Commentary

High inventories impede GDP growth and depress freight demand, and often are seen as an omen of economic downturn and recession. Inventory-to-sales ratios “are approaching pre-recession levels, with retail, manufacturing and wholesale all trending in the wrong direction,” Deutsche Bank Markets Research said in a late-January report.
While other transportation modes have long since adopted simple and sensible rating processes, the less-than-truckload industry has continued to wade through a mire of weight/class formulas that, in many cases, are inaccurate, obsolete, and baseless and, in all cases, costly to maintain and execute.
A cooperative win-win attitude from longshoremen, which has long been present throughout the South Atlantic and U.S. Gulf regions, is a key reason shippers seeking predictability are gravitating to Georgia and other ports in the region.
The latest change in the rollout of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol's Automated Commercial Environment, or ACE, means that some functions will be moved to the new system, while others will remain on the legacy Automated Commercial System, or ACS, for some time, creating opportunities for confusion.
A shipper negotiates a reduced rate with a railroad that’s published in a confidential document. Later, the carrier publishes a lower rate in a public document, and refuses to give that rate to the shipper holding the original agreement. Is there legal recourse?
As the IMO's container weight rules near launch, there is great doubt about how countries will implement them and even if they can. For those who can, there’s the time and cost elements to consider as well as the concern about being different from others that can’t comply. Are those reasons to do nothing or to comply when convenient?
With each passing day, the difficulties of implementing the SOLAS container weight rule by July 1 become ever more apparent. I’m getting the strong feeling that given its potential to disrupt a significant portion of world trade — that which moves via ocean container — it won’t be long before this issue hits the headlines of the mainstream business media.
Will the National Motor Freight Classification system ultimately vanish into obscurity? The answer is a clear-cut affirmative, and there’s certainly an argument that it should happen sooner rather than later.
Shipping is not a business for widows and orphans. Seldom has that adage been truer than in today’s breakbulk and project cargo market. Risks always have been part and parcel of cargo transportation. Unpredictable economic conditions and sluggish global demand will make 2016 especially dicey.
Container carriers took a lot of capacity out of the market in the last quarter of 2015, but not enough to influence rate-making decisions. Could the carriers take out more capacity, enough to influence rates? The simple answer is “yes” and “why not?”
If there’s a ray of good news to be found in China, it’s that the “something bad” Nariman Behravesh, IHS chief exonomist, referenced at the TPM Conference last March isn’t likely to be the full-blown financial crisis that hit the U.S. in 2008, but a longer-term period of slow growth.
In less than six months, the new container weight verification rule will take effect. However, the China-based manufacturers, freight forwarders and shipping lines I spoke to don’t expect much to change and have only a moderate awareness of what SOLAS even means.
It goes without saying that 2016 will be a momentous year for the container shipping industry. I should say another momentous year, considering the year just ended certainly held its own in that category. Unfortunately, synonyms to the word “momentous” when referring to container shipping aren’t words such as “historical,” “pivotal” or “decisive,” but are more along the lines of “chaotic,” “disruptive,” “costly,” “agonizing” and “painful,” and you could add to that “annoying” and “dispiriting” or even “depressing.”
In many respects a success story, the Port of Los Angeles' handling of the mega-ship Benjamin Franklin was the culmination of huge investments in dredging, facilities and systems. But the story looks different from another perspective.