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Today’s Logistics Report: Panama’s Drought Backup; Amazon’s Shipping Offer; Ghost Fleet Tankers


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A South Korean containership crosses the Panama Canal earlier this month. PHOTO: BIENVENIDO VELASCO/SHUTTERSTOCK

The Panama Canal is turning into a new bottleneck for seaborne global trade. A flotilla of ships measuring some 200 vessels is stuck on both sides of the canal, the WSJ’s Costas Paris reports, and the wait to get through for many of them has stretched to weeks since the waterway’s authorities cut transits to conserve water amid a serious drought. Most are bulk cargo or gas carriers that typically book on short notice. Some shipowners are rerouting traffic to avoid the backlog. Containerships are less affected since most get preferential status because they run on fixed schedules and book crossings far in advance. But they have to pay higher tolls and lighten their loads to get through. The bigger concern
is that the restrictions are likely to continue through the end of the year, and could go longer as the canal authority tries to solve its water problem.

Here’s how the drought in Panama could affect groceries and packages for Americans.

  • Gas carrier owner Navigator Holdings says backups at the Panama Canal are helping its earnings because they squeeze vessel supply. (TradeWinds)

“The Panama Canal is a big mess these days.”

— Øystein Kalleklev, chief executive of Avance Gas, which operates 17 vessels carrying energy products
CONTENT FROM: Cathay Pacific Airways
Cathay Cargo is using innovation to stay ahead of the curve.

With unprecedented travel restrictions, supply chain disruptions and rising fuel prices, it’s no secret that aviation has had a tough few years. In this conversation with Tom Owen, learn how one of the world’s busiest cargo airlines is leveraging technology to produce leading solutions and navigate these turbulent times.

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Amazon started the Amazon Shipping service in 2018 and a year later dropped a contract with FedEx. PHOTO: SPENCER PLATT/GETTY/IMAGES

Amazon is back in the commercial parcel delivery business. The e-commerce giant restarted its shipping service for external deliveries, the WSJ’s Sebastian Herrera reports, bringing back a program it paused early in the Covid-19 pandemic and that competes directly with FedEx and United Parcel Service. The move pushes new competition into the U.S. parcel market at a potentially tough time for the sector’s big players. UPS and FedEx both reported declining volume in their ground parcel business in their latest quarters, the result of a sagging goods economy as consumers pivot to spending on services rather than electronics,
furniture and other items. UPS is also absorbing rising costs following its big labor contract with the Teamsters union. After being overwhelmed during the pandemic with a deluge of orders, Amazon has worked its way back to stabilizing its delivery system and is looking to expand its capabilities and speed.

A vessel owned by Beks Ship Management, one of the companies that help Russia ship oil around the world. PHOTO: YORUK ISIK

Russia’s efforts to keep supplying oil around the world have led to the formation of a growing global “ghost fleet” of mostly aging tankers operating outside shipping’s usual structures. The WSJ’s Jared Malsin reports that companies such as Beks Ship Management, a Turkish business that has bought 37 ships since 2021, are the backbone of an operation Russia uses to fund its war in Ukraine. Many of the ships are owned by companies in Greece, India and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Turkey. To evade sanctions, they often forgo insurance with the P&I Clubs, the global networks that insure most commercial shipping. One analyst calls the fleet “a ticking time
bomb” because of safety and environmental concerns. Vessel-tracking data also shows ships, including those owned by Beks, calling at a Russian far east port that the U.S. says violates a cap on Russian oil prices.

“There is a shady end to the insurance industry.”

— David Osler, a shipping insurance expert at Lloyd’s List Intelligence

Average worldwide price for airfreight transport, per kilo, in the week ending Aug. 13, virtually unchanged over the past four weeks but 36% lower than the year-ago level on an average 9% increase in capacity and a 4% drop in chargeable weight, according to WorldACD.

Old Dominion Freight Line joined the bidding for bankrupt Yellow’s truck terminals with a $1.5 billion offer for the entire network. (WSJ)

The U.S. index of leading economic indicators fell in July for the 16th straight month. (MarketWatch)

Workers at two Chevron liquefied natural gas export facilities in Australia are taking a strike vote amid disputes over wages and working conditions. (Reuters)

Canada and the province of Quebec will provide approximately $475 million to build a Ford plant to produce the materials for electric-vehicle batteries. (CBC)

Discount retail chain owner TJX projects continued excess supplies in the apparel market for up to 12 months. (Supply Chain Dive)

There appears to be little appetite among shippers to pay premiums for lower-emissions services being offered by carriers and forwarders. (Journal of Commerce)

China will again offer container freight futures in Shanghai after halting the trading six years ago. (Splash 247)

Alphaliner says the scrapping of smaller containerships is accelerating. (The Loadstar)

India is considering using Greece’s Port of Piraeus as its hub for the country’s exports into Europe.  (National Herald)

Tesla warned an Australian miner of a potential legal claim after negotiations for a minerals supply deal fell through in 2022. (Bloomberg)

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