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Panama Canal Congestion Could Impact Rates, U.S. Ports Expect Highest Import Cargo Volumes in Nearly a Year, Global Parcel Growth Slowed by Drop in China Volumes.

Aug 10, 2023

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Panama Canal congestion could impact rates. In the first week of August, delays at the Panama Canal averaged 15 to 19 days per vessel, due to restrictions for fully-laden vessel transits because of low water levels in Gatun Lake. The Panama Canal Authority, grappling with an “unprecedented” drought, has reduced its neopanamax lock draft by about 2 meters and cut daily transits by 20%, allowing only 32 voyages per day. Due to these limitations, the Panama Canal’s earnings may decrease by around $200 million in 2024.


U.S. ports expect highest import cargo volumes in nearly a year. Major U.S. container ports are expected to reach their highest import cargo volumes in nearly a year as retailers prepare for the winter holidays, according to the National Retail Federation. This trend comes after tentative contract agreements were reached for West Coast ports and United Parcel Service, and a Canadian port strike ended with a ratified agreement.

Canadian West Coast ports labor deal ratified. After being ratified by both the negotiating union and maritime employers, a four-year labor contract has been established at Canada’s West Coast ports. On August 4, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada announced that 76% of its longshore division members voted to ratify the tentative deal. The British Columbia Maritime Employers Association had already ratified the deal a few days earlier, on July 31.


Volvo and Mack recall electric trucks over fire risk. Volvo Trucks North America and Mack Trucks issued a recall for almost all of their battery-powered electric trucks produced in the last four years due to a potential problem that could lead to a battery fire. This marks the fourth recall for these trucks since they entered production in 2022. The latest recall affects 173 Volvo trucks and nine Mack vehicles manufactured between April 1, 2019, and February 10, 2023, according to FreightWaves.


BNSF opens long-awaited Idaho connector bridge. BNSF has opened the Sandpoint Junction connector bridge in Idaho following over a decade of preparations. This bridge, alongside the rehabilitated existing one, enables two-way rail traffic over Lake Pend Oreille, reducing congestion and train idle times in the area. The project also involved building new bridges over Sand Creek and Bridge Street in Sandpoint.


USPS reduces air cargo by 90% over two year span. Over a span of two years, the U.S. Postal Service has decreased its air shipments by 90% in a move that is projected to lead to annual transportation cost savings of $1 billion, according to U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. This transition from air cargo to ground transportation for packages and envelopes is a component of DeJoy’s broader strategy to improve the financial health of the Postal Service.


Global parcel growth slowed by drop in China volumes. China’s drastic decline in parcel shipping volumes last year due to a weak COVID recovery halted global growth, expected to persist until 2028, according to Pitney Bowes Inc.’s shipping index. Once a robust market, China saw a mere 2% volume growth in 2022, down from 23% annually between 2017 and 2022. Its growth is projected to slow to 7% from 2023 to 2028. This slowdown impacted global volume, which reached 161 billion parcels in 2022, just a 1% increase YoY. Despite this, global growth is estimated at 6% annually through 2028, down from the previous 8% forecast. China’s growth is anticipated to outpace the index.


Deadly wildfires impacting Maui. Wildfires are spreading through a portion of Maui in Hawaii, causing damage to segments of an historic island town and prompting individuals to seek refuge in the ocean, where the Coast Guard has been rescuing them. Evacuations were enforced in multiple regions, including the well-known tourist destination Lahaina. The National Weather Service attributes the fires’ intensity, propelled by strong winds, in part to Hurricane Dora, which is positioned south of the island chain at a safe distance. These winds have disrupted power and hindered firefighting efforts by grounding helicopters. AP News has live updates here.