Military Sealift Command Ship Completes Maintenance at Indian Shipyard

A U.S. Navy Military Sealift Command (MSC) ship completed a short maintenance period at a shipyard in India, marking the first such job since the U.S. and India agreed to…

A U.S. Navy Military Sealift Command (MSC) ship completed a short maintenance period at a shipyard in India, marking the first such job since the U.S. and India agreed to...

Rising cargo volumes continue for Gulf Coast ports in July

Ports in Houston, Corpus Christi, Texas, and Mobile, Alabama, continue to see increased cargo volume in July.

Cargo volumes at major Gulf Coast ports continue to climb following a surge in demand for steel, dry bulk, petroleum and crude oil, according to data from each port.

Port Houston sees record steel imports 

Port Houston is handling a record amount of imported steel, with volumes from January through June up 92% compared to last year’s volume during the same period.

“Import steel is at levels we haven’t seen in nearly a decade,” Roger Guenther, Port Houston’s executive director, said during the port commission’s regular monthly meeting Aug. 2. “Total tonnage across all the public facilities is up 24% year to date.”

Imports of steel for the first seven months of the year were at 3.2 million tons compared to 1.7 million during the same period in 2021. General imports were up 54% at 5.2 million tons. Container imports were at 10.1 million tons from January through June, up 17%.

Exports of steel for the first six months increased by 4% to 29,322 tons, while general exports increased 5% to 7.3 million tons. Container exports increased 12% year over year (y/y) to 9.3 million tons.

For July, Port Houston’s steel imports increased 48% y/y to 470,849 tons. Exports of steel decreased 81% to 2,170 tons.

Port Houston handled 328,498 twenty-foot equivalent units in July, a 10% y/y increase. Year to date, the port has handled 2.2 million TEUs, a 17% y/y rise compared to 2021.

Port Houston recorded 1,013 total ship and barge calls in July, a 4% increase from the same month last year.

During the meeting, commissioners approved a $40 million contract for purchasing three dockside electric ship-to-shore container cranes for Bayport Container Terminal. The investment will give the Bayport terminal the capability to handle 15,000 TEU ships.

Commissioners also approved a $65 million to purchase 26 new hybrid-electric rubber-tired-gantry (RTG) yard cranes, adding to the 116 RTG fleet at the Barbours Cut and

Bayport container terminals. The cranes aim to reduce emissions by 70% at both terminals. 

The commission also approved $31 million at the Barbours Cut Terminal for the reconstruction of container yards 4 North and 5 North, totaling 87 acres.

Port of Mobile sets monthly TEU record in July

July was the busiest month on record for containerized cargo at the Port of Mobile, with the Alabama State Port Authority reporting more than 50,000 TEUs for the first time since it started operations in 2008.

The port authority said July was the Port of Mobile’s seventh consecutive month to post double- and triple-digit growth for overall throughput volume and intermodal rail volume, respectively. 

The total number of containers handled at the port from January through July was 316,473 TEUs, a 12.4% increase over the same period in 2021.

Dry and refrigerated containers posted a 35.8% y/y increase in volume for the first six months of the year, while intermodal cargo volume rose 185% during the same period.

“This growth shows that Mobile is a top choice for shippers looking to avoid congestion and delays as they move their cargo quickly and efficiently,” John C. Driscoll, the port authority’s director and CEO, said in a statement.

Mobile is on track to surpass 500,000 TEUs in 2022, according to the port authority. 

Port of Corpus Christi sees increased exports of crude oil, petroleum 

The Port of Corpus Christi in South Texas moved more than 16.5 million tons of cargo in July, a 22% y/y increase from the same month in 2021.

The port handled 9.9 million tons of crude oil, a 25% increase compared to the same period a year ago. Exports of crude oil were at 8.9 million tons, a 20% increase compared to last year.

Imports of crude oil increased 80% y/y to just over 1 million tons.

Shipments of petroleum totaled 5.3 million tons, an 18% y/y increase. Exports of petroleum totaled 4.2 million tons for the month, a 32% increase.

Imports of petroleum jumped 20% y/y to 1.2 million tons.

Dry bulk cargo totaled 844,384 tons, a 32% y/y increase, with imports coming in at 581,407 tons and exports 262,976 tons. 

The Port of Corpus Christi saw 662 ship calls, a 4% y/y increase from 2021.

Watch: Where does the spot market go from here?

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Noi Mahoney.

More articles by Noi Mahoney

Texas bridge to become full-service cross-border commercial port

Feds drop fraud charges against Celadon trucking executives

Wife of slain trucking magnate now charged in massive fraud

China’s Navy Could Have 5 Aircraft Carriers, 10 Ballistic Missile Subs by 2030 Says CSBA Report

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy possesses the resources to field up to five aircraft carriers and 10 nuclear ballistic missile submarines by 2030, according to a new think tank report on Beijing’s ongoing military expansion. Using the its computer assisted Strategic Choices Tool, the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment’s study, “China’s Choices,” found, “the […]

People’s Liberation Army Navy aircraft carrier Shandong berths at a naval port in Sanya, China. PLAN Photo

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy possesses the resources to field up to five aircraft carriers and 10 nuclear ballistic missile submarines by 2030, according to a new think tank report on Beijing’s ongoing military expansion.

Using the its computer assisted Strategic Choices Tool, the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment’s study, “China’s Choices,” found, “the PLA has the resources necessary to continue its modernization over the 2020s,” according to the report.

For “China’s Choices,” CSBA assumes, as a starting point, Beijing’s military will grow at a rate of 3 percent above inflation into the early 2030s according the tool’s model.

In explaining the report and how the tool was used, Jack Bianchi, a principal author, said Thursday that CSBA was not trying to predict China’s actual defense budget since Beijing is no longer breaking out equipment, training and sustainment and personnel costs in figures it releases.

CSBA also did not try to determine the cost of a frigate or aircraft, but rather looked at the military from a “broad, strategic level,” Bianchi said.

CSBA used using U.S. spending percentages for research and development, procurement, sustainment and disposal of a specific weapon systems and applied those to China.

For the Peoples Liberation Army Navy, this can translate into more frigates, missile-boats and diesel electric submarines that can be used for regional defense as well as pressure Taiwan, as China aims to unite the island with the mainland.

“The teams [in their exercises] wanted to develop force structure for regional concerns,” Bianchi said.

They also looked to cutting the army’s size as a potential bill-payer, as well as ridding the air force of legacy aircraft to modernize, he said.

For power projection far from China’s mainland, the report predicted sufficient funds available for “aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, blue water logistics vessels, strategic bombers, and strategic transport and refueling aircraft” into the 2030s.

Former commander of Indo-Pacific Command retired Adm. Phil Davidson said this fits with Beijing’s “long-range goal to achieve great power status by mid-century.” It also aligns with the Chinese Communist Party’s securing its pre-eminence domestically.

The United States retains undersea superiority over China, Davidson said, adding that it is an advantage the country should look to expand.

The Chinese, in the last decade, grew its capabilities of sustaining operations far from the mainland in its operations in the Gulf of Aden, as well as quickly learned how to integrate new capabilities across its joint forces, Bianchi and Davidson noted.

Bianchi said the CSBA analytical tool tool can be applied to all domains including cyber, space and electro-magnetic warfare.

In addition, he said Chinese expanding nuclear capabilities – to include non-strategic uses – should be more fully explored in the future.

CSBA’s tool can be used in presenting other alternatives and has additional uses in investment and strategy to counter China, Davidson said.

He added its flexibility also means the tool can be applied to improve wargaming. Examples he used for changed circumstances important in gaming included the impact of COVID-19 on global economies, food shortages created by war as is happening in Ukraine, whether President Xi Jin-ping secures a fourth term in 2027 and Chinese acceptance of continued high military spending.

Despite billions in canceled orders, container imports stay near peak

U.S. imports accelerated in July, with inbound cargo from China reaching a year-to-date high, according to Descartes.

Walmart said Tuesday that it had “canceled billions of dollars in orders to help align inventory levels with expected demand.” Target disclosed the following day that it had canceled over $1.5 billion in orders, and revealed that it had shipped in much of its back-to-school goods early.

Nevertheless, U.S. import activity keeps chugging along near all-time highs.

Unprecedented throughput at the nation’s terminals has not been enough to clear queues of waiting ships. As of Thursday morning, there were still 130 container vessels waiting off North American ports.

According to newly released numbers from Descartes, U.S. imports totaled 2.53 million twenty-foot equivalent units in July. That’s up 3% year on year and 15% from July 2019, pre-pandemic. It was the best July on record, with volumes up 2% sequentially from June. This July marked the fifth-highest monthly volume ever recorded by Descartes.

chart showing data on imports
(Chart: Descartes. Data source: Descartes Datamyne)

U.S. imports from China rebounded last month, according to Descartes. It said volumes from China totaled 994,927 TEUs, up 6.3% year on year and 6.9% from June. More containerized cargo was imported from China in July than in any other month this year, with Chinese goods accounting for 75% of the year-on-year TEU increase.

“A number of factors — such as a slowing economy, inflation and high fuel costs — have not had the anticipated impact [of] slowing down U.S. container imports,” said Descartes.

The McCown Report analyzes volumes at the top 10 U.S. ports. McCown found that July imports at these ports were up 0.7% year on year. Imports at the leading East Coast and Gulf Coast ports rose 6.6% and imports at West Coast ports fell 4.9%.

August imports look strong

Import volumes continue to look strong midway through August. Month-to-date U.S. Customs data shows little letup in imports versus July, although some ports might see a small pullback. “Imports will begin to ease somewhat” in Los Angeles in August, predicted the port’s executive director, Gene Seroka.

Ports with large ship queues — New York/New Jersey; Savannah, Georgia; and Houston — are guaranteed to have strong import volumes through at least this month, simply because of cargo backlogs offshore.

chart showing data on imports
(Chart: FreightWaves SONAR)

And despite all the excess inventories held by retailers like Walmart (NYSE: WMT) and Target (NYSE: TGT), U.S. consumer demand remains strong. July retail sales — adjusted for inflation and seasonality and excluding motor vehicles and auto parts — were up 0.5% from June and 0.3% year on year.

Adjusted July retail sales were up 17.5% from the same month in 2019, pre-pandemic.

Sales inflation-adjusted to 2019 dollars (Chart: American Shipper based on data from U.S. Census)

National port capacity maxing out?

With consumption levels and imports still well above pre-COVID-era levels, the U.S. port system continues to operate at around maximum throughput. Monthly import volumes appear to be bouncing around near a capacity ceiling.

Descartes has previously stated: “Port congestion became a significant issue when the U.S. consistently exceeded import volumes of 2.4 million TEUs per month starting in March 2021. As long as monthly U.S. container import volumes are above 2.4 million TEUs, port congestion will continue until infrastructure changes are made.”

According to John McCown, author of The McCown Report: “Many ports and terminals are operating at or near capacity. The present U.S. port system is not in the position to accommodate the geometric growth in container volume that is on the foreseeable horizon. 

“To handle that growth, something more than just marginal improvements to capacity is needed. Among other things, new container terminals and even entirely new container ports will be needed to efficiently handle container volume over the ensuing decade. 

“This will require significant infrastructure investment, but that funding requirement needs to be balanced against the disruption that occurred recently. Without meaningful steps taken, such disruption will be more episodic in the future as volume grows over time,” warned McCown.

Click for more articles by Greg Miller 

New Buoys to Help Protect North Atlantic Right Whales from Ship Strikes

French ocean carrier CMA CGM has announced the deployment of the first buoys that will aid in the protection of endangered North Atlantic right whales from ships strikes along the…

French ocean carrier CMA CGM has announced the deployment of the first buoys that will aid in the protection of endangered North Atlantic right whales from ships strikes along the...

Navy, Marine Corps Will Continue to Fly MV-22s Ospreys After Air Force Grounds Fleet

The Navy and Marine Corps will keep their Ospreys flying after the Air Force grounded its fleet of the tilt-rotor aircraft. Both services said they are keeping an eye on a clutch issue that led the Air Force to halt operations for the CV-22 Ospreys flown by Air Force Special Operations Command. “All Navy CMV-22 […]

U.S. Marines prepare to take off in a MV-22B Osprey at Norwegian Air Force Base Bodø during Exercise Cold Response 22, Norway, March 16, 2022. US MArine

The Navy and Marine Corps will keep their Ospreys flying after the Air Force grounded its fleet of the tilt-rotor aircraft.

Both services said they are keeping an eye on a clutch issue that led the Air Force to halt operations for the CV-22 Ospreys flown by Air Force Special Operations Command.

“All Navy CMV-22 Osprey units continue to conduct operations throughout the fleet. We are aware of the issues affecting other Osprey variants and are closely monitoring our CMV-22 aircraft for similar occurrences,” Cmdr. Zach Harrell, a spokesperson for Naval Air Forces, told USNI News in a statement.

In a call with reporters on Thursday, a Marine Corps official acknowledged the clutch problem could affect all three Osprey variants, but said it has not happened to any of the Navy’s CMV-22Bs. The Navy only started deploying its CMV-22Bs last year, while the Marine Corps and Air Force have been flying their respective variants for much longer.

“The hard clutch issue has been known to the Marine Corps since 2010, and as such, we have trained our pilots to react with the appropriate emergency control measures should the issue arise during flight. We also remain engaged with the Joint Program Office, NAVAIR engineering, and our industry partners to resolve the issue at the root cause,” Maj. Jim Stenger, a Marine Corps spokesman, said in a statement.
“By virtue of these measures, the Marine Corps has accumulated over 533,000 MV-22 flight hours without a single catastrophic event contributed to this hazard. The Deputy Commandant for Aviation has also issued interim guidance to the Fleet Marine Forces implementing a procedure to help in the early recognition of a pending hard clutch engagement. Additionally, we will continue to proactively communicate our ongoing efforts with the men and women who fly and maintain our aircraft. They deserve nothing less.”

In the history of the program, there have been 15 instances in which Marine Corps and Air Force Ospreys have experienced this clutch problem, which happens during takeoff, Marine Corps officials told reporters. Of the 15 instances, 10 have happened within the Marine Corps. No injuries have happened due to the clutch problem, the officials said.

A spokesperson for Naval Air Systems Command said the command, Bell Boeing – the industry team that builds the Ospreys, – and the Joint Program Office are trying to figure out the source of the problem.

“Naval Air Systems Command and the V-22 Joint Program Office (PMA-275) have been working with our Bell Boeing industry partners on a known V-22 Aircraft clutch issue. While root cause remains under investigation, we are implementing additional risk mitigation controls to ensure the safety of our Service Members,” Marcia Hart said in a statement.
“The program office continues to communicate and collaborate with all V-22 customers, including allied partners. The safety of pilots and air crews is our number one priority.”

The decisions from the Navy and Marine Corps come after Breaking Defense reported Wednesday that the Air Force halted operations for its fleet of CV-22 Ospreys following two recent instances in which aircraft experienced problems with the clutch.

The first Marine Corps official said performing hover checks, when the aircraft is using less power and operating within a rotor’s distance of the ground, will help mitigate issues with the clutch. That official said the Joint Program Office is likely one to three years away from finding a materiel solution to the problem.

Northern Lights CO2 Carriers to Get Norsepower Rotor Sails

Finnish-based wind propulsion specialist Norsepower has received a contract to supply its Rotor Sails technology on board two liquefied CO2 carriers commissioned by the Northern Lights JV in Norway. The…

Finnish-based wind propulsion specialist Norsepower has received a contract to supply its Rotor Sails technology on board two liquefied CO2 carriers commissioned by the Northern Lights JV in Norway. The...

SC Ports Completes Years-Long Infrastructre Project at Port of Charleston

South Carolina Ports is marking the completion of its years-long infrastructure project as its fifteenth and final ship-to-shore crane is now operational at the Port of Charleston’s Wando Welch Terminal….

South Carolina Ports is marking the completion of its years-long infrastructure project as its fifteenth and final ship-to-shore crane is now operational at the Port of Charleston’s Wando Welch Terminal....

Volumes at Virginia, South Carolina ports reflect East Coast challenges, opportunities

July was a record month at the Port of Virginia. At SC Ports, July’s volumes were up from June as the Port of Charleston sought to improve port flows.

The East Coast ports have been facing higher volumes as shippers seek to avoid congestion at the West Coast ports. That increased activity has resulted in volume growth at some ports — and processing backups at others.

‘Most productive July’ at Port of Virginia

July was a record month at the Port of Virginia, with the Norfolk complex handling nearly 318,000 twenty-foot equivalent units, a 8.4% gain over July 2021. 

Last month was “the most productive July in the port’s history,” and it was the fourth consecutive month that volumes exceeded 317,000 units, the Virginia Port Authority said Wednesday.

Of that total, July loaded imports were 149,829 TEUs, up 4.8% year over year. Meanwhile, loaded exports totaled 85,170 TEUs, up 5.1% from a year ago.

Container tonnage climbed 5.7% to 2.2 million TEUs but breakbulk tonnage slipped 17.5% to 7,402 TEUs.

The port thinks 2022 could potentially be the best performing calendar year on record, especially if business remains strong during the peak retail months that lead up to the holiday season, according to Stephen A. Edwards, Virginia Port Authority CEO and executive director.

“What we are seeing is growing interest from ship lines and cargo owners that are working to restore some predictability and reliability to their vessel services and supply chains. We have a proven track record of success in what remains a challenging trade environment and the result is growth at the Port of Virginia,” Edwards said. 

He noted that the port has brought on 10 new vessel services in the last 12 months, with five of those brought on within the last five months. 

July volumes rise at South Carolina Ports following June dip

Congestion at some of the East Coast ports has caused volume throughput to slow down — something that the South Carolina Ports Authority is trying to improve.

SC Ports handled 216,097 TEUs at the Wando Welch, North Charleston and Leatherman terminals at the Port of Charleston in July, up 10% from June’s total of 196,225 but down 11.7% from July 2021’s total of 244,821 TEUs. 

SC Ports also handled 119,872 pier containers in July, up 9.8% from 109,124 pier containers in June but down 12.6% from 137,158 pier containers last July.

To improve supply chain flows, SC Ports has extended Sunday gate hours for motor carriers, and that extension will last through at least the peak season. SC Ports also said it has been giving berth priority to vessels taking out more cargo, launched a port-owned and port-operated chassis pool and hired more employees to handle the influx of cargo. SC Ports also said it has significantly improved rail dray dwell times. 

SC Ports said there have been no vessels waiting to berth since early May, even though supply chain challenges exist at other East Coast ports. 

“We are continuing to be adaptive and responsive to ensure fluidity for our customers and cargo owners,” SC Ports President and CEO Barbara Melvin said in a news release. 

In addition to these operational changes are capital investments, including new ship-to-shore cranes. SC Ports says there are 15 such cranes now at the Wando Welch Terminal. Together, these cranes will enable the terminal to work three 14,000-TEU vessels simultaneously.

The last crane was installed recently at the waterfront. 

“It is truly remarkable to see the final crane of our new fleet moved into place on the Wando Welch Terminal wharf. This is the culmination of years of effort, planning and coordination by our team and project partners,” Melvin said. “Our modern equipment provides smarter operations and more fluidity for the supply chain.”

The cranes are part of a $500 million investment to modernize the terminal. Other improvements will include new container-handling equipment, a modernized container yard and refrigerated cargo yard, improved traffic patterns and IT systems, a strengthened wharf and an on-terminal transload facility for mega retailers, SC Ports said.

Subscribe to FreightWaves’ e-newsletters and get the latest insights on freight right in your inbox.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Joanna Marsh.

Baltic Exchange’s Capesize Index Logs Biggest Single-Day Decline in Over Two Years

Aug 18 (Reuters) – The Baltic Exchange’s main sea freight index fell on Thursday as capesize vessel rates saw their biggest daily plunge since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, in May…

Aug 18 (Reuters) – The Baltic Exchange’s main sea freight index fell on Thursday as capesize vessel rates saw their biggest daily plunge since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, in May...