Trendwatch: EU, Philippines announce restart of free trade talks; Panama Canal adds transit slots as restrictions in crucial corridor begin to ease; Ports of LA and Long Beach busier this year and eyeing an early peak season

EU, Philippines announce restart of free trade talks

The EU and the Philippines announced the resumption of their free trade negotiations, seven years after they were halted, Manila’s Department of Trade and Industry said in a statement.

“The conditions are right to take our trade relations to the next level,” European Commission Executive Vice President and Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis was quoted in the statement as saying.

Trade talks started in 2015 but were put on hold in 2017 during the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte whose deadly drug war raised concerns in the West.


Panama Canal adds transit slots as restrictions in crucial corridor begin to ease

The Panama Canal is adding transit slots as restrictions in the corridor begin to ease.

According to the Panama Canal Authority (ACP), a pair of slots are up for auction for transit dates starting on March 18, with an additional slot for dates beginning on March 25.

The ACP could add more slots if rainfall raises levels at the lakes servicing the Panama Canal. This is after historically low water levels brought on by a lack of rainfall reduced daily traffic by almost 40 percent in late 2023 and early 2024. Over that period, many ships have been forced to take longer, more costly routes, all while the ongoing crisis in the Red Sea has complicated a crucial alternative to the Panama Canal.


Ports of LA and Long Beach busier this year and eyeing an early peak season

Container imports through the US west coast San Pedro Bay ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are booming – a trend that looks set to continue, with some peak season volumes from Asia expected to arrive earlier than usual this year.

Moreover, transpacific shippers are hedging their bets on the outcome of the US east coast new labour contract negotiations by increasing the percentage of import cargo they intend to move via west coast ports.

The port of Los Angeles processed 781,434 teu in February, a huge 60% increase over the same month last year, and included a 64% jump in import containers, to 408,764 teu.


Red Sea salvage ops not possible: IMO

Salvors will not come to clean up the mess left by Houthi attacks until the situation in the Red Sea calms down, shipping’s top regulator said yesterday.

Speaking at a press conference in London at the opening of the 81st session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), Arsenio Dominguez, secretary-general of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), said salvage operations for two stricken ships near Yemen were unlikely given the continued drone and missile attacks aimed at merchant shipping in the region.


Ports of Hamburg and Argentia unveil green hydrogen partnership

The Port of Argentia in Newfoundland, Canada and the Hamburg Port Authority (HPA) in Germany signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) to collaborate on the export and import of green hydrogen from Canada to Germany.

The agreement was signed by Scott Penney, CEO of the Port of Argentia, and Jens Meier, CEO of HPA, during their attendance at the Canada-Germany Hydrogen and Ammonia Producer-Offtaker Conference in Hamburg.


Coalition urges U.K. leaders to push forward on hydrogen-powered planes

A coalition is pushing the United Kingdom government to establish itself as a leader in hydrogen-powered aviation.

The coalition calls itself the Hydrogen in Aviation (HIA) alliance, made up of companies like easyJet, Airbus, and Rolls-Royce among others. On March 18, the group released a report detailing the steps the U.K. needs to take to push forward on hydrogen-powered aircraft.

The HIA believes that a commercial hydrogen plane program could be possible by the end of this decade, and that the technology plays a key role in moving air travel to zero emissions.