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Twenty port authorities in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North America signed a declaration committing to stay open amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Initiated by Singapore, the declaration calls for ports to boost collaboration so that operations are undisturbed, according to a statement on April 24. Members of the Port Authorities Roundtable that signed the declaration include Singapore, Abu Dhabi, Rotterdam, Tokyo and Los Angeles.
Restrictions on crews are among the unprecedented challenges wrought by the virus, which has ground major economies to a halt. At risk is the flow of goods such as food, medicine and energy via commercial shipping, which accounts for about 80% of global trade.
The declaration ensures that merchant ships can continue to berth at ports and keep global supply chains operating; best practices are adopted, including safe procedures for ship crew and shore personnel; and port authorities continue to share experiences in combating the virus while safeguarding unimpeded trade.
US Ports Eye Deeper Asia Volume Drops as Bottleneck Worries Fade
US ports warn that a coming plunge in import volumes will be even sharper than they feared, although their concerns of a bottleneck building from a last wave of Asia imports hitting terminals filled with containers left due to COVID-19 lockdowns are fading.
US port directors tell JOC.com they anticipate rapidly declining import volumes beginning in mid-May and extending well into June as additional blank sailings announced by trans-Pacific carriers will reduce capacity by about 25 percent to the West Coast and 20 percent to the East Coast. However, the ports do not anticipate equipment dislocations, such as they feared would take place in the first quarter when terminals were struggling to return empty containers to Asia. Port executives say imports in the coming few months are likely to decline by double digits, so there will not be a surge of containers that must be returned to Asia when they are emptied. Marine terminals and ports have added storage space for non-essential imports, alleviating any potential cargo flow issues.
The latest forecast is in stark contrast to just a week ago, when ports were expecting an intense — albeit short — spike in imports beginning in mid-May as vessel space in Asia began to fill up. However, carriers have suddenly announced additional blank sailings as orders for back-to-school merchandise are not as extensive as in past years. Back-to-school is the second-busiest period in the eastbound trans-Pacific after the peak holiday shipping season.
April increase, followed by May decline
Staff who addressed Thursday’s meeting of the board of directors of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said April’s cargo volume will rebound modestly from a 22 percent decline in March from March 2019.
However, port managers are holding off on projecting peak-season import volumes because many retailers have yet to finalize orders for holiday merchandise. The peak season in the eastbound trans-Pacific normally runs from August through October. “That’s the question of the day,” one port executive said.
The carrier capacity reductions equate to 64 blank sailings through mid-June to the West Coast and 34 blank sailings to the East Coast, according to Sea-Intelligence Maritime Consulting. It is projected that total US container volume will be down 11 percent year over year in 2020, similar to the 12 percent drop in container trade in the recession year of 2009.
Although the major US gateways do not anticipate serious equipment disruptions in the coming months, many are consulting with retailers, carriers, NVOs, terminal operators, truckers, and equipment providers to ensure the entire port community is prepared to handle the unpredictable ebbs and flows in volume.
NCBFAA and SBA Hosting Debt Relief Webinar on April 28
As we continue to confront the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) crisis, the NCBFAA and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) are teaming up on April 28 to make sure our U.S. Trade Community is aware of SBA resources at their disposal. As countries affected by coronavirus earlier than the U.S. begin to re-open, global market opportunities are beginning to re-emerge. During this webinar, especially geared towards small business exporters, SBA's Office of International Trade will outline the support and resources it has available.
This webinar will cover the Debt Relief component of the CARES Act, including implications for SBA Export Finance products and State Trade Expansion (STEP) Grants. There will also be time at the end for attendees to ask SBA questions about these programs.
• Debt Relief in the CARES Act Implications/Opportunity for Exporters - Michele Schimpp, Acting Associate Administrator for International Trade, SBA
• State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) Grant Overview and Updates - Michele Schimpp
• Growing Global Sales with the help of SBA Export Financing - David Vidal, Head of International Trade Finance, SBA Office of International Trade
• Other SBA Programs - David Vidal
Important Notes: This webinar is free, but the registration capacity is 1000. Please register early to reserve your spot. Additionally, this webinar is not eligible for continuing education credits.
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