Archives For Cargo carrier

Blockchain

T-Mining is currently working on a pilot project that will make container handling in the port of Antwerp more efficient and secure. Using blockchain technology, processes that involve several parties – carriers, terminals, forwarders, hauliers, drivers, shippers etc. – are securely digitised without any central middleman being involved.

Just getting a container from point A to point B frequently involves more than 30 different parties, with an average of 200 interactions between them. Given that many of these interactions are carried out by e-mail, phone and even (still, nowadays) by fax, paperwork accounts for up to half of the cost of container transport.

“We aim to do something about this,” says Nico Wauters, CEO of T-Mining. This Antwerp start-up has developed a solution for a recognised problem in the port. When a container arrives in the port it is collected from the terminal by a truck driver or shipper. To ensure that the right person picks up the right container a PIN code is used. However, the PIN code is transmitted via a number of parties, which of course is not without risk. Somebody with bad intentions can simply copy the PIN code, which naturally can cause great problems.

“We have developed a very secure solution for this,” explains Nico Wauters. “Currently, when we want to transfer a valuable object we generally make use of a trusted intermediary to carry out the transfer. For instance, when you want to sell a house the notary not only carries out all the paperwork but also ensures that the money lands safely in your bank account while the buyer receives full title to the property, without any unpleasant surprises for either party. But this intermediary naturally does not work for free, and furthermore the additional step causes extra delay.”

The blockchain solution overcomes these issues, permitting safer and faster transfer of valuable objects, fully digitally and without a middleman. “With our blockchain platform the right truck driver is given clearance to collect a particular container, without any possibility of the process being intercepted. Furthermore our blockchain platform uses a distributed network, so that the transaction can go ahead only if there is consensus among all participating parties, thus excluding any attempts at fraud or undesired manipulations.”

A pilot project is currently running in the port of Antwerp with a limited number of parties. “We want to test whether it all works smoothly in practice,” says Nico Wauters. “Together with PSA, MSC, a forwarder and a transporter, we ensure secure handling of the first containers on our blockchain platform. Thanks to the City of Antwerp we even have an office in Singapore where we are working hard to introduce our solution there too. Our ambition is to serve the first paying customers by the end of this year,” Nico Wauters concludes. Source: Port of Antwerp

EmptyTrips

Founder and CEO of tech start-up EmptyTrips; Africa’s first smart transport marketplace says she is aware that the introduction of her new transport concept could possibly disrupt the logistics industry as we know it.

Benji Coetzee’s “Filling spaces to places” is a similar concept to that of Uber and Airbnb. It’s based on convenience and inexpensive transport services that pick up goods and take them to a clients destination faster, and cheaper than conventional logistics and road freight services.

“The EmptyTrips concept is based on smart algorithms that match empty trips on trucks, trains and planes, to the demand. This opens up access to cross-border runners using vetted transporters for your transport needs,” Coetzee said.

Logistic often account for a large portion of product and service costs, with transporters often battling with the reality of empty return legs. EmptyTrips has opened up a platform for users to offer their empty trips, find an empty trip from current postings, and request an empty trip as a customer. It aims to bridge the gap for competitive rates, and fill these empty return legs allowing the transporter to recover fees on otherwise empty trips while the customer pays less for transport.

“For too long we have focused on hard infrastructure, when we could be using technology to reduce congestion, delays and assist in our goals of high regional trade.

The on-demand transport service is likely to help with these problems and provide an ease to transporting goods from one place to another.

Transporters and senders of goods can sign-up to www.emptytrips.com. The transporters can bid for cargo needing to be moved and shippers can get competitive open bids. Source: TransportWorldAfrica.com

Uber-Freight-Truck

Global transportation network company Uber has launched Uber Freight – an online booking application “which aims to empower truck drivers and small trucking companies to run and grow their business”, according to a blog on the new Uber Freight site launched last week.

Uber Freight has its own app, of course, which is available on iOS and Android. There’s a sign-up page for drivers, who will be vetted before they’re allowed to use the Uber Freight. The service “takes guesswork out of finding and booking freight, which is often the most stressful part of a driver’s day,” according to Uber, which says it’s dismantling a process that typically takes “several hours and multiple phone calls.”The blog explains that vetted users download the app, search for a load, and simply tap to book it.

“We send a rate confirmation within seconds, eliminating a common anxiety in trucking about whether or not the load is really confirmed,” said an Uber Freight spokesperson.

Another advantage of the new booking service is Uber Freight is committed to paying within a few days, fee-free, for every single load.

Drivers can browse for nearby available loads, see destination info, distance required and payment upfront and then tap to book.

The idea is to streamline something that used to take hours of back and forth negotiation via phone or other communication, putting it in a simple workflow with confirmation of job acceptance and rates paid within a few seconds.

Uber’s not the only company trying to change the trucking industry. Amazon is working on a similar service that would pair drivers with companies that need goods delivered. Manufacturers big and small are also working on bringing semi-or fully-autonomous technology to long haul trucks.

Uber Freight is currently only available in the United States.

Mozambique flagThe Maputo Corridor Logistics Initiative (MCLI) recently published a communication informing it’s stakeholders about the Single Road Cargo Manifest as received from the Mozambican Revenue Authority (MRA).

The MRA has informed MCLI that the 2nd phase of the Single Road Cargo Manifest process will come into effect from the 16th of June 2017, when all international road carriers transporting goods to Mozambique through the Ressano Garcia border post will be required to submit the Road Cargo Manifest on the Single Electronic Window platform in compliance with national and international legislation. MRA Service Order Nr 17/AT/DGA/2017, in both Portuguese and English, is attached for your consideration.

For information and full compliance by all members of staff of this service, both (National and Foreign) International Cargo Carriers, Clearing Agents, Business Community, Intertek and other relevant stakeholders, within the framework of the ongoing measures with a view to adequate procedures related to the submission of the road cargo manifest, for goods imported through the Ressano Garcia Border Post, in strict compliance to both the national and international legislations, it is hereby announced that, the pilot process for transfer of competencies in preparation and submission of the road cargo manifest to Customs from the importer represented by his respective Clearing Agent to the Carrier is in operation since December 2016.

Indeed, the massification process will take place from 15th of April 2017 to 15th of June 2017, a period during which all international carriers (national and foreign) who use the Ressano Garcia Border, are by this means notified to register themselves for the aforementioned purposes following the procedures attached herewith to the present Service Order.

As of 16th of June 2017, the submission of the road cargo manifest into the Single Electronic Window (SEW) for the import regime, at Ressano Garcia Border, shall be compulsory and must be done by the carrier himself.

International road carriers must therefore register for a NUIT number with the Mozambican Revenue Authority between the 15th of April and the 15th of June 2017 and the necessary application form is included. Road carriers are urged to do so as soon as possible to enable the continued smooth flow of goods through the border post.

Specific details can be found here! 

Source: MCLI

American Shipper

This year’s American Shipper’s benchmark report examines the extent to which freight buyers rely on the art of negotiation versus the technological tools to refine the procurement process. It also looks at the background dynamics confronting procurement professionals to show why investment in technology is so important. Visit AmericanShipper.com – requires registration to download!

It’s not an option for shippers and 3PLs to ignore the data that’s washing over the logistics industry anymore. And respondents to American Shipper’s most recent Transportation Procurement Benchmark Study, The Art and Science of Buying Freight, recognize that as much as anyone.

Only one quarter of freight buyers feel their organizations are above average when it comes to procurement technology. Nearly half admit they are still using predominantly spreadsheets and email to conduct procurement across modes and regions. Two-thirds are still reliant on EDI. Source: americanshipper.com

International trading involves many participants all around the globe. These participants may not necessarily have the needed trust of all parties, especially at the initial stages, when newcomers join the trade. Blockchain can provide the needed trust to capture key transaction activities as immutable records, as well as storing and sharing encrypted legal and financial documents.

Visibility of transaction records and documents are tightly controlled by blockchain, permitting sharing only among entrusted and allowed parties. In this demo, IBM demonstrates how blockchain may support such an application.

The blockchain solution being built by the two companies is expected to be made available to the ocean shipping industry later this year, according to a joint statement from International Business Machines Corp and the container unit of A.P. Moller-Maersk. It would help manage and track the paper trail of tens of millions of shipping containers globally by digitizing the supply chain process from end to end.

This will enhance transparency and make the sharing of information among trading partners more secure.

When adopted at scale, the solution based on the Linux Foundation’s open source Hyperledger platform has the potential to save the industry billions of dollars, the companies said.

“Working closely with Maersk for years, we’ve long understood the challenges facing the supply chain and logistics industry and quickly recognized the opportunity for blockchain to provide massive savings when used broadly across the ocean shipping industry ecosystem,” said Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president, industry platforms, at IBM.

IBM and Maersk intend to work with a network of shippers, freight forwarders, ocean carriers, ports and customs authorities to build the new global trade digitization product, the companies said.

The product is also designed to help reduce or eliminate fraud and errors and minimize the time products spend in the transit and shipping process.

For instance, Maersk found that in 2014, just a simple shipment of refrigerated goods from East Africa to Europe can go through nearly 30 people and organizations, including more than 200 different communications among them.

The new blockchain solution would enable the real-time exchange of original supply chain transactions and documents through a digital infrastructure that connects the participants within the network, according to IBM and Maersk. Source: Reuters

containeryard

The U.S. National Retail Federation (NRF) and a coalition representing retailers, manufacturers, truckers, transportation intermediaries and other business groups has asked the Federal Maritime Commission to set new policy preventing terminal operators and ocean carriers from charging unfair fees when uncontrollable incidents such as storms and strikes keep cargo from being picked up from ports on time.

“Recent events involving port congestion, labor strife, an ocean carrier bankruptcy, inclement weather and other disruption events have had crippling effects on U.S. ports and the stakeholders who rely on the efficient movement of goods,” the 25-member Coalition for Fair Port Practices said in a petition filed with the commission. During the incidents, storage and use charges have continued “even though shippers, consignees and drayage providers had no control over the events that caused the ports to be inaccessible and prevented them from retrieving their cargo or returning equipment.”

Cargo owners and trucking companies are normally given a certain number of free days to pick up containers of imported goods from ports after they have been unloaded from ships. After that, they can be charged demurrage, a fee intended to ensure that containers are removed quickly and efficiently. In addition, detention and per diem fees can be charged if the cargo containers and chassis used to haul them are not returned within a specified time.

That system was thrown into disarray this fall when the bankruptcy of South Korea’s Hanjin Shipping left cargo owners unable to pick up containers on time and later prevented them from returning containers and chassis, says the NRF.

Delays have also occurred during other port disruptions cited in the petition, including the 2014-2015 labor slowdown at West Coast ports and Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast in 2012.

The coalition said millions of dollars in fees have been charged during such incidents:

  • A retailer was charged $80,000 because it took up to nine days to retrieve containers when only four free days were allowed.
  • A trucking company was charged $1.2 million after long lines at New York and New Jersey ports kept it from returning containers on time.
  • A transportation company was charged $1.25 million after containers it tried to return were turned away at West Coast ports. The amount was eventually reduced to $250,000 but only a year after the company was forced to pay the fees upfront.

“Shippers, consignees and drayage providers do not create and cannot avoid these events,” the group said. “They cannot control the weather. They do not choose the terminals that carriers use. They are not parties to port labor collective bargaining agreements.”

The federal Shipping Act requires that the fees and related practices be “just and reasonable.” The petition asks the FMC to adopt a policy that would require free days to be extended during times of port congestion, weather-related events, port disruptions or delays caused by government actions or requirements beyond the control of the parties picking up or returning containers. Demurrage and similar fees charged during such incidents would be declared “unreasonable.” In some cases, “compensatory” fees could be charged provided that they did not exceed actual storage or equipment use costs. The proposed policy would apply to ocean carriers and marine terminal operators. Source: Maritime Executive

bascap

Leaders from global shipping firms, freight forwarders, brand owners whose products are counterfeited and industry organizations representing both industries signed a joint Declaration of Intent to Prevent the Maritime Transport of Counterfeit Goods in Brussels last week.

The event marked the first time the global shipping industry and brand owners have made a public commitment to work together to stop the transport of counterfeit goods on shipping vessels.

Initial signatories include the leading global shipping firms and freight forwarders and ten major multinational brand manufacturers, along with the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA), and the International Chamber of Commerce’s (ICC) Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP) and Commercial Crime Service (CCS).

More transporters, brand owners and their industry associations are expected to join the voluntary initiative as awareness grows.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, about 90 percent of all international trade is moved around the world in more than 500 million containers on 89,000 maritime vessels. While this represents approximately 90 percent of all international trade, UNODC says that less than two percent of these containers are inspected to verify their contents. This results in enormous opportunities for criminal networks to abuse this critical supply chain channel to transport huge volumes of counterfeit products affecting virtually every product sector.

According to a recent OECD/EUIPO report, $461 billion in counterfeit goods moved through international trade in 2013, with almost 10 percent being shipped on maritime vessels.

Maersk Line and CMA CGM Group, two of the largest global transport companies with approximately half of all global shipping, and Kuehne and Nagel and Expeditors, two of the leading freight forwarding and logistics companies with total revenues of more than $27 billion, were the first in their industries to sign the Declaration.

The non-binding Declaration acknowledges the “destructive impact” of counterfeits on international trade. It calls on the maritime transport industry to address it “through continuous proactive measures, and corporate social responsibility principles.” The Declaration includes a zero tolerance policy on counterfeiting, strict supply chain controls and other due diligence checks to stop business cooperation with those suspected of dealing in the counterfeit trade.

This commitment paves the way for new voluntary collaboration programs between intermediaries and brand owners to stop abuse of the global supply chain by counterfeiters.

“We are proud to be among the first in our industry to sign this historic Declaration,” said Michael Jul Hansen, Customs and Trade Compliance Lead for Maersk Line. “Maersk has been a leader in taking steps to prevent the use of our vessels for the shipment of counterfeit and other illicit goods, and this Declaration is a reaffirmation of our intent to do everything we can to ensure our ships are counterfeit free.”

The Declaration is a direct reaction to the concerns of brand owners that vessels transporting their legitimate products were also being exploited by criminal networks to transport fake versions. This phenomenon was summarized in a landmark report on the Role and Responsibilities of Intermediaries: Fighting Counterfeiting and Piracy in the Supply Chain, published in 2015 by BASCAP. Following publication of the report, BASCAP organized a working group of its members to initiate a cross-sector dialogue with the transport industry to discuss ways to work together to find voluntary solutions. Source: Maritime Executive 

shutterstock_132894758

News 24 reports that the Competition Commission on Wednesday conducted a search and seizure operation at the premises of six cargo shipping companies operating in the Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal (KZN) on suspicion of collusion and rate fixing, the body said in a statement.

“The Commission has reasonable grounds to suspect that Hamburg Sud South Africa, Maersk South Africa, Safmarine, Mediterranean Shipping Company, Pacific International Line South Africa and CMA CGM Shipping Agencies South Africa have engaged in collusive practices,” the Commission said.

The companies’ practices aimed to among other things fix the incremental rates for the shipment of cargo from Asia to South Africa, which was in contravention of the Competition Act.

According to the Commission, the search and seizure operation is conducted as part of an ongoing investigation which was initiated by the Commission based on information from a member of the public.

The companies under investigation transport cargo for import and export purposes across the globe, including South Africa. They use large metal containers as packaging crates and in-transit warehouses to store and transport general cargo such as frozen foods, garments and footwear.

The customers of these companies are mainly clearing and freight forward agents.

“South Africa is a strategic hub for the trade of goods in and out of the Southern African region. Any cartel by shipping liners in this region results in inflated prices for cargo transportation,” said Tembinkosi Bonakele, commissioner of the Competition Commission.

“Cartels of this nature increase the costs of trading in the region and render the region uncompetitive in the world markets. Such cartels have the effect of significantly derailing the economic growth of the region.”

Reuters reported that Maersk and MSC confirmed the raids and said they were cooperating with authorities. The other companies did not respond to Reuters’ requests for immediate comment.

“The fact that the SACC carries out such inspections does not mean that a company has engaged in anti-competitive behaviour,” Maersk said.

EU antitrust regulators in July accepted an offer from Maersk and 13 competitors to change their pricing practices in order to stave off possible fines. Source: News24

Panama inaugurated the long-awaited Panama Canal expansion on Sunday, 26 June 2016 with the ceremonial transit of the China Shipping Panama through the new neo-panamax Agua Clara locks on the Atlantic side.

The $5.25 billion Expansion Program is the largest improvement project in the Canal’s 102-year history, and included the construction of new, larger locks on both the Pacific and the Atlantic sides and dredging of more than 150 million cubic meters of material, creating a second lane of traffic and doubling the capacity of the waterway.

Despite challenges facing the global shipping industry, the larger canal is anticipated to open up new routes, services, and market segments, such as liquefied natural gas (LNG). Source: gCaptain.com – Pictures courtesy of Panama Canal Authority

World Cargo News reports  – While the Coast Guard maintains the US will be compliant with the SOLAS amendment on container weighing, US Shippers are interpreting guidance from US Coast Guard Rear Admiral Paul Thomas as confirmation they can continue with existing practice to declare the weight of their goods rather than weigh containers.

Following to the fallout over his comments at the Trans Pacific Maritime conference in Long Beach this month, Rear Admiral’s Thomas issued further guidance on the SOLAS amendment that requires containers to have a Verified Gross Mass before they are loaded on a vessel from 1 July.

The US Coast Guard (USCG) has since confirmed that SOLAS is binding on US shippers, but stated that how shippers work with carriers to obtain and report a VGM is a commercial matter for those parties to determine.

Some US shippers, including the US Agriculture Transport Coalition (ATC), have made it known it is not practical for them to supply, and be responsible for anything other than the weight of the cargo, as they do today. The Coast Guard appears to be facilitating this approach, and the ATC last month told its members it “received confirmation” from USCG that shippers can continue to verify the weight of the goods they own, while lines remain responsible for the weight of the container.

On March 14 some 49 groups and associations representing US primary producers, manufacturers, importers and shipper groups wrote to Coast Guard Commandant Paul Zukunft saying they support its “interpretation” of the SOLAS amendment, as presented by Rear Admiral Tomas in his blog.

“Specifically, we support the Admiral’s view that if the shipper provides the cargo mass weight, to which the carrier adds the weight of the container, then the intent of SOLAS is achieved. In fact, several ocean carrier executives have advised that such a process would be practical.”

Some carriers, however, have rightly pointed out that this does not meet the SOLAS requirement, as the letter then notes: “The reason for our concern, and appreciation of Admiral Thomas’ guidance, is that some ocean carriers, citing this SOLAS amendment, are demanding that the shipper certify both the cargo and the carrier’s container. This is contrary to the practical realities of our US export maritime commerce and fundamentally flawed conceptually. (It would be similar to demanding that a soybean shipper certify to the railroad the weight of the railcar itself.)”

The groups maintain that they “fully understand our responsibility to accurately disclose the weights of cargo tendered to the ocean carriers. In fact, advance submission of accurate gross cargo weight is a well-established practice mandated by US Customs and Border Protection, by numerous intermodal (trucking and rail) weight requirements, and presently found in Shipper’s Instructions to carriers to meet so-called “no doc, no load” cargo cutoffs for entry into marine terminals. In addition, an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Rule, in place since 1983, assures that the accurate weight of combined cargo and container be known to the carrier prior to loading.”

Despite SOLAS, the shipper groups do not see a need to weigh individual containers and suggest other solutions can be found: “for instance, shippers are willing to provide to their carriers an annual written confirmation in the service contract (or other mutually-agreed document) that our cargo weights are accurate”.

One of the major concerns is liability, in particular the requirement that someone now sign a VGM document. Shippers say carrier demands for this are being rejected. Many US Corporations will not allow their employee to certify the weight of and assume liability for equipment that the corporation does not own, manage, control and in fact may not even see.”

The Coast Guard, for its part, does not appear to be pushing the issue of current practice not meeting the new SOLAS requirements.

In his testimony at the US House Committee on Transport and Infrastructure’s hearing for the Coast Guard’s 2017 Budget request Admiral Paul F. Zukunft, Commandant, USG made the following statement: “Foreign carriers are pretty much all in compliance today. When I was at the container terminal in Long Beach a month and half ago all the containers that come on to that yard are already weighed before they go in. So I am not seeing a sky is falling panacea playing out around us, but we need to make sure that there aren’t unintended consequences. That is why we are continuing to reach out with the many exporters…that container shows up on a manifest before it is loaded on a ship. What is needed is that final weight, but by and large most of these manifests already have that weight filled in in that column.”

The US, it appears, intends to continue to follow current practice where the shipper provides a declared weight of the cargo, leaving it to the carrier to determine the final weight of the container. Source: World Cargo News

MarEx APM Tangier 2016Maritime Executive reports that the world’s third largest port operator APM Terminals said it will invest 758 million euros ($858.3 million) in a new transhipment terminal in Tangier, Morocco, that will be the first automated terminal in Africa.

APM Terminals, a unit of Denmark’s shipping and oil group A.P. Moller-Maersk, has been named as the operator of the new container transshipment terminal at the Tanger Med 2 port complex. The group already operates the APM Terminals Tangier facility at Tanger Med 1 port, which started operations in July of 2007 and handled 1.7 million TEUs in 2015. The new terminal will have annual capacity of five million TEUs.

Maersk Line, also a part A.P. Moller-Maersk, will be an important customer of the new terminal. The new terminal is scheduled to open in 2019, under the terms of a 30-year concession agreement with the Tanger Med Special Agency (TMSA), which has responsibility for the development and management of the Tanger Med port complex.

The Tanger-Med port complex is strategically located on Africa’s northwest coast near the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea on the Strait of Gibraltar, where the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea meet. Tanger-Med is the second-busiest container port on the African continent after Port Said, Egypt. The new APM Terminals MedPort Tangier terminal will increase the port’s total annual throughput capacity to over nine million TEUs.

APM Terminals MedPort Tangier will have up to 2,000 meters of quay length and will feature the technology pioneered at the APM Terminals Maasvlakte II Rotterdam terminal which opened in 2015.

For APM Terminals the Western Mediterranean is an important market. APM Terminals Algeciras, on the Spanish side of the Strait of Gibraltar, operates in tandem with APM Terminals Tangier as an integrated Western Mediterranean transshipment hub. APM Terminals Algeciras handled more than 3.5 million TEUs in 2015, and has completed a major upgrading of its cranes and quay infrastructure to accommodate ultra-large container Ships of 18,000 TEU capacity and above.

The location of the Tangier and Algeciras facilities provide a natural transshipment location for cargoes moving on vessels to and from Africa from Europe and the Far East on the primary East/West shipping route through the Mediterranean Sea; over 200 cargo vessels pass through the Strait of Gibraltar daily on major liner services linking Asia, Europe, the Americas and Africa.

While African ports at present account for only 4.5 percent of global port throughput (including transshipment cargoes), the United Nations 2015 World Population Prospects Report projects that more than half of the world’s population growth between 2015 and 2050 will occur in Africa, with the African population more than doubling from 1.1 billion to 2.4 billion over the next three and a half decades.

Significant investment in port and transportation infrastructure will be required to meet the anticipated needs of the expanding African population and corresponding economic growth.

APM Terminals is the largest port and terminal operating company in Africa by equity-weighted container volume, with 12 facilities operating in 10 countries and three more terminals under construction. Source: Maritime Executive

BIMCO E-Bill of LadingPaper bills of lading have been used throughout the world to document and effect international trade for centuries. Yet whilst the world has become increasingly digitalised the paper bill of lading has, on the whole, remained a constant feature of global trade. Its continued use is mainly due to its combination of three legal characteristics that it has developed over time: (i) it is a receipt of the goods carried; (ii) it provides evidence of the terms of the contract of carriage; and (iii) it is a document of title to the goods. It is these characteristics that have, until relatively recently, foiled attempts to replace the paper bill of lading with an electronic equivalent. However, with the inclusion of an electronic bills of lading clause in BIMCO’s NYPE 2015 time charter form, as well as the International Group of P&I Clubs’ approval of the coverage of three electronic trading systems, the dominance of the paper bill of lading may well be coming to an end.

Reed Smith LLP Ship Law blog posts an interesting article in regard to change in law and the impact of e-commerce on bills of lading.

Issues with the paper system
Whilst the paper bill of lading has been used for centuries it is not without its faults, the principal problems being that:

  • Carriers are obliged to discharge the goods carried on production of an original bill of lading: this is particularly problematic today given both the speed of transport and the fact that the cargo may be sold multiple times during carriage. As a result of this the bill of lading is often not delivered to the consignee in time, and the carrier is often required to accept a letter of indemnity. This indemnity does not, however, remove the carriers’ liability under the bill of lading and creates an additional administrative burden and cost to the trade.
  • The paper system is hugely expensive (such cost is estimated to be between 5 – 10% of the value of the goods carried each year).
  • A paper bill of lading may be forged with relative ease and carriers are liable for misdelivery against a forged bill of lading.

Benefits of an electric bill
The electronic bill of lading or e-bill, in theory, addresses many of the flaws of the paper system, bringing with it a number of advantages:

  • It can be sent around the world instantaneously, hugely lowering the administrative burden of trade (especially where cargo is subject to multiple transfers of ownership during carriage).
  • Any amendments or corrections required can be made far more efficiently and cost effectively.
  • Electronic payment systems, and related advances in security, make an electronic system considerably more secure than its paper equivalent. This is obviously subject to cyber issues.

These benefits will cut the administrative costs of trade significantly and reduce, if not eradicate, situations where carriers discharge their cargo against letters of indemnity.

So why so slow on the uptake?
One of the main reasons the widespread use of the e-bill has been slow to proliferate stems from the fact that it is not treated in the same manner, legally, as its paper equivalent. Significantly:

  • A paper bill of lading is a document of title, enabling it to be negotiated and transferred as possession of the bill is evidence of title to the goods. This is not automatically the case at law with an e-bill.
  • The Hague Rules / Hague Visby Rules (HR / HVR) apply to a contract of carriage by reference to the bill of lading, or similar document of title, and it has been less clear whether they would apply to any electronic trading system used. The solution developed to these legal obstacles is essentially a multiparty contract. This takes the form of a set of rules to which users of an electronic trading system are all required to subscribe to use that system. Such rules then set out the specific form of electronic trading documentation to be used and that the consequences of using such documentation shall mirror the position at law as if they were paper bills of lading.

This, however, means that electronic trading systems such as BOLERO, which has been in existence since the 1990s, are only able to function between their members (i.e. those that have agreed to the uniform set of rules and systems that will govern their transactions). Where a member of an electronic trading system enters into a transaction with a non-member, the electronic system cannot be utilised and a paper bill of lading is issued. This feature has limited their growth, as electronic trading systems are only really effective once they have a large number of members, but are not cost-effective for traders to join until they have a large number of members.

The present situation
The benefits of electronic trading systems are particularly tangible to container carriers (as there is often a separate bill of lading for each container carried) and as such have been utilised by liner companies before wider adoption in the industry. However, the efficiencies of electronic trading systems are not confined to the container industry alone and with members of the largest trading companies, trade finance banks, mining companies and oil majors using such systems, it is clear that they are becoming increasingly prevalent in the shipping industry as a whole.

The growth of the use of electronic trading systems in the wider shipping industry is something that BIMCO, by including an e-bills clause in its latest iteration of the NYPE form, has also recognised. In sum the new clause provides that:

  • use of an electronic trading system is at charterers’ option;
  • owners shall subscribe to the system elected by charterers, provided such a system is approved by the International Group of P&I Clubs;
  • charterers shall pay any fees incurred by owners in subscribing to such elected system; and
  • charterers shall indemnify owners for any liabilities incurred arising from the use of the elected system, so long as such liability does not arise from owners’ negligence.

The International Group of P&I Clubs have now ‘approved’ three electronic trading systems (BOLERO, essDOCS and E-title). An ‘approved’ system is one that is found to replicate the legal characteristics of a paper bill (namely (i) as a receipt; (ii) a document of title; and (iii) a contract of carriage which incorporates the HR / HVR). This means that the International Group of P&I Clubs will provide cover for any liabilities arising under carriage covered by these three electronic trading systems (or any such other subsequently ‘approved’ system), provided that such liability would also have arisen under a paper bill. However, members should be advised that risks connected with the use of a non-approved electronic trading system will not be covered.

The use of an electronic trading system does, however, lead to other risks from things such as hacking, systems collapse, e-theft and viruses, none of which are traditionally covered by P&I clubs and would need to be insured separately. In this regard, essDOCS (which is now used throughout 71 countries by over 3,300 companies) has insurance cover of up to USD $20 million per electronic bill of lading for “eRisks” resulting from an electronic crime or electronic system failure.

With the rise in usage of electronic trading systems, the recent judgment in Glencore v MSC (albeit currently under appeal) provides a timely reminder that the release of cargo should only be made in accordance with the contract evidenced by the bill of lading, even where an electronic release system for cargo is being operated. In this instance cargo was released on presentation of a PIN, despite no provisions for this in the bill of lading, two of the released consignments of cargo were misappropriated and the carrier was held liable.

The future?
With the International Group of P&I Clubs’ approval of three electronic systems, the inclusion of an electronic bills of lading clause in BIMCO’s latest NYPE form and the proliferation of the use of electronic trading systems throughout the wider shipping industry, it is clear that the use of electronic trading systems is increasing. Whilst there is no doubt that we can expect teething problems as the industry continues to adapt to such electronic trading systems, and the cyber risks they may bring, it seems that the efficiencies are too great to be ignore. Source: Ship Law log / ReedSmith

[Picture:  tropic maritime photos, Australia]

[Picture: tropic maritime photos, Australia]

For more than 30 years, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) has not had a registered vessel. The M/V Cape Orchid, a bulk carrier, is its first vessel registered since 1985.

While South African imports $102 billion and exports $97 billion each year, the Cape Orchid is the country’s first registered vessel and is currently transporting iron ore from Saldanha Bay to China.

The 172,600-dwt bulker is owned by Vuka Marine, which is a joint venture between South Africa’s Via Maritime Holdings and Japan-based K-Line. South Africa will also soon register the Cape Enterprise, a 185,900 dwt vessel, which is also owned by K-Line during next few weeks.

The SAMSA and the South African Department of Transport hope that Vuka Marine’s registration will l encourage other vessel operators join the nation’s flag registry. More than 12,000 foreign flagged ships call South Africa each year, which is the gateway for African trade.

South Africans own about 19 vessels including three petroleum tankers, which are all registered in foreign countries. The country’s key ports are Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Richards Bay, and Saldanha Bay. Its prime container port is Durban, which handled about 2,712,975 boxes last year.

Majestic MaerskContainer shipping lines are poised to take delivery of a new generation of “megaships” over the next two years, just as the growth of world trade is slowing down, contributing to massive overcapacity in the market.

Megaships, which can be up to 400 meters long, seem to be here to stay, not least because so many more are already on order, the product of high fuel costs and low interest rates.

But the trend towards larger vessels is not without problems especially for other businesses in the transport system, and the trend could be nearing its limit as the economies of scale associated with megaships decline.

Container shipping capacity has doubled every seven years since the turn of the millennium and will reach nearly 20 million TEU in 2015 up from five million TEUs in 2000.

But since the financial crisis, container capacity has continued to grow rapidly, even as the growth in freight volumes has slowed, creating a massive overhang in shipping capacity and pressuring freight rates.

Capacity growth is being driven by the trend towards larger vessels. The size of container ships has been growing faster than for any other ship type according to the OECD’s International Transport Forum.

Between 1996 and 2015, the average carrying capacity of container ships increased 90 percent, compared with a 55 percent increase for dry bulk carriers and 21 percent for tankers.

The growth in container ship size has been accelerating. It took 30 years for the average container ship size to reach 1,500 TEU but just one decade to double from 1,500 to 3,000 TEU.

Between 2001 and 2008, the average size of newly built ships hovered around 3,400 TEU but then jumped to 5,800 TEU between 2009 and 2013, and hit 8,000 TEU in 2015.

Megaships
Both the average size of new container ships and the maximum size are set to continue growing over the next five years. Shipping lines have already taken ownership of 20 megaships with a capacity of more than 18,000 TEU each and another 52 are on order, according to the OECD.

The largest ship so far delivered has a capacity of 19,200 TEU, but carriers with capacity up to 21,100 have been ordered and will be in service by 2017.

Megaships are being introduced into service between the Far East and North Europe, the world’s largest route by volume, where potential economies of scale are greatest, but are having a cascade effect on other routes.

Large ships that formerly plied the Far East-North Europe route are being displaced into Trans-Pacific service, and former Trans-Pacific carriers are moving to the Trans-Atlantic route.

The new generation of ultra-efficient megaships is credited with cutting the cost of shipping even further and lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

But researchers for the OECD question whether megaships are contributing to unsustainable overcapacity and imposing unintended costs on shippers, port operators, freight forwarders, logistics firms and insurers.

Fuel Costs
The new generation of megaships is the lagged effect of the era of high oil prices between 2004 and 2014 and low interest rates since the financial crisis in 2008.

Costs in the shipping industry can be divided into the capital costs associated with the construction of new vessels, operating costs, and voyaging costs primarily related to fuel consumption.

Construction costs increase more slowly than ship size. Increasing a container ship from 16,000 TEU to 19,000 TEU cuts the annual capital cost per TEU-slot by around $69 according to the OECD.

Larger ships are slightly more operationally efficient than smaller ones, with an annual saving of perhaps $50 per slot on a 19,000 TEU ship compared with a 16,000 TEU vessel.

But the real savings are on the fuel bills. Megaships are “astonishingly fuel efficient” and actually consume less fuel on a voyage than 16,000 TEU carriers, according to the OECD.

With overwhelming cost advantages, especially on fuel, and cheap finance readily available, the upsizing decision appears to have been a straightforward one for shipping lines.

Slow Steaming
The new generation of megacarriers has been optimized to save fuel by voyaging much more slowly than previous container vessels.

Fuel consumption is related to the cube of speed. If a vessel travels twice as fast it will consume eight times as much fuel. The cube-rule has important implications for the economics of the shipping industry.

When fuel prices are high, it makes sense to voyage slowly to cut fuel bills, even if it means operating more ships to move the same amount of cargo. When fuel prices are low, it makes sense to travel faster and use fewer ships.

During the period of soaring oil prices, container lines instructed captains to cut speed in order to conserve fuel.

The new ships ordered were specifically designed to operate most efficiently at slower speeds to take advantage of slow steaming economies. In fact some carriers are so large they cannot operate at higher speeds.

Crucially, slow steaming has now been designed into the new generation of vessels entering container service, so it will not be easily reversed, even though fuel prices have plunged since 2014.

According to the OECD, most of the voyaging cost reductions in the new generation of megaships come from their optimization for slow steaming rather than from increased size.

“Between 55 and 63 percent (at least) of the savings per TEU when upgrading the vessel size from an early 15,000 TEU design to a modern 19,000 TEU design are actually attributable to the layout for lower operation speeds,” the OECD estimated.

“Cost savings are decreasing as ships become bigger,” the OECD concluded. “A large share of the cost savings was achieved by ship upsizing to 5,000 TEU, which more than halved the unit costs per TEU, but the cost savings beyond that capacity are much smaller.”

Unintended Costs
The consolidation of container volumes into fewer, larger megaships is creating challenges for other firms in the freight business.

Insurers are worried about the costs if a megaship sinks or develops mechanical problems. Insurer Allianz has warned the industry must prepare for losses of more than $1 billion, or even up to $2 billion in the event of a collision between two megaships.

Economies of scale depend on megacarriers being loaded close to maximum capacity and spending as much time as possible at sea rather than in port.

The need to fill megaships is one reason that the industry is consolidating into an alliance network.

Shipping lines are also adopting the hub-and-spoke system employed by airlines to ensure their ultra-large container vessels sail nearly full.

Shipping schedules for the megacarriers have been consolidated into fewer sailings each week from fewer ports (about six in North Europe and eight in Asia).

Containers for other destinations must be transhipped, either on a smaller container vessel or by road, rail and barge. Schedule consolidation is not necessarily favored by shippers and freight forwarders who prefer regular and reliable service (fewer sailings can mean more concentrated risk).

Port operators, too, have been forced to invest heavily to attract and handle the new megacarriers. Port channels must be dredged to greater depths to handle the deeper drafts of the megaships. Quaysides must be raised and strengthened to handle the increased forces when a megaship is tied up.

The biggest problem comes from the scramble to unload a megacarrier quickly so it can put to sea again. The average turnaround time for a container ship is now just one day, and less in Asia.

The arrival of fewer vessels but with larger numbers of containers is creating intense peak time pressure on the ports.
Ports need more cranes, more highly skilled staff to operate them fast, more space in the yard, and the ability to handle more trucks, railcars and barges to move the containers inland.

The OECD estimates megaships are increasing landside costs by up to $400 million per year (one third for extra equipment, one third for dredging, and one third for port infrastructure and hinterland costs). Source: Maritime Executive/Reuters.