Israeli Government Sells Zim Stake: Israel's government sold its remaining interest in Zim Israel Navigation Co. to Israel Corp., a conglomerate with interests in shipping, real estate and banking. Israel Corp., headed by brothers Yuli and Idan Ofer, acquired the government's 48.9 percent share in the carrier for about $232 million, and now controls 97.8 percent of the carrier's shares. Published reports said Israel Corp. plans to acquire the remaining 2.2 percent held by private investors. Last October, the government divided Zim as part of a privatization plan, retaining a "golden share" in Zim Israel that gave the government power to approve any change in control of the company, and waiving rights in Zim International, which will handle shipping not destined for Israeli ports.

Common Principles' Offered On NVO Issue: Three trade associations have issued a statement of "common principles" they hope will guide the Federal Maritime Commission as it considers possible changes in regulation under the Ocean Shipping Reform Act. The FMC is considering petitions from non-vessel-operating common carriers for relief from OSRA's tariff-filing requirements and the law's prohibition on NVO service contracts with shippers. The National Industrial Transportation League, National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America and Transportation Intermediaries Association agreed that the FMC has authority to grant exemptions under Section 16 of the 1984 Shipping Act, that OSRA liberalized the FMC's exemption authority, that the exemptions for NVOs will promote competition, that the FMC should allow all qualified NVOs to sign service contracts, and that NVOs' administrative costs in maintaining tariffs outweigh benefits to consumers.

Groups Back Resumption of Doha Round: Business and trade organizations endorsed U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick's call to 140 ministers of the World Trade Organization to resume negotiations on the Doha Development Round. Zoellick proposed a ministerial meeting before the end of the year in Hong Kong. Zoellick also proposed that WTO members appoint a new chair of the WTO General Council from a developing nation, instead of a developed nation as scheduled; agree to eliminate agricultural export subsidies; pursue a tariff-cutting formula for manufactured goods; and press for meaningful offers on services trade from a majority of WTO members. "We couldn't be more delighted," said Jerry Jasinowski, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, who said successful completion of a new Doha Round could boost U.S. exports.

Report Says DOT Should Lead MTS: A report by the Transportation Research Board said the Marine Transportation System initiative lacks leadership, and that Congress should designate the Department of Transportation as the lead agency for the program. The MTS has had less than smooth sailing since Congress called for a study of the maritime transportation system in 1998. The TRB report said responsibility for the oceans is widely dispersed among federal agencies as diverse as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of Homeland Security. The report urged the DOT to begin publishing comprehensive MTS reports similar to the biennial "conditions and performance" report that the department issues on the condition of highways, bridges and mass transit.

Chinese Port Volume Soars: China's ports topped all countries in container volume with 48 million TEUs in 2003, up from 37 million the previous year, said Communications Minister Zhang Chunxian. The strong showing by Shenzhen - a booming complex of terminals adjacent to Hong Kong - knocked South Korea's Port of Pusan to fifth place in the global rankings. The Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency says Pusan recorded annual container volume of 10.4 million TEUs, denting its hopes of becoming a Northeast Asian regional logistics and transshipment center. Shenzhen's volume jumped nearly 40 percent to 10.65 million TEUs in 2003, while Shanghai's volume jumped 28.5 percent to 11.28 million. That ranks the two Chinese ports behind only Hong Kong, with an estimated volume of 20 million TEUs, and Singapore, at about 17 million TEUs, which continue to top the world rankings. Final 2003 figures for Hong Kong and Singapore have yet to be released.

Marad Says Standards Needed For E-Seals: Government and industry must work together to create standards for electronic container seals to make them widely used, according to a report by the Maritime Administration's Cargo Handling Cooperative Program. The group sponsored a study last year that tested different brands of e-seals. The report describes electronic seals as a "maturing technology" that draws on similar applications outside the maritime field. Among the standards that should be established are the frequency of the radio channel that the seals use; the communication protocol; design of the receiving device, and location of the seal transmitter on a container. Any standards for seals also must allow for upgrades in technologies as seal performance improves.

Ship Calls Increase At LA-Long Beach: A total of 3,005 container vessels called at the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex in 2003, a 10 percent increase over the previous year, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California. Vessel calls dropped in 2002 due to the 10-day employer lockout of longshoremen during contract negotiations and the congestion that ensued after the ports reopened in mid-October. Maersk Sealand was the leading container line to call at the nation's largest port complex, with 325 vessel arrivals. Evergreen was second with 257 vessel calls. APL was third with 249.