New Articles

TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY CHAO COMMEMORATES ST. LAWRENCE SEAWAY’S 60TH ANNIVERSARY

St. Lawrence Seaway

TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY CHAO COMMEMORATES ST. LAWRENCE SEAWAY’S 60TH ANNIVERSARY

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao marked the 60th anniversary of the St. Lawrence Seaway, the U.S.-Canadian waterway, at a Sept. 24 ceremony at the Eisenhower Lock in Massena, New York. 

“For 60 years, the St. Lawrence Seaway has been a safe and reliable gateway for global commerce, further demonstrating our nation’s strong and strategic partnership with Canada,” Chao said.

She was joined by Transport Canada Director General of Marine Policy Marc-Yves Bertin, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-New York), U.S. Seaway Deputy Administrator Craig Middlebrook, Canadian Seaway President and CEO Terence Bowles and U.S. and Canadian government and transportation officials.

 Chao and Representative Stefanik also used the event to announce $6 million in funding for the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. to construct a new Visitors’ Center at the U.S. Eisenhower Lock. This new center will welcome the tens of thousands of people from around the world who come to watch ships transit the lock each year, and serve as a cornerstone for tourism in the North Country region of New York.

The bi-national waterway was officially opened in 1959 by Queen Elizabeth II and President Dwight D. Eisenhower. It has been proclaimed as one of the 10 most outstanding engineering achievements of the past 100 years. Since its inception, nearly 3 billion tons of cargo, valued at over $450 billion, have been transported via the Seaway

ocean

A Tough Year on the Water Hasn’t Dampened Innovation for these Ocean Carriers

To say that 2019 has been challenging for ocean carriers would be an understatement. The year began with the National Retail Federation forecasting a decline in year-over-year growth, echoing World Bank chatter of a slowing global economy.

And don’t forget the tariff wars between the U.S. and China (heck, the U.S. and just about anyone). Managing capacity on ships has also been an issue, and then there is the potential biggest bogeyman of all: the International Maritime Organization’s low-sulfur fuel mandate taking effect Jan. 1, 2020.

Sure, we could dwell on the gloom and doom, but that would not be very Global Trade magazine of us, now would it? We here in our silky ivory tower like to spotlight the positive, which we reveal with these ocean shippers we love.

MSC

Mediterranean Shipping Co. this year watched the world’s largest container ship, the MSC Gülsün, complete its maiden voyage from northern China to Europe. With a width of 197 feet and a length of 1,312 feet (!), the Gülsün was built by Samsung Heavy Industries at the Geoje shipyard in South Korea. It can carry up to 23,756 TEUs shipping containers on one haul. That capacity can include 2,000 refrigerated containers for shipping food, beverages, pharmaceuticals or any other chilled and frozen cargoes. That’s a lot of snow cones!

MOL

Mitsui O.S.K. Lines sees MSC Gülsün and raises you the MOL Triumph, which achieved a new world load record this year. Departing Singapore for Northern Europe on THE Alliance’s FE2 service with a cargo of 19,190 TEU. That surpassed the previous load record achieved in August 2018, when Mumbai Maersk sailed from Tanjung Pelepas to Rotterdam with 19,038 TEU onboard. Yes, you are correct, that’s a pretty slim margin of victory, and analysts suspect the MOL Triumph record won’t last long given the 23,000 TEU ships being introduced.

HYUNDAI MERCHANT MARINE 

Speaking of THE Alliance, current members Hapag-Lloyd, ONE and Yang Ming will be joined in April 2020 by Hyundai Merchant Marine (HMM). The South Korean carrier recently signed an agreement to join THE Alliance and then passed the pen to the founding members, who extended the duration of their collaboration until 2030. “HMM is a great fit for THE Alliance as it will provide a number of new and modern vessels, which will help us to deliver better quality and be more efficient,” said Rolf Habben Jansen, Hapag-Lloyd’s chief executive. 

HAPAG-LLOYD

Oh, speaking of the fifth-largest container shipping company in the world, Hapag-Lloyd is piloting an online insurance product as part of a digital offering to try to overcome the widespread practice of shippers relying on the limited cover provided under the terms of carriers’ bills of lading. While Hapag-Lloyd says it takes the utmost care in transporting cargo, company officials acknowledge things can and have gone wrong. Thus, the introduction of Quick Cargo Insurance, which is underwritten by industrial insurer Chubb in Germany and is limited to containerized exports from that country, France and the Netherlands. However, the carrier says it plans to expand the offer.  

MAERSK

To navigate new environmental regulations, A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S is considering going old school. We mean really old school by using a modern version of the old-fashioned sail to help power its ships. Currently being tested on one of Maersk’s giant tankers, the sails look less like the flapping silk you know from Johnny Depp movies and Jerry Seinfeld’s puffy shirt and more like huge marble columns. But they are nothing to laugh at as two 10-story-tall cylinders can harness enough wind to replace 20 percent of the ship’s fossil fuels, according to their maker, Norsepower Oy Ltd. 

MOL, THE SEQUEL

While we’re getting all green up in here, it’s worth also pointing out that Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd. This year joined three other Japanese companies— Asahi Tanker Co., Exeno Yamamizu Corp., and Mitsubishi Corp.—in teaming up to build the world’s first zero-emission tanker by mid-2021. Their joint venture e5 Lab Inc. will power the vessel with large-capacity batteries and operate in Tokyo Bay, according to a statement the foursome released on Aug. 6. Thanks to the onslaught of legislation to improve environmental performance, other companies are also looking to battery power. Norway’s Kongsberg Gruppen is developing an electric container vessel, and Rolls-Royce Holdings last year that started offering battery-powered ship engines.

AMAZON

No, this is not a leftover strand from a different story in this magazine about moving packages on the ground. “Quietly and below the radar,” USA Today recently reported, “Amazon has been ramping up its ocean shipping service, sending close to 4.7 million cartons of consumers goods from China to the United States over the past year, records show.” While other ocean carrier leaders prepare for the bald head of Jeff Bezos, his move really should be no surprise given Amazon’s attempt to control as much of its transportation network as possible. (See my September-October issue story “Air War: Fast, Free Shipping has UPS, FedEx and Amazon Scrambling in the Air”). Of Amazon now floating into the sea, Steve Ferreira, CEO of Ocean Audit, a company that utilizes data and machine learning to find ocean freight refunds for the Fortune 500, told USA Today: “This makes them the only e-commerce company that is able to do the whole transaction from end-to-end. Amazon now has a closed ecosystem.” 

CarrierGo

Blume CarrierGo Provides Motor Carriers with All-Encompassing Business Solutions

This year’s Intermodal Expo in Long Beach, California featured some of the latest solution offerings disrupting the transportation sector. Among leading industry experts including logistics and supply chain solutions provider, Blume Global unveiling their latest product offering, Blume CarrierGo. Blume Global boasts over 25 years of transportation solution offerings in the cloud enabling international multimodal operations including shipment planning, execution, visibility, invoicing, invoice processing & settlement.

“Blume CarrierGo is a product we created that offers our global network of 7,000-plus carriers more than just execution, adding more value for both the carriers and the drivers,” explains Glenn Jones, GVP Product Strategy at Blume Global. “CarrierGo is localized in 22 languages and utilized by customers around the globe, so it’s not limited to the United States. This solution enables carriers to increase turns per day while reducing empty miles and maximizing efficiencies.” 

The days of manual processes are becoming a thing of the past, particularly in transportation and carrier services as automation continues setting a new and more improved standard of streamlining operations. Blume CarrierGo solution identifies processes such as appointment scheduling for carriers lacking levels of automation needed for optimization. Another example is opportunities with street turns found within the Blume import and export-heavy freight forwarding customers.

“We have insight into what independent freight forwarders might not be able to see, such as import and export maps leading to an opportunity for a street turn recommendation or automatic allocation. Dwell times also provide an opportunity for automation. We may have 20, 30, or even 50 carriers trying to pick up containers out of the same terminal. By leveraging our visibility across multiple freight forwarders we can either make recommendations or we can delay making appointments through the insight we have into marine terminals with delays,” Jones adds. 

And how about invoicing? Blume covers all bases for carriers in terms of accessorials and eliminating the element of surprise when it comes to unpredictable charges backing up processing times. The Blume solutions process requires carriers to gain approval for accessorials before they even happen. 

“If a carrier needs to get to a port and they’re unable to, there might be a demurrage charge or there might be a carrier in a dwell time charge situation unexpectedly. They can gain approval from the buyer for that accessorial and when it appears on the invoice days – or hours later, there’s no surprise and the invoice will be processed faster,” Jones adds. “This is particularly useful for carriers in 3rd world countries, where the carriers tend to be much smaller and require payments quicker than what the freight terms offer,” Jones adds. 

Processes like these are found within the CarrierGo solution, providing maximized efficiencies and reducing costly and time-consuming overhead freight audits and manual payment processes. Carriers are not only paid on time, but have increased opportunity for invoice factoring discussions in international markets. This is a major differentiator found within the Blume solutions structure impacting global scale capabilities across the supply chain, creating seamless flows between all players and competitors in the multimodal sector. 

For more information about how Blume CarrierGo can improve your cargo needs, please visit booth 512 at Intermodal Expo or visit Blume Global on the web. 

__________________________________________________________

Glenn Jones, GVP Product Strategy, Blume Global

 Glenn has a proven track record of growing businesses by building and leading product management/marketing and R&D organizations to define, develop, position, and sell highly innovative and high value enterprise solutions delivered in the cloud. He was formerly the COO of Sweetbridge and the CTO of Steelwedge Software. He also held leadership positions at several other companies, including Elementum and E2Open.

intermodal

HOW TO BE AN INTERMODAL SHIPPER OF CHOICE

Fluctuating capacity and freight rates along with increased focus on efficiency and sustainability have led to substantial growth in the intermodal market in recent years. As more companies now compete for intermodal capacity at competitive rates, it is important for shippers to set themselves apart from the competition by being attractive partners to their intermodal carriers. 

By being a “shipper of choice” and implementing flexible and efficient practices, companies can build collaborative, mutually beneficial relationships with their intermodal carriers. This better positions them to secure capacity at stable, competitive pricing and enhance service levels and improve overall performance. 

Why It’s Important to be an “Intermodal Shipper of Choice” 

While being a “shipper of choice” has been a hot topic in recent years, the focus has primarily been placed on over-the-road shipping. And while there are many similarities between the two modes, there are also some nuances that must be considered to be an “intermodal shipper of choice” in particular. 

First, because loads are tied to the equipment instead of to an individual driver, there must be an equal (if not greater) focus on equipment management and efficiency in addition to driver efficiency. By placing equal focus on implementing “carrier-friendly” tactics for intermodal freight, shippers can strengthen carrier relationships and better control costs. This, in turn, ensures enhanced intermodal service performance–increasing the ROI of utilizing the mode.

Here are some strategies organizations can use to become an intermodal shipper of choice:

Engage in annual renewals with incumbent carriers rather than annual RFPs. While annual RFPs can yield savings, they also increase uncertainty and risk for both shippers and carriers. By focusing on long-term commitments with incumbent carriers through annual renewals, shippers and their core carriers can continuously foster a relationship of mutual trust and ongoing success. Through this relationship, the carrier and its drivers become intimately familiar with the shipper’s network, freight and business, and the shipper gets to know the carrier’s operations and the drivers responsible for picking up and delivering their loads.

Accurately forecast freight volumes. The ability to forecast freight volumes and seasonal swings allows shippers and carriers to proactively plan (and reposition) equipment and drivers to provide adequate capacity. Sharing this information not only helps provide more consistent service but can be beneficial for both sides on an ongoing basis. 

Consistent freight volumes. Having consistent volume spread out throughout the week, month or year makes appointment scheduling and equipment planning easier for the carrier. And if shippers do ship heavier at certain times, it is important to set and manage expectations with carriers. 

Equipment pool requirements in line with volume. Pool requirements that are in line with volume allow shippers to turn boxes on a regular basis and keep loads moving at a consistent pace. This helps maximize equipment utilization while minimizing equipment costs.

Inbound and outbound volume. Setting consistent inbound and outbound volume out of facilities allows drivers to pick up loads immediately following a drop-off. This reduces empty miles and improves both driver and equipment utilization. These efficiencies will ultimately result in better rates from carriers. 

Utilize drop and hook freight capabilities. Drivers want to be able to get in and out of a facility in an efficient manner, at any time. Drop and hook freight capabilities create load flexibility, reducing congestion in the yard and maximizing driver utilization by minimizing detention time. 

Flexible pick-up and delivery appointments. For customers that require pick-up and delivery appointments, it is important to make them as flexible as possible. This drives further efficiencies for both the carrier and the shipper.

Reasonable payment terms. Shippers should have timely freight payment terms (often 30 days or fewer) and keep to those terms. It is also important to have a system in place to quickly resolve any discrepancies.

Provide driver amenities at the facilities. By providing driver amenities at their facilities (such as bathrooms or waiting lounges), shippers help make the pick-up and delivery process easier and more comfortable. These simple comforts show that the shipper views the carrier (and its drivers) as a valuable part of their operations versus a commodity. 

Utilize facilities in close proximity to intermodal terminals. Facilities that are located near intermodal rail terminals allow rail to be a more competitive option for a shipper. While this is not always possible, shippers looking to build new facilities should consider placing them near rail ramps in order to take advantage of more intermodal opportunities. 

Intermodal Presents Significant Opportunity for Shippers

Intermodal continues to be a cost-effective, efficient and sustainable way to move freight and should be a key piece of any strategic modal mix. And as more shippers compete for capacity and competitive rates, it’s important for shippers to best position themselves to be attractive partners to intermodal carriers. This will allow them to better take advantage of intermodal while helping to control costs and enhance service performance. 

__________________________________________________

Doug Punzel is president of Celtic Intermodal, Transplace’s intermodal business unit. David Marsh serves as Celtic Intermodal’s chief operating officer and helps oversee all daily operations. 

Port Houston City Docks Confirmed for Universal Africa Lines Service

Port Houston’s City Docks have been officially selected by Universal Africa Lines (UAL) as part of their U.S. Gulf/Mexico to West Africa liner service following the success of the first vessel call of MV MarMalaita last week. Port of Houston was specifically selected because of the availability for project cargoes and berths, adding flexibility to the ocean carrier’s multipurpose fleet.

“Port Houston is excited about our new partnership with UAL and that they are entrusting us with their services here at the port’s city docks,” said Dominic Sun, Director of Trade Development for Port
Houston. “We look forward to working with UAL in providing them, along with their ultimate customers, with the best customer experience possible here at Port Houston.”

UAL boasts a robust fleet consisting of over 4,000 containers ranging from reefers and high cubes, to open tops and flat racks. All fully capable of providing a multitude of shipping options. Additionally, UAL currently conducts between two and three sailings monthly from Houston while focusing on the oil and gas industries and providing logistics solutions for clients shipping to hard-to-reach regions.

“UAL is grateful for the partnership we have been able to establish with Port Houston and thank everyone involved for their efforts during this transition; we are looking forward to a long-lasting
relationship that offers growth potential for UAL,” said Dianna Knight, President UAL America. “UAL America, on behalf of Universal Africa Lines, will continue to provide the paramount level of customer service that our clients have grown accustomed to; we are confident this move will help with our vessel turnaround time while operating in a safe environment.”

Source: Port of Houston

HKSPA

World’s Largest Container Vessels Arrive at HKSPA Terminal

Hong Kong Seaport Alliance announced the successful arrival of the OOCL Hong Kong and ten additional OOCL and Cosco Shipping Lines Ltd. mega vessels at the HKSPA Terminal 8 facility this week, just six months following the alliance’s formation. OOCL Hong Kong- known as one of the largest container vessels in the world, deployed along with the other mega vessels at the end of June for the OCEAN Alliance’s Asia-North Europe Service, which included Hong Kong as a port of call.

Hong Kong, despite being small in size, has been in the league of the world’s top ten ports for the past 30 years or so. This is an enviable achievement not easy to accomplish. Credits must go to our port operators for the provision of highly efficient and professional services to the international shipping community,” said Angela Lee, Commissioner for Maritime and Port Development and Deputy Secretary for Transport and Housing (Transport).

“Coupled with our sound fundamentals built over the years, including our free port status, strong international connectivity, trusted common law system, and a level playing field for business, I am confident that our port would be able to further leverage on new opportunities presented by the Greater Bay Area Development, the Belt and Road Initiative and the New Land-Sea Corridor, and continue to thrive as a regional transshipment hub,” Lee added.

The massive OOCL Hong Kong container vessel boasts 21,413 TEU capacity and holds the title as the first in the world to exceed the 21,000 TEU capacity threshold. There are currently only 12 container vessels that can boast capacity of this size, and eight of them are among the mega vessels deployed during the OCEAN Alliance’s Asia-North Europe Service, including Cosco Shipping’s GALAXY. 

“As a Hong Kong company deeply rooted in the city, OOCL HONG KONG’s maiden call has a very special place in many of our hearts, said Andy Tung, Co-Chief Executive Officer of OOCL. “Containerships like the OOCL HONG KONG are important ambassadors of world trade and as a home carrier, we are very proud to have this vessel carry the name of Hong Kong, flying the flag of Hong Kong, and continue serving the industries of Hong Kong. OOCL is very blessed to call Hong Kong our home and being an integral part of the city’s vibrant business community over the last 50 years, providing a vital link to global trade. We like to thank the HKSPA for the wonderful hospitality and celebrating this milestone event together with us.” 

“We are proud of being ranked as the World’s Best Transshipment Port by COSCO SHIPPING this year,” said Hanliang Zhu, Managing Director of the Asia Container Terminals Limited (ACT) during the welcoming reception. “We will keep on working closely with the carriers as well as the shippers and other logistics providers to maintain Hong Kong as a reliable transshipment hub in the region.”

 

 

security

Mozambique’s Hi-Tech Security Could be Africa’s Model

The threat of piracy has waned around the Horn of Africa in recent years, a fact that mariners attribute to the “Djibouti rules.” Countries with coastlines on the West Indian Ocean and the Red Sea abide by the Djibouti Code of Conduct, a regional response to security, environmental and administrative challenges that have confronted shipping for many years.

In even better news, there’s now a chance for “Djibouti 2.” This wouldn’t be a diplomatic accord. Rather, advanced technology offers the promise of new dynamism to cooperation and surveillance, which we can see as a follow up to the Djibouti rules. A model for the kinds of high-tech equipment and systems that can help protect assets in the seas is now in the hands of a southern signatory to the code, Mozambique.

To be precise, the model in this case are the high-speed maritime security vessels and an accompanying set of seven unmanned radar sites and VSAT satellite surveillance services that Mozambique took delivery of a few years ago.

The wide range of threats to mariners and commercial enterprises on Africa’s East coast demand not only multinational cooperation but also real-time intelligence to inform and direct law-enforcement efforts. In its recent report on maritime security, DefenseWeb, notes that the Djibouti code has been amended to cover illicit maritime activity beyond piracy and armed robbery, such as weapons, drugs, human and wildlife trafficking; illegal waste dumping; illegal fishing; and crude oil theft. Satellite and radar are needed to pinpoint these threats.

International organizations like the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime have focused resources on the Horn of Africa, specifically in Somalia and Somaliland. But trouble has a way of migrating down the coast. Indeed, the root causes of piracy are often ignored. According to the Africa Center for Security Policy, piracy is problem that is primarily  land-based with maritime symptoms. Many of the people who were involved in piracy and other criminal activity a decade ago are still engaged in maritime crime.  

These elements are converging in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province. With marauding terrorist gangs crossing Tanzania’s southern border into Cabo Delgado in northern Mozambique, spikes in violence have already been seen, including an attack there earlier this year on contractors for the U.S. energy giant Anadarko. One person was beheaded. As Anadarko and other oil and gas firms develop offshore natural gas fields, terrorists and criminals will no doubt put their sights on these target-rich environments at sea. That is the moment when satellite surveillance and radar arrays will prove valuable.

Mozambique has a state-of-the-art capacity at its disposal, even if the radar systems have not yet been deployed in some cases. This equipment, provided by the global shipbuilding company Privinvest, can be used to protect and monitor the estimated $30 billion worth of gas reserves now under development in Mozambique’s territorial waters.

In addition, the country is losing an estimated $60 million in revenue each year to illegal fishing, mostly by foreign-owned ships, according to Mozambican minister of oceans and fisheries Agostinho Mondlane. Many millions more worth of ivory, minerals, alcohol, narcotics and sugar are smuggled out of Africa through scantly-monitored ports in northern Mozambique. Tighter monitoring of its ports and maritime traffic would help the country crack down on all these crimes.

Satellite and radar tracking would complement one another especially when it comes to monitoring the Exclusive Economic Zones of coastal states in Africa. Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) aboard ships, which track vessels, can also be picked up by satellite. Illegal fishing, smuggling or pirate vessels have every reason not to turn on their AIS systems. That’s where radar systems capable of running Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) become essential to law enforcement. Setting up VMS with equipment already purchased by Mozambique and running them through a unified command center would make Mozambique a model to be replicated across the continent.

The Djibouti Code of Conduct depends on meaningful contributions from its signatory states. By standing up its radar stations, operationalizing its satellite services and integrating its high-speed patrol boats and interceptors into this technology-driven network, Mozambique could provide the living blueprint for maritime security in Africa.

Gregory Tosi is an attorney practicing international trade law in developing countries. He also builds personal submersibles and small boats

africa

RTM LINES PROVIDES INNOVATIVE SOLUTIONS TO AFRICA’S COMPLEX CARGO CHALLENGES

Headquartered in Norwalk, Connecticut, and boasting 38 years of trans-ocean transportation, RTM Lines continues its position as a major player among global ocean carriers. RTM Lines’ initial focus was rolling stock. Over the years the carrier added competence in breakbulk, FCL and project cargo management. Comprehensive global knowledge as well as in-depth understanding of local customs and regulations allow RTM Lines to provide innovative solutions to the complex cargo challenges facing Africa and the world today.

“We are niche players and have been doing this for many years,” says RTM’s Vice President Richard Tiebel, adding, “We know who the suppliers are, what their requirements are, how their operations work, and they know what RTM can do. They appreciate our thorough understanding of the business. Our in-house responsiveness and assistance with planning and preparation on difficult loads are what sets us apart.”

“At RTM, customers and suppliers will always be able to speak with a representative who has a working knowledge of their shipments from end to end. Our clients appreciate this and keep coming back to us with their projects and shipments year after year. I love what we do, it is an exciting industry, every shipment is unique, and ocean transport is essential to global trade.”

More recently, RTM has invested efforts in learning about untapped global opportunities, specifically within African infrastructure and breakbulk. Among the continents, Africa presents resources and opportunities in regions such as Ethiopia, Northern Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). However, these same regions don’t come without unique challenges to navigate. As RTM’s vice president, Tiebel understands that before tapping into this market as he knows one must first understand both its potential and roadblocks that are found within the political and economic environments.

“Right now, the DRC is sitting on some of the world’s largest natural cobalt resource, but because of political turmoil, it makes it that much harder to get this cobalt,” Tiebel observes. “Africa has a reputation of political/government instability, so if a project was approved by one political party, throughout the life of a project it could experience some instability or complete regime changes. Certainly, this will be a big risk because if a government changes overnight, this market could change overnight. You may have a license for an exploration of a resource, and then the next government could have a different plan.”

Furthermore, Tiebel shared the importance of local knowledge as a driver behind success in international markets, such as Africa. Reiterating the company’s core value of local expertise, RTM places an emphasis on all players involved in the shipping and trading process.

“Africa is showing the exponential growth of any other continent,” Tiebel says. “Right now, markets like Ethiopia have shown eight percent GDP growth, per annum. Taking a deep dive and analyzing what is driving this growth there are a number of things within urbanization, ICT (telecommunications) and the extractives industry (oil, gas and mining).”

Diving even deeper into the region’s shifts and opportunities, Tiebel highlights key areas that need attention and research for successful utilization and navigation.

“In the next four to five years, city populations will double. This places a lot of pressure for infrastructure and the need to develop. Right now, most cities weren’t built for these amounts of people. That in of itself is an amazing opportunity, because it places a need on power, water and sanitation, housing developments, and around that the buildup of industries for support to serve these populations.”

He continues: “Most governments couldn’t support fixed-line infrastructures, but now Africa is going through an ICT revolution. Now the private sector is supporting this revolution and its allowing Africans to conduct business in a normal way, using technology. Companies like Microsoft have been investing in some African tech sectors, to develop talent and to take Africa forward.”

“Additionally, Africa has a lot of stranded resources in the middle of nowhere, no infrastructure whatsoever. The gas in Northern Mozambique is the world’s 12th largest natural gas resource. A lot of infrastructure will need to be built in order to get this gas, because the town itself is very small and barely has roads to it, no port, no airport or even power and electricity. The town of Palma will literally be built up in order to access this gas resource offshore.”

As African regions maintain a position of opportunity, industry players must continue to provide regular service at a good price by MPV conveyance while anticipating shifts, according to Tiebel. As IMO 2020 draws closer, he shared his perspective on how Africa’s natural resources could potentially offset some of the unidentified challenges to come.

“The cost of the IMO’s regulatory change on the shipping industry in unknown, but every analyst expects it to be large. As well as shipping lines, the IMO’s decision will also impact refiners, crude producers, bunker suppliers and emissions and air quality affecting the health of millions of people. With Africa sitting on many different natural resources and this new emergence of investment to extract these resources, hopefully these resources in Africa will help with the industry with the spike in fuel costs, in 2020.”

Bringing the conversation back to the core of the RTM difference, Tiebel positions the local community and its needs as a priority before changes can take place in unpredictable and shifting markets. This further confirms the company’s continued success and robust, satisfied customer base. RTM Lines is a prime example of what it takes to conduct global operations while catering to a variety of customer needs. Instead of limiting customers, RTM provides its customers timely options.

“The issue with Africa is it’s a place with a lot of internal issues that need to be dealt with,” Tiebel concludes. “To get things done, one must have local knowledge and knowing the local people to get things moving. Without local knowledge and understanding what people need, you won’t be able to move on.”

Tariffs & Shippers

IS THE CARGO SHIP SAILING ON NEW TARIFFS?

Demand for Space on Cargo Ships is Surging Ahead of Anticipated Tariffs on China

As over 300 witnesses present testimony in Washington, DC this week and next on the impact of proposed China tariffs on their businesses, uncertainty hangs in the air.

Following the hearing process, committee review and publication of tariff schedules, new tariffs could be imposed as soon as late July or August, which means the cargo shipping rush is on to beat the potential hikes.

Don’t Miss the Boat

The prospect of tariff hikes acts like an “early bird” registration rate as companies are incentivized to lock in better prices now. Many retailers are competing just to find space for their goods on an ocean carrier. Air shipments are an alternative, but far costlier. The shipment surge has resulted in massive congestion at ports and warehouses that are bursting at the seams.

This scenario is familiar. Retailers scrambled last year to book cargo to get ahead of tariffs. Importers front-loaded holiday merchandise shipments to beat the 10 percent tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports in the fall of 2018, and then front-loaded spring 2019 merchandise imports late in the year when they anticipated the tariffs would go up from 10 to 25 percent on January 1, 2019. That threat temporarily subsided when President Trump extended the negotiation deadline with China, but reemerged in May 2019. This time, the tariff threat materialized. Goods would remain at 10 percent only if they were exported from China to the United States prior to May 10, 2019 and entered into the United States before June 15, 2019.

New Tariffs, New Shipping Surge

The President has said he will make a decision after the June 28-29 G-20 meetingwhether to impose 25 percent tariffs on an additional $300 billion in Chinese imports, meaning a tariff on nearly everything the United States imports from China, including the kitchen sink (yes, kitchen sinks are on the tariff list).

Retailers generally import most of their holiday goods in August and September, but many are moving up this timetable in anticipation of higher tariffs, accelerating the traditional holiday peak shipping season. If major importers all do the same, advancing the shipment of months of inventory, how will shipping lines manage the demand and allocate vessel space? Where does all this volume sit when it arrives? What is the impact on costs for shippers?

All of this can add up to some choppy trade waters.

Hold My Spot

Retailers, who are the “shippers” of goods, may negotiate service contracts with ocean carriers under which the shipper commits to provide a certain amount of volume over a given period and the carrier commits to a certain rate schedule and set of services. Typically, the greater amount of volume, the better the rates will be. The alternative to contracts is the less predictable spot rate market. Usually valid for only one shipment, the spot rates fluctuate with market conditions.

Larger established shippers are more likely to have service contracts, while small- and medium-sized businesses are likely to be more at the mercy of the spot rate market. Because retailers generally require more pricing certainty and service guarantees, they may opt for contractual arrangements and lose out on the chance to capitalize on weak spot markets. Spot rates can dip below contract levels, for example, if carriers add too much capacity into the system or volume slows. Some businesses play it both ways, confirming some volume under contract and turning to the spot rate market for the rest.

There can also be price-based competition to secure slots on a particular vessel during peak periods, with carriers able to demand surcharges to protect shippers from being rolled onto a later vessel departure. When tariffs are imminent, shippers are often more willing to pay these surcharges to get space on the next available crossing.

Rather than contracting with an individual shipline, a shipper may choose to work with a common carrier, like UPS, that offers ocean transportation, but does not operate the vessels. These Non-Vessel Owning Common Carriers (NVOCCs) differentiate themselves by pointing to their ability to offer a diversified carrier mix and flexibility in cases of unexpected circumstances, such as a strike at the dock a particular carrier uses. The NVOCC negotiates with ocean carriers for a number of slots on particular trade lanes, in effect negotiating as the shipper, and then offers ocean shipping service to customers.

Seeking A Port in a Storm

In theory, changes to service contracts must be agreed upon by both parties – carrier and shipper – before taking effect. In practice, however, shippers and carriers sometimes treat service contracts more as guidelines than binding agreements. Import surges have caused some carriers to hike previously agreed rates, and if the shipper won’t pay, the cargo might sit in Shanghai.

Various organizations are developing innovative solutions to address these contract challenges, including through the use of technology to record contract terms and track shipments’ conformity with those terms, financial security tools to ensure penalty settlement, and requirements to pay collateral at the time of contract, unlike the current spot market where no money is exchanged until goods are on the water and either party can cancel at any prior point without an enforceable penalty.

As the race to get goods to shore heats up, shippers not only face cost increases at sea. With ports struggling with containers stacked six or seven high, shippers also face extra charges to get their goods off ships, onto trucks and into warehouses. As one example, the onslaught of containers also means a surge in demand for chassis, the steel frames that allow trucks to carry shipping containers. If sufficient chassis are not available, truckers have to delay deliveries, incurring costs that are passed to the shipper.

With thousands of retailers moving tremendous volume, the issue of warehouse capacity also becomes a challenge. According to Los Angeles Times reporting, Southern California’s warehousing and distribution complex, the largest in the world, has a less than one percent vacancy rate. Some retailers have resorted to storing pallets outside, while others face hefty fees for exceeding storage windows.

Ports part one
China trade

Are China’s Neighboring Ports Ready?

What about sourcing from countries other than China to avoid the tariffs? That’s easier said than done, at least in the short term to beat a looming tariff deadline. Switching to new vendors and manufacturers takes money and time. New vendors must be trained to meet retailer standards and be able to meet needed lead times. Factories must be vetted for quality standards, social welfare conditions and security factors. China also has superb logistics and other supply chain advantages that other countries cannot match.

In a recent piece in The Hill, the Cato Institute’s Dan Ikenson pointed to trade data showing that, as U.S. imports from China fell by 12 percent in the first four months of 2019, imports from Vietnam grew by 32 percent over the same period. However, Vietnam’s transportation infrastructure is reportedly overwhelmed with the new volume, straining the country’s roads and ports. And, Vietnam is facing pressure to adopt more rigorous measures to ensure that Chinese products do not get transshipped through the country and into the United States, merely to avoid U.S. tariffs.

“The Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach together comprise the San Pedro Bay Port Complex…On the import side, our most recent analysis estimates the current and proposed tariffs directed at China will impact roughly 66% of all imports by value at the San Pedro Bay.”

– June 17 letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer from Eugene Seroka, Executive Director, Port of Los Angeles

Rough Waters Ahead

Despite the current shipping boom as producers and retailers build inventory to get ahead of tariffs, the shipping industry is concerned about the future impacts of an inevitable falloff in volume, even if the U.S. economy remains strong. When import volumes soften, dockworkers are not called to work, and the demand shrinks for logistics workers, warehouse workers and truckers. The surges and variability caused by tariff threats – some enacted and some not — have generated a boatload of uncertainty across the wide range of industries that make up the supply chain.

That uncertainty affects not only the users of shipping infrastructure, but sometimes the infrastructure itself. The Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) owns and operates the Conley Container Terminal in the port of Boston, which serves 1,600 regional import and export businesses. After avoiding tariffs last fall on ship-to-shore cranes to service larger container ships, Massport finds the cranes back on the proposed tariff list. The imposition of 25 percent tariffs would add at least $10 million in costs for three new cranes it plans to buy. Currently, there is no U.S. manufacturer for these cranes and the only experienced manufacturer is in China.

The President and CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities is among those testifying at the hearings this week. He will make the case that tariff increases would negatively impact ports’ ability to make investments in infrastructure that are needed to handle significant growth in trade volumes in years to come. Modern transport infrastructure and a return to greater trade certainty will add up to smoother sailing for ports, consumers, and workers across the supply chain.

Leslie Griffin is Principal of Boston-based Allinea LLC. She was previously Senior Vice President for International Public Policy for UPS and is a past president of the Association of Women in International Trade in Washington, D.C.

This article originally appeared on TradeVistas.org. Used with permission.

Everyone’s Breaking Into Breakbulk

Time was breakbulk, project cargo and multipurpose/heavylift were their own niche sector on the global shipping spectrum, but many of today’s carriers are taking it all, from MPV/HL to roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) to go along with their regular old vanilla container hauling (not to suggest said containers are filled with vanilla, although they could be).

The “Big Three” carriers—MSC, CMA-CGM and Maersk—continue competing with one another by each entering the comparatively lucrative breakbulk and project cargo market, which has also drawn such ro/ro specialists as Grimaldi, NYK and MOL.

For its “global out-of-gauge and breakbulk services,” MSC advertises “first class project cargo management, no matter whether you have a requirement for heavy lift cargo, or for oversized cargo which cannot fit inside a standard container.” MSC can point to more than 40 years of experience in shipping oversized freight and their “expert project cargo logistics team” that can help with the planning and execution of special loadings.

Not to be outdone, the CMA CGM website states, “Our dedicated experts will take pride in providing you with our Special Cargo services and will find with you reliable shipping solutions, whether you’re shipping sensitive materials or heavy and bulky equipment but also will take extra care of Aid and Humanitarian cargo that often exceeds the size of standard containers.”

Size matters, of course, as CMA CGM can rely on the expertise of its 755 agencies in more than 160 countries all around the world as well as an extensive network of ports, terminal operators and suppliers. “Our teams can deliver a seamless door-to-door service and integrated one-stop-shop solutions for your Special Cargo anywhere in the world,” the promo boasts.

COSCO Shipping also relies on a large fleet and experience in extra-heavy hauling. This was demonstrated in February, when the sound section of the Maersk Honam was successfully loaded aboard COSCO’s heavy-lift vessel Xin Guang Hua on open waters outside Dubai. The 228.5-meter long item arrived in March at Hyundai Heavy Industries in South Korea.

Maersk has been accepting breakbulk as well, with company officials pointing to the opportunity to be able to carry an entire project as opposed to select components that fit neatly in traditional containers. The carrier does assess breakbulk or project cargo on a case by case, depending on available space and vessels, the length and width of the cargo and the terminals to be called.

“We’ll use special gear, extra labor, and oversee operations,” Karen Hicks, Maersk’s global client manager, told JOC.com in March. “There are no cut and dried solutions.” Her company is searching for more solutions with the creation of special project cargo teams and online booking tools, however.

Wallenius Wilhelmsen Ocean (WW Ocean) is occupying the space in between containers and lift-on/lift-off (lo/lo) or geared MPV/HL, stowing cargo under the deck of ro-ro ships where less packaging and handling is required. WW Ocean officials say they see growth potential in being able to handle a single piece of breakbulk cargo, multiple pieces or pieces and materials for large, multimillion-dollar projects handled over several voyages.

Customers should be warned that pricing can be tricky. As opposed to a standard container rate, carriers have to factor in trade lanes, weight and volume, cargo type, and any special equipment needed, such as mobile loading platforms (mafis) or jack-up trailers. Surcharges for bunkers, port costs, and other assessorial charges must also be factored in. And then there are the costs for securing different types of cargo along the trade routes.

The variety of elements to consider has not swayed Höegh Autoliners away from offering transportation for all types of breakbulk cargo, as the carrier handles close to 6 million cubic meters of high and heavy and breakbulk cargoes annually worldwide. For breakbulk, project and other “out-of-gauge” cargo, Höegh relies on modern and specialized rolltrailers, which are specially designed for smooth and safe transportation of heavy and/or long breakbulk cargo.

G2 Ocean is only two years old, so most would consider the carrier new to the breakbulk game. But company officials want you to know that they actually have 50 years of experience in the sector thanks to G2 Ocean being a joint venture of two of the world’s leading breakbulk and bulk-shipping companies: Gearbulk and Grieg Star.

“We operate the largest fleet of open hatch vessels worldwide,” proclaims the G2 Ocean website. “In addition we operate a substantial fleet of conventional bulk carriers. With 130 vessels and 13 offices on six continents, we can serve all our customer’s needs. Our vessels are tailor-made for breakbulk cargoes like forestry products, steel and project cargoes. Advanced systems make shipping with us easy. The passion and expertise of our people put our customers at ease. This is the basis for reliable, efficient, flexible, high-quality and innovative services.”

However, you do not have to be a large, global conglomerate carrier concern to specialize in breakbulk and project cargo. On the other end of the roster is Florida Barge Corp. (FBC), whose 150- to 400-foot long tubs were engineered and constructed to transport heavy and concentrated cargo loads.

Routinely operating in the waters of the U.S. East Coast, the Gulf Coast, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America, FBC offers project cargo, heavy-lift, and module transportation services—at rates that are less or at least competitive with the big boys.

Founder Brendan Moran boasts more than 15 years of experience in the marine transportation and project cargo industry. “Whether your needs include loading and transport of bridge beams or dredge related equipment,” states Moran’s online bio, “FBC will provide all aspects of the movement from inception to completion.”