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Chinese Ports Witness Significant Growth in 2023

From January to August 2023, China’s ports have seen a surge in activity. The container volume during this period increased by 4.8% compared to the same months in the previous year. The cumulative container throughput for these months amounted to a remarkable 203.7 million TEUs. Additionally, major Chinese ports have reported a cargo volume of 11.1 billion tons, reflecting an 8.4% year-on-year growth.

A closer look at the statistics reveals that the port of Shanghai continues its reign as China’s most active container port, with a reported throughput of 32 million TEUs. In close pursuit is the port of Ningbo & Zhoushan, registering 24 million TEUs. The port of Shenzhen ranks third with 19 million TEUs. However, Shenzhen was the sole major port to witness a decline in its container volumes, showing a 2.1% drop. Smaller ports in China have demonstrated significant growth percentages. Ports like Yinkou, Beibu Gulf, Dalian, and Lianyungang have reported remarkable year-on-year growths.


Port Delays at Savannah Due to Recent Closures

The Port of Savannah has witnessed a buildup of 16 ships that are currently awaiting clearance. This situation has arisen due to multiple closures in recent weeks, with disruptions starting towards the end of August. These interruptions were caused when two berths at Savannah’s Garden City Terminal were temporarily halted to make way for the unloading of crane equipment.

As the port endeavors to manage this unforeseen backlog, several sources from the shipping sector have commented that this situation, which might continue until mid-November, hasn’t had a significant impact so far. The current delays are primarily attributed to the installation of new crane equipment, resulting in the temporary shutdown of specific berths.


Dockworkers’ Union ILWU Enters Bankruptcy Amid Litigation

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), which represents U.S. dockworkers, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. This filing comes amidst a long-standing legal battle with ICTSI Oregon and was made on September 30 in a San Francisco court. The documents reveal the union’s assets and liabilities range between $1 million and $10 million.

In the backdrop of these challenges, the ILWU has still managed to approve a new six-year contract. This agreement is set to benefit a large number of dockworkers across various ports.


Hamburg Crowned Europe’s Top Port Again

On October 5, 2023, the Port of Hamburg received accolades as the premier port in Europe, marking its fourth consecutive victory. The award was presented at the Asia Cargo News gala in Singapore. Alan Yip, representing Kerry Logistics, bestowed the Asian Freight, Logistics, and Supply Chain Award (AFLAS) for the “Best Seaport – Europe” category upon the port’s delegate, Anne Thiesen.

Among the four contenders, the Port of Hamburg surpassed the Ports of Rotterdam, Antwerp-Bruges, and HAROPA. This recent achievement marks the sixth time the Port of Hamburg has been awarded the “Best Seaport – Europe” title, having previously secured victories in 2015, 2016, 2020, 2021, and 2022. Moreover, the port has been acknowledged with the “Best Global Seaport” accolade in both 2018 and 2019.


New Rail Route Connects Mexico to U.S. Southeast

Union Pacific Railroad has initiated a novel intermodal service, aiming to bridge the gap between vital markets in Mexico and the U.S. Southeast. This recent service, which involves multiple rail carriers, is unique as it forges a previously unexplored route in rail transport.

The operational blueprint involves Mexico-based rail services moving domestic containers to a specific location in Texas. From this point, cargo is transferred to another rail service, which then ferries it to Memphis. Following this, transportation trucks take over, ensuring the cargo reaches various destinations in the southeastern U.S.


Rhine River Shipping Impacted by Low Water Levels

Germany has experienced a period of dry weather recently, leading to a reduction in the water levels of the Rhine River. This decrease has affected cargo vessels, preventing them from operating at their maximum capacity. As a result, surcharges are now being applied to regular freight rates, especially in areas situated south of Duisburg and Cologne.

Certain vessels, depending on their design, are now navigating areas such as Kaub at approximately half their typical loading capacity. Although some relief was provided by rain after a dry spell in July, the forthcoming weather forecast indicates a continuation of the dry conditions. Given the Rhine’s significance in transporting essential commodities, the implications of this situation are substantial.


Thailand Gears Up for New Free Trade Agreements

Thailand is on the cusp of finalizing free trade agreements (FTAs) with several entities, including the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), Sri Lanka, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). These FTAs are expected to significantly boost the annual trade volume by an impressive $31 billion.

Such accords could notably benefit multiple sectors in Thailand, including food, textiles, and automobiles. This is especially true given the UAE’s formidable purchasing power and its central role in the Middle Eastern distribution network. Moreover, Thailand’s service industries, like tourism and finance, are also poised to derive advantages from these FTAs, which would promote the nation’s economic growth and enhance its international trade presence.


U.S. Trucking Company Faces Cyberattack Challenges

Estes Express Lines, a US-based LTL shipping company, is currently facing challenges due to a significant I.T. disruption. This interruption, which has lasted for more than 36 hours, is the result of a cyberattack that the company confirmed recently.

The unfortunate event has affected LTL capacity across the country. Nonetheless, Estes is assuring its clients by emphasizing that freight pickup and delivery are still active. The company is actively working on addressing the issue and aims for a prompt return to regular operations.


AMSA Concludes Repair Project at Port Hedland

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has successfully completed a project valued at $15.5 million, aiming to repair navigation aids (AtoNs) at Port Hedland in Western Australia. 

This port is notable as the world’s primary bulk export port. This two-year initiative was primarily focused on addressing significant damages that resulted from Tropical Cyclone Veronica in 2019.


U.S. Intermodal Traffic Update: September 2023

The Association of American Railroads reported September 2023 as the highest month for U.S. intermodal traffic. The data reveals that U.S. freight railroads commenced 1 million containers and trailers, marking a 0.7% increase compared to September 2022. However, when compared with the previous year, the year-over-year data indicates a downward trend in intermodal volumes.

In September, there was a 1.5% rise in the overall volumes, reaching 1.93 million carloads and intermodal units. Specifically, carloads saw a growth of 2.3% year-over-year, totaling 921,716. Looking at the cumulative data for the year, U.S. volumes amounted to approximately 18.1 million carloads and intermodal units.


New Rail Service: Barcelona to Southern France

On October 5, 2023, Maersk announced the introduction of a new rail service connecting Barcelona to Southern France. This initiative aims to enhance the transit times of maritime goods heading to key locations like Toulouse, Bordeaux, and Lyon. Starting in early November, there will be three direct weekly trains operating from Barcelona to Toulouse and one service to Lyon. Furthermore, through Toulouse, goods will be connected to Bordeaux. Plans are also in the pipeline to extend the service to Tarragona and Zaragoza in Spain.

This new train service is expected to significantly reduce transit durations for goods in Toulouse, Bordeaux, and Lyon. The potential reduction could average around seven days and could extend up to 12 days. This expedited transportation not only promises speed but also a greener alternative due to the reduced distances and use of electrified trains. Moreover, for cargo within Spain and France, these trains present a solid transportation alternative, bolstering the reliability of supply chains for those in the trade industry.


Rotterdam Port Incentivizes Sustainable Bunkering

On October 5, 2023, the Port of Rotterdam made a significant proclamation to promote sustainable shipping practices. In a bid to encourage environmentally friendly shipping, the port has declared a substantial reduction in port fees for vessels opting for sustainable fuel bunkering. 

This initiative is mainly tailored to support the early adoption of green fuels, notably methanol, with the future inclusion of ammonia. To qualify for the discounted rates, vessels need to bunker alternative fuels at Rotterdam that lead to at least a 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Depending on the vessel size, the savings on fees could amount to as much as €500,000. However, certain traditional alternative fuels will not be eligible for these reduced rates.