- The Georgia Ports Authority filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court to try to overturn a recent ruling in favor of the International Longshoremen’s Association.
- With e-commerce demand outpacing passenger flights, the China to North America trade route is experiencing an air cargo space supply shortage.
- Blank sailings have significantly risen on the eastbound trans-Pacific route in October.
- The Hong Kong-based carrier Bal Container Lines is asking for almost $9 million in reimbursements for congestion surcharges on the U.S. West Coast.
- Momentum is gaining in favor of the Suez Canal as production is growing in Southeast Asia.
Georgia Joins South Carolina in Trying to Overturn ILA Ruling
The Georgia Ports Authority filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 26, arguing that its plans for growth are in jeopardy if the International Longshoremen’s Association is allowed to sue ocean carriers that call on terminals using non-union labor.
The brief saw the GPA and the state of Georgia supporting South Carolina’s September petition to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a smaller court’s ruling that found it a legal tactic for the ILA to sue carriers docking at Charleston’s Hugh Leatherman Terminal, which currently uses a “hybrid model” with state employees operating cranes.
The GPA argued in the brief that if the Supreme Court doesn’t overturn the ruling, it will suffer setbacks. The Port of Savannah is expected to open a new 395-acre ocean terminal in 2030, the brief noted. It also said that changing the current hybrid employee model to all union employees would cost $600 million in the first year.
“Given the new terminal’s scale and cost, it is critical that the Court decide this case, lest the [GPA’s] new port stand idle like South Carolina’s Leatherman Terminal,” the brief stated. “The Authority cannot afford a similar situation at the Port of Savannah’s new multi-billion-dollar terminal.”
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China to North America Air Cargo Space in Short Supply
With e-commerce demand outpacing passenger flights, the China to North America trade route is experiencing an air cargo space supply shortage.
During the first two weeks of October, load factors were hanging around 89%. During the Xeneta Summit, analyst Wenwen Zhang said that means any further increase in demand could cause issues.
“The load factor is at the same level seen at the peak of the pandemic when capacity was very limited, and with available capacity so short, any sudden increase in demand will see space squeezed very quickly,” Zhang said.
Blank Sailings Speed Up on Trans-Pacific
Blank sailings have significantly risen on the eastbound trans-Pacific route in October in an effort to stabilize spot rates, according to reporting from the Journal of Commerce.
Data from Sea-Intelligence Maritime Analysis revealed that carriers have reduced more than 20% of trans-Pacific capacity through blank sailings in October, happening at nearly twice the rate of the previous month.
The blank sailings have resulted in delays and other issues for retailers, forwards, and third-party logistics providers.
Leadership at the shipping network THE Alliance said their carriers now give customers at least three weeks of notice of blank sailings.
Hong Kong Carrier Seeks $9 Million Refund for Long Beach Congestion Fees
The Hong Kong-based carrier Bal Container Lines is asking for almost $9 million in reimbursements for congestion surcharges issued by the terminal operator SSA Marine at the Port of Long Beach between July 2021 and January 2022.
The penalties stem from the rampant backlogs during the height of the pandemic.
On Oct. 19, Bal filed a complaint with the Federal Maritime Commission, saying that the fines were unwarranted.
“At no time did SSA tell Bal Container what the purpose of the congestion surcharge was, what the triggering event was, what ending date or event would potentially end the fee, how the fee would help to alleviate congestion, or any other relevant required information,” the complaint said.
This is one of the latest entries in the ongoing debate of what justifies a congestion surcharge and the frequency at which it should be used.
Panama Canal Faces Struggles as Suez Eyes Growth Potential
Recent restrictions on the Panama Canal, including limits to container ship transits and stowage weights due to dry weather, have raised concerns from trade leaders and industry experts.
And momentum is gaining in favor of the Suez Canal, as production is growing in Southeast Asia — although the escalating violence in the Middle East, as well as memories of the Ever Given ship getting stuck and holding up around $60 billion in trade in 2021, remains.
Stephen Edwards, executive director at the Virginia Port Authority, told the Journal of Commerce that the shift could swing the dynamics of U.S. ports.
“Just as the West Coast was the beneficiary of the shift to Chinese production, the East Coast will be the beneficiary of the shift to Southeast Asia,” said Edwards.