National Shipper Advisory Committee for FMC gets Senate push – FreightWaves

The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee has approved a bill that would allow the formation of a committee of American shippers to advise the Federal Maritime Commission on policies related to competitiveness, reliability, integrity and fairness in ocean shipping.

FMC Commissioner Rebecca Dye proposed the FMC National Shipper Advisory Committee two years ago when the agency was analyzing persistent ocean shipping bottlenecks due to systemic port congestion throughout the U.S.

Under the 2019 FMC Commission Shipper Advisory Committee Act (S. 2894), the commission will appoint a committee of 24 industry members, split evenly between importers and exporters. Those individuals will be presented to the FMC via nomination.

Committee members’ terms would expire Dec. 31 of the third year after the date of appointment.

The advisory committee would elect a chairman and vice chairman, with the chairman authorized to establish subcommittees and working groups.

The Senate legislation calls for the FMC National Shipper Advisory Committee to remain in effect until Sept. 30, 2029.

“I am pleased that my legislation to establish a National Shipper Advisory Committee at the FMC is headed to the full Senate for consideration,” said Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, in a statement on Wednesday.

It is not uncommon for federal government agencies involved in trade to have industry advisory committees. Customs and Border Protection has long relied on trade enforcement and facilitation input from the Commercial Customs Operations Advisory Committee (COAC).

FMC’s Dye keeps eye on COVID-19-challenged US supply chains – FreightWaves

The U.S. Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) official in charge of monitoring the current U.S. supply chain impacts related to the COVID-19 pandemic said she has brought together myriad industry stakeholders to find immediate remedies to these problems and prepare for the reopening of the economy.

“We need to be ready in our seaports for the increased cargo that we know is coming soon,” FMC Commissioner Rebecca Dye told attendees of the virtual annual Agriculture Transportation Coalition conference on Wednesday, May 20.

“I believe that if we prepare now, we will be in a position to support the American economy when it comes roaring back very soon,” she said.

Scores of blank sailings by the ocean container carriers, temporary marine terminal closures and slowdowns, and upheaval in the intermodal transportation system started in March. Because of the pandemic’s rapid spread and imposition of government social distancing measures, the FMC mobilized to address the COVID-19 supply chain impacts.

The FMC’s March 31 order, known as Fact Finding 29 International Ocean Transportation Supply Chain Engagement, highlighted the commission’s statutory mandate to “ensure efficient and economic transportation system for ocean commerce.”

The order also stated that “the commission has determined there is a compelling need to convene new Supply Chain Innovation Teams to address these challenges.”

Dye, who was placed in charge of the fact finding, quickly established nine supply chain innovation teams which consist of representatives from the nation’s public port authorities, marine terminal operators, shippers, ocean transportation intermediaries, liner shipping companies, drayage trucking companies, longshore labor representatives, rail officials, and chassis providers.

The teams have, so far, identified four “urgent” problems, Dye said. They include difficulties with container returns to the terminals and carriers, confusion with export receiving dates from the ocean carriers, lack of reasonable notice of terminal closures, and need for wider distribution of information on blank sailings and East Coast skipped ports from the ocean carriers.

“The challenge that I find is that nobody ‘owns’ many of our problems,” Dye said. “So, I have enlisted the major carrier CEOs in the USA/North America to use their influence to lead on these improvements.”

She has also urged the country’s marine terminal operators and port authorities involved with the supply chain innovation teams to do the same.

Last year, she successfully concluded Fact Finding 28, spending the past two years with shipping industry representatives to develop the demurrage and detention fees imposition guidelines.

Dye said the purpose of the commission’s work is to find “forward leaning improvements to the [freight transportation] system.”

She said, “The freight delivery system is the very backbone of the American economy. Improving the performance of the freight delivery system in the United States boosts the vibrant export and import trades in our country.”

As a result of the Fact Finding 29’s supply chain innovation teams’ early work, the FMC announced on April 27 order that it would temporarily allow service contracts to be filed up to 30 days after they take effect to provide relief to shippers and ocean container carriers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. This relief will remain in place through December 31, 2020, the FMC said.

The FMC has authority under the Shipping Act to make certain regulatory adjustments when necessary.

Dye told the Agriculture Transportation Coalition members, who honored her for steadfast work to improve the U.S. ocean shipping industry, that Fact Finding 29’s work is moving quickly. “I will update on our progress with regular press releases rather than a final report,” she said.

project44 adds air, ocean freight visibility to platform – FreightWaves

Supply chain management solutions provider project44 on Tuesday, May 19, said shippers will now have visibility to their global airfreight, groupage, and ocean container activities no matter where in the world.

The additional visibility into air and ocean freight transport modes complements project44’s truckload and less-than-truckload solutions and makes its platform global in scope for shippers and logistics services providers.

“Businesses need a unified view of their end-to-end visibility data for a flexible and agile global supply chain,” said Jett McCandless, project44’s CEO, in a statement.

The Chicago-based company, which started six years ago, first tackled the trucking market and has since expanded across the spectrum of global freight transportation modes. “We realized a single mode or regional coverage cannot provide the full picture,” McCandless said.

“The unified multimodal solution has been project44’s vision since the beginning and the recent COVID-19 events just accelerated the market’s need,” Raji Bedi, the company’s senior vice president of product, told FreightWaves. 

For example, Bedi said one of project44’s pharmaceutical customers recently experienced difficulty securing air cargo capacity to ship its healthcare products worldwide.

“They traditionally use commercial airlines for air cargo needs, but as commercial airlines have reduced flights with global travel restrictions, this company had to look to charter flights or use ocean where they have not previously,” Bedi said.

“With project44’s unified multimodal visibility solution, they were able to switch airline providers and maintain the real-time visibility that is essential to their business,” he added. “They were also able to gain visibility into their newly deployed ocean shipments, all through a single application.”

project44 has built an extensive multimodal network that now reaches across more than 48 countries and operates in 16 languages. In addition to North America, the company has continued to expand its presence in Europe.

“To build a supply chain that can withstand today’s unexpected challenges and prepare our business for the future, we need to derive intelligent insights across our logistics network,” said Gregory Pritchard, head of global logistics at Chicago-based biopharmaceutical company AbbVie (NYSE: ABBV) and a user of project44’s platform. “This means one unified view into our shipments regardless of where it is or how it’s getting there.”

project44 pulls together and unifies various freight transport data through its application programming interface (API) tool. For example, the company said it has established connections to more than 100 airlines, allowing shippers to track their airfreight “from take-off to landing.”

According to the company, more than 300 global companies representing $57 billion in freight use project44’s platform to efficiently move their goods globally.

Vishnu Rajamanickam, FreightWaves’s technology reporter, contributed to this article.

Getting crews on and off ships and airplanes – FreightWaves

The three largest global organizations representing the workforces of the maritime and air transport industries have asked their government members to ensure the continued cross-border movement of these “key workers” to and from their jobs.

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a flurry of government bans on international travel, which has obstructed necessary crew changes to keep the world’s maritime and aircraft fleet, as well as at ports and logistics hubs, in operation and goods flowing.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO), one of the signatories to the May 26 statement, highlighted that more than 80% of global trade moves by ocean transport, which is managed by about two million seafarers.

The IMO said starting in mid-June an estimated 150,000 seafarers a month will require international flights either to their home countries or to sign onto ships.

Government travel restrictions have delayed or grounded shipboard crew changes in recent months.

“For humanitarian reasons – and the need to comply with international safety and employment regulations – crew changes cannot be postponed indefinitely,” the groups’ statement said.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and International Labor Organization (ILO), which also signed the letter, said 887,000 aviation industry workers face similar travel and workplace restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The three organizations asked governments worldwide to designate maritime and aviation personnel as “key workers” providing an “essential service,” regardless of their nationality when in jurisdiction.

This action would also include accepting official industry worker documentation and “appropriate exemptions from national travel-related, health-related or movement restrictions in order to facilitate their joining or leaving ships, aircraft, airports and cargo facilities.”

In addition, the organizations recommended that governments provide information to ships and aircraft, and their crews, on protective measures against the spread of COVID-19.

“The Joint IMO, ILO, ICAO statement is an important reminder of the need to keep all parts of the international transportation system functioning. It also points to the critical work that national governments must do in order to allow vessel crew changes,” John Butler, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based World Shipping Council told American Shipper.

“We have seafarers that have been on ships for too long, and we have seafarers at home that are eager to work,” he said. “There are safe ways to get crew from their homes to ships and vice versa, and we call on all national governments to put processes in place immediately to make that happen.”

Commentary: Who holds the wild card at every supply chain’s end? – FreightWaves

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of FreightWaves or its affiliates. 

In order not to hold everyone in suspense – all of us hold the wild card at the end of a supply chain when we are in our role as retail consumers. We vote with our wallets and sometimes emotion and psychology can enter into the mix. Whims, fears, conspicuous consumption, keeping up with the Joneses, etc. all have a role to play in the retail sector.

Of course, some may feel that cold rationality governs their own purchasing decisions. This means spending one’s disposable income on a bundle of final goods and services that maximizes total satisfaction relative to the purchase cost. Furthermore, the marginal increase in satisfaction per dollar spent is equalized across every good and service in that bundle. Of course, this is economics jargon and it is hard to imagine typical shoppers replacing the fun of impulse buying with the fun of making calculations in order to optimize consumption at the margin. Perhaps casual shopping combined with differential calculus is just too much fun for one day?

(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

In the new normal that is a world economy suffering through the COVID-19 pandemic, nothing screams non-essential production and consumption like retail fashion. This niche is not to be confused with haute couture; rather, a lot of it involves affordable, yet trendy, apparel stocked by market leaders such as Zara and H&M. These mainstays in downtown shopping districts and suburban malls are the retail face of the fast-fashion industry. The fast-fashion supply chain operates with high volume and quick deliveries across a global market while trying to survive on low profit margins. GlobalData Plc, a business intelligence provider, noted that apparel sales fell by 89% over March-April 2020 as the retail sector ground to a halt. To be sure, online sales rose, but only by about 20% and from a lower base in comparison to brick-and-mortar. McKinsey & Company forecasts a decline in revenues of 27-30% over 2019-20 across the fashion industry’s $2.5 trillion global marketplace.

Mandated sheltering-in-place and social distancing certainly eliminated any need to be in-style regarding one’s apparel. Those still wishing to look picture-perfect for their Zoom and Skype meetings have 50% less to worry about as long as the camera remains above their waists. All of this has been particularly tough for the fashion supply chain. Unlike backlogged foods and beverages, apparel cannot be so easily disposed of. What was in-style this season may take several cycles, if ever, to become marketable. Also, the abrupt cutbacks on fabric orders left upstream vendors (most of which are in Asia) holding their own excess inventories. With storefronts now beginning to re-open, the only means to move the backlog is through discount sales. 

(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Typically, the U.S. apparel and footwear industries face high tariffs on their imports (i.e., the equivalent of sales taxes reaching as high as 30% per unit). The Trump Administration instituted a temporary duty deferral program on April 18, 2020. While this was designed to provide relief for importers facing demonstrated hardships due to the pandemic, there is no indication that this program will be extended through May and into June 2020. Lobby groups are certainly asking for an extension. Of course, as a mere deferral program, any duties not paid after April 18 will have to be paid within 90 days of import entry. Retailers certainly need to hope that their stores will be open before the 90-day grace period ends.

It should also be kept in mind that the program only applied to normal trade duties – meaning those listed in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). Other trade devices like anti-dumping and countervailing duties (i.e., special duties accessed as retaliation for specific trade offenses in the eyes of the United States) are not deferred. Also not deferred are any duties assessed under the auspices of Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 and Sections 201 and 301 of the Trade Act of 1974. Simply put, this means that most tariffs on Chinese imports, as part of the U.S.-China trade dispute, are payable by importers without relief. In fact, about 40% of apparel and 60% of footwear imports to the U.S. are from China.

It will probably take a while before the consumer market shifts some of its limited disposable income from groceries and cleaning supplies to fast-fashion. Compared to other retail sectors, apparel depends on some of the most fickle consumers. Cautious consumers holding all their wild cards means that retailers and their upstream vendors will need to be at the top of their game.

project44 adds air, ocean freight visibility to platform – FreightWaves

Supply chain management solutions provider project44 on Tuesday, May 19, said shippers will now have visibility to their global airfreight, groupage, and ocean container activities no matter where in the world.

The additional visibility into air and ocean freight transport modes complements project44’s truckload and less-than-truckload solutions and makes its platform global in scope for shippers and logistics services providers.

“Businesses need a unified view of their end-to-end visibility data for a flexible and agile global supply chain,” said Jeff McCandless, project44’s CEO, in a statement.

The Chicago-based company, which started six years ago, first tackled the trucking market and has since expanded across the spectrum of global freight transportation modes. “We realized a single mode or regional coverage cannot provide the full picture,” McCandless said.

“The unified multimodal solution has been project44’s vision since the beginning and the recent COVID-19 events just accelerated the market’s need,” Raji Bedi, the company’s senior vice president of product, told FreightWaves. 

For example, Bedi said one of project44’s pharmaceutical customers recently experienced difficulty securing air cargo capacity to ship its healthcare products worldwide.

“They traditionally use commercial airlines for air cargo needs, but as commercial airlines have reduced flights with global travel restrictions, this company had to look to charter flights or use ocean where they have not previously,” Bedi said.

“With project44’s unified multimodal visibility solution, they were able to switch airline providers and maintain the real-time visibility that is essential to their business,” he added. “They were also able to gain visibility into their newly deployed ocean shipments, all through a single application.”

project44 has built an extensive multimodal network that now reaches across more than 48 countries and operates in 16 languages. In addition to North America, the company has continued to expand its presence in Europe.

“To build a supply chain that can withstand today’s unexpected challenges and prepare our business for the future, we need to derive intelligent insights across our logistics network,” said Gregory Pritchard, head of global logistics at Chicago-based biopharmaceutical company AbbVie (NYSE: ABBV) and a user of project44’s platform. “This means one unified view into our shipments regardless of where it is or how it’s getting there.”

project44 pulls together and unifies various freight transport data through its application programming interface (API) tool. For example, the company said it has established connections to more than 100 airlines, allowing shippers to track their airfreight “from take-off to landing.”

According to the company, more than 300 global companies representing $57 billion in freight use project44’s platform to efficiently move their goods globally.

Vishnu Rajamanickam, FreightWaves’s technology reporter, contributed to this article.

Imperial Logistics sheds European waterway operations – FreightWaves

Imperial Logistics International has ended ties to inland waterway freight transportation in Europe by selling its 90% stake in Multinaut Donaulogistik Gesellschaft m.b.H. to Peter Jedlicka, the river barge services company’s managing director.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed by either Imperial or Multnaut.

Jedlicka, who originally sold the 90% stake in Multinaut to Imperial in 2008, retained 10% of the shares. He is now again the sole owner of Multinaut.

The sale of Multinaut follows the company’s recent agreement to sell its Imperial-branded European inland waterways shipping business to HGK.

Multinaut operates a fleet of 25 vessels, ranging from 750 to 2,900 tons of capacity on the Rhine-Main-Danube river system. It has facilities in Vienna, Austria, and Regensburg, Germany.

Hakan Bicil, CEO at Imperial Logistics International, said in a statement that “inland waterways shipping does not fit into Imperial’s future development strategy, which is focused on growing our existing logistics activities in automotive, healthcare, consumer, chemicals and industrial.”

Imperial employs more than 27,000 people across 32 countries in Europe and Africa.

Bicil said Duisburg, Germany-based Imperial Logistics plans to expand its logistics operations across Africa in the next several years.

Commentary: Trade flow and the warning flares it signals – FreightWaves

The U.S. trade war with China and COVID-19 have reshaped the flow of supply and demand. While the trade war shifted the movement and volume of goods, the coronavirus has impacted the buying behavior of consumers. Now with the world in various stages of reopening, the big question that remains is will the consumer come roaring back?

One way to track this trend is by analyzing the volumes of containers. With a lead time of several months, retailers and manufacturers fill orders based on expected future demand. MarineTraffic supplied this exclusive data on the containership arrivals from Asia, North America and Europe. Since China was the first country to shut down and reopen, looking at the world’s largest consumer and manufacturing hub would provide some unique insight into this new pandemic normal.

Key points in the trade war as well as COVID-19 are marked to show how the flow of trade proves the intent of the Chinese government as well as the health of the Chinese consumer. Based on the containers, you can plot the progress or setback of trade talks, Phase One obligations and consumer buying.

The pop in the flow of the containers into China was the result of COVID-19 infecting the country during its Lunar New Year celebrations. The lackluster return of the Chinese consumer can be seen in the drop of containers. Consumer buying is something the Chinese government cannot control, but it can regulate the trade of grains, ore and energy.

Based on the imports of soybeans from China, the Phase One trade deal had no impact on the Chinese government’s buying behavior. In fact, China was more bullish in purchasing Brazilian soybeans than buying from the United States. These are delivered soybeans, not unshipped commitment orders. Those types of orders are the equivalent of promising to start a diet. You can always kick the can and start another day. Unshipped commitment orders can be cancelled or pushed to another time. The delivered shipments below show intent.

“The estimated amount of Brazilian soybeans exported to China in 2017 was 53 million tons,” explained Jesper Buhl, of BullPositions. “The combined Brazilian exports in 2018 and 2019 were 120 million tons. This strongly indicates China has turned to Brazil during the trade war period.”

In the United States, the shift of the consumer buying personal protection equipment (PPE), toilet paper and other essential items can be seen in the containership volumes. Retailers responded by either changing or cancelling orders of non-essential items. “We had about 60% of our orders of non-essential items canceled two months ago when the pandemic began,” said Brett Rose, CEO of United National Consumer Suppliers (UNCS).

UNCS, a supplier of products for Macy’s, Ross, 5 Below, TJ Maxx, Kroger, Stop & Shop and Amazon third-party sellers, is a great example of the pulse of the consumer. Based on orders, Rose said retailers have pivoted to accommodate both the needs of their customers and retail staff. “We have seen a massive increase in the number of orders for masks, thermometers and hand sanitizer. It’s the new norm for PPE,” Rose explained. “We are about 75% PPE and 25%  ‘regular’ goods.”

The large retailers are not the only companies changing. According to Freightos.com, small and medium-size businesses, especially e-commerce sellers, are filling the void left by the shuttered brick and mortar retailers. Imports over the last four weeks are up by 14% compared to 2019.          

“While PPE played a role, it’s certainly not the only factor,” said Judah Levine, Freightos Group Research Lead. “Though 7% of shipments were PPE-related, other well-represented segments included sporting goods (11%) and housewares (26%). Year-over-year, U.S. East Coast and West Coast rates to China are 38% and 25% below last year’s prices, respectively, reflecting the low capacity and high rates that followed the peak pre-tariff pre-ordering early in the U.S.-China trade war.”

FreightWaves SONAR: CSTM.USA

Adil Ashiq of MarineTraffic warns the trade trends we are seeing now could be a sign of things to come. “U.S. trade through the first three months of 2020 fell 4.16%, though an increase of nearly 25% was witnessed in imports of medications compared with the same time period last year. We may see a decline in arrivals to the West Coast as of Week 17, 2020 onward, due to current U.S.-China trade talks.”

For a more pure-play look at the impact of COVID-19 on the flow of trade, you can turn to the European Union (EU). With no major trade wars impacting the region, you can see the same trade pattern, albeit at lower volumes. “Although many EU countries didn’t begin implementing stay-at-home orders until mid-February, concerns began several weeks before and the impact was soon realized by Week 10 of 2020,” said Ashiq. “Vessels continued calling into EU ports as the virus’ spread wasn’t as significant compared to the U.S. EU nations such as Germany and Italy recently reopened and are preparing for summer tourism; thus we are seeing a slight uptick of port calls, coinciding with port calls in the same timeframe of 2019.”

In the end, the lower volumes will impact the profits of those in logistics and management. As the world races for a cure and therapeutics, the world’s recovery depends on the confidence of a shaken consumer.

National Shipper Advisory Committee for FMC gets Senate push – FreightWaves

The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee has approved a bill that would allow the formation of a committee of American shippers to advise the Federal Maritime Commission on policies related to competitiveness, reliability, integrity and fairness in ocean shipping.

FMC Commissioner Rebecca Dye proposed the FMC National Shipper Advisory Committee two years ago when the agency was analyzing persistent ocean shipping bottlenecks due to systemic port congestion throughout the U.S.

Under the 2019 FMC Commission Shipper Advisory Committee Act (S. 2894), the commission will appoint a committee of 24 industry members, split evenly between importers and exporters. Those individuals will be presented to the FMC via nomination.

Committee members’ terms would expire Dec. 31 of the third year after the date of appointment.

The advisory committee would elect a chairman and vice chairman, with the chairman authorized to establish subcommittees and working groups.

The Senate legislation calls for the FMC National Shipper Advisory Committee to remain in effect until Sept. 30, 2029.

“I am pleased that my legislation to establish a National Shipper Advisory Committee at the FMC is headed to the full Senate for consideration,” said Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, in a statement on Wednesday.

It is not uncommon for federal government agencies involved in trade to have industry advisory committees. Customs and Border Protection has long relied on trade enforcement and facilitation input from the Commercial Customs Operations Advisory Committee (COAC).

FMC’s Dye keeps eye on COVID-19-challenged US supply chains – FreightWaves

The U.S. Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) official in charge of monitoring the current U.S. supply chain impacts related to the COVID-19 pandemic said she has brought together myriad industry stakeholders to find immediate remedies to these problems and prepare for the reopening of the economy.

“We need to be ready in our seaports for the increased cargo that we know is coming soon,” FMC Commissioner Rebecca Dye told attendees of the virtual annual Agriculture Transportation Coalition conference on Wednesday, May 20.

“I believe that if we prepare now, we will be in a position to support the American economy when it comes roaring back very soon,” she said.

Scores of blank sailings by the ocean container carriers, temporary marine terminal closures and slowdowns, and upheaval in the intermodal transportation system started in March. Because of the pandemic’s rapid spread and imposition of government social distancing measures, the FMC mobilized to address the COVID-19 supply chain impacts.

The FMC’s March 31 order, known as Fact Finding 29 International Ocean Transportation Supply Chain Engagement, highlighted the commission’s statutory mandate to “ensure efficient and economic transportation system for ocean commerce.”

The order also stated that “the commission has determined there is a compelling need to convene new Supply Chain Innovation Teams to address these challenges.”

Dye, who was placed in charge of the fact finding, quickly established nine supply chain innovation teams which consist of representatives from the nation’s public port authorities, marine terminal operators, shippers, ocean transportation intermediaries, liner shipping companies, drayage trucking companies, longshore labor representatives, rail officials, and chassis providers.

The teams have, so far, identified four “urgent” problems, Dye said. They include difficulties with container returns to the terminals and carriers, confusion with export receiving dates from the ocean carriers, lack of reasonable notice of terminal closures, and need for wider distribution of information on blank sailings and East Coast skipped ports from the ocean carriers.

“The challenge that I find is that nobody ‘owns’ many of our problems,” Dye said. “So, I have enlisted the major carrier CEOs in the USA/North America to use their influence to lead on these improvements.”

She has also urged the country’s marine terminal operators and port authorities involved with the supply chain innovation teams to do the same.

Last year, she successfully concluded Fact Finding 28, spending the past two years with shipping industry representatives to develop the demurrage and detention fees imposition guidelines.

Dye said the purpose of the commission’s work is to find “forward leaning improvements to the [freight transportation] system.”

She said, “The freight delivery system is the very backbone of the American economy. Improving the performance of the freight delivery system in the United States boosts the vibrant export and import trades in our country.”

As a result of the Fact Finding 29’s supply chain innovation teams’ early work, the FMC announced on April 27 order that it would temporarily allow service contracts to be filed up to 30 days after they take effect to provide relief to shippers and ocean container carriers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. This relief will remain in place through December 31, 2020, the FMC said.

The FMC has authority under the Shipping Act to make certain regulatory adjustments when necessary.

Dye told the Agriculture Transportation Coalition members, who honored her for steadfast work to improve the U.S. ocean shipping industry, that Fact Finding 29’s work is moving quickly. “I will update on our progress with regular press releases rather than a final report,” she said.