Six Labor Unions Reach Tentative Agreement with Freight Rail Carriers

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SOURCE The American Shipper

Russian Railway to Provide Faster Delivery to Attract Cargo

Russian rail monopoly RZD is planning at the start of next year to  introduce new services that will cut transit times by rail on some routes by 15 to 17 percent, the Journal of Commerce reports.

RZD hopes the reductions will make rail more attractive to shippers who overwhelmingly rely on trucking despite its higher costs because of the faster transit times. As a general rule, the cost of transportation by truck is 35 to 40 percent more expensive than rail and 50 to 60 percent faster.

RZD is accomplishing the transit time savings through the introduction of more door-to-door and just-in-time schemes and greater use of a single window for customs, according to a spokesperson for Oleg Belozerov, the head of RZD. The railway will also begin high-speed rail services for container cargo.

At present the average speed of container trains is 8.1 miles per hour because of slow operations, mainly related to rearranging and sorting containers and wagons on trains.

Need help with shipments to Russia?  RCL has extensive experience shipping in and out of Russia – contact us today for assistance with your shipping needs!

New Customs Strike Threat at Santos from November 1st

Shippers and port users in Santos are preparing themselves for delays and extra storage costs as customs officers in the port go on strike yet again, according to a report in the Journal of Commerce.

Members of Sindifisco, the union for Receita Federal (customs) officers in Brazil, voted last week  to carry out a “zero-clearance operation” starting October 16 that will grow into a full-blow strike from November 1st if their demands are not met,

Sindifisco claims that the government of Michel Temer, which is trying to introduce market reforms and slash the state budget, has not kept the promises it made earlier this year regarding wage increases, making a strike the only means of redress.  Brasilia says it has not reneged on the agreements, but that their implementation must take place in 2019 and 2020 rather than 2018 and 2019 in order to help balance Brazil’s finances.

The union said that they will continue to clear “essential” cargoes such as medicine and hospital supplies, live animals, and food for vessel crews. The slowdown will leave an extra 3,000 containers on the Santos quay each day and cause clearance times to jump to between three and five days rather than the average 24 hours, according to the union.

In practice, say Santos insiders, the customs officers will probably clear about 30 percent of all containerized cargoes. In addition to longer clearance times, expensive storage costs also begin to accrue during these disruptions.

Please be guided accordingly. RCL Agencies will provide more updates once available.

FMC Updates Agreement Filing Review Process

The Federal Maritime Commission has announced that it has revised the process for reviewing maritime agreements filed by container carriers and marine terminals in response to industry trends.

Under the law, the FMC has 45 days to consider a filed agreement and either reject it or allow it to go into effect. However, the Commission states that it is receiving agreements of increased complexity or of a nature not previously seen.

Currently, the commission reviews each agreement or amendment filing by moving it through the relevant office and bureau staff in a “sequential” review process. With these agreements becoming increasingly complex, there’s a risk for delay and rushing at the end to meet the 45-day deadline to finish the review.

The goal for the new review methodology is to allow the FMC staff to make its recommendations with regards to the filed agreements and amendments to the commissioners for their consideration two weeks before the end of the 45-day review period.

Under the proposed new agreement review process, the FMC will immediately publish the agreement filing in the Federal Register to ensure the industry is aware of the agreement and has adequate time to file comments with the commission.  Internally, the commission will hold a meeting of representatives from all the bureaus and offices, including the commissioners’ staff, to introduce the filed agreement and immediately start the review process across the agency.

The FMC will also reach out to the agreement’s filing counsel, if necessary, during the 45-day review cycle to address any concerns with specific terms or conditions in the agreement.

Port Workers Block French Port Le Havre

Please note that  port workers have blocked the road entrances to France’s largest container port, Le Havre, as nationwide protest kicks off against the reform of French labor codes, according to 76 Actu.

Demonstrations at Rouen and Le Havre ports began with roadblocks at 5:00 am on September 21, 2017. Port workers in Le Havre have blocked the roads near the Trade Basin, on the Quay of Georges-V, on Georges-Pompidou road, as well as on the Avenue du Général-Archinard, causing traffic jams.

The National Federation des Ports et Docks (CGT Dockers) had previously declared a 24-hour strike.

A blockade of the Port of ​​Rouen, Seine-Maritime, also immobilized road traffic routes. The blockade was carried out by dockers, road workers and industrial workers from the trade unions of General Confederation of Labour (CGT), Sud, and L’Union Nationale des Etudiants de France (UNEF). They prevented access to the liquid bulk terminal operated by Rubis and started fires with what appeared to be tires and pallets.

Please be guided accordingly. RCL Agencies will provide more updates once available.

Port of LA Approves 10-year Labor Agreement

The Port of Los Angeles’ harbor board  unanimously approved a 10-year agreement  that establishes wages, benefits and work rules for laborers hired to build designated port projects, American Shipper reports.

The labor contract  ensures that all workers – electricians, pipefitters, iron workers, cement masons, laborers and others – earn prevailing wages set forth in the bargaining agreements of all participating union locals.  The agreement initially covers a list of 38 planned and proposed infrastructure projects that represent an investment of about $780 million in wharf improvements, rail enhancements, shore power upgrades, marine oil terminal modernization and waterfront projects. The port said it expects to add more projects over the life of the agreement.

This is actually the second PLA (project labor agreement) between the port and Building Trades Council; a previous five-year agreement with similar provisions expired earlier this year.   “This PLA builds on the previous five-year agreement,” said Ron Miller, Executive Secretary of the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council, which represents over 100,000 trade and craft workers. “I’m proud to say we are extending this agreement and doubling its term to 10 years. This is a huge vote of confidence in the men and women of our affiliated local unions.”

The port said that under the previous agreement, 20 major construction projects were completed on time and within budget, and it is on track to do the same with six remaining projects. The projects already launched under the previous PLA included a total investment of nearly $848 million and includes the Berth 200 Rail Yard, TraPac Container Terminal Project, the South Wilmington Grade Separation, and waterfront improvements.

The deal still needs to be approved by the Los Angeles City Council, as it covers covers more than three years it is still subject to final approval by the Los Angeles City Council. If approved, the PLA is expected to take effect within the next three to six months, according to the port.

U.S. Southeast Port and Rail Operations Resume After Irma

The US Coast Guard cleared Port Everglades and Port Canaveral  to open on September 12, 2017 by 12:00 pm for restricted operations including cruise ships, and by 8:00 pm for all vessels.

Miami Port reopened on September 13, 2017. Previously truck traffic had been allowed to access Port Miami tunnel and Seaboard Marine Terminal, but ships had been unable to berth until the US Coast Guard approved conditions.

In southern Florida, PortMiami and the port tunnel are open. The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) cleared truck and gate operations for Seaboard Marine container terminal, but truck and gate operations were closed Tuesday for POMTOC and SFCT container terminals, according to PortMiami, but was reopened at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday.

The port in Charleston was open for business Tuesday with normal operations, while the Savannah port expected to be fully operational Tuesday evening, and ready to load ships that had been waiting for Tropical Storm Irma to clear.

Intermodal rail service to areas north of Central Florida has largely been restored, but intermodal shippers can still expect delays of up to three days for railed cargo moving through the Southeast.

Class I rail carriers CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern Railway, as well as Class II regional railroad Florida East Coast Railway (FECR), reported Wednesday that service is coming back online in the Southeast areas.

CSX intermodal terminals in Jacksonville, Central Florida, and Tampa reopened as of Wednesday.

However, some routes into Central and South Florida still not online. Recovery efforts are under way to restore service to areas impacted by Irma.

 Please be guided accordingly.

Hurricane Irma Update as of September 8th

Based on the latest information from the national hurricane center, government agencies, and terminal partners on the gulf coast of the United States, please see below the latest updates that could have operational impact to cargo operations in North America, provided by Maersk (as of 12pm EST today):

Port Operations
• Port Condition: Yankee –  24-hour notice of gale force winds.
• Gate Status: Closed.
• Vessel Operations: Closed.

• Port Condition: Yankee – 24-hour notice of gale force winds.
• Gate Status: Closed.
• Vessel Operations: Closed.

Port Everglades
• Port Condition: Yankee – 24-hour notice of gale force winds.
• Gate Status: Closed.
• Vessel Operations: Closed – No Maersk Line services scheduled to work.

• Port Condition: X-ray – 48-hour notice of gale force winds.
• Gate Status: Will close today. No current gate restrictions known at the moment.
• Vessel Operations: Open. Working a vessel today, but will tie down cranes and close terminal upon completion of operations for the vessel.

• Port Condition: X-ray – 48-hour notice of gale force winds.
• Gate Status: Open. Gate Operations will continue until close of normal business Friday Sept 8, 2017.

  • Exports – Coast Guard is only allowing the port to receive cargo for ships that will call before the storm. If a trucker wants to confirm, GPA customer service is taking calls through today.
    • Receiving
  • MECL Maersk Columbus
  • TA3 MSC Karlskrona
  • Sealand Maersk Winnipeg

Locked and Not Receiving – Truckers should not be able to get a PIN to gate in the terminal.

  • Sealand Spirit of Tokyo
  • MSC Kingston
  • TP11 Anna Maersk
  • TP10 ALS Ceres
  • TP16 Maersk Saigon
  • MECL Maersk Memphis
  • TA Maersk Kotka
  • TA3 MSC Charleston
  • CMA CGM Nabucco
  • Empties – No empty receiving today.
  • Imports – No restrictions as of latest update.
  • Closure: Gates will close at normal hours today.

• Vessel Operations: All vessel operations scheduled today will finish and sail by 2300. All vessel operations will cease by midnight tonight.

  • Vessels working and planned to sail by 1800:
  • MECL Maersk Memphis
  • TA3 MSC Karlskrona
  • Sealand Maersk Winnipeg
  • Reopening: Not yet confirmed.
  • Closed for any other vessels and closed for empties.

• Port Condition: Whiskey – 72-hour notice of gale force winds
• Gate Status: Open. Normal gate hours are planned through and including Saturday, September 9
• Vessel Operations: Open. Vessel operations continue – no closure planned at this time

• Port Condition: Whiskey – 72-hour notice of gale force winds
• Gate Status: Open. Normal hours.
• Vessel Operations: Open. Normal hours – no closure planned at this time

Rail Operations

  • CSX is taking precautionary measures to protect employees, rail traffic and infrastructure from potential risks of Hurricane Irma landfall. At this time, it is not known the level of impact the hurricane will have on CSX operations but it’s path and intensity are being closely monitored.
  • CSX Engineering is actively preparing potentially impacted areas prior to the storm making landfall in the United States, including staging compressors, generators, ballast and work equipment.
  • CSX Intermodal Customer Service in Jacksonville continues to operate with normal hours and staffing; any changes will be communicated accordingly.
  • Gate Hours and Container Acceptance: Please note the following changes to local gate hours and acceptance policy for containers billed to Charleston, Savannah, and Florida:
  • Effective Friday September 8th at 1700, the local CSX gates in Charleston and Savannah will close until further notice.
  • Effective Friday September 8th, CSX terminals will accept dry containers in-gate for Charleston, Savannah, and Florida destination but the containers will be held at origin until train service resumes for those destinations.  This plan is based on the current path & projected impact of the storm and is subject to change. Please note the following exceptions to this policy:
    • Hazmat and Live Reefers will not be accepted in-gate at origin.  All hazmat or live reefer shipments will be rejected at the gate for return to customer’s facility or CY.
    • Due to limited space availability, the CSX Louisville terminal will not be able to hold traffic at origin and effective immediately all containers destined for Charleston, Savannah, or Florida will be rejected at the gate until further notice.

Norfolk Southern

  • Effective at 1900 Thursday September 7th, Norfolk Southern closed all origin facility gates for shipments billed to Charleston and Savannah until further notice.  This includes acceptance at the South Carolina Inland Port facility in Greer.
    • Norfolk Southern will continue to accept containers billed to Greer with the exception of Charleston origin.


  • FEC continues to closely monitor the path of Hurricane Irma which is currently moving towards Florida.  Given Irma’s current track and forecasted path, please note the following adjustments to FEC operating plans:


Train Service
  • FEC ceased acceptance of interchange traffic from CSX & NS mid-day Thursday Sept 7th.
  • On Thursday Sept 7th, FEC will run limited train service. (One Southbound train ex Jacksonville & Two Northbound trains ex Miami)
  • On Friday Sept 8th there will be no mainline or local train service on FEC’s network.
Terminal Hours / Operations

The following FEC terminals are no longer accepting in-gate traffic:

  • Cocoa Beach – 0800
  • Jacksonville – 1000
  • Port Miami – 1200
  • Miami – 1500

FEC Terminals will be closed for all out-gating of shipments at below times:

  • Friday Sept 8th
    • Miami – 1200
    • Cocoa Beach – 1700
    • Jacksonville – 1700

Should you have any questions,please contact  RCL Agencies at 973-779-5900.

Caribbean, US Southeast ports brace for Hurricane Irma

Category 5 hurricane Irma, now the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic since 2005, is threatening days-long delays and significant damage to cargo in the Caribbean and US Southeast, the American Shipper reports.

As of 11:00 a.m. eastern standard time, the hurricane’s center was just east of Puerto Rico, moving WNW at 16 mph with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph, according to the latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center. By Sunday, the center of Irma may be very close to South Florida.

Consequently, the U.S. Coast Guard has set port condition Whiskey for Port Miami, the Miami River, Port Everglades, Port of Palm Beach, Port of Fort Pierce and all other South Florida terminals and facilities, including the Port of Key West, effective at 8:00 a.m. Wednesday. Port condition Whiskey means sustained gale force winds from a hurricane force storm are predicted within 72 hours.

While port condition Whiskey remains in effect, these ports and facilities will be open to all commercial traffic and all transfer operations may continue.

However, ocean-going commercial vessels and ocean-going barges greater than 500 gross tons should make plans to depart these areas, the USCG said. Vessels desiring to remain in port must immediately contact the Captain of the Port (COTP) for approval.

Meanwhile, the USCG set port condition Zulu for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which took effect at 8:00 p.m. Tuesday. “While port condition Zulu is in place no vessels may enter or transit within these ports without permission of the COTP,” the USCG said. “All vessel movements are prohibited at this time, and all ship-to-shore operations must cease until further notice.”

Hurricane Irma is expected to hit the Coastal Southeast area this weekend wreaking havoc across the states. “Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has issued a mandatory evacuation order effective Saturday for Coastal Georgia. (Click here for details.)”  According to a press release from the Georgia Ports Authority, they will cease operations at the Ports of Savannah and Brunswick, effective Saturday, Sept. 9, through Tuesday, Sept. 12.Truck gates will close at 6 p.m. Friday in Savannah, while vessel operations will end at midnight. The Port of Savannah will not be accepting empty container returns Friday.

With the devastating affects hurricane Harvey left behind in Texas all hands are on deck for Hurricane Irma. Preventative actions such as those issued by Governor Deal have been taken to assist in reducing the damage to those who may be affected once Hurricane Irma makes landfall.

Houston Ship Channel Reopened on Limited Basis After Hurricane

The US Coast Guard announced a limited reopening of the waterway after a six-day shutdown for Hurricane Harvey, the Journal of Commerce reports.

The Coast Guard said it would allow vessels with drafts up to 37 feet on the lower sections of the Port of Houston, and vessels with drafts of up to 33 feet at the ports of Texas City, Galveston, and Freeport. The ports’ normal maximum draft is 45 feet. Farther east, Port Arthur and Beaumont ports were closed by severe flooding that swamped the southeast corner of Texas as the storm made a final landfall Wednesday and headed inland. In southern Texas, the Port of Corpus Christi’s inner channel has been reopened to vessels with drafts of 20 feet or less. The Port of Lake Charles, Louisiana, which was closed to deep-draft ships Wednesday, reopened on Thursday.

Transits on the Houston Ship Channel will be limited to daylight hours, and in Houston will be restricted to the section of the channel below Morgan’s Point, near the Barbours Cut container terminal but downstream from the port’s Turning Basin breakbulk wharves.

Houston-area shipping shut down last Friday as the hurricane approached. Floods ravaging Houston and surrounding Texas counties have interrupted freight transportation and caused damage and disruption that will affect logistics for weeks or possibly longer.  Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath have interrupted truck, rail, sea, and air transport, as well as activity at warehouses and refineries and petrochemical plants.

The Category 4 hurricane hit land with sustained winds of 130 miles per hour, but weakened into a slow-moving tropical storm that continues to dump rain on the area.

 RCL Agencies will provide more updates once available.  Our thoughts are with all those affected by the storm.