Overhaul of Import Tax Could Help US Seaports

In September, two Washington senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, will pitch their ambitious plan to overhaul the Harbor Maintenance Tax, to create incentives for shippers to return to the use of American ports. It is hoped that the overhaul will stop shippers from dodging the tax by using ports in Canada or Mexico, and it is seen as an important step in the development of the intermodal network in the US. The tax is designed to provide funds for the maintenance of harbor facilities, specifically for the dredging of federal navigational channels. It currently generates $1.6 billion per year, with around $900 million in expenditures, and has so far failed to deliver the desired results, with shipping channels only being at optimum width and depth around 35% of the time. The senators hope to replace the Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) with a Maritime Goods Movement User Fee, which it is hoped will stop HMT funds from being diverted to other projects. The new arrangement will be imposed on goods entering the US by road or rail, from both Canada and Mexico to circumvent the current practice of landing cargo in those countries, and then shipping them overland to avoid…
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Maersk Moller Makes her Maiden Voyage from the Far East

The first weeks of August, 2013 marked an important step in the development of intermodal transport between the Far East and Europe. On August 9, the Danish super ship, the Maersk McKinney Moller, became the first of the new Triple E Class container ships to make the transit between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, the largest ship ever to make the trip through the Suez Canal in its 140 year history. The 15,000 TEU capacity of the ship contributed significantly to the record 4.8 million tons that passed through the Suez on that day, and marked the beginning of a new era in intermodal freight transport from the booming ports of China and South-East Asia to the West. The historic crossing of the world’s oldest man-made waterway by the first of Maersk’s new fleet of Triple E Class ships was the focus of a great deal of media attention, and was witnessed from the bridge by the captain and his official guests from the Suez Canal Authority. Almost poignantly, the Maersk McKinney Moller passed the Chastine Maersk, an 8,000 TEU container ship that it is designed to replace on the Eastern route, as it waited at the Great Bitter…
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The Invisible Fleet that Handles Ninety Percent of Everything

The release of the latest book by British author and journalist Rose George, Ninety Percent of Everything, has put the spotlight on an aspect of consumer society that is usually thought about very little. George spent several weeks aboard one of the 100,000 container ships that ply the world’s seaways, and her insights have brought home just how reliant we all are on this vital, but often invisible, fleet that handles 90% of all of the commodities that we all use daily.Her research turned up some very interesting facts about the intermodal shipping network generally. Perhaps the most significant thing that comes to light is that, with 20 million containers in transit at any one time, it is physically impossible to inspect them all and only around 10% of containerized freight is ever inspected by customs. The reason for this and for the invisibility of this fleet generally, is the huge ships that are now used to transport the world’s containerized goods. This has reduced the number of people that choose to go to sea, simply because the demand is not there with the new E Class super ships carrying 18,000 units and requiring a crew of only 13. This,…
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Maersk’s Investment in Super Ships Already Returns Value to Investors

A jump in world trade in recent months has seen the profits of shipping giant Moeller-Maersk increase significantly, giving some much needed buoyancy to the recessive European stock market. The share price of AP Moeller-Maersk reached their best levels in four and a half years, as they announced that the profits from their Maersk Line subsidiary would exceed the $2.9 billion in profits of 2012. Forecasts are indicating that profits may be as high as $3.5 billion, with the increased earnings largely due to the increased efficiency of the E Class container ships that have come into full service in the past few months.The savings due to the economy of scale that is possible with these huge container ships has proven to have an almost immediate impact on operating costs. Coupled with the use of slower cruising speeds, aimed at achieving maximum fuel economy, Maersk have been able to make significant cuts to their operational costs, making them even more competitive in an already oversupplied market. The group already accounts for 15% of the world’s shipping, and with more of the super ships being delivered in the coming months, they look set to take an even larger slice of the…
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Long Beach Intermodal Terminal Blows the Budget

Plans to create a mega terminal at the Port of Long Beach at a cost of $1.2 billion that were set in motion early in 2013 have shown signs of blowing that budget by as much as $85 million. The project which aims at combining two aging terminals into a single, large container handling facility designed to handle the new fleet of ultra large container ships, has encountered some unexpected costs involved in the relocation of utilities and other unforeseen construction costs. The new estimates come after the port hired risk analysis experts to survey the accuracy of projections for phase two of the project. It was found that relocation of the oil fields, the actual cost of a battery exchange terminal and other construction works required for connecting the port to the rail network had been under funded in the original budget for the project. As the second busiest container port in the United States, the Port of Long Beach has 76 feet of draft in its main channel, allowing the new fleet of ultra large ships easy access to its terminals. As many of these larger ships will not be able to use the Panama Canal even after…
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