gridlock customs

Gridlock for British ports if additional customs checks approved

As government negotiations to facilitate Britain’s exit from the European Union gather pace, the UK Chamber of Shipping says the EU is ignoring the risk Brexit could bring to European ports. According to one group of MPs the increase would be five fold and confidence in border arrangements post Brexit is alarmingly low. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs have told the Treasury select committee that it estimates a customs declaration rise from 60million a year to over 300million a year after the UK leaves the EU.

Chief executive of the chamber, Guy Platten, said: “The EU sells £240bn of goods to the UK each year, most of which travels through ports. So the negative impact of a so-called hard Brexit on ports such as Dover will be felt just as severely if not more so by European ports. I don’t think the EU has fully grasped this yet.”

The chamber said the proposed return of border controls would lead to increased bureaucracy, “guaranteed” lorry gridlock and threats to the prosperity of both EU member states and the UK. Platten continued: “Much of the attention on the impact of leaving the customs union has been on UK ports, but major EU ports such as Calais, Zeebrugge and Dublin would find themselves equally as vulnerable. The UK government understands the importance of sorting this out around the negotiating table, but we are yet to see evidence that the EU negotiators fully understand their own vulnerability.”

Dover has no room to expand from its 2.6 million lorries a year, and Eurotunnel, which caters for 1.6 million lorries a year faces the same issue. John Keefe, its spokesman, said: “On one side of Eurotunnel we have an area of outstanding beauty, so you can’t build to the left, and on the right we have the motorway; then you have to look at moving up, down, or back along the motorway.” Earlier this year, senior freight industry leaders including Eurotunnel said the introduction of customs checks at Dover after Brexit could cause gridlock in south-east England, with lorries queueing in Kent for up to 30 miles (48km) to get across the Channel.

In the summer of 2015, a French ferry workers strike led to more than 7,000 trucks backed up the motorway almost as far as Maidstone. With as many as 16,000 trucks a day using Dover, the potential for a repeat of that episode alarms business. An emergency traffic management strategy at the time, called Operation Stack, is estimated to have cost the Kent economy £1.5m a day, with parts of the M2 turned into a vast lorry park.

Concerns that this could be the case again seem to be well founded, and there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of a hard and fast plan for the UKs customs situation. With under two years to go until this would have to come into force, decisions need to made fast.

cosco oocl

Cosco’s acquisition of OOCL could be the most expensive take over in shipping history

On Sunday 9th July a joint statement was issued by Orient Overseas International Ltd (OOIL) from Hong Kong, Chinese state owned Cisco Shipping Holdings Ltd (Cosco) and Shanghai International Port Group Co (SIPG). 

Cosco and SIPG are acquiring all of OOIL shares at an offer price of HKD 78.67 (USD 10.07) per share, an overall pace of £4.9 billion. The price represents a 31% premium on Fridays closing price of HKD 60 and values OOIL at around 42.9 billion.

On the completion of the deal, Cosco will hold 90.1% while SIPG will hold the remaining 9.9% stake in OOIL. The joint buyers said they will keep the OOIL branding, retain its listed status and maintain the companies’ global headquarters in Hong Kong along with all management. Employees will retain the existing compensation and benefits, nor will any lose jobs as a result of the transaction for at least 24 months.

It was only in May that the Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL) had the worlds largest container ship, the OOCL Hong Kong but just months later the 7th biggest container shipping line is being sold to a Chinese rival.

China’s vision of dominating world trade seems to be becoming more of a reality with the take over, and aims to become less dependent on Hong Kong.  The take over of the OOCL parent company (OOIL) will also propel Cosco from 4th to 3rd of the global container shipping marketing share.

low tariffs after brexit

Low tariffs post Brexit for British Manufacturers and Retailers

According to the Freight Transport Association (FTA) the government’s commitment (announced on 26 June 2017) to securing existing duty free access to UK markets for 48 of the world’s developing nations will ensure that British manufacturers and retailers can continue to trade efficiently and profitably. These agreements should ensure that the price of household items, ranging from textiles to tea, can be maintained at pre-Brexit levels.

Alex Veitch, Head of Global Policy at FTA says “Imports of many of our staple household items, which reach our shores in bulk shipments from around the globe, currently benefit from reduced or zero tariff agreements.  These keep prices stable, both for retailers and for manufacturers – a key requirement when other areas of the economy are currently more volatile.  FTA lobbying of government has been relentless in the past year on behalf of the members of the British Shippers’ Council, to ensure that their opinions have been considered, and we look forward to working with the Department for International Trade in the coming months to ensure that the nation’s shopping basket continues to be as affordable as possible.”

Since the EU referendum announcement, FTA has met representatives from the Department for International Trade on three occasions to discuss the priorities of the logistics sector.  “Today’s announcement is good news for British retailers, and great for developing countries.  Trade policy is set by EU member states, so after Brexit the UK will be free to chart its own course.  By committing to a policy of duty-free access to UK markets for these states, the government has stated its intentions to ensure that Britain will keep on trading outside the European Union.

As an EU member, the UK and companies based here can sell their goods freely to customers anywhere else in the EU without those customers having to pay additional taxes to import those goods. British consumers and companies can also import from elsewhere in the EU without tariffs.  The EU also has agreements allowing free trade with countries such as Norway, Switzerland, South Africa and South Korea. Outside the EU, the UK will need to strike new deals in order to have free trade with those countries or the remaining EU members.

According to analysis by Civitas, if the UK leaves the EU without a trade deal UK exporters could face the potential impact of £5.2 billion in tariffs on goods being sold to the EU. However, EU exporters will also face £12.9 billion in tariffs on goods coming to the UK.

Brexit is still making its mark on the logistics industry, and the period of uncertainly means that global trade is at a transition. The UK will have to feel its way, and hope that the agreements made stay in place to ensure that we are in a strong position to trade.

amphibious

Amphibious AG600 prepares for its maiden flight

Manufactured by the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) and following on from a successful run of ground evaluations, the AG600 is expected to take off from land for the first time this month. With a maximum take off weight of 53.5 tonnes, the amphibious plane is similar in size to a boeing 737.

It measures 36.9 metres in length and has a wingspan of 38.8 metres and AVIC have reportedly ordered 17 of them so far. Although marketed primarily as a firefighting aircraft for its ability to take off and land on water, it will also be used for military cargo, passenger transport and search and rescue operations. It will have the ability to carry up to 50 passengers and could also be used for a host of military operations including long-range patrols, anti-submarine warfare tasks, and mine-laying missions.

The land operation will take place before a flight on water during the later half of 2017.

shipping alliance

The new shipping alliances are in place. How are they impacting?

The changes in shipping alliances recently put in place have have already had a big impact on European ports. Coming into effect on April 1st, shippers have experienced significant changes in their carriers’ service networks. On the trans-Pacific trade alone, the alliances will offer 18% fewer direct routes and 33% of the routes will have transit times that are shorter or longer by three or more days compared to the member carriers’ alliance offerings before April.

Rotterdam is feeling the change the most. According to CargoSmart, the Hong Kong based shipment services provider, Rotterdams services from the alliances have fallen by 3 to 23, but the number of vessels passing through and being deployed has increased by 30.  Southampton, Antwerp and Hamburg have also seen the number of deployed vessels increase by 18, 16 and 13 respectively.

Felixstowe have seen a decrease in services through the port by 21, and Bremerhaven by 17.  Bremerhaven has also seen the average vessel capacity rocket by 1000 ten, and Southampton and Le Have have both seen capacity jump by 1200 teu.

Hamburg Port Authority chief executive Axel Mattern, speaking to Container Shipping & Trade said that berth availability and hinterland connections are “key factors” when it comes to dealing with the new alliances and their services. “The challenges with the big ships are on the navigational side. You need to be able to cope with the volumes which are being churned out from all of these big ships. Facilities need to handle all these volumes in a very limited time frame. They are not designed for the storage of containers. They are designed for perfect handling. That is the challenge. You need the capability to enable the volumes to flow.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, American farmers are concerned that the restructuring will make it far harder for them to deliver US commodities abroad. Port calls have been falling since before the new alliances formed, though. Sailings to U.S. ports from Asia recently were running at a weekly rate of 57, down from 65 four years ago, according to Alphaliner, which tracks such activity. However, with larger vessels coming into use, overall capacity has risen 4% to the U.S. West Coast and 22% to the East Coast in that same period, the data show.

With the alliances only having been in place for less than 3 months, the full impact is yet to be seen. Vessels into ports and numbers of containers are bound to fluctuate whilst the alliances find their feet, but with less capacity and demand always changing, it will be interesting to see how the changes affect the ports long term.

uber

Uber branching out!

In mid May, Uber announced the Uber Freight App, which connects trucking companies and drivers with shippers. In similarity to its ride sharing app, users will be able to view near by drivers and book loads, sending a rate confirmation within seconds. 

However, it faces stiff competition from already established apps in the freight industry.  Convoy offers similar services to Uber, and can bid on rates as opposed to offering flat rates, and Go99, based in Vancouver, has a similar model. Amazon is also reportedly working on a matching app at present.

Uber is promising to pay truckers within 7 days, much less than the standard 30 days companies normally need to wait. With no haggling with brokers, back and forth negotiations or hassles, Uber are marketing themselves as the middle man but not the forwarder.  According to their website, they fundamentally believe that by focusing on drivers’ pain points we can solve the industry’s biggest challenges. Happy drivers means happy shippers, and ultimately everyone benefits, including the end consumers of the goods. We’ve built a team of industry experts, leading technologists, and, of course, truck drivers to help us push the industry forward and level the playing field for trucking companies.

At the moment Uber are just rolling this out in America, and it will take a long time, if ever, for it to become something that the UK uses.  Taking the personal touch away from freight delivery isn’t necessarily a good thing, and being able to have someone manage your delivery is a part of the process. It remains to be seen whether they can make this as successful as their other ventures, and break into an industry that is already very well established.

Eurotunnel

Eurotunnel unveil 3rd generation freight shuttles

Eurotunnel brought 3 new freight shuttle carriers for lorries into service at the end of April. They will provide 20% more capacity and mean that Eurotunnel can offer up to 8 departures an hour at peak times instead of the current 6.

With a cost of 40 million euros, this could be seen as a strong investment in the future. The order is supported by a €30 million programme of investments in the expansion of the terminals in Folkestone and Coquelles which will ensure the fluidity of traffic across the Eurotunnel site.

Each carrier is 800m long with 32 flat carrier wagons, three loading wagons and a coach for the lorry drivers. The hope is that they are more aerodynamic, and much lighter than the previous generations.

Demand for Eurotunnel’s Le Shuttle freight service between France and the UK is expected to grow as a result of many companies attempting to reduce their carbon footprint. Eurotunnel aim to be transporting two million trucks a year by 2020.

Jacques Gounon, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Groupe Eurotunnel SE, said:”With the entry into service of three new freight shuttles, for the first time since January 1999 Eurotunnel starts a new phase of its development by offering, on top of the speed of crossing, an unrivalled frequency of departure.”

The shuttles went through a rigorous final testing phase in February, consisting of 80 loaded and uninterrupted crossings through the tunnel. A shuttle was loaded with 32 trucks, each filled up with water containers, so that each weighed between 36 and 39 tonnes, to create a realistic test environment.

Michel Boudoussier, Chief Operating Officer – Concession of Groupe Eurotunnel stated: “As the world leader in the rolling motorway industry, Eurotunnel has been able to draw upon its 20 years of experience in the design of these 3rd generation Shuttles. The consultation that we led confirmed that we are at the leading edge of railway development”.

air freight

Space issues causing trouble for shipping routes

Unusually tight capacity for the time of year is leading to rising rates, booking restrictions and backlogs for European exporters needing to ship from Europe to the Middle East and Asia.

This is in part attributed to exceptionally high levels of post Chinese New Year shipping cancellations, which have meant price increases for Europe to Asia container rates.

At this point, all bookings are being honoured, even though there seems to be a perception that this isn’t the case.

Hapag-Lloyd have introduced a US$200 peak season surcharge (PSS) for containers from Europe North Continent to East Asia, effective for sailings as of 15 March and valid until further notice. Many forwarders are recommending at least 3 weeks advanced notice of bookings.

The bankruptcy of the Hanjin shipping line last year has had a knock on effect from when it ceased to accept new cargo. Hanjin was the 7th largest container shipper in the world and the news has meant that their cargo has had to be distributed amongst an already nearly full to capacity fleet. Other shipping lines eventually took over their cargo, but at a price, with vessels already operating at high capacity.

Patrik Berglund, CEO of containerised ocean freight data specialist Xeneta said that data indicates that the current short-term rates for 40’ containers from North Europe to Asia averaged US$969. This level of pricing started in November and December ahead of Chinese New Year and had stayed high – and slightly continued to move upwards, Berglund said.
He said it was difficult to give a precise and short answer to the reasons for the current unexpected capacity crunch and high prices, but suggested it was due to a combination of carriers extracting more capacity than predicted demand and re-routing of capacity onto other corridors.

Xeneta had indicated in the lead-up to Chinese New Year that container lines operating on Asia-Europe trades were taking stronger measures than usual to maintain the recent recovery in ocean freight prices by making major cuts to capacity in the weeks after Lunar New Year. Since towards the end of 2016, the market has experienced a strong and sustained recovery, with container rates around 125% higher than they were around this time last year for Asia-Europe routes, Xeneta said. Xeneta’s sources had indicated that carriers were “taking stronger measures to deal with overcapacity to make sure the market stays up”, indicating that lines were attempting to prop up prices by reducing westbound sailings by 33% in the week immediately after Lunar new year and by around 43% from full capacity the following week. Xeneta noted at the time that this behaviour from carriers may mark a distinct difference compared with this period normally in previous years, when rates traditionally slide in the aftermath of Chinese New Year.

china uk

First rail freight service to China has departed from the UK

The first rail freight service from the UK to China departed on its 17 day, 7500 mile journey on April 10th.

British goods including soft drinks, vitamins and baby products are in the 30 containers carried by the train, which will be a regular service.The DP World locomotive left its terminal in Stanford-le-Hope, Essex, for Zhejiang province, eastern China. It will pass through France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan. It is cheaper to send goods by train than by air and faster than by sea, according to its operators.

The first rail freight service in the opposite direction, from China to the UK, arrived three months ago, the link to the news article we wrote is here. The new service is linked to Chinas One Belt One Road initiative, something we discussed in our news post here.

International trade minister Greg Hands said: ‘This new rail link with China is another boost for global Britain, following the ancient Silk Road trade route to carry British products around the world.‘It shows the huge global demand for quality UK goods and is a great step for DP World’s £1.5 billion London Gateway port as it also welcomes its first regular container ships from Asia.’

The train finally arrived in China on the 29th April (2 days later than the predicted 27th) and was greeted by traders and shipping company officials when it arrived at Yiwu West station.

air freight

Air freight rates climb in March

The latest figures from Drewry’s Sea and Air Shipper Insight report show that average ‘all-in’ air freight rates across 21 major east-west trade lanes increased by 7.9% year on year in March to reach $2.84 per kg. Prices were also up on February levels when airlines achieved an average price across the trade lanes of $2.73 per kg.

Drewry said that this time last year prices remained broadly flat compared with the previous month but added that current prices were still relatively low. The major airports reporting tonnage figure surged month-on-month displays that despite relatively low airfreight rates, there has definitely been growth in the trade. Capacity continues to rise, albeit at a slower pace than last year, although utilisation has gone up along with the rise in load factors.”

Major airports have seen double-digit rises, while key carriers also reported good tonnage increases – the biggest gains from Lufthansa, up 19% year-on-year, and American and United rose 24%. Meanwhile, airlines have reported that product launches are now no longer confined to the fourth quarter and perishables are in year-round demand.

Back in February, Drewry said it expected pricing to soften through March, due to lower volumes following the Lunar New Year holiday and the easing of congestion at the US West Coast ocean ports. However, beginning in April, rates should recover as air freight demand picks back up.

There was a two cent dip in prices paid compared with February, but month-on-month declines are expected at this time of the year and the rate of decline was much slower than that of both 2015 and 2016.

The improvement in airfreight prices comes as airlines have been seeing unusually high demand for the time of the year, with some suggesting this is down to a containership capacity shortage as shipping lines are in the process of launching a series of new alliances. Underlying demand also seems to be improving, while jet fuel prices have increased by around 30% compared with a year ago.