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Port of Baltimore Expands Shipping Access with New Temporary Channel

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Port of Baltimore Expands Shipping Access with New Temporary Channel

In the wake of the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse, the Port of Baltimore has taken a significant step forward by opening a third temporary channel, providing crucial access for vessels amidst ongoing debris removal efforts.

The newly opened channel, situated northeast of the collapsed bridge, serves as a lifeline for “commercially essential vessels” during salvage operations and bridge reconstruction. With dimensions boasting a depth of 20 feet, horizontal clearance of 300 feet, and vertical clearance of 135 feet, this route significantly widens the accessibility for a diverse range of vessels to reach the port.

Coast Guard and Port Captain David O’Connell underscored the importance of this development, emphasizing its capacity to restore approximately 15 percent of the port’s pre-collapse commercial activity.

This initiative follows the opening of the first temporary channel on April 1, soon after the bridge incident in early March. Officials are actively working towards the establishment of a fourth channel by month’s end, aiming to fully restore maritime traffic at the Port of Baltimore.

Meanwhile, efforts to clear debris from the vessel responsible for the bridge collision, the Dali, continue. Despite challenges, workers have successfully removed around 1,300 tonnes of steel using massive cranes. Tragically, the incident has claimed the lives of six roadwork crew members, with recovery efforts ongoing for the remaining two.

The comprehensive debris removal process remains critical, particularly for the safe return of the Dali to the port. As the port navigates these challenges, the opening of the new temporary channel marks a significant milestone in maintaining vital shipping operations amidst ongoing recovery efforts.


South Korea’s Truckers Rock Supply Chains with Strike Action

South Korea’s unionised truckers have gone on strike in a row with the government over minimum pay.

The indefinite strikes, which began local time 12.00 am 24 November, will see at least 20,000 truckers join the picket line, predicted the organiser Cargo Truckers Solidarity (CTS) union.

CTS is affiliated with the Korean Public Service and Transport Workers’ Union (KPTU-TruckSol).

Truckers are calling on the government to extend and increase capabilities of a system which calculates minimum wage based on growing operating costs due to fuel prices soaring.

The system, dubbed ‘Safe Trucking Freight Rates’, applies a minimum freight fare so drivers are not forced to drive dangerously to make deliveries.

The rate currently applies just to container and bulk cement hauliers and is due to expire at the close of the year. Truckers are calling for the scheme to be made permanent and coverage to be expanded to all cargo and freight types, including oil tankers.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) affiliate KPTU-TruckSol called a halt to a strike in June after eight days when the government and industry agreed to continue and expand the Safe Rates programme.

Since then, KPTU-TruckSol argues government has caved to pressure from big business and done everything possible to block progress. In response, KPTU-TruckSol has called a new unlimited national strike.

“The government is backtracking on its promise to the determent of workers and public safety,” said Bongju Lee, KPTU-TruckSol President.

“We are prepared to strike until that changes. Legislation to make Safe Rates permanent and expand coverage must pass in the National Assembly. It’s as simple as that.”

At the Port of Busan, police officers and buses were seen lined up along key routes.

Container traffic at ports has dropped to 40 per cent compared to normal levels since the strike began, the transport ministry said on 24 November.

The eight-day strike by truckers in June over the same issue was estimated to have cost the South Korean economy $1.2 billion and sent shockwaves through global supply chains.

Strike action has plagued global supply chains throughout 2022.

In November in the UK, Peel Ports Group (PPG) and Unite the union members reached a deal after a months-long strikes at the Port of Liverpool.

In November the Port of Antwerp was hit by staff walkouts.

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US Railroad Strike Threatens to Inflict pain on Staggering Economy

A potential rail strike from US railroad workers in December could have dire impacts on an already unstable economy during the peak season, experts have forecasted.

Earlier this week one of the US’s largest railroad labor unions, The Transport Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD), voted against a tentative five-year collective bargaining agreement with the nation’s Class 1 railroads.

Voting concluded midnight Sunday 20 November for members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) as well as the SMART-TD on the proposed agreements.

SMART-TD train and engine service members have voted to reject the proposed contract, while SMART-TD yardmaster members voted to accept.

BLET members voted to accept a tentative agreement reached on 15 September, however have agreed to join the picket line should strikes go ahead.

A status quo agreement between SMART TD and management is in effect until 8 December.

Beginning 9 December, SMART-TD would be allowed to go on strike or the rail carriers would be permitted to lock out workers — unless national Congress intervenes.

BLET and SMART-TD are the two largest rail unions, accounting for half of the unionized workforce on the nation’s largest freight railroads.

Glenn Koepke, General Manager of Network Collaboration at supply chain data firm FourKites, said that the timing of rail unions returning to the negotiation table could have significant impacts on US supply chains at the tail end of the year.

Agriculture, automotive, chemical, packaging and industrial parts would be most severely impacted.

Many of these products are the lifeblood of the American economy and are often critical components for products that are manufactured for consumers, whether food stuffs or hard goods.

“The timing of rail unions coming back to the table to negotiate has two major implications. The first is peak holiday season and what could significantly impact sales in the final month of the calendar year. Second would be a major blow to the economy, which remains in extreme uncertainty,” Koepke said.

Koepke noted that this is “a very opportunistic time” for the rail strike to occur for those looking for changes to happen.

“This would shake the US economy to its core and magnify the spotlight on the national supply chain. Unlike a port disruption or a terminal strike, there are only seven major, Class 1 railroads in the US that link all of North America — shifting this much volume to another mode of transport isn’t feasible even with unlimited capital.

“Could a rail strike happen? Absolutely. But the federal government has a very close eye on the negotiations.”

The US trucking capacity “could never fully cover the amount of rail cargo moved on a daily basis,” Koepke noted, sending the trucking market into a frenzy and put the upper hand back on the carrier and 3PL side.

“It’s difficult to predict the future, but if I were to take a guess I’d say this will get settled without a major disruption – though continued threats and noise will loom.”


US Rail Union Votes Down Latest Labor Deal

One of the US’s largest railroad labour unions have voted against a tentative workforce agreement, opening the door to strike action next month.

Train and engine service members for The Transport Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD) voted to reject a five-year collective bargaining agreement with the nation’s Class 1 railroads.

Voting concluded midnight Sunday 20 November for members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) as well as the SMART-TD on the proposed agreements.

SMART-TD train and engine service members have voted to reject the proposed contract, while SMART-TD yardmaster members voted to accept.

BLET members voted to accept a tentative agreement reached on September 15.

BLET and SMART-TD are the two largest rail unions, accounting for half of the unionised workforce on the nation’s largest freight railroads.

The five-year agreement ratified by BLET members and SMART TD yardmaster members addresses rates of pay, health & welfare, and other fringe benefits for approximately 24,000 locomotive engineers and other rail workers represented by the union who are employed by the nation’s Class I railroads.

A record number of eligible BLET members participated in the ratification vote with 53.5 per cent voting in favor and 46.5 per cent voting against.

Turnout among the more than 28,000 eligible SMART-TD members was a record high.

Some 50.87 per cent of train and engine service members represented by SMART-TD voted to reject the agreement, while 62.48 per cent of SMART-TD-represented yardmasters voted to ratify.

Representatives from SMART-TD will now head back to the bargaining table with the National Carriers Conference Committee (NCCC), which represents railroad management, to negotiate new terms for the affected train and engine service members.

“BLET is a membership-driven union. In September, our National Wage Committee and our General Chairmen who represent freight rail workers unanimously agreed that the time had come for the membership to have a say on their contract,” said BLET President Dennis Pierce.

“Since then, we have worked to ensure that all of our members fully understand the wins and losses in the Presidential Emergency Board recommendations and how those recommendations were improved upon leading to the tentative agreement sent out for their consideration.”

In October the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division (BMWED) membership voted against ratification of the tentative national agreement reached with the Class I freight railroads, sending the two sides back to the bargaining table and resetting the countdown to crippling staff walkouts.

“SMART-TD members with their votes have spoken, it’s now back to the bargaining table for our operating craft members,” said SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson.

“This can all be settled through negotiations and without a strike. A settlement would be in the best interests of the workers, the railroads, shippers and the American people.”

A status quo agreement between SMART TD and management is in effect until 8 December.

Beginning on 9 December, SMART-TD would be allowed to go on strike or the rail carriers would be permitted to lock out workers — unless national Congress intervenes.

“The ball is now in the railroads’ court. Let’s see what they do. They can settle this at the bargaining table,” said Ferguson.

“But, the railroad executives who constantly complain about government interference and regularly bad-mouth regulators and Congress now want Congress to do the bargaining for them.”

If there is a strike by SMART-TD or any of the other three rail unions that have rejected proposed contracts with the carriers, BLET and the other eight rail unions that have ratified agreements have pledged to honour the picket lines.

Ferguson said there was a “distinct possibility” that US Congress may pass legislation to resolve the dispute and/or impose an agreement prior to the expiration of the current cooling-off period.


Port of Oakland Shuts as Workers Stage Walkout

The Port of Oakland has shut its terminals as clerks represented by International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) staged a walkout.

Longshoremen initiated labor action on 2 November, as one public advisory from Port of Oakland noted: “Our terminals are reporting terminal interruptions this morning that may lead to delays.”

Local media reported that a spokesperson for ILWU denied the walkouts were an official action of the union despite stalled negotiations with the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).

SFGate reported that the clerk walkout happened because workers have not been paid on time, with 200 outstanding wage claims dating back to June.

Sources at the terminals described closed gates with piles of containers and trucks waiting to be loaded.

“Our customers are expecting deliveries and we can’t make those deliveries,” AB Trucking President Bill Aboudi said.

“It just snowballs. Every day that we’re shut down is like five days of catch-up.”

Back in July, Some 450 Port of Oakland dockworkers were unable to report to work as truckers protesting the Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) law blocked access to one of the port’s main terminals.

READ: Trucker protests wham Port of Oakland’s volumes

The Port of Oakland has since released: “Protesters have cleared the seaport area and our international marine terminals will try to reopen for tonight’s work shift.

“Yesterday’s labour action closed three of our international marine terminals. Our domestic terminal remained open. Operations resumed by yesterday evening and today we expect continued normal shipping operations.”

Port’s spokespeople said they are “hopeful the ILWU and the PMA can resolve their issues so that the flow of international commerce is not further impacted”.

The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have not reported terminal shutdowns.

Workers at the Port of Oakland and other 28 ports across the US have been operating without a contract since July.

Most recently, Port of Los Angeles Chief Executive, Gene Seroka, said a deal might not be reached for months.

The Port of Oakland witnessed a year-on-year 7.9 per cent loss in total loaded container volume in September.

132,599 loaded TEU passed through the port, compared to 143,991 TEU in September 2021.


New Port of Liverpool Strikes Planned for End of Month

Workers at the Port of Liverpool will stage two more weeks of strikes as the ongoing fallout over pay and job security rolls on.

Unite the union said nearly 600 staff members will walkout from 24 October to 7 November.

The most recent strike was between 11 and 17 October.

The union argued that the latest offer from operator Peel Ports Group (PPG) was a real-terms wage cut due to inflationary pressures.

PPG argues it has offered staff a 10.2 per cent pay rise. The union, however, claimed the offer was around 8.2 per cent and the 10.2 per cent figure was based on the maximum overtime possible worked.

Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham said: “Peel Holdings is hugely profitable and can absolutely afford to pay our members a proper wage increase. It did so at Camel Laird, so why not at Liverpool docks?

“Instead of negotiations to resolve this dispute, the company has chosen to threaten jobs and repeatedly mislead about the deal it has tabled.

“Our members are standing firm, and have their union’s complete support. The company must put forward a pay rise they can accept or this strike continues.”

READ: Export wait times double in South African strike fallout

A recent Peel Ports statement said: “Unite continues to make unrealistic and unsustainable above-inflation pay demands, whilst declining a meeting with the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS).

“We are concerned Unite have no interest in resolving matters through the collective bargaining arrangements we have in place or via an independent ballot, as it continues to push for more strikes.

“Our average the 10.2 per cent basic pay increase offered in talks last week represents an industry leading deal and is 2 per cent above inflation, at the time of the pay anniversary and review in June.

READ: Port disruption triggered by strikes likely to linger through year end

David Huck, Chief Operating Officer at Peel Ports said: “Unite’s decision to call a further two-week strike, against a backdrop of dramatic reductions in container volumes, is entirely self-defeating.

“This pay offer is greater than that of any UK port and we are disappointed they are resorting to the old fashioned, mass meeting show-of-hands, when we believe every single worker deserves the chance to have their say, without undue influence.”

PPG bosses are considering staff redundancy consultations due to an increasing decline at the port in recent months.


South Africa Transport Unions Threaten Strike Action

South Africa’s national transport unions have threatened strike action which could begin later this week.

The United National Transport Union (UNTU) served a 48 Hour Notice on nationalized infrastructure operator, Transnet, indicating the intention to embark on Protected Strike/Protected Industrial Action from 6 October 2022.

The dispute comes after months of salary negotiation, to which UNTU argues Transnet has yet to make a reasonable offer for its employees.

Rail and port facilities under Transnet import and export bulk and container goods in and out of the country, with staff walkouts potentially crippling supply chains in the nation.

After UNTU threatened to give notice of the industrial action as per the circular letter that was issued on 28 September, Transnet provided proposal on 3 Oct 2022, which included a 1.5 per cent increase and backpay from 1 April to 30 September, due to be paid in full by the end of March 2023.

READ: US railroads reach last-minute deal to avert strike

UNTU has rejected the offer, adding in a statement: “It is an insult to our members who have put everything on the line to help get this company back on track. Our members, and the Transnet employees at large, are expected to bear the brunt of years of historic mismanagement and corruption that occurred during state capture.”

Separately, the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union has announced it will also strike from 10 October, after rejecting the same offer.

On 4 October, Transnet wrote that it has applied to the national Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to convene conciliation discussions over the current wave negotiations.

“Transnet has consistently made the point that its wage bill currently makes up over 66 per cent of monthly operating costs. This is not sustainable, particularly given the current operational and financial performance,” Transnet wrote.

“Transnet has urged unions, and Transnet workers, to accept its offer as the best possible deal that can be made right now.”

In September staff at the Port of Felixstowe have staged their second walkout in a handful of weeks, compounding congestion problems in an already struggling UK supply chain.

Also in the UK, senior officials at the Port of Liverpool have voted to take part in a new strike action commencing mid-October.

Felixstowe xchange

New Felixstowe Strikes Land Another Blow to Hurting UK Supply Chain

Staff at the Port of Felixstowe have staged their second walkout in a handful of weeks, compounding congestion problems in an already struggling UK supply chain.

Over 1,900 members of Unite the union began striking at 7:00 am on Tuesday 27 September with the eight-day strike ending on 6:59 am on Wednesday 5 October.

Strike action is resuming after Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company, owned by the multi-national port operator CK Hutchison, refused to return to negotiations following the initial eight days strike action in August.

Unite the union argued the company offered a 7 per cent pay increase on the workforce. This amounted to a real terms pay cut with the real inflation rate (RPI) currently standing at 12.3 per cent.

The workers rejected the imposed pay offer by 82 per cent on 78 per cent turnout.

The Port of Felixstowe said: “We are very disappointed that Unite has announced this further strike action at this time. The collective bargaining process has been exhausted and there is no prospect of agreement being reached with the union.”

“The port is in the process of implementing a very fair pay increase of 7 per cent plus £500.

“The pay award is effective from 1 January when CPI inflation was 5.4 per cent. One branch of Unite at the port has already put the same pay offer to their members who voted to accept it.

“The next pay rise is due 1 January 2023 and we will discuss that with Unite in the normal way.”

The beginning of the new strike at Felixstowe coincides with the ongoing strike action at the port of Liverpool.

It means that over 60 per cent of the UK’s container port capacity will be affected by industrial action.


Staff Threaten Walkouts Till Christmas at Choked-Up Felixstowe

The ongoing crisis at the Port of Felixstowe could last for months as workers threaten strikes until Christmas.

The eight-day strike over pay by over 1,900 workers commenced on 21 August at the East Anglian port, the UK’s largest container gateway which handles over 4 million TEU per year.

During unions and employers talks on 8 August, the Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company, the port operator owned by Hutchison Ports UK Ltd, improved its previous position offering a £500 lump ($588) sum in addition to 7 per cent pay raise.

The union rejected the company’s settlement.

Unite, the union which represents the workers in the dispute, held a rally on 24 August outlining that the strikes could continue until the end of this year if an improved pay offer is not given.

General Secretary of Unite, Sharon Graham, said disruption at the port was “not necessary” and reaffirmed the union’s request of a 10 per cent pay rise.

“We will escalate this dispute unless they come back with a revised offer because this is ridiculous,” Graham said.

On whether strike action would continue, Graham commented: “Yes, and unfortunately, if they don’t come back to the table this action will continue, and that’s not good for the public, it certainly isn’t good for these workers and I’d also say it’s not good for the employer.”

In response to the strike, 2M (Maersk and MSC) and Ocean Alliance (COSCO, CMA CGM and Evergreen) have amended their port rotations to reschedule vessel arrivals that were due during the strike period.

“Even minor interruptions to port operations can have a major impact on container line network efficiency and cause a domino effect up and down supply chains,” said Christian Roeloffs, CEO & Co-founder of Container xChange.

“Strikes at European ports this year have already been highly damaging to logistics operations, manufacturers, and industry at large. We expect further industrial action to be just as harmful.”

The strike at the Port of Felixstowe could result in over $800 million in trade being disrupted according to the ALPS Marine analysis by Russell Group. 

Europe’s logistics network could see added disorder if more industrial action follows in Germany.

Earlier this summer German ports including Hamburg, Bremerhaven, and Wilhelmshaven were rocked by strikes by thousands of dockworkers seeking higher pay.

Collective labour agreement negotiations between trade union ver.di and the Central Association of Germany Seaport Companies (ZDS) are ongoing.

A court-imposed moratorium on industrial action expires on 26 August.

“Ports in northern Germany suffered strikes earlier this year as workers there sought higher wages as inflation causes difficulties across Europe,” said Roeloffs.

“Our proprietary data shows this resulted in build-ups of containers at terminals and in storage yards.

This added to the logistics problems we have seen across Europe this summer where lower water on the Rhine has forced many containers onto rail networks and trucks as barge shipping has become increasingly difficult.”


Trucker AB5 protests paralyze US West Coast port

Trucker protests that started Monday over the implementation of AB5 “have effectively shut down operations” at shipping terminals at the Port of Oakland, the port announced.

The shutdown will further exacerbate the congestion of containers dwelling at the Oakland Seaport as port officials urge terminal operations to resume.

“We understand the frustration expressed by the protestors at California ports,” said Danny Wan, Executive Director, Port of Oakland.

“But, prolonged stoppage of port operations in California for any reason will damage all the businesses operating at the ports and cause California ports to further suffer market share losses to competing ports.”

Transport workers are protesting against the Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) authored by former Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez in 2019. Provisions in the bill require workers to satisfy a three-part test to be considered independent contractors.

READ: Northern European ports on alert as German dockworker strike to go ahead

An injunction in place since 2020 has prevented the law from being enforced; however, on 30 June the Supreme Court declined a petition brought forth by the California Trucking Association (CTA), upholding the full enforcement of the law.

The protests come at a critical time for ports involved in high-stakes West Coast labor talks.

The state is now offering resources to help truckers comply with the law.

“Truckers are vital to keeping goods moving,” said Wan.

“We trust that implementation of AB5 can be accomplished in a way that accommodates the needs of this vital part of the supply chain.”

In the UK, some 500 dockworkers employed at MDHC container services at Peel Ports in Liverpool will vote on whether to strike in a dispute over pay and conditions.