It is high time to plant the seeds for the future – the shipping industry will require a new generation of employees, the lack of active support of the green agenda will only postpone carbon-free reality, sluggish policies will lead to more losses... Speed up, get a hold!
The big shift that is happening worldwide will surely require an additional workforce in the future and the recent data is only proving this premise. It has been estimated that by 2026 shipping industry risks undergoing a serious officer shortage if it does not start actively promoting careers at sea and focus on training professionals with diverse skills needed for a greener and more digitally connected industry. The improvements are possible, especially since in recent years the maritime industry has made progress in reducing officer turnover rates from 8% to 6%. The challenges are here to stay, so potential solutions should not be underestimated, given that shipping is becoming more complicated. In the current context, shippers in North Europe are paying significantly more to carriers to secure shipment. Meanwhile, English companies report their short-term contracts have been canceled by their carriers and that they had been forced onto their FAK rate and premium charges.
The UK is doing whatever it takes to adjust to post-Brexit reality and is using every opportunity that could potentially strengthen its positions. DB Cargo UK is planning to invest in new facilities at its depot in Toton to facilitate the export and import of a new generation of Toyota cars. They hope that the future development of the automotive industry will boost trade into and out of the UK and help keep the sector competitive. The same DB Cargo is on the roll of successful initiatives that have gained support from the government – the company is currently working on the project dedicated to hydro-treated vegetable oil fuel as a commercially viable and environmentally friendly alternative to diesel fuel. UK rail minister has had the first-hand experience of evaluating the progress during his recent visit to the Toton Depot and has expressed high hopes for future advances regarding sustainability and efficiency.
However, not everything is running smoothly for the British rail. Recently the upper house of the UK parliament has criticized the government for lack of progress towards an all-electric railway. According to the presented report, the goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 is currently out of reach. To facilitate the faster transition, experts believe there should be more active support for the development of battery and fuel cell trains and overall better strategic planning.
Initially, Brexit was worthy of all the fuss for the sake of protectionism but since the country’s highly interconnected supply chains are now under extreme stress and there is an incredible shortage of drivers, Logistics UK is calling the government to review its decision not to grant temporary work visas to EU HGV drivers. They claim that workers have to be allowed back to support the domestic workforce, at least as a short-term solution to the labor crisis.
Port congestion has forced industry players to consider road as an alternative for transportation. City Zone Express has had enough of the delays and launched a road freight service between Malaysia and Europe. One of their clients is transporting lithium batteries, and the company sees it as a potential for land transport, and not just as an interim solution, given the cost and time advantages.
The collapse of a ship to shore crane within the Vuosaari harbor in Finland is definitely a proof that the pressure is literally enormous and not only in the metaphorical sense. The operator of the crane suffered a hand wound and the area itself is currently isolated.
The study on the commercial-scale import of hydrogen from overseas has gained a new supporter – the Port Rotterdam Authority and its partners. Together with Koole Terminals, Chiyoda Corporation, and Mitsubishi Corporation they will conduct research on the feasibility of this initiative. SPERA Hydrogen is expected to play an important role in the realization of commercial-scale hydrogen supply chains globally and contribute to global carbon neutrality in 2050.
The new diesel-electric straddle carriers from Medcenter Container Terminal have been delivered to Kalmar, which commemorates further strengthening of the partnership between the two parties and Kalmar’s plans to renew the equipment for more efficiency.
The peak season is here, so let the shipping hunger games begin
There is no time for rest for American dockworkers as the peak season arrives and ships form long queues at major getaways. With the aftermath of COVID restrictions and previous congestions, ports are going through particularly challenging times. The number of ships backing up outside San Pedro Bay is increasing towards record levels, while further north a cluster of vessels are bunched together east of San Francisco waiting for available dock space at Port of Oakland. The shortfalls in customer demand are not expected, so the situation will remain under pressure further into the season. Spot rates are also growing – from Shanghai to Los Angeles increased 6% to $10,503/FEU, while prices from Shanghai to New York were up 13%to come in at $13,434 for a 40ft box.
A tidal wave of freight demand puts vessel operators in a deadlock when they simply do not have extra ships or they cannot reposition quickly enough, so one of the ways to respond to the clients is to set an unbearably high shipping price. The recent case of an ocean carrier announcing a cost of 32,000 to ship a group of standard containers from Shanghai to Los Angeles is a perfect example. Everything has only escalated after a series of weather- and COVID-related events, as well as operational mishaps that caused a significant logjam. The grip of congestion is also tightening around Chittagong that is experiencing severe berthing delays. They have reached five days while some ships even waited up to ten days at the outer anchorage to reach jetties. On a big scale, across the major trades in Transpacific, Transatlantic, Asia-North Europe, and Mediterranean, there is a worrying 5% cancellation rate.
Meanwhile, FMC comes up with new recommendations that can potentially improve supply chain issues. The changes aim to minimize barriers to private party enforcement of the Shipping Act, clarifying commission and industry processes, encouraging shippers, truckers, and other stakeholders to assist commission enforcement efforts, however, the initiatives have not passed yet. The government is aware that ports require reactive measures here and now, so the Biden administration, together with a bipartisan group, has reached an agreement on a new infrastructure deal that will invest $17 billion into the industry. However, record volume at US cargo ports has already led to a much stronger financial performance than pandemic expectations, so whatever new initiatives the authorities will come up with next, they have to keep in mind that normal cargo throughput patterns are not set to return until 2022. The government plan has to be well-coordinated and keep the industry players updated on the changes; otherwise, it might be an unpleasant surprise for the latter and will only harm consumers, importers, and exporters instead of creating a fair environment.
As shippers plan to deliver for the holidays, they have to deal with the added hurdle of volume caps from major parcel carriers FedEx and UPS. They have also implemented additional surcharges amid to better handle the increase. While shippers are still trying to negotiate, more of them start to move volume toward a mix of regional carriers to reduce the effects of surcharges and caps from the logistics duopoly. Amazon is also sensing the direction of the wind of change and focuses on doubling the size of its fulfillment networkto meet consumer demand and continues to hire new employees.
To support local importers, Matson Inc. is launching a new express vessel service into northern California. It aims to move stranded shipments from China as the ocean container market experiences ongoing bottlenecks that are doubling normal delivery times and leading to stockouts for retailers.
The supplier dilemma that many companies are dealing with has been covered recently and it is worth mentioning that while some are considering strengthening their relationship with suppliers a winning strategy, others go for buying their supplies well in advance in order to outrun the competitors.
Following a hardware failure halted operations, two container terminals at Port Houston have reopened which is especially important in the current context when the smooth operation of every port counts.
From now on, the energy transition will be supported by the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore and Ocean Network Express, Eastern Pacific Shipping, and Sembcorp Marine that are planning to create a new research center to facilitate commercially viable solutions for sustainable shipping.
Meanwhile, long research of HMM PSA New-port Terminal and LeTech have resulted in the launch of Korea's first automatic container seal dispenser. It reduced the time spent by the trailer drivers receiving the seal after picking up the empty container before going to the shipper's factory.
A perfect storm of high demand is expected to hit air freight in August. However, the growth will be uneven and based on both passenger numbers and Covid strategies. Experts believe transatlantic capacity will be back to normal by summer 2022, while Asian growth may not return until 2024.
For some, through-the roof rates are another burden, while for others, they are a gold mine to explore – how containership owners build fortunes.
Four months later, the prodigal son, Ever Given, full of containers, carrying more than 18,000TEU, has arrived in Rotterdam commemorating the end of the notorious saga. Containers for Hamburg will be loaded later onto Ever Utile to continue the journey to the German major port.
The dynamic of the spot rates remains the same – they keep increasing. Freight rates from Rotterdam to New York grew 5% to US$5,624 per FEU. Rates on New York to Rotterdam are on the last week’s levels. British Freight Association only proves that the situation will be evolving in the outlined by external circumstances vector. The shortage of landside transport will remain, whilst carriers will not accommodate low yield freight. For containership owners, it is nothing but the great news and the opportunity to strike the gold mine by fixing their ships on lengthy periods with ocean carriers at highly elevated daily hire rates.
Meanwhile, the circumstances do not seem so bright for shippers. They are now facing the sourcing issue: it has to be shifted. A recent survey of North American manufacturers has revealed that 83% are likely, or extremely likely, to reshore sourcing. The first push for it was the tariff war between the US and China when companies had already begun to shorten their supply chains. There are now two camps: first are diversifying their supply chains to reduce the risk of single- or limited sourcing, while others look to production closer to their markets or bringing production in-house. Both approaches have their pros and cons and it is up to the shippers to make a choice based on their initial needs.
Another shift that is unprecedentedly needed in the industry regards the drivers’ shortage. For a long time, Brexit was considered the root of the problem and as a result, it has sucked the oxygen from the true causes. Experts advocate for the government to focus on such challenging aspects as long hours, poor wages, diabolical facilities, and loads of responsibilities – for which drivers receive very little recognition. There should be a reset in the mindset while it is not too late.
In the veiled race of vigorous fleet expansion, MSC has taken the lead thanks to the latest decision of CMB Financial Leasing to buy vessels from Guangzhou Shipyard International for a long-term lease to MSC. Now it has a total operating capacity of 4.08m TEU. As for the intermodal abilities, Maerks strikes with the launch of weekly intermodal rail service in Bulgaria connecting the port of Burgas with Plovdiv and further to Sofia. It is a purely strategic decision – entering the rail transport market even for short distances facilitates two things: the trust of shippers and big customers due to its efficient performance and a cultural shift in the mindset of shippers who now look to alternative ways of transport.
Another important service that has been started recently is organized by the Vietnam Railways and operated by Ratraco. It is the first direct rail freight connection between Vietnam and Belgium that promises to become regular. However, the intermodal shift is not going smoothly mostly due to challenging weather conditions. The floods that have hit Belgium, Nothern Europe in general and Asia have caused major delays, although there are critics who doubt the context of the disruptions and even conduct the investigations. In addition, there is a lack of equipment and a shortage of rail cars available for transloading at the borders.
While there is an ongoing tendency of switching from ships to rail, Ukraine is shifting to road. Recently it has increased the track access charges for rail freight operations, which, consequently, will push more companies towards road transport. Experts claim that logistics providers simply will not tolerate the higher tariffs. The decision will backfire at Ukrainian Railways that will lose way more income compared to if they maintained their track access charges lower.
Meanwhile, an alternative for Belgian rail transport between the Flemish seaports and the Mediterranean Sea appears thanks to the reopening of the Artère Nord Est in northern France. The whole line is an important rail freight corridor connecting the ports of Antwerp, Zeebrugge, and Ghent with the south of Europe and due to the floods traffic has been heavily constrained. Among other positive achievements in rail is the increased number of weekly trains between Rotterdam and Bavaria in southern Germany signifying the rise of the route capacity. In the light of the growing demand of shippers towards the Dutch port, it is extremely beneficial for the industry.
As a part of its public sector reform, the Moroccan government will sell a 35% strategic stake in the Societe d’Exploitation des Ports, to Tanger Med for 600 mil. The partnership is also expected to enable Moroccan industrialists, importers, and exporters, with a more efficient and competitive service offering.
Meeting surging demand seems to be the same as chasing a tail – impossible to achieve. Why is the shipping sector stuck in the Groundhog Day?
The severe typhoons are not only Europe’s headache – the one that hit China does not seem to calm anytime soon, at least according to the new forecasts. Shanghai’s ports and some in neighboring regions will remain shut until the situation improves, which means that more delays are coming. The Yangshan port has already evacuated hundreds of vessel and this action alone add more pressure since it is a part of the world’s biggest cluster of container terminals.
Containers are a good indicator of how supply is doing and so far, they have not told any positive stories. In fact, the numerous congestions have been here for so long that shippers will need a miracle for the situation to resolve at least slightly on a positive note. Experts insist that now is the right moment to start booking, otherwise, Christmas can be considered canceled. Walmart is one of the brightest examples that can illustrate the impact of congestion issues – even with its flexible and agile supply chain, it was not able to escape delays that severely affected the shipment of its apparel and garments.
The skyrocketing demand still is not allowing container crunch to ease. Prices are at unprecedented levels, the production of million TEUs of dry containers has been reported at record levels (it is estimated that 2021 production could reach just over 4.5 million TEUs, more than double the annual totals in the prior two years), however, on the global scales the pace is not enough to address the growing needs of the market. Despite the increased production, there is still no splurge in inventory. Port congestion also plays a vital role, by tying up equipment. The only instruments in a carrier’s toolbox to overcome the schedule delays are either to blank a sailing or, more common now, to allow a vessel to slide on its schedule by one week. Companies like Hapag-Lloyd do not lose hope to meet the demandand chose the strategy of vigorous expansion of their ships to boost the box capacity. It has announced the discussions for the acquisition of 10 container ships with 13,000TEU capacity each. Singapore’s Pacific International Lines has also expanded its fleet size– besides, there is a unit of Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund coming in with $600m to save the SS Teo-led carrier.
However, the key to building agile supply chains can be in the hands of skillful employees – the concept MSC is trying to tap into by wishing to hire South Korean seafarers with experience of operating very large container ships. HMM is the only South Korean liner operator with VLCSs in its fleet, and in order to stand out MSC decides to offer more attractive salaries. HMM has already been recognized as the company with a staff salary growth of 2.8%, but it seems like there is still a chance to aim higher?
To facilitate better export especially in the light of the soaring freight rates, the government has told the Port Authority of Thailand to establish a national liner operator. Not now, but by 2022. So far, a committee to study the feasibility of re-establishing a national shipping line has been formed to help Thailand reduce its dependence on foreign ships, as well as to lower transportation costs. At the same time, Thai freight forwarder JWD has agreed to a $15m deal for a significant 20% stake in ESCO.
Meanwhile, the first Budapest-Xi’an return train left Hungary, crossed the border with Ukraine through Zahony, and finally arrived in Xi’an. Lately, the transit cargo in Hungary has seen a tenfold increase, so Zahony, comes in handy as an emerging transhipment point for China-Europe trains, where transit goods are transferred from broad gauge to standard gauge tracks.
There is a new trend of transport-related mergers and acquisitions among major carriers that are eating up smaller ones. The Knight-Swift with its $1.35 billion purchase of AAA Cooper, Werner closing its deal with ECM Transport Group for $142 million, and Uber Freight acquiring Transplace for $2.25 billion, are the perfect examples. As for what the future of transport, experts suppose that TL firms will buy LTL carriers, and vice versa.
The main driver of innovation in vehicle production remains Tesla, this time aiming to mitigate the semiconductor shortage's effects by substituting alternative chips and writing new firmware. The company has already achieved record production of impressive more than 200,000 vehicles in Q2.
Extreme weather conditions and congestions will not be the only challenges for the shipping sector in the coming days. Canadian border services officers have voted in favor of strike action, although the impact of their decision is still unknown, but of course, it could cause significant disruption to the flow of goods.
The Port of Savannah is now seen as a critical getaway for US goods. According to the recent data, it has already moved 5.3 million TEU for first time in its history as cargo volumes grew by 20% year-on-year (YoY) in financial year (FY) FY2021. For the most part, it has become possible thanks to its strengthened positions in Georgia.
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