Trendwatch: Carriers still desperate for tonnage to guarantee emergency schedules; Retailers likely to take a hit from Suez, Panama disruptions; Biden seeks to bolster port cybersecurity with executive order

Carriers still desperate for tonnage to guarantee emergency schedules

Ocean carriers are struggling to maintain weekly sailings from Asia to Europe via the Cape of Good Hope routing, despite the delivery of some 425,000 teu of newbuild capacity this year.

According to an analysis by Alphaliner, the extended voyages are proving a challenge for carriers endeavouring to keep to revised proforma schedules.

“At least two, and preferably three, extra vessels need to be added to each loop to guarantee all scheduled departures,” said the consultant.


Retailers likely to take a hit from Suez, Panama disruptions

Shipping disruptions at the Suez and Panama Canals may end up costing retailers big, according to a report from Moody’s Investors Service, released this week.

Since mid-December, attacks in the Red Sea have caused delays and disruptions through the Suez Canal, affecting trade routes between Asia and the West, particularly Europe and U.S. East Coast ports. At the same time, severe drought conditions in the Panama Canal have reduced transit times in the Americas, adding to global supply chain woes.

Conditions in both areas have led to reduced cargo volume, delivery delays, and higher freight costs, all of which could take a bite out of retailers’ profitability in the months ahead. European retail and apparel companies that rely on maritime Asian imports are most at risk, but extended delays could affect companies that rely on timely deliveries of seasonal goods in both the U.S. and Europe, according to the report.


Biden seeks to bolster port cybersecurity with executive order

President Joe Biden will sign an executive order designed to implement new cybersecurity requirements for the nation’s port owners and operators amid growing concerns that hackers could roil crucial supply chains.

The order will give the US Coast Guard new authority to respond to malicious cyber activity, require maritime vessels and facilities to bolster their cybersecurity, and impose new rules requiring the reporting of cyber incidents at ports.

“The continuity of their operations has a clear and direct impact on the success of our country, our economy and our national security,” Anne Neuberger, deputy national security advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology, told reporters.


ESTA’s heavy transport reform proposals jump a new hurdle

At its meeting on February 14, the TRAN Committee backed the revisions with 26 votes in favour, 11 against and one abstention, ESTA said.

The revisions are now expected to be ratified by the full European Parliament by April before going into a process of consultation between the European Council, Parliament and Commission.

ESTA understands that the revisions include the long-awaited Europe-wide adoption of the standard SERT documentation for abnormal load vehicle registration – a move ESTA has supported for many years.


Europe’s farmer protests are part of a bigger problem

After months of protests by outraged farmers in cities across the continent, European lawmakers are struggling with how to quell the anger sparked in part by new green agricultural regulations—a backlash that has underscored the difficult trade-offs confronting governments as they navigate the energy transition.

To hit ambitious climate targets, European leaders have unveiled a raft of measures that would overhaul the agricultural sector, an industry that accounts for one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. Yet those policies have infuriated tens of thousands of European farmers, who have staged massive protests to voice their frustrations with the economic strains of the latest climate regulations; soaring production costs; and cheap foreign imports, particularly from countries with less stringent rules.


China-Europe ties worsen on Ukraine and disputes over trade

A recent gathering of world leaders and military officials in southern Germany exposed the growing divisions between the European Union and China over the bloc’s biggest security concern — the war in Ukraine.

As Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi led a delegation to the Munich Security Conference and gave a 30-minute speech on Saturday during the three-day event, Beijing offered little of substance on how to end the war in Ukraine. Wang said conditions were not ripe for peace talks between Ukraine and Russia — just as Europe is urgently seeking additional support for Kyiv.

Wang met with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba, who briefed him on Ukraine’s plans for a high-level meeting to discuss ways to end the war. A readout of the meeting from Beijing didn’t reference the summit.


U.S. Supreme Court declines Port of Charleston labour case

The U.S. Supreme Court has announced that it would not hear a South Carolina coastal port dispute between the state and dockworkers at the Port of Charleston’s Leatherman Terminal.

The Wall Street Journal (WSL) noted that the ruling on 20 February puts an end to a long-running labour dispute at the site and dashes hope in South Carolina and Georgia that they will be able to avoid the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA).

South Carolina Public Radio reported that Justice Brett Kavanaugh was the only justice who claimed he would have approved a formal request for the court to consider the matter. To move forward, at least four justices must agree to hear the case.


Boeing calls out big energy for inaction on sustainable jet fuel

Boeing Co. accused the world’s biggest oil companies of doing too little to produce sustainable jet fuel as frustration inside the aviation industry grows about the lack of supply.

Sustainable aviation fuel, made from waste oils and agricultural feedstock, can cut carbon emissions from air travel by as much as 80%, according to the airline sector. An enormous ramp-up in production is essential to give the industry a chance of reaching its target of carbon neutrality by 2050.

Global supply of SAF, as the sustainable fuel is commonly called, meets barely 1% of the aviation industry’s requirements.


Houthis fire at ship carrying humanitarian aid to Yemen, US says

Houthi militants in Yemen on Tuesday fired two missiles at a ship carrying humanitarian assistance to the country, according to US Central Command.

One of the missiles exploded near the M/V Sea Champion, causing minor damage, but the ship continued on its course to the Yemeni port city of Aden, Centcom said in a statement on the social media platform X. The statement accused the Houthis of making the humanitarian crisis in the their own country even worse. 

“Houthi aggression in the region has exacerbated already high levels of need in conflict-impacted Yemen, which remains one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world, with nearly 80% of the entire population needing humanitarian assistance,” Centcom said in its statement.


Japan’s export growth beats consensus, keeping BOJ options open

Japan’s exports grew more than expected in January, providing much-needed support for the economy and keeping the door open for the Bank of Japan as it inches toward ending its negative rate policy.

Exports rose 11.9% in January from a year earlier, beating economists’ forecast of a 9.5% gain, the finance ministry reported Wednesday. Imports declined for a 10th month, falling 9.6%, spurred by slides in coal and liquefied natural gas. That compared with the consensus for an 8.7% decline.

The timing of the lunar new year holidays skewed year-on-year comparisons by boosting exports to China. The trade balance flipped to a deficit of ¥1.76 trillion ($11.7 billion) from a revised surplus of ¥68.9 billion in December.