In this week's maritime and rail digest, explore Savannah Port's maritime-rail dynamics, Hapag-Lloyd's eco-friendly maritime leap with the Berlin Express, and a major federal grant for Indiana’s largest port. Then, continue with another legal storm surrounding the ILWU dockworkers union’s bankruptcy and yet another system outage for Norfolk Southern. Let's dive in.
August at Savannah Port: Maritime Dips, Rail Advances
In August, the Port of Savannah witnessed a contrasting performance between its maritime and rail cargo operations amidst significant infrastructural upgrades.
Container Volumes Reflect a 28% Decrease
In August 2023, the Port of Savannah logged 413,300 TEUs, marking a 28% drop from the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) record in August 2022. This decline is due to ongoing construction, particularly the renovation of container berths. GPA's CEO, Griff Lynch, mentioned that adding eight new cranes by year's end temporarily reduced the port's capacity. However, once complete, the updated berths will increase capacity, accommodating seven ships simultaneously, with four capable of holding over 16,000 TEUs.
Rail Traffic Marks 6% Growth
Conversely, rail volumes at Savannah’s Garden City Terminal grew by 49,115 containers, or 6% year-over-year. Intermodal cargo, 21.6% of the total, increased by 7%. The Mason Mega Rail Terminal's full capacity and a new seven-day service between the Port of Savannah and CSX's North Carolina terminal are boosting this uptrend. Moreover, roll-on/roll-off cargo volumes rose 8% to 61,300 units, mainly at the Colonel’s Island Terminal in Brunswick.
Hapag-Lloyd Unveils Germany’s Largest Cargo Vessel; and It’s LNG-Powered
Hapag-Lloyd, with its fifth-ranked capacity and a fleet of 260 vessels totaling 1.9 million TEU, has unveiled the Berlin Express, Germany's largest cargo vessel. As part of its Hamburg Express class, this ship is the company’s inaugural LNG newbuild, marking a significant stride towards its goal of a climate-neutral fleet by 2045.
Key Features of the Hamburg Express Class
Vessels in this class measure 1,309 feet in length and 200 feet in beam, with a capacity of 23,664 TEUs, including 1,500 reefer slots. Powered by MAN B&W engines, they hit speeds of 22 knots and have an 18,650 cbm LNG tank for Europe-Asia roundtrips and an optimized hull. Moreover, there are efficient propellers, shore power, a unique lashing system, advanced navigation, and a 27-member crew with two captains.
Future-Ready Fuel Transition and Expansion Plans
Equipped with LNG and dual-fuel technology, Hamburg Express vessels are primed to transition to non-fossil fuels such as bio-methane and e-methane. While the Berlin Express pioneered this class, the Manila Express was christened in South Korea on August 3, hot on its heels. The Hanoi Express will debut later this year, with subsequent ships sporting names inspired by renowned ports, including Busan, Singapore, Hamburg, and Rotterdam.
Indiana's Largest Port Receives Federal Boost for Heavy-Lift Capabilities
Mount Vernon, Indiana's largest port in size (1,200 acres) and volume (6 million tons of cargo annually) secured a significant federal grant to enhance its lifting capabilities, highlighting its pivotal role in Indiana's economy.
$2.2 Million Grant for a 120-Ton Crane
The U.S. Maritime Administration has awarded the Ports of Indiana $2.2 million to procure a heavy-lift crane for Mount Vernon port—its first federal grant. This grant will fund a 120-ton crane that enhances the handling of large cargo and steel shipments, effectively doubling the port's lift capacity. It aims to improve safety, reduce carbon emissions, and, combined with the existing 60-ton crane, position Mount Vernon as a critical hub for steel and general cargo.
Economic Impact and Future Endeavors
A freshly released study by Martin Associates emphasizes the economic impact of Indiana’s ports. The study revealed that its three main ports, Burns Harbor, Jeffersonville, and Mount Vernon, collectively contribute $8.7 billion annually and sustain over 49,000 jobs across the state. Meanwhile, Mount Vernon actively seeks proposals for a cargo terminal operator and an intra-port rail switcher, emphasizing its dedication to continuing this ongoing growth.
ILWU Dockworkers Union Seeks Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Amidst Prolonged Legal Dispute
After an extended legal battle, the dockworkers' union ILWU, serving the U.S. and Canadian Pacific coasts, has entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy. However, they emphasize that operations will remain unchanged.
Backdrop of the Bankruptcy Filing
The bankruptcy filing arises from a 2019 legal clash between ILWU Local 8 in Portland, Oregon, and terminal operator ICTSI Oregon. Initially fined $93.6 million for misconduct from 2013-2017, ILWU National was responsible for 55% and Local 8 for 45%. While the court reduced the fine to $19.1 million in 2020, ILWU believes it shouldn't surpass $3.9 million. After all, they only have $11.6 million in assets and a $9.5 million cash reserve.
Union's Response and Future Outlook
ILWU President Willie Adams highlights the union's challenges with ICTSI Oregon's assertive legal approach and underscores the Chapter 11 filing as a crucial step toward resolution. At the same time, ILWU's management reassures members that this move doesn't equate to liquidation and that operations will continue as usual. This decision follows the union's recent six-year labor agreement with the Pacific Maritime Association, preventing disruptions at West Coast ports.
Norfolk Southern Faces Train Operation Halt Due to System Outage
Leading Eastern U.S. Class I railroad, Norfolk Southern, faced its second system outage in two months, pausing train operations. While quickly resolved, the effects could impact traffic and operations for weeks.
Details of the Outage
Norfolk Southern's latest system outage had no connection to the August incident or a cyberattack; it likely resulted from a vendor product defect. The Friday evening glitch disrupted rail operations, impacting dispatching, train movements, and terminal functions. Yet, by 1:30 a.m. ET on Saturday, technicians resolved the issues, and train operations resumed.
Post-Outage Response and Future Precautions
Although technicians have restored the systems and resumed train operations, the outage's impact might last for weeks. Norfolk Southern's marketing team is actively communicating with affected customers, addressing their concerns, and updating them on efforts to alleviate congestion. Moreover, they are evaluating their data center to secure it against potential future disruptions.
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