Trendwatch: Threat to cargo operations from strike action at Heathrow; Airlines reroute flights after Israeli attack on Iran; FMC refuses to comment on contradictory D&D rules claim

Threat to cargo operations from strike action at Heathrow

Aircraft refuelling handlers working for AFS at London Heathrow Airport (LHR) will initiate industrial action for 72 hours beginning on May 4.

50 staff that are part of the Unite trade union are due to strike for 72 hours. The industrial action could potentially affect large numbers of services into and out of the gateway, including significant numbers of passenger flights with bellyhold cargo capacity, if aircraft are not refuelled as normal.

Aviation refueller AFS is a joint venture made up of partners Air BP, Total, Q8 Air and Valero. It refuels 35 different airlines at LHR, including Air Canada, Air France, American Airlines, Delta, Emirates, Japan Airlines, KLM, Qantas and Virgin Atlantic.


Airlines reroute flights after Israeli attack on Iran

Airlines changed flight paths over Iran, cancelled some flights, diverted others to alternate airports or returned planes to their departure points on Friday due to airspace and airport closures and security concerns after an Israeli attack on Iran.

Iran closed its airports in Tehran, Shiraz and Isfahan after the attack and cleared flights from the western portion of its airspace for a few hours after the attack, according to flight tracking website FlightRadar24.

By 0445 GMT the airports and airspace had reopened, and closure notices posted on a U.S. Federal Aviation Administration database had been removed.

From Friday, April 19, to Saturday, April 20, 7 a.m. CEST, Lufthansa Group (LHG) will cancel its flights to Tel Aviv and Erbil. During the same period, it will fly around Iraqi airspace.

Flights to Tehran and Beirut will remain canceled up to and including Tuesday, April 30, and Iranian airspace will not be used. The safety of passengers and crews is always the top priority; the Lufthansa Group does not rely solely on government assessments, but evaluates the current safety situation itself and then makes its own decisions.


FMC refuses to comment on contradictory D&D rules claim

The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) has refused to comment on claims by the World Shipping Council (WSC) that its interpretive rule on detention and demurrage (D&D) charges is contradictory.

On 18 April, the WSC filed a petition with the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit seeking to have the FMC correct what it said is “an internal contradiction in its new rule on detention and demurrage.”

The WSC wanted to alter the wording of the rule that defined the “billed party” to include trucking companies that control containers to account for situations where vessel operators enter directly into written contracts with truckers that use containers in freight movements.


Biden’s call to hike China steel, aluminum tariffs falls short, industry group says

President Joe Biden on Wednesday called on the U.S. Trade Representative to consider tripling the rate for certain tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum imports.

Trade with China is a key political issue for Biden and former President Donald Trump ahead of the 2024 presidential election. The Can Manufacturers Institute says Biden should do more than tripling the current average tariff rate of 7.5% under Section 301.


Post-Brexit food checks will be ‘light-touch,’ UK minister says

The UK will enforce “light-touch” post-Brexit checks on food and plant products beginning later this month to avoid disrupting businesses trading with European Union nations, a government minister said.

“We’re trying to cut down the amount of red tape and bureaucracy and so we’re continually trying to make sure we have a light touch,” UK Exports Minister Malcolm Offord told Bloomberg’s UK politics podcast on Tuesday. “This is why it’s been revised for the benefit of our companies.”

The physical checks on medium- to high-risk foods from the EU, including cheese, fish and meat, are due to be introduced at the end of the month after several delays and more than four years after the UK departed the bloc. EU food imports will incur fees as high as £145 ($180) starting April 30, and vets will begin carrying out spot checks on produce.


EU weighs sanctions on firms shipping weapons tech to Russia

The European Union is assessing potential sanctions against more than a dozen companies that have continued to buy restricted goods from the bloc and supply them to Russia, according to a document seen by Bloomberg.

The companies, based in Russia as well as Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, China and Hong Kong, have imported millions of euros worth of restricted European goods that have been used by the Russian military, despite the EU’s extensive trade restrictions, an assessment seen by Bloomberg suggests.

A spokesman for the European Commission declined to comment.


Port of Los Angeles stopped millions of cyber-intrusions in 2023

The Port of Los Angeles says it stopped 750 million cyber-intrusion attempts in 2023, as it continues work with the Biden administration to focus on cyber-resilience.

The port's executive director Gene Seroka provided the update in an April 17 briefing, alongside Biden administration cybersecurity advisor Anne Neuberger. Neuberger highlighted efforts from the Port of Los Angeles' Cyber Resilience Center (CRC) to identify and thwart threats since its launch in 2022, and praised the CRC as a "great example of how government and the private sector can work together in the context of critical services."


Port of Baltimore on track to fully reopen by end of May

The timeline to reopen the main shipping channel into the Port of Baltimore remains on schedule, as work continues to mitigate the fallout from the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

The Dali container ship crashed the Baltimore bridge in the early morning hours of March 26, killing six people and shutting down traffic to the port. Since then, three smaller, temporary channels have been opened to allow vessels through to assist in clean-up efforts. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates the waterway will be fully reopened by the end of May.


UK exports fewer goods after Brexit, tilting economy to services

The UK is still exporting fewer goods than before Brexit, as the economy becomes more reliant on selling services to the rest of the world, according to official data.

The volume of exports of goods was around 15% below records registered in 2018 in the three months to December, according to figures released Monday by the Office for National Statistics. That’s in contrast to services exports which have continued to shoot up after surpassing pre-pandemic peaks.

The figures indicate the UK is struggling to plug the hole left by withering EU demand for its goods and services after Brexit. The UK’s trade balance has worsened since 2010, with falling EU trade weighing on progress made to boost business with the rest of the world.