Trendwatch: Canada Rail Union Reauthorizes Strike Ahead of Uncertain Summer; Global Shipping Activity Leaps Most Since 2010 After Red Sea Attacks; Strong air cargo demand continues in May

Train freight - Cargo railroad industry

Canada Rail Union Reauthorizes Strike Ahead of Uncertain Summer

The union representing 100,000 rail workers at Canadian National Railway (CN) and Canadian Pacific Kansas City Limited (CPKC) have voted to reauthorize a strike.

Nearly 99% of workers voted in favor of reauthorization, according to a June 20 release from the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC). Although this does not necessarily mean a strike will happen, the vote gives the TCRC the authority to call for one within the next 60 days if ongoing labor negotiations with CN and CPKC fall through.

“CN and CPKC are trying to force changes to our collective agreements that would move the clock back on working conditions and rail safety," TCRC president Paul Boucher said. "The Teamsters are trying to stop them. With this renewed strike mandate, we intend to go back to the bargaining table, work with federal mediators, and do everything in our power to reach a fair deal for our members and protect all Canadians."


Global Shipping Activity Leaps Most Since 2010 After Red Sea Attacks

A gauge of global sea transport is heading for its biggest annual jump since 2010, after attacks in the Red Sea have forced ships to travel longer distances.

Shipping activity measured in ton miles is set for the second largest annual increase on record as a result of geopolitical disruptions in the Middle East and Europe, according to Clarksons Research, a unit of the world’s largest shipbroker.

The marker, which multiplies the volume of cargo transported by the distance it sails, is heading for an increase of 5.1% compared to 2023, or 3.2 trillion ton miles.


Strong air cargo demand continues in May

Total air cargo demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometres (CTKs), rose by 14.7 percent in May compared to May 2023 levels (15.5 percent for international operations). This is the sixth consecutive month of double-digit year-on-year growth, according to the latest update from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Capacity, measured in available cargo tonne-kilometres (ACTKs), increased by 6.7 percent compared to May 2023 (10.2 percent for international operations).


Global schedule reliability reaches record levels for 2024; still lower than 2023 figures

Sea-Intelligence has released the Global Liner Performance (GLP) report, which includes schedule reliability data up to May 2024.

The report provides detailed insights across 34 trade lanes and over 60 carriers.

In May 2024, global schedule reliability saw a month-over-month increase of 3.8 percentage points, reaching 55.8%. This marks the highest reliability figure for 2024, surpassing the previous peak of 54.6% by 1.2 percentage points. However, compared to May 2023, schedule reliability was down by 11 percentage points.


New Fuel Restrictions for Ships in Arctic Fall Short, Green Groups Say

Ships sailing through Arctic waters will no longer be able to use or carry heavy bunker fuel oil under a United Nations shipping agency regulation which took effect on Monday.

Yet environmental groups say the ban does not go far enough in geographic scope or addressing dirty black carbon emissions from ships, which can darken white ice and speed up the melting wrought by climate change.

The ban, adopted in 2021 by the UN's International Maritime Organization (IMO), aims to prevent heavy fuel oil (HFO) spills which could have a devastating impact on the Arctic's sensitive environment and species, including walrus, polar bears, and beluga whales.


European rail falters despite green advantages

Global rail freight has presented something of a mixed blessing to European operators over the course of the year, with the latest Dutch numbers offering a gloomy inverse of their state of play to that of their Russian counterparts.

Halfway through 2024, and Statistics Netherlands (CBS) has announced that the preceding year had been less than exemplary for the country’s rail freight, recording a 12.5% year-on-year volume decline, with a little over 39.3m tonnes of goods moved in the 12-month period.


Panama Canal announces further increases in draft and daily transits

The Panama Canal marked the eighth anniversary of its expansion by announcing an increase in both its draft and daily transits.

These updates come as the Canal continues to address climate variability and secure future water supplies.

Through an Advisory to Shipping, the Canal revealed that the maximum authorized draft has been raised from 46 to 47 feet (14.33 meters) and will further increase to 48 feet (14.63 meters) on 11 July. Additionally, starting 5 August, a new booking slot for the Neopanamax locks will be introduced, increasing daily transits to 35 ships.

These updates follow improvements announced in June, which included raising daily transits from 32 to 33 on 11 July, and to 34 on 22 July.


Indonesia seeks to guard textile industry from Chinese goods

Indonesia is preparing to impose tariffs and use other means to protect its textile industry from imports from China, the latest in a series of nations which are responding to the flood of goods out of the world’s largest manufacturing nation.

Local textile associations requested the government step in after imports surged, hurting their business. The trade safeguards committee is investigating the issue and once they report the government will decide how to respond, Budi Santoso, the trade ministry’s director-general of foreign trade, said on Monday.


Freighter aircraft: 'we are on the cusp of major change in large widebodies'

Even with 21% of the fleet parked, freighters will continue hauling a large share of global airfreight as the growth in bellyhold capacity slows, according to Tom Crabtree, MD of air cargo research and consulting firm Transport Research Advisory.

“All major tradelanes appear to be heading towards recovery in the first half,” he said, pointing to a combination of strong e-commerce volumes and the disruption of ocean transport by the Red Sea crisis fuelling sea-air traffic.


China’s plastics boom is set to create another trade headache

A surge of Chinese plastic supply is threatening to overflow in the face of weak domestic demand, morphing into a fresh trade challenge for the rest of the world.

Parts of the country’s sprawling petrochemicals sector are running at as little as half capacity as producers cut back. But with the industry still expanding, that restraint is becoming harder to sustain.

“This is yet another example — after steel, solar panels — where China’s structural imbalances are clearly spilling over into global markets,” said Charlie Vest, a New York-based associate director at Rhodium Group who looks at US-China relations and Chinese industrial policy.