Tuesday, September 30, 2008

"Hamburger Konsortium" Bid to Keep Hapag-Lloyd in Germany

Hapag-Lloyd has been up for sale for some time. A group of investors from Hamburg, called in german "Hamburger Konsortium", look to be the high bidder.

This morning the JOC reported the German group got a few more people to throw in some money and have probably beat the NOL offer.

I am sure the parent company now wishes they decided to sell it last year when the shipping market was in much better shape. They have said they will make a final decision in mid-Oct. The deadline for bids was last week, with 2 groups placing bids. NOL and the Hamburger Konsortium (well, Kuehne & Nagel is based in Switzerland, but I think that's only for tax reasons).

There are a couple of reasons Kuehne & Nagel, as well as the Hamburg investors want to keep Hapag-Lloyd out of the hands of NOL.

First off, NOL is not friendly towards forwarders. Kuehne & Nagel is very big, and has made a lot of money as an intermediary between the steamship line and the shipper and/or receiver. They have had very close dealings with Hapag-Lloyd for many years, some of which caused fines by the FMC. If NOL bought Hapag-Lloyd, this cozy relationship would be no more.

Secondly, if NOL bought Hapag-Lloyd it would be absorbed and loose it's identity, as well as all the headquarter jobs in Germany. Germany has a long tradition as being a leader in shipping. They,as well as Switzerland, have an intern program for shipping, which turns out some of the best trained in the business. If Hapag-Lloyd goes away, the only liner carrier left would be Hamburg-Sued, leaving not too many spots for interns to train in liner shipping.

Apparently the investors of NOL won't be upset if they are outbid.
According to Bloomburg, the shares of NOL hit a 2 year low on concerns of this bid. Of course, I am not so sure that is the only reason the shares dropped. Tough times are ahead in the shipping industry, and people are just figuring that out.

Update - Shooting Aboard M/V Faina

I don't know what to believe, but will just post what I have found

Russia Today claims there was a dispute amongst the pirates, with a shoot-out and 3 of them dead.

The BBC says there was a shoot-out, but no report as to the extent of the injuries.

The Russian Times has this quote from a U.S. Navy spokesman, but I don't know how reliable it is, considering the BBC does not have the same quote.

"The shipment of 33 Russian-designed tanks, rifles and ammunition onboard the Ukrainian-operated Faina was headed for Sudan, not Kenya as previously claimed,” Deputy spokesman for the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, Lt. Nathan Christensen said.

And not just Sudan, but in particularly to the Darfur region - the place that has a UN arms embargo imposed on it. The situation off the African coast has put more pressure on an already politically tense Kiev."

The Russians are throwing their weight around because it is from the Ukraine.

This whole thing may become more about arms dealing than about piracy.

Update 11:00 AM CDT
CNN reports there were 3 killed on Monday, and additonal gun fire onboard on Tuesday.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Russian Military Vessel Neustrashimy

The Russians sent a military vessel, the Neustrashimy, to Somalia sometime around last Wed., Sept. 24th.

It's about 3300 nautical miles from Russia to Somalia. I can't find anything giving the speed of the Neustrashimy, but guessed it could be 20-25 knots.

Based on this, it should get there Tues. or Wed., Sept. 30/Oct. 1.

My guess is until it gets there, everyone else will just be sitting around making sure nothing gets off the Ukrainian freighter Faina.

Some of the retired U.S. Navy guys are following this story on Information Dissemination.

I did pick up some good information from this blog. Apparently the vessel Faina is a ro/ro (roll-on-roll-off) which means the tanks can be driven off the ship. This does make it all a bit more interesting.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Pirates Limited (Ltd.)

The pirates operating out Eyl, Somalia have turned this into big business.
According to this BBC article, the region around Eyl is booming, all from the proceeds of this plundering.

On Sept. 22nd I commented on the pirate problem in the Gulf of Aden. Pirates! No Kidding!!

I had no idea it would become front page news so quickly.

Jean Poole posted a comment on that blog, mentioning the need for security for ships with food aide going to the starving people in East Africa. This is absolutely correct. She also suggested reading piratebook.blogspot.com.

When I posted my comments I was thinking mainly of liner shipping (which is my background), but there are so many more small break bulk vessels which will be the target for the pirates.

Now I think Pirates Ltd. has bit off a bit more than they can chew. It's kinda like hooking a big fish, only to find out you can't haul it into the boat.

This from CNN Sunday afternoon.

"The pirates initially demanded $35 million and no military action, said Andrew Mwangura of the Kenya Seafarers Association. They decreased their demands for several reasons, Mwangura said.

Those reasons include that the crew is from eastern Europe and not the United States, the weapons the ship carries are secondhand, and there is no way to unload the tanks without coming onto land, he said."

This is the full story.

Of course the comment "no way to unload the tanks without coming onto land" is an understatement, as I believe these tanks weigh about 90,000 lbs a piece (over 41 metric tons). It's not something you can unload with fishing nets.

Additional info 6:30 PM
Russia Today (RT) has a video available with pictures of the ships and interviews

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Update NYKU Tracking The BBC Box

The BBC Box is onboard a vessel and will arrive at the discharge port in 23 days.

This from the NYK web-site Southampton to Shanghai Schedule Summary Current Date: Sep-27-2008

Note: Schedules are guidelines only.
The BBC Box is on M/V/ Copenhagen Express V011, scheduled to arrive Shanghai on 20 Oct.

Following are movement details to date from the NYK tracking site

Container NYKU8210506 Container Size/Type 40'/DRY

Status As Of Event Location Mode
SEP-24-2008 15:43 Vessel Departure Southampton, GBR COPENHAGEN EXPRESS/011

Moves to Date Event Location Mode
SEP-23-2008 20:03 Loaded on vessel at first port of load Southampton, GBR COPENHAGEN EXPRESS/011
SEP-15-2008 00:38 Arrived at first port of load Southampton, GBR Feeder
SEP-12-2008 15:00 Departed from first facility Greenock, GBR Feeder
SEP-12-2008 13:00 Full container received by carrier at origin Greenock, GBR Truck
SEP-11-2008 05:00 Empty container positioned to shipper Glasgow, GBR Truck

See Follow The Container for graphics of movement. The vessel is passing Lisbon, Portugal.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Update Long Beach/Los Angeles Truck Plan and TWIC Cards

As I mentioned on the 19th of Sept. the implementation of the clean truck plan in Southern California encountered some problems.

They have now decided to postpone the computer system requirements and will only require stickers on the window of the trucks which are enrolled in the program. The truck drivers will also need to present a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) or proof they have applied for one.

For Southern California, the date of mandatory requirement by the TSA of the TWIC is March-April of 2009.

The FMC is also investigating the implementation of this program.

The JOC article gives all the details.

I think that's enough acronyms for one posting.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ocean Shipping Market Downturn... duh!

Maybe I am just too old. Someone is SHOCKED that the shipping industry is seeing a dramatic downturn. SHOCKED I tell you.

I remember when I worked for a carrier, there was a proposal to do a big marketing campaign. After all, the guys on Madison Ave. know advertising increases business.

I laughed, and reminding folks that we were in the shipping business. We didn't make the cargo move. All we could do was try to be in the right position when trade patterns changed.

Now I don't want to pick on this guy at APL, but if he knows how to push back market forces, maybe he can help out some of those folks on Wall Street.

This from the article in American Shipper, 24 Sept. (click here for complete article)

"A senior executive of APL has called on individual container lines to take decisive action to reverse the current market downturn.

Dan Ryan, APL’s Greater China president, speaking at the second Containerization and Liner Shipping China conference in Tianjin, said that a negative scenario of financial market turmoil, low consumer confidence as well as rising inflation and commodity prices, compounded by historically high fuel prices, requires lines’ urgent attention.

Suggested solutions included carriers moderating growth aspirations, returning excess tonnage to the charter market, rationalizing and even suspending some services, and having stronger resolve to pass along bunker costs to customers.

“If we fail to take action, the industry could see a more significant downturn than we have seen in many years,” he said."

Now, some of what he says is valid. Individual carriers can reduce supply. But the days of shipping cartels are fast disappearing, so carriers doing a lot collectively will be a problem.

And that bit about returning excess tonnage to the charter market? What then? You just gave someone cheaper ships to go after your cargo.

Each carrier must make these decisions on their own, and may the best one survive.

I will put in my 2 cents.

The carriers can slow down their vessels, thereby reducing bunker consumption. Assuming they wish to maintain the same frequency, this would also require additional ships, which would absorb some of the excess capacity.

They can use this time to put their ships in dry-dock for maintenance.

They can take out piracy insurance and start sailing past Somalia.
(this is a joke)

Anyway, this will be the shake out time in the industry.

As I use to say "it's kinda like K-Mart complaining about Wal-Mart".

Oops. I am old.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

U.S. Customs - 10 + 2

Updated October 30

No starting date as per JOC article

WASHINGTON -- Senior officials at Customs and Border Protection now are declining to predict when the agency's new security filing rule, known as 10+2, will be published.

I kept seeing reference to 10 + 2, but did not pay much attention until I got a notice from the Customs Broker here in Wichita, Kansas, F.H. Kaysing.

"Essential there are 10 data elements which must be filed with U.S. Customs (or now called Customs and Border Protection) 2 days before a shipment departs origin.

The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will make their decision on the final ruling of 10 + 2. Since this change will be happening, the opportunities and challenges the industry will be faced with need to be addressed immediately. The Customs House Broker will play a leadership role and help to define how to position and implement 10 + 2.

The ruling will require importers to ensure the filing of 10 additional data elements electronically at least 24 hours before the lading of ocean containers at the port of exit. The 10 data elements are known as the 10 + 2 Rule, or more commonly, the Import Security Filing (ISF). The information may be sent via ABI or AMS, and the Customs Broker will gather the information and transmit it on behalf of the Importer via ABI. The 10 required data elements are:

· Manufacturer name and address

· Seller name and address

· Buyer name and address

· Ship to name and address

· Container stuffing location

· Consolidator name and address

· Importer of record number

· Consignee number

· Country of origin of good

· Commodity Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) number

CBP will be requiring the manufacturer name, address and country of origin be linked to each of the commodity HTSUS numbers. This change will most likely impact how suppliers format their commercial invoices.

The Customs Broker will play a large role in getting the security filings completed. Customs Brokers often have close working relationships with freight forwarders and this will aid in accessing the necessary data. It is the Broker’s duty to keep current with changes and help with CBP’s rulings and requirements."

A major concern with this new ruling is the penalty that will be issues by improper filings. The current ruling calls for setting the penalty at the value of the goods. The penalty size has Importers concerned and is hoping CBP will provide some sort of relief. CBP is serious about the penalty and is reiterating how important the ISF will be to this country."

The date of implementation has not yet been announced. American Shipper mentions Customs is looking for recruits to test the system.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Vessel Change - Where is The BBC Box? NYKU

The BBC gives the name of the vessel which will take The Box to China.

M/V Copenhagen Express

They fooled us. I think they gave the original date as 25 Sept., but this vessel will sail 24 Sept. I guess they didn't want hordes of people showing up to see the container loaded.

This is the schedule.

M/V Copenhagen Express, Voyage 024263

Southampton 23-24 Sept

Ningbo 15 Oct.

Xiamen 15-16 Oct.

Singapore 16-17 Oct.

Shanghai 20-21 Oct.

This is a Hapag-Lloyd vessel. I was a little surprised they did not make sure it loaded on an NYK vessel. Hapag-Lloyd and NYK are in a vessel sharing agreement, which is similiar to a "code share" by airlines.

Update 5:30 PMFollow The Container has been updated with pictures and stats with the M/V Copenhagen Express.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Illogical BAF (bunker adjustment factors)

Update Dec. 12 - Why are there still bunker surcharges?

When I was looking at the Maersk web-site I noticed they are implementing a new BAF (bunker adjustment factor) calculator, as they call it. This type of surcharge use to be called a bunker surcharge, but as the acronym for that is BS, I guess they had to change it.

Not all the trades are implemented. This is one I picked out because it's lop-sided, much more than the others. Most of them were pretty close for each direction of the trade, but not this one.

North & Latin America to East Africa

USD 600 per 20’ container
USD1200 per 40’ container

East Africa to North and Latin America

USD 200 per 20’ container
USD 400 per 40’ container

Here is an example they give for calculating the bunker surcharge.

Bunker consumption: 0.047 mt/TEU/day Bunker Consumption - the amount of metric tons of bunker fuel needed to transport a 20' container each day of the transit.
Transit Time: 24 days Transit Time - the average number of days of a round trip voyage, divided by two, equals the one way transit time.
Imbalance factor: 0.50 Imbalance factor – is the ratio of headhaul to backhaul. This measures the inequality between imports and exports in each trade.
Bunker price change: 527 (Price) - 195 (Bunker base element) = 332 USD Bunker Price Change - the change in bunker cost, up or down, during the measurement period. The price change is the new price less the original price, (the base bunker cost is included in the base ocean freight rate).
Future bunker price: 682 USD Future bunker price - the change in bunker cost, up or down, during the measurement period. The price change is the new price less the original price, (the base bunker cost is included in the base ocean freight rate).
What are the monitoring ports

I have a friend who is a mathematician. I'll ask him to explain it to me.

Ok, well that's not really fair. I do understand it. I just don't know if like the way they are applying it. But then again it goes back to whatever the cargo can bear.

Oh, sorry, I gave away the secret to ocean rate pricing.

Pirates! No Kidding!

The swords have been replaced by automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades.

From an article in The American Shipper (click here for complete article)

"While the word "pirate" may still conjure up romantic images among the general public, he said Somali pirates plying the Gulf of Aden are dangerous criminals who are heavily armed with everything from automatic weapons to rocket-propelled grenades.
The International Maritime Bureau, the lead recording body for piracy, estimates that more than 1,200 Somalis and at least six major groups are involved.
Ten ships are currently being held and the industry fears for the seafarers on board. Hinchliffe said that as pirates have apparently met success in extorting ransom for vessels and seafarers, their numbers seem to be growing and they are investing in better weapons."

Apparently the Danes sent in a warship which captured some of the pirates. Of course, there is a pretty big Danish Shipping Company, Maersk Sea-Land (although I suspect they will be dropping the Sea-Land part very soon). Oopppss...my bad.
They already changed their name back to just Maersk.

I just hope no one expects the Americans to try and retake ships from pirates.
We tried that in 1975 just at the end of the Vietnam war. The Mayaguez incident. We didn't do a very good job, and lots of people were killed and injured. By the way, the Mayaguez was a Sea-Land vessel.

Shipping companies have a couple of options if their ships normally go through the Gulf of Aden.

1) They can go another route, which will add to the voyage time.

2) They can buy additional insurance coverage.

Either one will cost the carriers more money. If you ship to or from this part of the world, expect a new "pirate avoidance" surcharge. I suspect the official name will be security surcharge.

Update, Tuesday, 9/23

Todays Journal of Commerce reports the U.S. Navy confirms they cannot fight this piracy.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Michoacan, Mexico Tries To End Police Corruption

An AP article outlines the plan to help police in the state of Michoacan, Mexico, buy a house. They hope this will give the police a financial incentive to work hard at their job, rather than extorting people for money.

When I was in Mexico a couple of years ago, I learned that there, as well as in most of Latin America, it is impossible to get long term mortgages on homes. One would see lots of half built houses. I asked if they were abandoned, and always the answer would be "no, they are being built".

This really puzzled me until someone explained; they work on a house until they run out of money, then, when they get more money together they work on it some more.

Also, apparently there was a problem with obtaining a clean title to land in Mexico, which would be a problem to get a loan.

Anyway, this doesn't have much to do with shipping, unless your truck gets held up by the Mexican police who are looking for a payoff.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Tracking the NYKU BBC Box

I have found a few other sites which are following the BBC box.

Clyde Sights has a nice picture of the container on the first feeder ship.

Big Lorry Blog is following the story, and has a scenic picture of a double stack train which might be of interest.

Follow The Container has on it's site information on the ship we expect it will load on at Southampton.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Truck Plan at Los Angeles/Long Beach Runs Aground

September 19, 2008

Today was the deadline for enrollment into the truck plan imposed by the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

The truckers and terminal operators have stated there was not enough time to get ready to meet this deadline,

This is from the American Shipper article of Sept. 8.

This is a very complex program with many moving parts,” wrote WCMTOA secretary Bruce Wargo. “It requires 13 different terminal access control systems to be modified to accept and electronically understand the ports’ Drayage Truck Registry information.”
Under the ports’ truck plan, drayage providers wishing to continue providing service to terminals at the ports’ must have their trucks entered into the DTR. However, the DTR only went live two weeks ago and the DTR entry Web site continues to have technical problems.
According to Wargo, the ports’ DTR contained no approved trucks as of Sept. 3 and the DTR was not in a “position to communicate to the (terminal operators) that information.”
Wargo, who is also chief executive officer of the non-profit PierPass after-hours gate operation at the two ports, said that extensive modification to the terminals’ operations systems are still required before the truck plan can begin and other items such as “terminal and carrier Web pages, phone trees and carrier and terminal customer service representatives,” still need to be updated.
The DTR also “will require extensive Internet modifications to PierPass, its vendors systems, equipment acquisition, report design and testing,” he said.

The incentive program offers $20,000.00 for each new truck a company puts into service from Oct 2008 until Oct 2009, provided the truck is privately funded (don't ask me what that means), AND the company must commit that truck will make an average of 6 trips per week for 5 years.

Well, first of all, I don't think you can buy a new truck for $20,000.00. Plus, now with credit crunch, the price of diesel, and wages for drivers will be going up.

Don't forget, Homeland Security wants all the truck drivers to be legal and with a good driving record. Oh, and probably not a criminal record either. I think the deadline for all that has been delayed. I'll go check on that now.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Where's The BBC Box?

update Oct. 23 - container discharged in Shanghai
click here for more info

I was curious how far the BBC box had gone since last week. The BBC tracking site is a bit confusing - it looks like the box is just wandering around Great Britain.

There is a nice video on the BBC site which shows the container being loaded onto the ship.

I went to the NYK tracking site, and it appears they put is on a feeder vessel in Greenock to Southampton where it will be loaded on the main line ship. I'm a little curious why they sent the empty overland, but the loaded container by water. My hunch is because the weight of the loaded container exceeds the road weight limits.

Here's the status from the NYK tracking site (it won't link so I copied it)

SEP-15-2008 00:38 Arrived at first port of load Southampton, GBR Feeder

Moves to Date Event Location Mode
SEP-12-2008 15:00 Departed from first facility Greenock, GBR Feeder

Okay, now I am really confused. I won't give you the details, but I have a hunch this container is coming either to Halifax, Canada, or a port in the U.S., or maybe Manzanillo, Mexico, to be loaded on a vessel to Asia. I couldn't find any vessel on the NYK schedule going from the U.K. (or GBR, which is the UN code for Great Britain) to Asia. If I am correct, this container will have been loaded on and off a ship at least 3, maybe 4 times, from it's origin to the destination.

Does anyone out there know the transhipment hub for NYK?

Mexico is pretty cheap, that's my hunch.

Job Opportunities at IRISL (Iran Shipping)

After reading an article in American Shipper how the U.S. Government has determined the Iranian Shipping Company and/or it's subsidiaries are shipping things to Iran (how many government agents does it take...), I decided to check out the web-site.

There's not much out of the ordinary. They have container and break-bulk ships, they actually have a woman as one of the top managers. They had a box on the web-site flashing "job opportunities" which I decided to click on. You know, I'm bored.

Well, as I don't speak or read Farsi, I guess I won't ever know what jobs they have available. But, I just like looking at the symbols.

I remember watching someone write in Farsi - they write right to left. I remember thinking it would be a good language if one were left handed.

This posting will probably get me on some sort of list at the FBI, or CIA, or office of Home Security, or whatever.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

USDA Needs A Shake Up

The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) needs some new management.

I don't know who got what tickets to some big sporting event, but someone at the USDA must have been swayed by the big meatpackers to NOT allow a small meatpacker to test 100% for mad cow.

Furthermore, I guess the judge must have been a Bush appointee (I am just guessing, I have no idea) in order for such a stupid ruling to be issued.

That happened in late Aug.

Now today I read about the problems in Mexico with no inspection for produce.

That doesn't really bother me, because having watched USDA inspectors in packing plants, you might as well skip the inspection.

What does bother me is the one thing the USDA could do to help, they have not, and probably will not do, considering their attitude of not listening to the requests of the marketplace.

This is what one of the Mexican farmers stated

"He and other Mexican farmers with sanitary farms want the United States to set up a certification program that covers both growers and packing plants."

I know the USDA certifies that certain producers in Brazil have processes in place to kill the Mediterranean Fruit Fly, which allows them to ship to the U.S., so it's not that they haven't done this before. So, why not with Mexico?

Wouldn't this help out our neighbor to the south, maybe improve their economy so there would be more and better paying jobs? Oh, wait, sorry, that's just too logical.

Friday, September 12, 2008

NYK Tracking System

I decided to track the BBC container on the steamship line (NYK) web-site tracking.

I was a little surprised one needs only the container number, nothing else. So much for worrying about those terrorists.

Current Date: Sep-12-2008

Container Search Results

Container NYKU8210506 Container Size/Type 40'/DRY

Status As Of Event Location Mode
SEP-12-2008 13:00 Full container received by carrier at origin Greenock, GBR Truck

Moves to Date Event Location Mode
SEP-11-2008 05:00 Empty container positioned to shipper Glasgow, GBR

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Track this container - NYKU 8210506

The Brits (BBC) are tracking a shipping container for one year. I wanted to say an ocean container, but the first leg of it's journey was overland. This highlights how much the container (thanks Malcolm McLean, the father of containerization, founder of Sea-Land ) has changed the transporting of goods, both overland and sea. It was a simple idea. Take the wheels off a truck, and put the "box" part of the truck on a ship.

I am dating myself now, but the first containers were 35 ft long. Today the standard sizes are 40ft and 20ft long.

In the question and answer part of the BBC article, someone asked exactly what I was thinking.

"Will the container have special treatment or will it be treated like a normal container and spend eleven months at the back of a stack of empties in a container yard in Pittsburg PA? John Clark, Ipswich, UK"

Ha ha ha.. I wonder how much money NYK is going to spend digging out this container in various container yards around the world.

I'll try to check in on this once a week or so.

My 9/11

It's hard to believe it's been 7 years.

I write this more for me than anyone else.

Seven years ago today I drove from my house in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ to Morristown, NJ.

I got to the office about 8:15.

Bruno and I had an sales call at 9:00 in Morristown.

I very seldom went on sales calls with Bruno. However, I use to work for the guy we were seeing, (Bob). We got the appointment because I knew him. It had already been cancelled twice, so this was a "must show".

I don't remember when the first plane hit. I never went back over the time line. I just remember that somewhere around 8:50 I heard a lot of "chatter" amongst my staff. Something about a plane hitting the World Trade Center. We all assumed it was a small plane.

Then news started coming in, it was a bigger plane.

I phoned my mom in Kansas. Told her to turn on the TV as something was going on, not sure what.

Bruno drove to our appointment, about 5 minutes away. When we got inside the reception area, we could hear a woman in the conference room, crying hysterically. We didn't really know what to do, but everyone continued to work, so we sat down and waited for Bob to emerge.

A few minutes later he came out. He said something like "can you believe it?" He invited us into his office. On his screen saver was the picture of the first plane hitting the Trade Center.

Then, we started our meeting!! Looking back, it was all a little crazy. Here we are, discussing freight rates, services, etc., when one of the major events of our lifetime was unfolding.

Then Bob gets a phone call. It's his wife. A 2nd plane has hit the Trade Center, and a plane has hit the Pentagon. We all stand up and agree it's time to end the meeting, or something to that effect.

Bruno and I go to the parking garage, but we can't find the car. We walk round and round, I am pretty sure both of us were in a daze. Finally we get in the car and I say (or maybe wail) "who hates us so much?" Bruno is Brazilian. Bruno says nothing.

We get back to the office and everyone is leaving. They have closed the schools and people must pick up their children.

Bruno, J.R. and I stay and man the phones. The NY ports are closed. We have ships scheduled to dock, but they have to be diverted to other ports.

Sometime around 2:00 the news reports state all the roads leading eastbound into NYC will be closed at 3:00. My house is east. I leave.

When I pulled onto Interstate 80, the only vehicles on the road were emergency vehicles. Most were from small towns in PA headed to NYC. All had their flashing lights on.
It was very strange, as this is an 8 lane highway, normally bumper to bumper traffic.

There is a point on I-80 near Paterson, NJ, which is very high. You can generally see the top of the World Trade towers from this point.

When I reached that point, all I could see was smoke.

That's when it hit me. The towers were gone.

I worked in One World Trade Center, 77th floor for 1 year. 1985. The first year I moved from Kansas to New Jersey.

For 10 years, the view from my office in Jersey City was lower Manhattan, the towers dominating the skyline.

Now the skyline was totally changed.

I try to explain to visitors after 9/11 how much taller the World Trade Center was than the other buildings. I always say, just imagine something twice as tall as all the other buildings around them.

One World Trade

Two World Trade

That's how those of us who worked there referred to them. We never called them the north tower or the south tower.

Not until the planes hit.

Seven years.

You never get over it, you just get use to it.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Who is a shipper?

I realize the terminology in the shipping industry can be confusing. We still say "steamship line", although ships no longer run on steam.

A shipper is not the same as a shipping company.

Only those of us in the biz were bothered by the incorrect use of this term in the New York Times two years ago during the Dubai Ports debacle.

"The White House appeared stunned by the uprising, over a transaction that they considered routine — especially since China's biggest state-owned shipper runs major ports in the United States, as do a host of other foreign companies. Mr. Bush's aides defended their decision, saying the company, Dubai Ports World, which is owned by the United Arab Emirates, would have no control over security issues."

This should have said "China's biggest state-owned shipping company", which by the way is COSCO (not to be confused with Costco).

A shipper is whomever is shown on the billing of lading as the shipper. This can be the manufacturer, the exporter (which is not necessarily the same), a freight forwarder, a non-vessel-operating common carrier (yes, that is what NVOCC stands for), or even the brother-in-law of the person buying the goods. Believe me, after 30 years in this industry I have seen it all.

But, a shipper is not those big metal things that float on the water and transport goods across bodies of water.

Those things are called ships.

The companies which operates ships are called shipping companies, or steamship lines, or ocean carriers, or maybe lots of other things. But never, ever a shipper.

Unless of course the shipping company is shipping something that belongs to it, such as spare parts for the ship. Then it would be the shipper.

No wonder people think international shipping is difficult.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Proposed new West Coast Mexican Port

There was an interesting article in the American Shipper last week about a new port planned for Punta Colonet on the Pacific Coast of Mexico. This could be a really big deal considering the costs of discharging containers in the U.S. with Union Labor is probably 3 -5 times more than what can be done in Mexico, not to mention the new restrictions being imposed on the carriers with air quality emissions etc.

The article talks mainly about how it will compete with the Southern California ports as of course most of the cargo discharged in Southern California does not stay there. The big sticking point is getting the rail connections from Mexico to other points in the U.S.

"Regardless of who wins the contracts, any potential bidder will have to negotiate with U.S. rail giants Union Pacific or BNSF, which control the mainline tracks running through the U.S. Southwest. UP had originally been a potential bidder, but pulled out of a proposed partnership with Hutchison last May. On breaking the Hutchison partnership, UP indicated it was still open to bidding with another partner on the Colonet project. U.S. West Coast ports handle more than 60 percent of the Asia-to-Atlantic Coast cargo, with the all-water route through the Panama Canal capturing another 38 percent. Last year, the Canadian port of Prince Rupert also began operations, offering a direct rail connection for cargo from the Canadian Pacific Coast to Chicago in about 100 hours. In addition, the Panama Canal, set to open a new set of larger locks in 2014, expects to capture up to half of the Asia-to-Atlantic Coast traffic by 2025. "

This last comment got me to thinking. Would it be possible for Mexico to build a railroad across THEIR country, to compete with the Panama Canal?

I wonder if "Field of Dreams" was translated into Spanish.