Trendwatch: Houthis target two more merchant ships with new attacks; Hong Kong still targeting 2024 completion for airport expansion; New laws on goods made using forced labour could split supply chains

Houthis target two more merchant ships with new attacks

The Houthi militants targeted both a British and an American ship overnight as they vowed to continue their attacks. This came just a day after the UK’s Defense Secretary Grant Shapps said the UK believed the militants still had “an appetite” to continue targeting ships despite three rounds of joint U.S.-UK strikes and multiple missions by the U.S. destroying equipment and arms in the Houthi held areas of Yemen.

The UK-managed vessel, a 12,000 dwt general cargo ship named Morning Tide, was southbound having transited the Suez Canal on February 2 and appears to be displaying a message on its AIS “Chinese Ownership.” The ship is registered in Barbados.


Hong Kong still targeting 2024 completion for airport expansion

Work on the HK$141.5 billion ($18.1 billion) upgrade of Hong Kong International Airport progressed steadily “on all fronts” during the pandemic and the government is still targeting completion in 2024, the city’s Transport and Logistics Bureau said.

“The new third runway has already been commissioned in November 2022 as scheduled, while the reconfiguration of the center runway is underway as planned,” Lam Sai-hung, the secretary for Transport and Logistics, said in a letter addressed to Bloomberg News.


New laws on goods made using forced labour could split supply chains

Stricter due diligence laws surrounding the import of products made using forced labour could shake up supply chains and cause “significant disruption to companies’ operations”.

Global risk intelligence specialist Verisk Maplecroft told The Loadstar that over the past half-decade, global advancements in labour rights had stalled.

Currently, most legislation only requires companies to file reports on any exposure to modern slavery abuses, rather than to act on it, which has had little impact on the ground.


Germany faces more travel chaos as Lufthansa ground crews strike

Travelers in Germany face more upheaval the week beginning February 5, with 25,000 Deutsche Lufthansa AG ground personnel set to walk off the job in warning strikes called by the Verdi labor union.

Germany’s main services union urged the airline’s ground crews in Frankfurt, Munich, Hamburg, Berlin and Dusseldorf to strike from 4 a.m. CET on February 7 to 7:10 a.m. the next morning, calling Lufthansa’s proposals “completely inadequate” in a statement on February 5. Lufthansa declined to comment on the action. The shares fell as much as 1.6% in Frankfurt trading on February 5.


US rail group tells Buttigieg safety record has been misrepresented

The US railroad industry trade group pushed back against comments made about rail safety in an unusually forceful letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who spoke with the media and participated in a press conference last week ahead of the one-year anniversary of the derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. 

The Association of American Railroads said that rail is the safest mode of cargo transportation and safer than other industries when measured by injury and illness per hours worked by employees. Since 2000, the industry has also improved its employee casualty rates by 46% and train accidents per million train miles have decreased 23%, the trade group said in the letter.


European Union scraps pesticide proposal in another concession to protesting farmers

BRUSSELS — The European Union's executive arm shelved an anti-pesticide proposal Tuesday in yet another concession to farmers after weeks of protests that blocked many capitals and economic lifelines across the 27-nation bloc.

Although the proposal had languished in EU institutions for the past two years, the move by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was the latest indication that the bloc is willing to sacrifice environmental priorities to keep the farming community on its side. Despite concessions, protests continued from the Netherlands to Spain and Bulgaria.

Farmers have insisted that measures like the one on pesticides would increase bureaucratic burdens and keep them behind laptops instead of farming, adding to the price gap between their products and cheap imports produced by foreign farmers without similar burdens.


Official warns against EU measures limiting trade support for the solar sector

A senior EU official said February 5 that the European Union should think more about its solar power deployment targets before the bloc implements any technology import curbs on photovoltaic panels, wafers and other components.

According to U.S. News & World Report, European commissioner Mairead McGuinness told the European Parliament that the bloc is working on several measures to support the EU's solar manufacturing industry because 97% of the panels currently deployed in Europe are imported.

The European Commission set a target of 750 gigawatts of solar generation capacity by 2030, up from 260 gigawatts in 2023.


EV supply chains disrupted by Red Sea crisis

In addition to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza, a commodities war has erupted in the Red Sea region that is also impacting EV supply chains. Since October, there has been an ongoing campaign of drone and missile assaults on commercial ships by Yemen’s Houthi movement. Houthi attacks on commercial and military ships are aimed at pressuring Israel to end its bombardment of the Gaza Strip and enter a ceasefire, according to Houthi officials.

In a major retaliation strike involving fighter jets and Tomahawk missiles launched from warships and submarines, US and British forces bombed more than a dozen locations in Yemen used by the Houthis on 11 January, said US officials.

The attacks in the Red Sea have increased the cost of commodities and prolonged the time it takes for goods to be transported between East Asia and Europe. Among other things, the re-routing of ships, seized vessels and increased travel time and costs away from the Red Sea have disrupted global EV supply chains.


Boeing latest to apply for Saudi HQ under government’s new rules

Boeing Co. applied for a license to establish its Middle Eastern headquarters in Riyadh as the Saudi government increasingly pressures businesses to boost their local presence.

The US commercial aircraft manufacturer lodged its formal application “a few days ago” and is working with the Ministry of Investment for approval, Asaad Aljomoai, president of Boeing Saudi Arabia, said at the World Defense Show in Riyadh.

Global firms had until Jan. 1 to shift regional headquarters to Saudi Arabia from other parts of the Middle East or risk being cut off from contracts with the government and missing out on lucrative deals with the kingdom.


Spanish farmers blockade roads, joining EU peers' protests

MADRID, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Spanish farmers blocked traffic on several major highways and burned tyres on Tuesday, joining colleagues in other European countries protesting against high costs, bureaucracy and competition from non-EU nations.

"With different shades, in the whole of the EU, we have the same problems," Donaciano Dujo, vice president of ASAJA, one the largest farmers associations in Spain, told national broadcaster TVE.


EU strikes deal on clean tech to compete with China, US

Brussels (AFP) – EU states and lawmakers clinched a deal on Tuesday to expand Europe's clean tech production, from solar and wind to carbon capture, as the bloc faces off with China and the United States.

Brussels wants to reduce its reliance on China and make Europe more attractive for investment after the United States unleashed a $369 billion bonanza of clean technology subsidies last year.

The European Union announced the plans last year, spurred by concerns the US programme, which includes tax credits, would lure European manufacturers away.