Modal Update Trucking and Marine

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By Kim Biggar

Trucking

September 3: Vancouver Port Commissioner Defends Unlicensed Off-Dock Trucking – Inside Logistics

The controversy surrounding unlicensed off-dock trucking at the Port of Vancouver deepened last week, with the Office of the B.C. Container Trucking Commissioner (OBCCTC) defending the work.

“The off-dock container trucking activity Unifor refers to as (a) ‘black market’ activity and the United Truckers Association (UTA) calls ‘illegal’, is not illegal,” Commissioner Michael Crawford said.

Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union, had demanded a crackdown on what it called a large container trucking black market at the port.

The two groups say unlicensed truckers are moving containers off-dock within the Lower Mainland area at steeply discounted prices and undermining licensed, fee-paying companies.

“Trucking companies engaged only in off-dock trucking are not required to have a licence, and do not fall within the scope of the Container Trucking Act and Regulation,” said Crawford.

The UTA disputed this.

September 3: In the Chaotic Freight Market, Shippers and Carriers Turn to Short-Term Contracts – Commercial Carrier Journal

With 2020’s tumultuous ride on the spot market showing little sign of slowing, shippers and carriers increasingly are leaning on short-term freight contract agreements as a bridge to calmer days and a return to the usual longer-term pacts.

“Neither shippers nor carriers want to be locked in,” said Chris Caplice, an analyst for DAT Solutions and executive director of MIT’s Center for Transportation and Logistics. What he referred to as “shorter mini-bids” aren’t new, “but they’re becoming more formalized,” he said. Instead of contracts of the usual nine or 12 months, shippers and carriers are entering into three- and six-month agreements.

The reason is multifold. The mix of freight, and its geography, is dramatically different than what was anticipated at the beginning of the year. “The big word for the last few months has been ‘imbalance,’” Caplice said. “Some industries cratered. Some lanes disappeared. Other lanes went up by 3x. For both carriers and shippers, the network that is typically kind of balanced is now out of whack.”

September 18: Report Calls for Changes to B.C. Container Trucking Act – Inside Logistics

An independent study on the off-dock container movements at the Port of Vancouver is calling for changes to the Container Trucking Act to improve fairness and efficiency in the Lower Mainland drayage sector.

Off-Dock Drayage Insights was commissioned by British Columbia amid fresh protests over off-dock trucking activities. It was released on September 16.

Labour groups have long complained that unlicensed truckers are moving containers off-dock within the Lower Mainland area at steeply discounted prices, undermining licensed, fee-paying companies.

The report by Cascadia Partners acknowledged the problem.

September 25: Truckload Tightness to Continue, U.S. Xpress Report Says – FreightWaves

In its September industry forecast, truckload (TL) carrier U.S. Xpress identified three primary catalysts – higher driver turnover, declining TL capacity and “overwhelming” volumes – that will place upward pressure on rates through 2021.

“Each of these three themes will greatly influence trucking rates over the next four to six quarters. It’s becoming increasingly clear that high tide conditions will persist for a long while, so shippers and carriers will have to plan – and act – accordingly,” stated President and CEO Eric Fuller in the report.

September 28: Labour Market Snapshot of Truck Driver Employment in Canada – Ontario Trucking Association

Trucking HR Canada has released a labour market information update, providing a current snapshot of truck driver employment in Canada.

Overall, employment of truck drivers surged in July and August, after declining over the first two quarters of 2020. Further, unemployment among truck drivers improved significantly when compared with the rest of Canada’s workforce. Recent labour market information predicted an increase in employment pending the gradual opening of the economy. The upward trend we are seeing is even higher than predicted, signalling that our return to acute labour shortages could be here sooner than we think.

September 29: Canadian Spot Market Loads Reach Post-Pandemic Highs – Today’s Trucking

Canada’s spot market load volumes reached their highest levels in the first week of September since before the Covid-19 pandemic struck in March, according to Loadlink data.

Following a strong start to September, load volumes weakened in the second week of the month, as a result of the Labor Day holiday in the U.S. and Canada. But average daily load numbers in September were up 5% compared to the August average, Loadlink Technologies reported.

Marine

September 3: Shipper Relief as Ocean Carriers Finally Scrap Low-Sulphur Surcharges – The Loadstar

Ocean carriers are officially scrapping the low-sulphur fuel surcharges introduced last year to mitigate the impact of the January 1 IMO 0.5% sulphur cap regulations on marine fuel.

Maintaining low-sulphur surcharges as fuel prices plunged has been a bone of contention for shippers, who have criticized carriers for being slow to ditch the additional fee.

In a customer advisory on Tuesday, CMA CGM said its LSS20 (low-sulphur surcharge) in place since December 1, 2019, would no longer be applicable as of October 1.

However, the carrier added that the surcharge “may come back later, as per our formula.”

September 14: Carriers Impose Restrictions as Container Shortages in Asian Ports Get Worse – The Loadstar

All the major carriers are experiencing equipment shortages at Asian ports, with popular 40-ft-high cubes in particular short supply at Chinese depots.

Anecdotal reports suggest CMA CGM currently has a shortage of equipment at all of the main Chinese ports, while other carriers are advising of shortages at some docks and “near normal” availability at others.

However, one Chinese forwarding source said equipment availability was more about “what you are prepared to pay,” with some lines introducing a “box priority fee,” payable at the time of booking.

And many carriers have introduced restrictions on the release of empty containers prior to the intended shipment.

September 17: Red-Hot Ocean Rates Could Spark Chinese Government Intervention – American Shipper

Record-high trans-Pacific spot rates and container-equipment shortfalls in Asia have caught the eye of powerful government regulators. The China Ministry of Transportation and Communication questioned liner reps in a special meeting on September 11.

In the aftermath of that sit-down, concerns have been raised about carriers’ ability to implement general rate increases (GRIs) and “blank” (cancel) sailings while averting future government backlash.

“Never before have we seen a gap this wide between spot freight rates and long-term contract rates on the Trans-Pacific trade lane,” said Peter Sand, analyst at shipping association BIMCO.

“Now, more than ever, it is the carriers’ market. The coming weeks are likely to see higher long-term freight rates when contracts are up for negotiation and renewal,” Sand said.

September 17: FMC to Investigate Carriers’ Runaway Rates Success – Container News

Following up on last week’s efforts by the Chinese Ministry of Transport to curb runaway spot rates, United States authorities have threatened to take carriers to court if they discover evidence of collusion in the container shipping industry’s highly profitable response to the global pandemic.

The U.S. government’s Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) called a private meeting on September 16 to discuss what it described as “market trends in trade lanes serving the U.S., and actions taken by both individual carriers and global alliances in response to COVID-19 and related impacts to the shipping industry.”

September 21: All Alliances Reinstate Transpacific Capacity – Splash

All three east-west alliances have now committed to reinstate blanked sailings in October on the booming transpacific tradelane.

Maersk, part of the 2M vessel sharing agreement, communicated last week its intention to reinstate blanked sailings from Asia to the west coast of North America next month, citing enormous pent-up demand, as has Cosco and subsidiary OOCL, both of whom are in the Ocean Alliance. THE Alliance member Hapag-Lloyd, meanwhile, has told clients it is bringing back all but five of its blanked sailings to the west coast next month.

Commenting on the swift deployment news seen in the past week, Andy Lane from Singapore’s CTI Consultancy, said: “We need to see how far the bull run goes on for and, if demands starts to appear to soften, then I am also sure that you will see last minute blankings.”

September 24: Calls Grow to Detain Ships in Order to Stop the Humanitarian Crisis at Sea – Splash

An influential group of unions has called for ships to be detained in ports if seafarers have been onboard longer than international treaties allow.

Marking World Maritime Day yesterday, the Nautilus Federation of 22 maritime unions said seafarers are being denied their human rights during the pandemic, with as many as 300,000 stuck at sea beyond the agreed 11-month maximum service.

The failure of governments, industry and flag states to name seafarers as key workers and get them off ships and home to loved ones has led to a humanitarian crisis that can no longer be tolerated, the federation said in a joint statement.

“Should that international solution cause port states to detain growing numbers of vessels until seafarers are repatriated, the industry and governments will need to prepare for the disruption this would cause to global supply chains.”