Thursday, 22 July 2010

Lock-out shuts box terminals at Montreal

No containers have been unloaded at the Candian port of Montreal after terminal managers ordered a lock-out of workers in response to a dispute over working hours and wages.

Port landlord the Montreal Port Authority (MPA), which claimed a neutral stance, said that since the lock-out, not a single container had been loaded or unloaded and called for a swift resolution to the dispute.

It said: “All the port’s marine activities stopped following the lock-out. Furthermore, rail operations and truck traffic were halted when picket lines went up. Consequently, no container has entered or left the port since Monday morning.”

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) called for an immediate return to negotiations by the employers’ association, the Maritime Employers Association (MEA).

The ITF said that on 27 June, the MEA changed the working conditions of 169 dockers with the least seniority.

In response, the longshoremen refused to work overtime from 9 July, prompting the lock-out.

Frank Leys, Dockers’ Section Secretary of the ITF, said: “A solution to the dispute at the port was within everyone’s reach. This lock-out risks kicking it over the horizon and out of sight.”

“We’d remind the employers’ association that overtime is voluntary and not providing it is not a reason to be shut out of your job.

“Renegotiation of an existing agreement – which is what this is all about – isn’t done by barring the doors on those affected.

“Negotiation is the only way forward. The union is willing. It’s up to the employers to rescind this pointless ban and resume talks.”

The MEA said: “Considering existing market conditions, the MEA can no longer accept such a large gap between the amount of hours worked and paid for by longshoremen and the amount of hours not worked but fully paid for.

“MEA’s management team believes that while this is not a desirable outcome, it had no other choice but to order a lock-out, given that pressure tactics had begun to impede port operations.”

The two parties have agreed to begin negotiations, with the help of a federal mediator, tomorrow.;jsessionid=AA2733369AC7213E75A3EF42DFFEB126.5d25bd3d240cca6cbbee6afc8c3b5655190f397f

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Containers still burning a week after fire on Maersk ship began

More than 100 containers are still burning on board the Charlotte Maersk seven days after the blaze began.

Maersk Line said the fire started last Wednesday at around 9pm local time close to Port Klang, Malaysia, and had been brought under control.

A spokesman for the Danish carrier said this morning that at the height of the blaze, 150 containers were burning at temperatures approaching 1,000 degrees Celcius.

He said 130 containers were still burning.

The line said: “The temperatures are very high and it is impossible for firefighters to approach before additional cooling has taken place.

“This is one of the reasons why the fire extinguishing takes time and why it is difficult to estimate when the fire will be extinguished.”

It added: “Maersk Line cannot speculate on when the fire will be extinguished. The priority remains the continued safety of the crew, vessel and cargo, and the company will take the time needed to ensure a successful resolution of the situation on board Charlotte Maersk.

“Once it will be safe to discharge containers, we will do so, ensuring a minimum of delay to customers’ cargo.”

There are no reported injuries to the 21 crew members from Denmark, India, the Philippines and Ukraine.

Uncofirmed reports suggest the fire started when one of the containers exploded. By Thursday morning, the fire had been restricted to the foredeck of the vessel.

Currently there are four firefighting tug boats and two Malaysian Coast Guard vessels at the scene.

The 8,200teu Charlotte Maersk had left Port Klang and was heading to Salalah, Oman, when the drama began.;jsessionid=53DB62AF206FDF8D54509CD449758F8E.065acf6a61c52eed94766d1ba7da5d95d4ecd58a

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Unifeeder expands to the UK

Shortsea operator Unifeeder has launched a network of services calling at ports on the UK east coast.

The line is using three containerships on three loops between Felixstow, Grangemouth, Immingham, Teesport and South Shields and its mainland European hubs at Hamburg and Rotterdam.

There will also be one vessel a week from Felixstowe to the port of Tyne, returning to Rotterdam.

Unifeeder CEO Jesper Kristensen said: “The expansion into the UK is a major and strategically important decision.

“The new service brings opportunities to link the UK with major continental hubs as well as with the company’s existing destinations in Scandinavia and around the Baltic Sea”.;jsessionid=F7C7E99214027211262B34B96140AF60.5fa4e8cc80be35e2653c9f87d8b8be45bf6ba69a

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Container volumes heading for new heights

Container volumes will continue to surge during the peak season, following this year’s record volumes for the month of May.

Researcher Macquarie’s Global Container Index, which is based on the aggregation of volumes from almost 200 container ports in 58 countries, showed box volumes reached a record high in May, up 1% on the previous peak recorded in May 2008, and up 18% year-on-year.

If the trend continues through June, Macquarie’s estimated global throughput growth of 17% year-on-year for the second quarter of 2010, would be a record high for an individual quarter.

And it predicts volumes will continue to surge during the third quarter, growing 14-15% year-on-year.

It said: “Based on typical seasonal trends, in which third-quarter volumes typically exceed those seen in the previous quarter by around 4%, it is likely that Q3 2010 will prove a record by some distance.”

“Two key reasons suggest to us that volumes will remain strong during this period: our analysis of inventories in Europe and the US suggests the main benefit from re-stocking may be still to come; and in importing regions, such as the US, the ratio of containerised imports to end demand remains low for both consumer and industrial goods.”

Macquarie said it had argued against the popular perception held about the reasons behind volume booms reported earlier this year. These suggested that container volumes during the first quarter included significant one-off benefits from the re-stocking of empty shelves.

It said that, following the consistently strong volumes reported during April and May, its stance on the issue has become more widely accepted, and added that research suggested that major inventory re-stocking had yet to take place, and would boost volumes further.

“The observation that the main benefit from re-stocking for global freight volumes may have yet to come is an important one,” Macquarie said

“While our view that re-stocking has not driven volumes to unsustainable levels may have become accepted, we do not believe that the consensus view is considering the prospect of an increase in re-stocking benefits.

“If this view does prove correct, the potential for volumes to strengthen in the near-term should not be ruled out, particularly on the [westbound] Asia-Europe and [eastbound] transpacific routes, where volumes are driven, respectively, by European and North American imports.”;jsessionid=42ED8D5681990B2421D3ECD48F93395B.065acf6a61c52eed94766d1ba7da5d95d4ecd58a

Friday, 25 June 2010

This happens all the time and nobody seems interested.

Friday Focus -- Weighing containers: is it really that difficult?

In 2007, the UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) published a report concerning an incident that occurred while the 868teu containership Annabella was in the Baltic Sea. The following year, it published another report, this time concerning the loss of the 4,419teu MSC Napoli, which had to be run aground on a UK beach to avoid it sinking in the Channel.

These two incidents led to the publication, by the International Chamber of Shipping and the World Shipping Council, of Safe Transport of Containers by Sea – Guidelines on Best Practices.

These two august bodies stated categorically that overloading a container is something which can never be condoned and that the party stuffing the container is responsible for ensuring that its gross mass is in accordance with the gross mass given on the shipping documents. Furthermore, the guidelines state that terminal operators should verify the weights of incoming containers before they are loaded.

Despite this, nothing seems to be happening to ensure that weighing takes place, and the container shipping industry continues to rely on shippers being accurate and honest when they declare the weight of their cargo to the carriers.

When in January 2010, the media reported the MAIB’s preliminary examination result into the loss of 18 containers over the side of the 910teu Husky Racer while berthed in Bremerhaven, the issue of weighing containers was again in the spotlight. It became very apparent that many people in the container industry were still unsure of how container weights could be verified with any reliability.

Interestingly, the question whether to weigh or not to weigh is also being asked in the ro-ro sector, and not just because many of these vessels carry containers as well as trailers. As the MAIB pointed out in its report into the stranding of the ro-ro vessel Riverdance on a beach at Blackpool, there is no requirement to weigh trailers before they are loaded onto ro-ro vessels – those permitted to carry 12 passengers or less.

There is plenty of evidence, mostly anecdotal, but some more authoritative, indicating that shippers cannot always be relied upon to make accurate weight declarations when booking cargo. Yet carriers still accept declared weights and rarely seek verification.

Over the past three years, container handling equipment manufacturers have been addressing this issue and it would appear that there are now practical and affordable solutions available. But there is, however, still no sign that the weighing of containers in ports will become routine. As a result, road hauliers continue to be prosecuted for running overweight, stevedore and seafarer lives are at risk and on-deck container stacks collapse.

Clearly, it is time for the industry to convene and discuss the various issues surrounding misdeclared container weights. As a first step,UK-based maritime PR company Dunelm has organised a one-day conference in London on 29 June, entitled Weighing containers: is it really that difficult?

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Record cargo volumes in Asia

Chinese ports and airports have reported record monthly throughputs in May, exceeding analysts’ forecasts and confirming a rebound in Asia’s cargo volumes.

China’s container ports handled a record 12.4 million teu last month, which was 21.9% higher than the volumes in May 2009 and 16.6% higher than the same month in 2008.

Paris-based analyst AXS Alphaliner said Ningbo, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Tianjin, Xiamen and Dalian all posted their highest-ever monthly liftings on record

Maersk to use laid-up ships to ferry boxes to China

Maersk Line is bringing in laid-up ships to ferry containers to Asia in an attempt to address the box shortage that is set to hamper the industry during the peak season.

The Danish carrier said it had re-activated laid-up vessels to assist in repositioning containers as quickly as possible.

It has also kickstarted production of new containers and leasing of containers.

Because of the extra costs associated with combating the container shortage, Maersk last week announced a record peak-season surcharge (PSS) of US$750 per 20ft, $1,000 per 40ft and $1,200 per 40ft high-cube container on westbound services to Northern Europe from 15 July.

On westbound services to the Mediterranean, the surcharge will be $600 per 20ft, $800 per 40ft and $1,000 per 40ft high-cube.

The line said: “The surcharge will assist Maersk Line in recovering the higher costs caused by the increased volumes and equipment shortage, for example, port costs, vessels deployed to reposition containers and leasing [more containers].”

Board member Lars Reno Jakobsen, Head of Network and Product, said: “The present market situation is unique. We are experiencing a demand surge in most trades, which is a development that is both unprecedented and unexpected by us and our customers.

“For example, the Asia-Europe trade is growing by 23%, compared with the market’s single-digit expectation just six months ago.

“Therefore, we already see a very tight equipment situation. And we expect an even more pronounced and serious shortage of containers in the coming months, as we enter the peak season.”

The Danish carrier said the shortage stemmed from a lack of orders for new containers during and following the recession.

Maersk said it would only apply one PSS during the peak season to make the situation more transparent for customers.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that two deepsea carriers are looking to introduce equipment re-positioning surcharges because of a shortage of containers.

Over recent weeks, forwarders and shipping lines have been warning that there could be an equipment shortage during the peak season.