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U.S. Container Imports Rise, UPS Unveils Peak Delivery Surcharges, CN and NS Announce New Domestic Intermodal Service.

Sep 14, 2023

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U.S. container imports rise. Container shipping spot rates on the trans-Pacific route surged in late June and remain elevated in 2023, and U.S. import data confirms that some of the rate increase is due to demand. In August, U.S. ports imported 2,196,268 twenty-foot equivalent units, marking a 0.4% increase from July and a 5.5% increase from June. These August volumes were also 2.5% higher than those in August 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic. Chris Jones, Executive Vice President of Industry and Services at Descartes Systems Group, noted that August imports were “consistent with the rise that occurs in peak season in non-pandemic years,” indicating a consistent trend with 2019 results.


Georgia Ports Authority and CSX launch new intermodal service. Eastern Class I railroad CSX and the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) have launched a daily intermodal service, operating seven days a week, establishing a direct rail link between the Port of Savannah and CSX’s Rocky Mount, North Carolina intermodal terminal. With a ship-to-shore duration of approximately three days, this service connects GPA’s Mason Mega Rail terminal in Savannah with CSX’s Carolina Connector (CCX) terminal in Rocky Mount. “In collaboration with CSX, we’re offering daily access and faster service, bringing world-class port services to the doorstep of the area’s business and industry,” GPA President and CEO Griff Lynch said in a news release.


California senate votes to ban heavy-duty driverless trucks. The California Senate overwhelmingly voted to ban heavy-duty driverless trucks on state highways, according to FreightWaves. The bill, approved 36-2, requires autonomous trucks over 10,001 pounds to have human safety drivers. It also allows legislators to take on roles typically handled by state agencies. Governor Gavin Newsom now decides whether to sign or veto the bill, which the state assembly passed 69-4 in May. These heavy-duty autonomous trucks are tested in Texas and New Mexico and approved in over 20 other states.

UPS unveils peak delivery surcharges. UPS Inc. has rolled out its peak holiday delivery surcharges, slightly surpassing FedEx Corp. for high-volume customers. From Oct. 29 to Jan. 13, UPS will impose a $7.50 per-package fee for high-volume shippers using its residential air services, which is approximately ten cents higher than FedEx’s similar services. For shippers using UPS’ ground residential and SurePost services, the per-package surcharge will be $6.40, about a nickel more than FedEx’s rates. Beginning Oct. 1, there will be a $6.90 charge for parcels requiring additional handling. Oversize shipments will incur a $74.90 levy, with a $410 surcharge for shipments not suited for regular package delivery that UPS prefers not to accept. These fees apply from Oct. 1 to Jan. 13.


UP defends rail safety program, asks for details about reported safety defects. Union Pacific is seeking information regarding the safety issues identified by federal inspectors during their recent focused inspections at the railroad’s North Platte, Nebraska rail yard. UP CEO Jim Vena said in a letter Monday to Amit Bose, administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, that the railroad “will never compromise on the safety of our employees. We take the concerns raised very seriously and are confident we have the people and practices in place to responsibly maintain our locomotives and car fleets.” This request comes in response to a letter from Bose, sent to UP leadership on Friday, in which he criticized the rail carrier for the numerous defects discovered during inspections of UP’s locomotive and fleet maintenance program in July and August.

STB proposes new reciprocal switching rule in push for improved service. The Surface Transportation Board has introduced a new rule allowing shippers to request assistance from a nearby railroad if their current carrier fails to meet minimum service standards. This rule uses three metrics – service reliability, service consistency, and the presence of insufficient local service – to prescribe reciprocal switching agreements among Class I railroads. It replaces a 2016 proposal that garnered support from shippers but faced opposition from rail carriers in public comments. Comments on the new rule are due by Oct. 23, with replies required by Nov. 21.

CN and NS announce new domestic intermodal service. CN and Norfolk Southern (NS) have announced a new domestic intermodal service that connects CN’s Canadian markets with NS-served Kansas City and Atlanta. Starting on October 2, this service aims to offer customers “an integrated, market-competitive, and efficient all-rail service,” according to Railway Age. CN and NS will utilize new intermodal steel wheel interchanges in Detroit and Chicago to “seamlessly operate like a single-line intermodal product.” This option shifts truck traffic to long-haul rail, contributing to reduced greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint and optimizing cargo-loaded weights.


DHL Express adds freighter route to Argentina. DHL Express expanded its network by launching the inaugural dedicated freighter flight to Argentina, offering improved shipment reliability and faster delivery for importers and exporters. DHL Aero Expreso, based in Panama, now operates a Boeing 767-300 flight six times a week, connecting Miami and Buenos Aires with a stopover in Santiago, Chile.


MSC opens bidding war for Hamburg port operator. MSC has proposed acquiring nearly half of Hamburg’s main port operator in a transaction potentially valued at approximately 1.3 billion euros ($1.4 billion), a move that has opened a potential bidding war. Following this announcement, shares in HHLA, responsible for managing Germany’s largest port, surged by 49% to reach a 19-month high. Shortly after, German logistics billionaire Klaus-Michael Kuehne expressed his interest in making a competing offer, according to gCaptain. According to the agreement between MSC and the city of Hamburg, MSC will extend a cash offer of 16.75 euros ($17.99) per share to acquire all publicly traded class A stock in HHLA.


Future FDA traceability requirements lead to increased use of RFID packaging on food products. Food brands increasingly use Radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology for tracking product journeys due to waste and safety concerns, with the FDA’s upcoming traceability rules in 2026 as a driving factor. Detailed RFID histories also enhance food safety monitoring. Despite challenges, including tag interference, sensitivity to metal and liquids, and recyclability concerns, RFID adoption in the food industry is rising. Read more from SupplyChainDive here.