Monday, 29 March 2010

Box business beats growth records

Global container throughput growth in February was the most rapid on record.

And volumes in the first quarter of this year are expected to reach close to pre-financial crisis levels, according to the latest figures from Macquarie Research.

Based on data from ports accounting for around two-thirds of global container throughput, the firm said volumes increased 25% year-on-year in February.

While year-on-year growth is expected to reduce to around 15% this month, Macquarie said: “The question mark now is whether this parity will hold, or whether the Q1 volumes were inflated by the end of the de-stocking cycle.”

Friday, 26 March 2010

UK rail chaos after Easter

Freight transport on the UK’s railways will be severely disrupted after the Easter break, following the breakdown of talks between transport workers’ unions and Network Rail yesterday.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) and infrastructure operator Network Rail met at conciliation service Acas, but negotiations over plans to cut 1,500 maintenance jobs were adjourned with no agreement in sight.

The strike will begin at 6am on 6 April and run until 11.59pm on 9 April.

The RMT announced that signal workers had voted 54% vote in favour of a strike, on a turnout of 71%.

They will walk out for four hours, twice a day over the strike period, to coincide with rush hours, while the maintenance staff will stay out for the full four days.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “RMT negotiators have worked flat out to try and reach an agreement that protects rail safety, job security and working agreements in the disputes involving signalling and maintenance staff on Britain’s railways.

“Despite hours of talks, we have received nothing concrete from Network Rail that addresses the key issues.”

Robin Gisby, Network Rail’s director of operations and customer services, said: “This proposed strike is not about safety. Britain’s railway is safer than ever. The issue of safety is a smokescreen from a union leadership stuck in the steam age.

“Our contingency plans are well advanced and aim to keep as many trains running as possible. But a national rail strike will have a severe impact on services and on Britain.”

Monday, 15 March 2010

Taking industrial action - a legal guide

Knowledge of the law of industrial action is vital for trade unionists as the consequences of a failure to observe the provisions of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 when going out on strike are severe. This booklet is designed to present to union reps the relevant information about taking industrial action so that the process is clearly understood.

Introduction (514 words)

Evidence of state interference with workers’ attempts to join together and improve their pay and conditions dates back to the Statute of Labourers 1351 . The motivation has been both economic (to prevent workers negotiating terms which are more costly for employers) and political (to prevent workers forming ...

1. The law — basic principles and definitions (600 words)

The law is created in two ways: statutory law or legislation (statutes) is made by Parliament passing Acts of Parliament. Common law is made by judges in courts of law. The judge gives a decision in a particular case and his/her reason for that decision. Authoritative precedents (which in turn influence later cases). Statutes can override the common law. ...

2. Immunities (1714 words)

Tort law is a body of law that addresses and provides remedies for civil wrongs not arising out of contractual obligations and is not ...

3. Balloting (2679 words)

In 2005, the Department for Trade and Industry (now BIS — the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) produced an updated version of its Code of Practice on Industrial Action Ballots and Notice to Employers . A copy of the Code is available at . ...

4. Taking industrial action (847 words)

At least seven days before it starts, the union must take reasonable steps to give the employer proper official notice of the intention to Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 ( TULRCA), the notice must include information that the union holds that will enable the employer to plan for the industrial action and to lawfully ...

5. Halting industrial action (828 words)

The four-week rule for commencing industrial action does not prevent a union from suspending action and then re-imposing it ( Monsanto v TGWU [1986] IRLR 406 ). However, the gap between the suspension and re-imposition of the action should not be too long, or indicate a change in tactics by Post Office v UCW [1990] IRLR 143 ). ...

6. Injunctions (375 words)

The injunction (interdict in Scotland) is the most popular legal remedy sought by employers. An injunction is a court order to do or to ...

7. Who can sue (542 words)

The law is intended to assist the employer (or a customer or supplier of the employer) to take legal action against trade unions, strike ...

8. Dismissal (820 words)

The law governing dismissals during industrial action is found in sections 237-238 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (TULRCA). The first key issue is whether the action was official (i.e. the union authorised or endorsed it) or unofficial. ...

9. Picketing (1093 words)

Picketing is where employees encourage others (in breach of their contracts) not to attend work during a trade dispute. Section 220 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 ( TULRCA) gives statutory immunity to some individuals, but only where the picketing is in order to peacefully: ...

10. Effect on terms and conditions and benefits (975 words)

Going on strike will not result in a breach in an individual’s continuity of employment (section 216 Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA)). Neither will being locked out from work break continuity. However, the period on strike (and any period locked out) will not add to ...

Checklist (342 words)

The requirements for a trade dispute potentially covered by immunity from tort claims are that the dispute: ...

Further information (283 words)

Throughout the booklet references have been made to the relevant statutes. Copies of these can be obtained online from the Office for Public Sector . In Northern Ireland, legislation is available online from the Labour Relations Agency website at: . Legislation is also available at: . ...

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

More laid-up ships back in service

The number of laid-up ships fell to its lowest since last July this week as carriers continue to return ships into service.

The latest figures from Paris-based analyst AXS Alphaliner reveal that the capacity of ships laid-up this week stands at 1.24m teu – 9.4% of the world’s containership fleet.

The figures also reveal that the tonnage of carrier-owned laid-up ships has fallen from 1.03m teu to 633,000teu.

Alphaliner predicted that the idle fleet could fall below 1m teu over the next couple of months as new services and additional demand, created by super-slow-steaming, absorb surplus ships and a few idle veterans of 2,500-4,000teu are scrapped.

Alphaliner said: “These moves could lead to the employment of about 40 additional ships of more than 3,500teu by the end of April, with more than 15 units drawn from the pool of idle ships.

“A number of carrier-controlled units of 4,000-7,000teu are still idle, but some of these could be re-activated at short notice, if justified by the demand growth.”

As a result of carrier optimism for the summer season, charter market ships of 4,000-5,500teu are now becoming harder to find, following a wave of charter deals over the last few weeks.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Box volumes see strong recovery

LATEST figures from the European Liner Affairs Association, for January, show a strong recovery in container volumes to and from Europe on most trades compared with the same month in 2009, the lowest point in the downturn.
That caveat aside, two other reports showed encouraging volume growth involving disparate trades.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Three people injured in two separate incidents at Southampton docks

A DOCK worker was left injured and stranded when his container mover toppled over last night, in the second serious incident at Southampton’s docks within a matter of hours.

It happened on the same day an 80ft crane on a barge collapsed onto the ship, leaving two men injured.

The incidents come just eight months after crane operator Jay Squibb was left a crushed voicebox and windpipe after his driver’s cab plunged 100ft when the machine he was operating collapsed as he unloaded containers from a ship at the city’s port.

Two crewmen from the vessel needed medical treatment after the first of yesterday’s incidents, which happened shortly after 10am in an area near the city cruise terminal on Herbert Walker Avenue.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch has launched an investigation, but port bosses insisted it was a very different type of incident to the one which injured Jay, a 33-year-old father-of-two from Woolston, because that involved a quayside crane.

But just hours later, at around 12.20am today, a 32-year-old man was left injured when his empty container handler overturned.

The worker was transporting two containers on the machine, similar to a large fork lift truck, but it toppled over under the weight of the boxes as he came to a halt in the DP World container port off Western Avenue.

The man suffered a knee injury in the incident, but was left suspended around 20 feet off the ground.

Fire crews from Redbridge and St Mary’s were called to help, using an aerial ladder to rescue the stricken worker, who was then taken by ambulance to Southampton General Hospital.

He has since been treated and allowed home.

Emergency services remained on the scene until 1.30am clearing diesel that had spilled from the carrier.

Crane topples over at Southampton docks

A crane has toppled over at Southampton docks but no-one has been seriously injured - the third collapse at the port in the past two years.

A worker said they heard a "humongous crash" when the crane, which was on a tug and thought to be about 200ft (60m) high, collapsed at about 1000 GMT.

Two men were assessed at the scene but no-one needed hospital treatment.

Two other cranes toppled over at the docks in 2008 and 2009. The Health and Safety Executive is investigating.

A person who was working near the latest incident, who did not want to be named, said: "A colleague of mine said they heard a humongous crash.

"We don't know if the crane was lifting anything at the time when it crashed."

Crane driver Jay Squibb was seriously injured when he was crushed by a crane which toppled over at the docks last July.

He legs were crushed and he was trapped for more than two hours but was eventually freed and airlifted to safety.

He has since returned home but admitted he cannot see himself ever returning to the job.

In January 2008, another crane collapsed but no-one was hurt.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Lines left reeling by bounceback in box volumes

A HUGE surge in container volumes over the past three months has caught container lines by complete surprise and left them uncertain whether to reactivate idle tonnage even though their customers are screaming for extra space straightaway.
Maersk Line chief executive Eivind Kolding admitted this week that the industry had not been ready for the sudden sharp increase in demand that began in early December and continued right through to the start of the Chinese New Year holidays.
“We had no time to prepare, we did not get any signals that this was coming,” he said.
Initial figures suggest that total worldwide volumes are up by about 15%-20% on corresponding figures a year ago when the market was in sharp decline and trade overall contracted by 10%. Even so, it was “far too early to say the crisis is over”, Mr Kolding warned. With AP Moller-Maersk due to release its 2009 results tomorrow, Mr Kolding was unable to comment on Maersk Line’s financial prospects.
But assessing the industry-wide picture, he told Lloyd’s List that container shipping was heading back towards break-even.
“We are not there yet,” he said, but if lines achieve the rate increases they are seeking in the 2010-2011 transpacific eastbound contracts that come up for renewal on May 1 then the industry could move out of the red by the end of the year. That compares with global losses that are thought to have reached around $20bn in 2009.
“Certainly, 2010 will be much better than last year, probably something the industry will be satisfied with, but not anything to brag about,” he said,
Neptune Orient Lines, which announced a 63% leap in volumes in its latest six-week period compared with year earlier levels, concurred that ocean carriers had been caught offguard by the size of the cargo recovery that has pushed some spot rates in the Asia-Europe trades back up 2007 levels when conditions were still very strong.
The Singapore line, which acted fast to remove capacity at the start of the meltdown, now only has a handful of ships idle compared with more than two dozen a year ago, and has reactivated some services in the intra-Asia and transpacific trades.
“Everyone has been surprised by this big bounce,” NOL president and chief executive Ron Widdows said. “Who the heck projected that?”
But lines’ reluctance to celebrate reflects the fact that the cargo revival appears to reflect concerted wordwide inventory replenishment by many different industries in North America and Europe, but without any corresponding recovery in consumer demand.
In the US, for example, inbound volumes have risen 13% in recent weeks, whereas retail spending is only 1% higher. A similar pattern is apparent in Europe.
That has left container lines wondering whether this apparent recovery is sustainable, or if it will fizzle out once re-stocking is over.
The situation “remains fragile”, Mr Kolding acknowledged in the keynote address to the Journal of Commerce’s 10th Trans-Pacific Maritime Conference, with the still large amount of tonnage in lay-up adding to the delicate supply/demand balance that could easily tip back the wrong way if too much capacity is reactivated too quickly.
Shippers are furious at carriers’ refusals to bring more ships back into service at a time when cargo is being left on the quayside in Asia time after time.
“I have never seen shippers so angry,” said Electrolux vice-president for global freight and logistics services Bjorn Vang Jensen. “We are pissed off.”
Another prominent shipper, Pat Moffett of Audiovox Electronics, said that on one recent occasion he had 13 40 ft containers bumped off a ship.
But Mr Kolding said it took time to adjust shipping networks, while box lines are being ultra-cautious about pulling ships out of lay-up until they are certain that the cargo recovery looks sustainable.
“We will see how volumes pick up after the Chinese New Year,” he said.
But Maersk is more likely to deploy extra loaders in existing transpacific services than introduce new loops, Mr Kolding predicted.
Lloyds list

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Hutchison to Invest In UK Assets

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hutchison Whampoa will raise its presence in the United Kingdom by investing roughly an additional one billion pounds ($1.54 billion) over the next two years, its spokesman said on Wednesday.

The spokesman confirmed the investment figure first reported by the Hong Kong Economic Journal, which said group Hutchison Managing Director Canning Fok disclosed the figure during in a panel meeting in the UK.

Hutchison will re-invest in businesses including retail, property and telecommunications, the newspaper said.

"We hold a positive tone for reinvesting in the UK as it has been generating good investment returns and has good regulations," another Hutchison spokeswoman had said earlier.

Shares of the ports-to-telecoms conglomerate eased 0.99 percent to HK$54.95 by 2:27 a.m. British time, against a 0.81 percent drop in the broader market