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On Monday, the International Longshoremen‘s Association (ILA), which provides labor for US East Coast and Gulf Coast ports, announced they are suspending negotiations with the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX). The ILA issued a statement, which can be found here, outlining their concerns, specifically regarding automation. This move heightens concerns about the potential for a labor strike at East and Gulf Coast ports as of October 1 and is likely to cause a shift of some cargo volumes to the US West Coast. It’s also possible that volumes through the East and Gulf Coast may increase ahead of October 1, if concerned shippers decide to front-load more cargo in advance of a potential strike.

This news is the latest in a string of recent developments that have strained the global ocean freight market. On the Asia to US trade lane, volumes remain high, representing a strong early peak season shipping that analysts are now projecting may last through the third or fourth quarter of 2024. Ocean carriers have been implementing rate increases in the spot market biweekly since May 1, and are severely limiting fixed contract rate allocation to BCOs and NVOs. Rates are scheduled to increase again on June 15 by another $1000 per FEU; an additional increase is likely for July 1 as well.

Space and equipment are difficult to come by, even at spot-level pricing. Vessels to the US are booked up at least 4 weeks ahead of sailing; most carriers are requiring bookings 5-6 weeks in advance. Even with a booking in-hand at spot levels, rollovers are very common. Some ocean carriers have brought back the super-premium pricing tier that guarantees cargo will be loaded on the required vessel in exchange for rates priced thousands of dollars above the spot market level. Equipment challenges persist, especially at the ports of North China.

Congestion has been growing at major global gateways including Singapore and Barcelona, and even Charleston has experienced congestion recently due to an almost two-day port closure and delays from terminal construction. Carriers are omitting congested ports as needed to keep vessels as close to their original schedules as possible.

In addition to concerns over a US port labor strike, there is a looming Canada rail labor issue that we are watching closely. Negotiations are still in process, and there is no set date for a potential Canada rail strike, but some carriers are omitting Canada ports as a precaution, putting more pressure on US West Coast ports.

The market challenges we face are reminiscent of the pandemic era, and supply chain planning has become more costly and difficult than any other time in the last two years. Shippers should continue to place bookings early, at least 5-6 weeks in advance, regardless of rate level, and leave ample time for delays in transit. All signs point to the situation getting worse before it gets better, unfortunately.

 

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Your CVI team is here to assist you through these current market challenges. Ocean freight, air freight, domestic road/rail, and Customs Compliance – count on our dedicated professionals to care for you and your supply chain. Call us and let us show you what we can do!

 

Rachel Shames

VP, Pricing & Procurement

CV International, Inc.

 

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Rachel serves as Vice President, Pricing and Procurement for CVI. Her responsibilities include vendor selection, contract management and negotiation, transportation pricing, FMC compliance, and international agent network management.

Rachel began her career in international shipping with CMA-CGM America. She joined CVI in 2011, gaining experience in various departments with a focus on inside sales and marketing for the company. In 2014, Rachel assumed the role of Manager, Transportation, working on service procurement and development of client proposals. She has served in her current position since 2018.

A native of Norfolk, Virginia, Rachel earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in 2005. She holds a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Maritime and Supply Chain Management from Old Dominion University.

– Rachel Shames, VP, Pricing & Procurement, CVI
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