Panama Canal’s future is dark and stormy, much to shippers’ relief

The end of Panama’s dry season is in sight, and the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) plans to welcome more vessels in the coming weeks.

Over six months since the Panama Canal’s reservoir system suffered from the driest October in at least 73 years, the ACP finally sees a path to normalizing operations. On March 25, the ACP allotted three additional transit slots to Panamax vessels, bringing the total number of reservations to 27 per day.

Water levels at Gatun Lake are currently at the low end of...

Demand shocks keeping aging fleet afloat, argue shipowners

Ship recycling has fallen to its lowest level in 20 years, per a recent report by the Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO). 

BIMCO — a trade group representing shipowners — states that capacity has been overtaxed by the Red Sea crisis, which has forced shipping lines to take a longer route around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope. Prior to the emergence of this latest choke point, BIMCO points to the impact of Western sanctions on Russian oil and coal, which similarly stressed tanker and...

Red Sea crisis nears boiling point, unable to heat up spot rates

Russian warships entered the Red Sea last Thursday, for what the Russian Pacific Fleet’s press service has stated was the performance of “assigned tasks within the framework of the long-range sea campaign.” This intentional vagueness has invited no small amount of speculation as to the ships’ true objectives.

Theories range from retaliatory pressure on Israel, which decided in late February to co-sponsor a United Nations resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, to supporting...

Mississippi River shipping faces potential crisis for third straight year

Shipping along the Mississippi River could prove to be a massive headache in 2024, per a recent report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

An unusually warm and dry winter — which allowed the Upper Mississippi River shipping season to begin earlier than usual this year — might herald drought conditions in key areas of the Mississippi River Basin over the coming months.

“Of growing concern will be the potentially low flows on the Mississippi River this summer into fall due to...

US container imports robust in February; inbound volume forecast dicier

February’s U.S. container import volumes decreased 6% from January — a better-than-expected performance as the sector enters its slow season. But other signs point to potential softness in domestic freight in March and April.

The 2.14 million twenty-foot equivalent units imported in February represent a 23.3% year-over-year increase, according to the latest monthly report from supply chain intelligence firm Descartes. That growth is real, but it isn’t quite as dramatic as it seems.

Last year, the...

Threat of strike looms large over East, Gulf Coast ports

There’s an increasing abundance of skittishness surrounding the future of East and Gulf Coast ports.

The labor contract between the International Longshoremen’s Association and the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) is set to expire at the end of September. The ILA represents some 70,000 dockworkers, while the USMX represents employers at 36 coastal ports — including three of the U.S.’s five busiest ports: the Port of New York and New Jersey, the Port of Savannah, Georgia, and the Port of...

Taiwanese startup Starlux Airlines orders 5 A350 freighters from Airbus

Taiwan-based Starlux Airlines, which has only existed for four years and operates 21 passenger jets, on Tuesday inked a deal to buy five next-generation A350 cargo jets from Airbus.

The announcement, which was made by the companies during the Singapore Airshow, is noteworthy because Starlux is so new and currently doesn’t operate cargo jets, and because Airbus is on a winning streak against rival Boeing’s future freighter, the 777-8.

Starlux Airlines will become the first Taiwanese airline to...

Kenya Airways more than doubles capacity with 737-800 freighters

Kenya Airways will double the size of its cargo fleet with the arrival this quarter of two Boeing 737-800 converted freighters from the United States, part of an effort to capture growing freight demand in Africa and the Middle East. 

Each plane is nearly 25% larger than the airline’s existing freighters, which essentially means Kenya Airways Cargo is adding 150% capacity.

The first 737-800 aircraft was delivered to Kenya Airways in mid-January, and the second will be ferried to the airline’s...

War risk exclusions by insurers heighten stakes in Red Sea attacks

In early February, oil markets were lulled by hope of a now-unlikely ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war. But a recent string of Houthi attacks have reignited concerns about the Red Sea crisis, raising the floor for tanker rates.

The Iran-aligned Houthis claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack on oil tanker M/T Pollux, which was bound for India. No injuries were reported.

This and other recent Houthi attacks, which followed a brief pause in early February, led major maritime insurer Steamship...

Global trade receding? Tell that to shipbuilders

For all the discourse about globalized trade being past its peak, maritime volume data at the start of 2024 sure looks strong. And if reports from shipbuilding companies are any indication, the sector should continue its growth into the end of the 2020s and beyond.

According to an article published last week by Yicai Global — an English-language news service under the umbrella of China’s state-owned Shanghai Media Group — production schedules at most of the country’s shipyards are booked through...

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