign is the content migration process. Because this process involves many different groups within the port deciding what content to migrate to the new site vs. content to retire or replace, it can take a significant chunk of time. 

Starting this process earlier in the project lifecycle is critical. In fact, getting the migration rolling at the beginning of the project makes the most sense. Most of our private sector clients don’t have nearly as much content nor does the content review for those private-sector clients generally involve as many stakeholders or checkpoints. With ports, there are communication guidelines, content accessibility/usability standards, regulatory reviews, legal reviews and stakeholder reviews. So, it’s best to get the migration going as soon as possible to ensure that it doesn’t hold up the rest of the design and development activities.

No one knows what the future holds for our logistical supply chain, but ports can ease the stress on everyone who interacts with the port by taking the time to think creatively and strategically about the experience their customers will have online. Think about it as more than just a website: It is a customer web portal. If those customers are coming to your site for information and leaving more stressed and no less informed, then your site is an epic fail. And that’s a fail you can’t afford as the economy continues to rebound.


Jason Widmann is director of Strategy, Creative and UX at Stellar Agency, a digital design shop based in El Segundo, California, that focuses on the design and development of digital products, services and platforms.



Ports throughout the U.S. have extremely critical infrastructure needs, and port officials in numerous states are readying projects for launch. America’s ports are in desperate need of modernization, expansion, upgrades and repairs if they are to remain viable. Because of the economic contributions that ports provide to the U.S. economy, officials can no longer ignore or defer these essential projects.

If, or when, Congress passes the infrastructure bill, billions in federal funding will be available, but even that amount of new revenue will likely not cover costs for the most critical needs. Most states have allocated large amounts of funding, and public-private partnerships are being considered for some port initiatives. 

Regardless of the funding sources, it is evident that port modernization, which is long overdue, is finally beginning rather aggressively in America.


Every Texas port must undergo critical upgrading and modernization. Approximately $3.6 billion will be required for the state to cover the most immediate needs at its ports. A 2022-2023 Texas Port Mission Plan outlines numerous high-value projects that are priorities.

The Port of Corpus Christi Authority is seeking $155.5 million for three liquid bulk dock projects at the Avery Point Terminal. The docks, with an average age of 56, are suffering from severe degradation of key components and cannot adequately accommodate large Suezmax vessels arriving at the same time.

The Port of Beaumont is planning a $61.6 million dock facility that will be capable of loading and unloading supersized vessels. The project will feature a pedestrian walkway, access roads and pipeline connectivity.

The Port of Galveston needs to spend $60.7 million to repair damaged and decaying infrastructure that is unusable. The scope of this project will include dredging, constructing two fill-retaining structures, improving storm sewers, installing flexible pavement and replacing a deteriorated bulkhead.


The Port of Oakland’s updated five-year capital improvement plan (CIP) outlines projects estimated at $543.7 million. Approximately $92.2 million is allocated for airfield projects that the port maintains. Critical security upgrades are estimated at about $57.8 million and will include work on access control gates, baggage claim exits and installation of an integrated landside security camera system

Approximately $27.2 million is needed for marine terminal improvements and crane upgrades. This effort will include $10.2 million for wharf upgrades that are now required for ultra-large container vessels and $8.5 million for reconstruction of berths at the port. Other projects considered high priorities include a channel deepening project, substation replacements and the installation of electric truck charging stations.

Down south, the Port of Long Beach approved a Fiscal Year 2022 budget that includes $622.4 million for the Long Beach Harbor, with half of that amount dedicated to capital improvement projects. A project to construct a second fire station will support the port’s fireboat vessels and its landside fire assets. It carries a projected cost of $35.6 million. An additional $38.4 million will be spent on improvements to wharfs and another $870 million is earmarked for the expansion of a rail yard. 

In 2022, construction will begin on a track realignment project that carries a cost estimate of approximately $40 million.


The Port Authority of Allegheny County introduced a 2022 operating and capital budget that details $53.4 million in projects. Anticipated initiatives include rail and bus facility improvements and the installation of electric charging infrastructure. Other port divisions will receive $1.7 million for systemwide upgrades of security and fire alarm systems. The Port Authority also approved its first range transportation plan, NEXTransit, that outlines 18 planned projects that cumulatively carry a $3.7 billion price tag.

The Port Authority of Pittsburgh plans to begin work in 2022 on a new two-level deck that will increase the available parking by 360 spaces. The authority has received an $11.5 million federal grant for the project. The construction project will be comprehensive as it will require moving the lot’s main entrance to the north, widening Route 19 to add turning lanes, and construction of retaining walls, drainage improvements and new paving work.

Scheduled to be completed in May 2022, a $42 million, 201,621-square-foot distribution center is a critical step in the development of the Port of Philadelphia’s Packer Avenue Marine Terminal, the region’s main container terminal. PhilaPort Executive Director and CEO Jeff Theobald boasts that the food-grade warehouse, which is one mile from the marine terminal, will help attract new shippers and ocean lines and “generate hundreds of good, family-sustaining jobs.”

These are just a few examples of upcoming contracting opportunities at ports throughout the country. Major ports in America are all in dire need of attention, and officials in every state where ports are located are well aware of the economic engines of ports. Funding will be found, and ports will be modernized in the very near future. Private sector firms interested in partnering to keep America’s ports operating at peak capacity should be getting positioned now to compete for these very large partnering opportunities.


Mary Scott Nabers is president and CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc., an Austin, Texas-based business development company specializing in government contracting and procurement consulting throughout the country. Inside the Infrastructure Revolution: A Roadmap for Building America, is her recently released handbook for contractors, investors and the public-at-large seeking to explore how public-private partnerships or joint ventures can help finance their infrastructure projects.

south ports detention reshoring


Port managers have tried, mightily, to cope with the pandemic’s shockwaves. They have been simultaneously caught up in an avalanche of challenges: trade wars, the pandemic, port congestion and labor and shipping container shortages. Providing as they do the key infrastructure to international trade and the global economy, shipping and ports are estimated to handle more than 80% of global goods trade by volume and over 70% by value. 

International maritime trade volumes were estimated to have fallen by 4.1% in 2020, but all of the expert projections suggest that they’ll not recover at any time before the end of this year. During the pandemic, ports have had to adjust to the reality of lower volumes, worker shortages, the implementation of occupational health and safety measures for dockers and shore personnel, and the adoption of teleworking and remote operations for office workers.

The shock of the COVID-19 pandemic has left no port unaffected while exacerbating certain existing challenges. Ports have been heavily impacted by developments in the shipping sector, where some shipping lines have gone into “survival mode,” affecting container and cargo markets, with knock-on effects that may be felt for years to come. The volatility may push some ports to reassess their business models.

Although the pandemic has strengthened the case for further investment in digitalization and innovation, ports are under intense pressure to reduce costs and be more attractive to the supply chains that use their infrastructure. For example, a survey commissioned by the International Association of Ports and Harbors found that 69% of surveyed ports indicated that the majority of their investment plans had been delayed or amended.

Port officials across the country are not wallowing in the gloom and doom. They don’t have time to. No, they are looking ahead to a 2022 filled with strategies to cure (or at least address) what ails them . . . and lies ahead.

Wanted: Congestion Relief 

At Morgan Stanley’s ninth annual Laguna Conference, a virtual gathering in mid-September of transportation and logistics industry leaders, Expeditors International of Washington’s management was quoted stating that they had never before seen capacity “so scarce in both air and ocean at the same time.”

Looking to the future, Expeditors expects the environment to “remain unsettled as long as constrained capacity and other disruptions, such as port congestion, the uneven lifting of pandemic-restrictions and rising fuel costs continue to impact the movement of freight.” 

A month after that conference, a backlog of ships remained idle off the Southern California coast waiting for their turn to dock, a visual that beachgoers had taken in for the past several months before. And federal regulators at press time were investigating whether the cause of a massive, beach-clearing oil slick was caused by a container ship anchor ripping into a pipeline. 

On Oct. 12, 58 container ships were at anchor or adrift off the shoreline, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California. The following day, President Joe Biden announced a deal to keep the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles open 24/7 to alleviate the severe bottlenecks. 

Providing more time for trucks to pick up and return shipping containers to improve freight movement and reduce delays through the port complex is the main strategy of the Biden plan, although exact details were still being worked out at press time. As Biden and Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka both mentioned, systemic change of such magnitude will necessitate many supply chain stakeholders to work in tandem.

“The significance of today’s announcement is the commitment from industry leaders responsible for moving goods on behalf of American consumers and businesses to open up the capacity needed to deliver,” wrote Seroka in an email, as reported by the online news site Long Beach Post. “It’s a call to action for others to follow.”

That call is certainly not being ignored by Seroka’s partner in maritime, Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero, who wrote in a statement of his own, “Before this unprecedented cargo surge began, we believed 24/7 operations were the future. After all, consumers can shop online at any time, whether it’s at 4 p.m. or 4 a.m., and 24/7 is already the standard at our partner ports in Asia. The supply chain truly never stops now.”

Indeed, a month before Biden blew into town, Total Terminals International container terminal on Pier T in Long Beach launched a pilot program that makes it easier for trucks to access the facility during the overnight hours.

“Our waterfront workforce is moving cargo as quickly as possible as we continue to collaborate with stakeholders from throughout the goods movement industry to develop solutions for our capacity challenges,” says Long Beach Harbor Commission President Steven Neal. “This cargo surge is anticipated to last well into 2022, so we need to start thinking of new ways to meet the expected growth in goods movement and rising consumer demand.”

Labor Pain Relief, Too, Please

An insatiable demand for new products is part of the blame for port congestion, which is complicated by “the overarching challenge on the labor front,” J.B. Hunt officials reported during the Laguna Conference. “There are times when certain ports or terminals close for periods of time, creating significant whipsaws in the supply chain. The sooner that cargo can get into warehouses or on the shelf, the sooner capacity is freed up, and that is a major component of what is going on in the system.”

Officials from competitor Werner Enterprises echoed that “on the supply side, the driver issue is expected to remain a problem for a while (potentially exacerbated by vaccine mandates–management estimates less than half of the broader driver population is vaccinated) and the equipment problem looks to actually be getting worse.” 

However, there is some silver lining to all the gloom and doom. An especially strong holiday shopping season to end topsy-turvy 2021 may lessen the sting of expected underperformance into at least early 2022, the Werner team reported. 

Union Pacific officials, who are also dealing with slow unloading of containers due to port and driver labor issues, noted that “while there are structural issues in that system, there is also capacity to staff up and get trucks in place. The West Coast ports are also looking to put things into place (automation, union deals, etc.) to get the network moving smoother.”

Investment in new technology seems to be the answer to everything along the supply chain these days, and the port’s portion is no exception. San Francisco tech company Vector claims its electronic bill of lading solution can get drivers in and out of facilities more quickly, to the tune of 43 minutes of drive time. 

How huge is that? Mega-huge. According to David Correll, co-director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Freight Lab, if drivers get just 12 minutes back toward driving, the “truck driver issue” could be solved.

Rebuild, Remodel, Rehabilitate, Rebound 

Biden pivoted during his 24/7 announcement to promote his landmark infrastructure bill, which includes $17 billion for port infrastructure, or the “biggest investment in our ports in our history.”

However, with Republicans balking at the bill’s $4.5 trillion cost (at this writing) and infighting among Democrats over whether to trim or not to trim the price tag to make it more palatable, the legislation remains tied up in Congress (ditto).

It’s a shame, to hear Seroka tell it. He claims West Coast ports have experienced more than a decade of underinvestment by the federal government and that had better change to address the influx/lack of movement of cargo. 

Of course, ports around the country are not waiting on the government to make major infrastructure improvements. For a deeper dive on many of these, see the story elsewhere in this issue by Mary Scott Nabers, president and CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc. But for improvements with an eye toward sustainability, we look to the Utah Inland Port Authority (UIPA), whose board of directors recently approved the creation of a funding mechanism for six new projects that will reduce current air emissions and improve rail access for in-state businesses. 

A new transloading/cross-dock facility adjacent to the Union Pacific Intermodal Railyard will offer international and domestic cargo stakeholders a cost-effective and efficient inland alternative option by leveraging existing infrastructure and Union Pacific’s services and proximity to the rail ramp in Salt Lake City, according to the UIPA. An investment-grade business case analysis commissioned by the UIPA identified at minimum the three California port gateways—Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland—for the transloading facility to compete with for international cargo volumes.

The transload facility will be constructed with eco-friendly building materials and include sustainable construction technology, increased water and energy efficiency, reduced waste and emissions and improved indoor environmental quality, according to the UIPA.

The port authority is also seeking to acquire an easement across a privately-owned landfill to open up rail access north of Interstate 80, an existing rail spur and test track that connects to a short line, and the blessing of Salt Lake County officials to provide additional freight connectivity by building out 7200 West from State Route 201 to 700 North.

The UIPA is working with partners to develop a renewable fueling station for private and/or public use that will serve hydrogen, electric and liquid and compressed natural gas vehicles, and with the Department of Homeland Security to reassign agents to Utah for a customs bonded facility with rail access, loading docks for bonded warehousing and storage capacity.

“All these projects are designed to address gaps currently in Utah’s logistic system, which is the primary role of the port authority,” said Jack Hedge, UIPA executive director. “Providing this underlying infrastructure supports the entire ecosystem of the jurisdictional area–from a logistics standpoint, to the environment, to the community–everyone benefits.”

Let’s Be Careful Out There

The Jacksonville Port Authority (JAXPORT) also has coming improvements aimed at maintaining the Florida facility’s ranking as the 10th busiest container port in the U.S. by TEUs and among the nation’s top vehicle-handling ports. But JAXPORT also has security on its mind, as demonstrated by a new program that brings together tenants, vessel operators, rail and intermodal stakeholders, key vendors, and local public sector organizations.

To address a national priority initiative of the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville Captain of the Port, JAXPORT has partnered with the nonprofit Maritime Transportation System Information Sharing and Analysis Center to form a new cybersecurity information sharing cooperative called the Northeast Florida Maritime Information Exchange (NEFL-MIX). 

“Cybersecurity is a critical part of supply chain security,” says JAXPORT CEO Eric Green. “We are thrilled to launch this important initiative to protect our maritime community from cyber threats and ensure that our port-related businesses can continue to do the important work they do to keep cargo moving and people working throughout Northeast Florida.”

JAXPORT’s involvement does not surprise Christy Coffey, vice president of Operations with for the Maritime Transportation System Information Sharing and Analysis Center. “They have been influential in the design of our Information Exchange program and an active contributor to our [center] since inception,” she says, “so it’s rewarding to see the NEFL-MIX become reality. This busy port has included a diverse group of stakeholders in their cybersecurity information exchange. We know that under JAXPORT’s thoughtful leadership, the NEFL-MIX will positively impact both cybersecurity preparedness and response.”



“Accelerating Digitalization: Critical Actions to Strengthen the Resilience of the Maritime Supply Chain,” a report that the World Bank and International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) issued in January, describes how collaborative use of digital technology can help streamline all aspects of maritime transport, from cross-border processes and documentation to communications between ship and shore.

The joint report, with its special focus on ports, argues that a better digital collaboration between private and public entities across the maritime supply chain will result in significant efficiency gains, safer and more resilient supply chains and lower emissions.

“The report’s short and medium-term measures to accelerate digitalization have the proven potential to improve supply chain resilience and efficiency whilst addressing potential risks related to cybersecurity,” says Dr. Patrick Verhoeven, the IAPH managing director of Policy and Strategy. “However, necessary policy reform is also vital. Digitalization is not just a matter of technology but, more importantly, of change management, data collaboration and political commitment.”

How big a deal is big data? According to, the global big data and business analytics market is valued at $215.7 billion this year and will grow by more than 27% to exceed $274 billion by the end of next year.

However, recent IAPH survey revealed that only a third of more than 100 responding ports complied with a mandatory International Maritime Organization (IMO) requirement that all member countries exchange key data electronically. The main barriers to digitalization cited by the ports did not involve the technology but the legal framework within their countries or regions and the inability to persuade multiple private-public stakeholders to collaborate.

Fortunately, as you will learn if you read on, there are governments, port authorities and economic development entities that are embracing big data.

Bottlenecks along the supply chain

Among the key chokepoints in the global maritime system are some of the world’s most critical transport gateways. Consider the significance of just two of them: The Strait of Malacca and the Strait of Hormuz. As the U.S. Department of Energy’s website makes quite clear about the importance of the latter, “The Strait of Hormuz is the world’s most important oil transit chokepoint.”

More than 90% of the world’s total trade volume is moved by the maritime shipping industry. Every year, it transports more than $4 trillion of goods. An immense pressure is placed on shipping companies to remain on schedule, protect the cargo ship and crew, and ensure profitability. And one can’t say that it’s easy.

It is hard to visualize the world’s main shipping routes or to glimpse the industry’s complexity. As they transport goods from one continent to another, approximately 90,000 vessels cross paths.

The maritime industry involves an intricate system of transportation. To complicate things, ports and vessels are also subject to the forces of nature, which are becoming harder and harder to predict. Thus, shipping companies must be able to adapt to changing situations and act fast.

With real-time big data analytics, however, the maritime industry can better navigate these unexpected challenges.

Big data is a field that extracts and analyzes data from data sets that are too large or complex to be dealt with by traditional data-processing application software. Real-time capabilities mean that those insights are delivered immediately after collection.

How exactly does real-time big data help?

Maritime companies generate data from different sources and in several formats. Traditionally, these insights are fixed, siloed and inconsistent. Actioning this information is time-consuming and a major pain point for shipping companies. 

With big data tools, this inflow of data is collated and organized in a cloud-based system. It then analyzes and spits out the relevant data in real-time, which promotes better decision making. Nothing is left to intuition or chance—unlocking opportunities to drive greater efficiencies.

According to the recent World Bank report “Reforming and Rebuilding Lebanon’s Port Sector: Policies and Solutions for Digitalizing the Port of Beirut,” digitalization must be key in the reconstruction and modernization of the facility that was rocked by chemical explosions in August 2020.  

“Rapidly evolving technology is creating the digital ports of the future and Lebanon should not be left out,” maintains Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank Mashreq regional director. “Through an all stakeholder approach, Lebanon should immediately enact special port institutional framework to reform the port sector and to launch transformation process toward a structured and systematic technological upgrade of the Port of Beirut to support Lebanon’s economic recovery.”

Efficient maritime operations and logistics

Overall operations and logistics become much more efficient with real-time data. Companies can obtain information through GPS and RFID tags to help locate containers and ships immediately. Data technology also helps synchronize communication to manage ship arrivals, berthings, and departures safely and efficiently. And in case of an emergency, non-availability of labor or terminal allocations, real-time data helps ships plan their routes and speeds accordingly.

Due to climate change, this ability to pivot has never been so relevant. Although the global maritime industry is a well-oiled machine, the ocean’s weather—currents, waves and wind—are more unpredictable than ever. Real-time data streamlines decision making and supports ad hoc navigation to ensure companies maximize returns.

After a yearlong trial period, the Greater Houston Port Bureau officially partnered in June with PortXchange Products, a Netherlands-based digital solutions provider for predictable and sustainable shipping. The five-year deal is allowing for the adoption and further development of PortXchange’s collaborative vessel and terminal planning platform.

“Digitization and data are key for the port of Houston region to increase predictability, improve efficiency and remain globally competitive,” says Capt. Bill Diehl, U.S. Coast Guard (retired), president of the Greater Houston Port Bureau. The non-profit trade organization operates the Maritime Exchange of Texas, which maintains critical vessel movement data for the Lone Star State’s deep draft ports.

The agreement came as a result of Diehl’s agency embracing “the idea that digitalization and scheduling transparency is the future of any port,” according to Sjoerd de Jager, PortXchange’s managing director, who adds, “we look forward to extending our collaboration in the Houston port community.”

Big data is helping to identify open berths at the Port of Gothenburg. In September, the largest port in Scandinavia launched Allberth, a smart device developed by Awake.AI of Finland. 

“With Allberth, we now have a berth planning tool that can make calls smarter, safer and considerably more efficient for all concerned,” says Fredrik Rauer, traffic coordinator and project leader for Berth Planner at the Gothenburg Port Authority. “And reduced emissions from the vessels are an obvious benefit in climate terms.”

External users, who are gradually being added to the system, can make their own planning decisions based on the same data. “With Allberth,” Rauer says, “we can give mooring personnel, the ship’s agent and the terminal the opportunity to act immediately on the information that we visualize in the application.” 

Fuel-efficient routing

By having access to real-time sea state observations—currents, waves and swell—vessel operators can re-route according to current ocean and weather conditions while optimizing fuel efficiency. Inefficient weather routing oftentimes leads to the increased time spent at sea, which not only disrupts and delays the supply chain but can also increase fuel burn and CO2 emissions. 

In addition to increasing voyage earnings, fuel-efficient routing also reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, supporting the latest GHG reduction strategy that the IMO developed in 2018. The initial strategy envisages that the total annual GHG emissions from international shipping should be reduced by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008. What does 50% look like? The IMO calculated that vessels released 1.12 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide the year before, in 2007. Emissions need to be reduced by 560 million metric tons. That’s equivalent to the emissions from 102 million cars.

One key conclusion to make about the real-world is that real-time data helps to reduce fuel costs and also helps to reduce GHG emissions.

The Port Authority of New South Wales in Australia is maneuvering very large ships safer and more efficiently thanks to OMC International’s Dynamic Under Keel Clearance (DUKC) system. The Aussie company’s technology is currently being used at the ports of Botany, Newcastle and Kembla.

The DUKC system provides tanker and deep drafter container captains “with near real-time data, taking account of a number of variables, including the height of tide, the speed of the ship, the ship’s maneuverability, tidal streams and the dynamic motions of the vessel–all essential information used by our highly trained team of marine pilots when maneuvering these vessels within port waters,” says Myron Fernandes, the port authority’s harbor master for Sydney and Botany.

Is real-time big data safe from cyber-threats? 

The convergence of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) onboard ships—and their connection to the internet—creates an increased attack surface that requires greater cyber risk management.

On the IT side, the chances of cyberattacks can be mitigated through proper implementation of encryption techniques such as blockchain technology. From an operational standpoint, IMO maintains that effective cyber risk management should start at the senior management level—embedding a culture of cyber risk awareness into all levels and departments of an organization. 

One can read more about this in “Guidelines on Cybersecurity Onboard Ships” from BIMCO, a non-governmental organization that aims to be at the forefront of global developments in shipping. With offices in Copenhagen, Singapore, Shanghai, Athens and London, BIMCO provides expert knowledge and practical advice to members that range from small local port agents and law firms to the largest shipowners in the world.

Knowledge is power

It is possible that the maritime industry can become bigger and better—and more lucrative—while emitting less GHG emissions. By implementing real-time insights in daily operations, shipping companies are well-positioned to navigate anything that comes their way. And how this year has gone, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have an edge on the unexpected.  

As the technology evolves, an emerging group of global communications companies are competing with one another to execute on a radical mission statement: to bring connectivity to everyone, everywhere. As these technologists make progress, they enable maritime organizations to connect more efficiently with customers, facilities and systems.

One of those companies, OneWeb, has been busy building a communications network with a constellation of Low Earth Orbit satellites that provide connectivity to people around the world. OneWeb’s method for enabling Internet access for all is starting to become a reality. As a result of OneWeb’s new capacities in space, the company is getting ready to provide low-cost solutions for broadband, government and cellular backhaul. Its high speed, low latency, network will offer new affordable mobility solutions to industries that rely on global connectivity, including ports and the maritime companies that depend upon ports.

OneWeb, which is headquartered in London and has a manufacturing facility in Merritt Island, Florida, successfully commenced launches for its satellite constellation network back in February 2019. As of May of this year, 218 of a planned 648 satellites in the initial constellation had blasted off. 

Closer to Earth, the Washington State Community Economic Revitalization Board in July approved more than $15 million in grants for planning, economic development and rural broadband infrastructure construction projects, including awards of $1.7 million to the Port of Whitman County and nearly $1.6 million to the Port of Clarkston in Asotin County for high-speed internet connections. The Olympia-based board’s grants and more than $2.5 million in loans will be matched by over $7.6 million in private investment, and the resulting partner projects will create an estimated 200 jobs. 

Big data is a must-have

In today’s world, inland port facilities must view a strong digital infrastructure as “essential” as opposed to “just a value-add,” according to Marc Salotti, managing director at Tradepoint Atlantic in Baltimore, Maryland. The modern, 3,300-acre industrial site used to be known as Sparrows Point, which had been one of the world’s largest iron and steel making facilities for 125 years before closing in 2012.

“Think about the target user,” Salotti recently wrote on the Supply Chain Brain forum. “With increasing pressure on global supply chains, the rise of e-commerce, and growth of direct-to-consumer methods, companies aren’t just looking for a storage facility. They want an adaptable environment that maximizes supply-chain optionality and growth, a strong technical infrastructure, and a strategic partner to work through challenges and share innovative solutions.”

Saudi Global Ports (SGP) is incorporating smart port design to two container terminals at King Abdulaziz Port Dammam. The program includes establishing an area called “The Sandbox” to test new technologies in automation and connectivity and develop new processes that will be subsequently deployed across SGP.

“We are taking progressive steps toward transforming Dammam into a leading international container port equipped with digital and smart capabilities, and continue to contribute toward Mawani (Saudi Ports Authority) and the Kingdom’s plans for a transformational transport and logistics sector,” says SGP’s CEO Edward Tah.

The future is also now for the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, which is working with partners to design a collaborative system to manage marine vessel traffic and optimize the supply chain flow by a March 31, 2022, deadline imposed by the Canadian government, which also provided funding for an electronic conveyor system to transport bulk materials at the Port of Saguenay.

Embracing big data cannot come soon enough, according to Salotti: “If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that we can’t be complacent. We must evaluate. We must evolve. We must commit to real, systemic change in economic development and infrastructure. Then, we won’t just build a more resilient trade pipeline; we’ll create new jobs and sustain the heart of American industry.”



Where some see a stocking full of coal, others see opportunity. Take Florida Governor Ron DeSantis—please! That might be the sentiments of officials at congested seaports outside of the Sunshine State. For instance, there are the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California, where, at press time, Christmas presents remain stranded in around 100 vessels waiting for docks. While the intervention of President Joe Biden has led to plans for 24/7 loading and unloading of containers at impacted terminals in Southern California and elsewhere, challenges remained (again, at time of publication) to implement the strategy. Some have even suggested that open-all-day-and-night operations fail to address the real problems, like the lack of truck drivers and already packed-to-the-brim warehouses. 

And so, against that chaotic backdrop, DeSantis announced on Oct. 19 that Florida seaports have open capacity, can meet holiday demand and—hey, all you shippers muttering “Bah humbug”—come on down.

“Year after year we continue to invest in our seaports, in infrastructure and in workforce education to make sure our supply chain is resilient,” said Da Gov, who was flanked by officials from Port Everglades, Port Tampa Bay, Port Panama City and host Port of Jacksonville (JAXPORT). “I’m especially proud of Florida’s seaports. They are crown jewels in our state.”

Yes, and those jewels have been shined with $1 billion in state investments since 2019, according to his office. Controversial because of his ties to former President Donald Trump and the supposed “steal,” DeSantis may have distanced himself even more from certain other attendees of U.S. governor conventions by suggesting shippers and out-of-state businesses should choose Florida.

“While other U.S. ports are just now announcing around-the-clock operations, in Florida many of our ports are used to serving Florida farmers, families and businesses with 24-hour operations,” he said. “As the rest of the nation faces rampant inflation and businesses stare down unprecedented supply chain problems, our message is this: Florida is here, we have capacity, we have incentive packages to help businesses who want to move here and we are going to make sure Americans get their Christmas Gifts this season.” 



Established in 1980 to meet the needs of a newly deregulated domestic transportation market, Armstrong & Associates provides unparalleled third-party logistics market research. With offices smack dab in Middle America (Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin, to be precise) and a newsletter that is emailed to more than 88,000 subscribers globally, A&A, as the hep cats call it, churns out market estimates found in media accounts, trade publications (like you-know-who) and securities filings by publicly traded 3PLs,

One thing consumers of A&A’s research gobble up every year is the Top 25 Global Freight Forwarders List. The 2021 version (see accompanying chart) includes rankings based on 2020 gross revenue and freight forwarding volume.

Once again, DHL, Kuehne + Nagel, DB Schenker, DSV Panalpina, Sinotrans, Expeditors and Nippon Express take the power positions, but there are also new entrants: Apex Logistics International and CTS International Logistics.

Wherever your company falls (or does not fall) on the list, it is important to consider that we are (fingers crossed) coming out of unprecedented times in the ocean freight shipping game. A shipping container shortage led to a massive spike in freight rates. Of course, during the height of the pandemic, production and trade halted, leaving ocean carriers in limbo—and many are still trying to regain their sea legs. 

Yes, the busiest trade routes are humming again. The Long Beach/Los Angeles port complex experienced a 23% spike in volume in December 2020 compared to the previous year and, despite the pandemic, the second busiest December in their history. On the opposite coast, the ports of Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia, also dealt with massive influxes in traffic.

Ports that did not share in that success can at least take solace in knowing congestion has created fresh headaches for the industry leaders. Maersk and MSC have pulled certain carriers from their regular rotations in the short term. Timing shipments, so products can navigate through offshore parking lots and reach store shelves in time for the holidays, has become the sweet science. 

Meanwhile, many shippers say they’re operating at losses to meet their global customers’ demands. Keep in mind this is at a time when investing much more into that magic bullet known as digitization is all the rage. The aforementioned Maersk is using technology to streamline freight booking, particularly spot booking. CMA CGM, Yang Ming Marine and Hapag-Lloyd also introduced freight booking tools. And artificial intelligence (AI) is growing as a major force in global shipping.

Here comes another headache: The reliance on tech increases the risks of cyberattacks. Since 2017, nearly half of the top 10 freight carriers worldwide were victims of digital security breaches, including a $300 million loss from Maersk due to a ransomware cyberattack.

While noble, sustainability efforts create another money-sucker for ports and logistics companies. The freight shipping industry represents approximately 2.2% of all global greenhouse gas emissions, which expected to rise by 50% by 2050 if action isn’t taken. Carriers are doing their part by switching to more environmentally friendly fuels, such as liquified natural gas (LNG). Around 13% of new vessels ordered this year are LNG fueled, because a clean planet = priceless.


2021 Rank*

Service Provider

Gross Revenue 
(US$ Millions)**


2020 Rank

1 DHL Supply Chain & Global Forwarding 28,453 2,862,000 1
1 Kuehne + Nagel 25,787 4,529,000 1
2 DB Schenker 20,761 2,052,000 2
2 DSV Panalpina 18,269 2,204,902 3
3 Sinotrans 12,174 3,750,000 4
4 Expeditors 10,116 1,091,380 5
5 Nippon Express 19,347 660,152 6
6 CEVA Logistics*** 7,416 1,081,100*** 7
7 C.H. Robinson 15,490 1,200,000 9
8 Kerry Logistics 6,867 1,019,924 10
8 UPS Supply Chain Solutions 11,048 620,000 8
9 GEODIS 9,135 866,631 12
10 Bolloré Logistics 5,265 761,000 11
11 Hellman Worldwide Logistics 2,972 905,100 12
12 Kintetsu World Express 5,750 640,063 13
13 Agility 4,018 771,000 14
14 Yusen Logistics 4,248 764,000 14
15 CTS International Logistics 2,160 1,021,007 Not listed
16 Hitachi Transport System 6,346 662,000 16
17 DACHSER*** 6,591 492,440 15
18 Toll Group 7,260 523,300 18
19 Maersk Logistics (DAMCO) 6,369 401,369 17
20 Apex Logistics International 2,274 190,000 Not Listed
21 Logwin 1,292 698,000 19
22 Mainfreight 2,467 347,638 21


* Ranking also factors in a forwarder’s air cargo shipments by metric tons.

** Revenues and volumes are company reported or Armstrong & Associates, Inc. estimates. Revenues have been converted to US$ using the average annual exchange rate in order to make non-currency related growth comparisons. Freight forwarders are ranked using a combined overall average based on their individual rankings for gross revenue, ocean TEUs and air metric tons.

*** Includes LCL shipments.