US Joins WCO Protocol: The U.S. has signed on as a member of a new protocol of the World Customs Organization on the Simplification and Harmonization of Customs Procedures. The protocol, which amends the original 1973 agreement called the World Customs Organization Convention, "represents a blueprint for modernized, efficient and transparent customs administration in the 21st century," the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection said. The U.S. joins 40 other countries that have signed on to the revised customs agreement, which will take effect on Feb. 3. "The revised Customs Convention will not only facilitate trade. Its role in advancing global security is even more significant today than ever envisioned in the pre-9/11 world in which it was drafted," said Deborah Spero, acting customs commissioner. The Brussels-based WCO was established in 1952 with 17 member countries. It currently has nearly 170 members.
Short Line Plans NJ Intermodal Service: Raritan Central Railway will launch the Raritan Express Corridor, an intermodal rail shuttle connecting Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal with central New Jersey. The service, operated in conjunction with Norfolk Southern Railway and CSX Transportation, will offer off-dock transportation, self-contained transloading and logistics services, including a daily rail shuttle, warehousing and distribution operations, at the Raritan Center Industrial Park in Edison, N.J.
Seaboard Back To Normal In New Orleans: Seaboard Marine will resume regular weekly service to the Port of New Orleans on Jan. 9. The carrier, which provides regular service between the U.S., Caribbean, Central and South America, resumed limited service to the port after Hurricane Katrina. Gary LaGrange, president and chief executive of the Port of New Orleans, said the port is operating at about 50 percent of its pre-hurricane volume. The two ships employed in the Seaboard service are the Seaboard Explorer II and the Fortuna. Each ship has capacity of about 650 TEUs. The vessels make port calls at Puerto Cortes, Honduras; Puerto Barrios, Guatemala; and Belize City, Belize. Access to Nicaragua is provided through Puerto Cortes, and access to El Salvador is provided through Puerto Barrios.
Oakland, Sacramento Ports Link Up: The Port of Oakland Commission unanimously approved a deal that will lead to Oakland's takeover of the Port of Sacramento. The deal was made to help Oakland handle an expected doubling of trade from Asia during the next decade and to keep Sacramento solvent. It will result in Oakland forming a new company, Maritime Management Services, to operate the Port of Sacramento. It also will lead to joint efforts between Sacramento and Oakland in marketing the port, lobbying governments for grants and opening the Delta to barges. The deal will begin with a six-month-long memorandum of understanding during which Oakland will analyze the Port of Sacramento's finances and attempt to attract business to the shores of California's capital. After the first six months, Oakland will sign a one-and-a-half-year deal to operate Sacramento. Once that is completed, Oakland and Sacramento will sign a 10-year agreement. The ultimate goal, both sides have said, is to create an alliance that would help keep the Port of Sacramento viable in the Pacific shipping trade and give Oakland another tool to handle the increased cargo expected to arrive from Asia.
UK Approves New Container Port: The U.K. government has approved a new $530 million container port in southeast England, the first in a series of container hubs planned to keep pace with surging ocean container traffic. The Department of Transport said a 1.7 million-TEU-a-year facility at Bathside Bay near the ferry port of Harwich can proceed provided the owner, Hong Kong-based Hutchison Ports, builds highways and rail tracks to connect the facility to the national transport network. Hutchison also is seeking planning approval to expand annual capacity at Felixstowe, the U.K.'s biggest container port, by 1.5 million TEUs to 5.2 million TEUs a year. A decision on that project is expected early this year.
EU OKs Oracle-Siebel Deal: The European Commission cleared Oracle Corp.'s proposed $5.9 billion acquisition of business-software rival Siebel Systems Inc., the last regulatory hurdle for the deal. The deal is part of Oracle Chief Executive Larry Ellison's drive to overtake SAP AG as the world's largest maker of business applications software, which automates a wide range of administrative tasks. It won U.S. antitrust approval from the Justice Department in November. The EU said the new company would continue to face several strong competitors in the fragmented market for customer relationship management, or CRM, software. In the past year, Oracle has either completed or announced five takeovers in the field, an expansion that has cost more than $17.6 billion. It is in the process of acquiring G-Log, the world's largest provider of enterprise-software products that manage company supply chains.
China Becomes Net Exporter Of Cars, Trucks: China says it has become a net exporter of cars and trucks for the first time, with new Chinese competitors such as Geely Group and Chery Automotive starting to win market share in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Exports jumped 133.5 percent in the first 10 months of this year, giving China an export surplus of 7,000 vehicles. Beijing has been promoting the growth of its automakers in recent years as foreign suppliers expand in China, which is expected to become the world's biggest car market.