TSA Predicts Strong Demand: The Transpacific Stabilization Agreement said it expects strengthening market conditions in the world's major trade lanes to absorb most excess capacity in 2007. The discussion agreement of 11 carriers said that increasingly strong estimates of cargo demand and moderating estimates of capacity growth will result in a more balanced supply-demand relationship for 2007 than many forecast only a short time ago. It said it reached this conclusion from a review of market developments by TSA member lines at meetings in Hong Kong last week. Members indicated that they see the 2007 outlook for carriers as "much improved" based on recent market trends, specifically: Continued double-digit world trade growth, driven by Asian exports; recent capacity growth estimates that point to a more balanced supply-demand relationship for the 2007-08 contract year; and the significantly improved environment in the Asia-Europe trade, which touched off a global downturn in rates last year.
LA-Long Beach Volume Hits Record: If there were any lingering doubts that Los Angeles-Long Beach has put to rest any concerns about the congestion problems of two years ago, last year's record container throughput should make it official. The nation's largest port complex handled a record 15.8 million TEUs in 2006, an increase of 11 percent from 2005. After the disastrous peak season of 2004, when dozens of vessels backed up in Los Angeles-Long Beach, shippers and carriers diverted as much cargo as they could to other West Coast ports as well as ports on the East Coast. The Southern California gateway experienced modest growth in 2005, while ports such as Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma reported record container volumes. The Southern California transportation community responded by extending gate hours at marine terminals and expanding rail capacity. Los Angeles-Long Beach was free of congestion in 2005, setting the stage for rapid growth last year. Los Angeles was again the nation's leading container port, handling nearly 8.5 million TEUs, a gain of 13 percent. Long Beach was the second-busiest port with volume of nearly 7.3 million TEUs, up 8.7 percent.
Vancouver Becomes PNW's Top Port: The Port of Vancouver, British Columbia, posted a record container volume of 2.2 million TEUs last year. The 25 percent surge in total TEUs vaulted the Canadian port from No. 3 to No. 1 among the major container ports in North America's Pacific Northwest. Loaded containers dominated, jumping 23 percent last year to nearly 1.9 million TEUs. That meant that empties moving through Canada's largest port were a relatively small percentage of the box mix, although they increased 34 percent compared to the 2005 total. Full inbound containers jumped 31 percent to 1.1 million TEUs, and full export boxes increased 14 percent to 762,388. Port officials said they expect the boom in Asia-Pacific trade, which has been driving the record volumes, to continue. The region's Pacific Gateway strategy was implemented in 2006, and the consolidation of three of Western Canada's ports - Vancouver, Fraser River Port and North Fraser - into a single port authority likely will conclude this year. The Port of Tacoma reported that it moved 2.06 million TEUs last year, virtually identical to its 2005 tally. By the port's count, it still managed to set a new record, but by a mere 739 TEUs. The Port of Seattle had not released its 2006 total by press time but was on pace for about 2 million TEUs, a decline of 4 to 5 percent from 2005.
CMA CGM, Taiwan Carrier Forge Pact: CMA CGM's much-discussed Taiwanese acquisition target appears to be Cheng Lie Navigation Co., not the larger Yang Ming or Wan Hai. AXSLiner reported last week that the French carrier has concluded a deal with Cheng Lie that will allow CMA CGM to enter the intra-Asia trades. It has been widely reported that CMA CGM has been in Taiwan for talks with Taiwanese carriers about some kind of deal, which may include a merger or acquisition. While the terms of the Cheng Lie deal remain unclear, it will allow CMA CGM to affirm its presence in the intra-Asia trades ranging from Japan to Singapore.
Customs To Expedite Agricultural Goods: Customs and Border Protection has launched a program to expedite the release of agricultural products that have low risk of spreading disease or pests. The National Agriculture Release Program will allow selected high-volume cargoes to be released into U.S. commerce with fewer inspections by agriculture specialists. The new system started with a program to expedite the release of high-volume, low-risk commodities from Mexico and other foreign countries. The commodity and its country of origin determine if it is eligible for NARP. Trucks, vessels or containers must contain only NARP-approved commodities. Importers may learn more about the program by contacting Customs port directors, or visiting Customs' Web site: http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/import/cargo_summary/narp/.