Monday, February 23, 2009

February 19, 2009 – 3:34 pm-->By Janet Nodar Breakbulk News

While speakers at the 20th annual Tampa Steel Conference differ on their estimates of just how much the federal stimulus package will affect the steel industry, they agree that it is intended to “light a spark” rather than effect a rescue.

Mario Longhi, president and CEO of Gerdau Ameristeel, estimated that $70 billion of the $800 billion stimulus package will be relevant to the steel industry, including about $29 billion for transportation infrastructure, about $13.5 billion for building and repairing federal buildings and public infrastructure, about $18 billion for water-related projects and about $10 billion for rail and mass transit.

But he said this falls far short of the annual $225 billion that the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission says would be necessary for each of the next 50 years to ensure that U.S. infrastructure in these categories keeps up with estimated capacity and maintenance needs.

The steel industry must grapple with the same challenges or opportunities facing the nation as a whole, Longhi said, including supporting global trade rules and restoring financial stability, which no stimulus package can do alone and which cannot happen until credit markets ease and bad assets are identified and made transparent.

Murat Askin, general manager of SteelOrbis Americas, said that these are “the worst possible times” in the steel markets. Few if any analysts predicted either the price explosion or the price crash of 2008, he said. Gloomy signs include the contracting U.S. economy, Europe’s highly leveraged banking system and what appear to be growing problems in the Middle East, including high steel inventories and cancellation of planned projects.

By Askin’s count, the stimulus package will mean about $85.7 billion in infrastructure spending that will result in $2 billion to $3.85 billion in steel purchases over perhaps two years, enough to increase U.S. production only 1.68 to 3.17 percent. However, the stimulus bill also encourages business investment in plants and equipment and includes tax cuts that may encourage spending, provisions for energy-efficient school modifications and other projects that may spur steel production.

Lewis Leibowitz, a partner with the law firm of Hogan & Hartson, said the stimulus bill’s goal is to find a way to use public spending to “light a spark” and trigger private investment. The U.S. is on the cusp of major changes, he said, as the government struggles to right the banking, housing and automotive sectors. “What we do should create jobs throughout the economy, not just in one sector,” he said.

Leibowitz pointed out that steel exports grew 20.8 percent last year to 13.5 million tons. CAFTA and NAFTA countries accounted for almost 10 million of those tons. “CAFTA is one of the fastest-growing markets for U.S. export steel.”

Panama, Colombia and Korea are also potential growth markets for U.S. steel exports, although protectionist policies designed to shelter the U.S. steel industry from imports will hurt this potential.

Despite the global downturn, Dusseldorf-based ThyssenKrupp is proceeding with multibillion-dollar investments in a greenfield Brazilian slab mill and a greenfield carbon and stainless mill in Calvert, Ala.

At full capacity, ThyssenKrupp expects to import some 4 million tons of slab through Alabama from the Brazil mill annually, said Bob Holt, vice president of sales and marketing for ThyssenKrupp Steel USA.

The Alabama mill will produce 4 million tons of carbon steel annually and 1 million tons of stainless steel at full capacity, Holt said. Carbon will be in production in 2010, while the stainless side has been deferred for 1 ½ years because of the recession. The Alabama mill will produce finished coils aimed for the southeastern U.S. and Mexico markets, he said. Approximately 39 percent of that output will be geared for the automotive industry, including German automakers located in those key regions.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Obama unlikely to repeal 100% box scanning law
Justin Stares, Brussels - Friday 9 January 2009

THERE is little chance of a repeal of US 100% box scanning legislation under president Barack Obama, the World Customs Organisation heard today.

The newly elected Democrat president is not expected to work as hard to oppose the unpopular law as the administration of Republican president George Bush, diplomats heard in Brussels.

The anti-terrorism measure, due to come into effect in 2012, would require all US-bound containers to be scanned prior to ship departure. It has triggered protests from trading partners, in particular the European Union, who say the US is exporting its security concerns at the expense of shippers across the globe.

Mr Obama’s precise position on the law is still unknown since he is not reported to have made reference to it during his election campaign. But WCO executives, who have been lobbying US lawmakers, say the incoming president is unlikely to fight an initiative backed by a Democrat-controlled Congress.

“As for a repeal, we will not see that,” WCO director Michael Schmit told customs ambassadors from around the world at Friday’s New Year’s gathering. The best that could be hoped for was a delay in implementation “beyond 2012”, he said.

“[President] Bush fought against the law,” Mr Schmitz said. But while the US administration had been effectively lobbied, Congress had on the other hand “heard very little”, he said.

This message was reinforced by the newly elected WCO secretary general Kunio Mikurija. “Congress is key,” he said. “Security should not be used as a new barrier [to trade]. We have to convince the US Congress to review the legislation on 100% scanning.”

The WCO, which is pushing for the blanket scanning plan to be replaced by a risk-based system, said it would wait for US appointments to be confirmed, such as that of Secretary for Homeland Security, before resuming its lobbying campaign. Congressional committees, particularly the trade committee, are being targeted as potential allies. The ways and means committee, which has already asked for a postponement to the scanning law, is also expected to lend support.

Within the US there is opposition to trade security legislation on cost grounds. A separate anti-terror measure aimed at the supply chain, known as the “10+2” law, comes into effect later this month and is expected to cost $20bn to implement, the Brussels gathering heard. Shippers will from January 26 have to inform US Customs and Border Protection of new consignment details, such as the container stuffing location and the identity of the stuffer. Financial penalties will apply for non-compliance.

Experts say 100% scanning would be even more costly. Pilot projects at a variety of ports have shown it is technically feasible but would cost up to $100 per box.

Moreover, many in the supply chain industry believe that if implemented it would do little to improve US security.

At the same time, there are hopes some ports would be exempt. “I think this law is more likely to happen under Obama than before,” said the Israeli ambassador to the WCO. “But ports in Europe will probably be alright.”

The European Sea Ports Organisation said it believed “high volume” scanning, not 100% scanning, would be the most likely outcome.
FMCSA issues rule to improve intermodal equipment safety

The new regulations make intermodal equipment providers subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) for the first time, and establish shared safety responsibility among intermodal equipment providers, motor carriers, and drivers.

The Trucker News Services12/17/2008

WASHINGTON — New rules issued today will significantly strengthen safety requirements for intermodal container chassis, the special trailers that hold cargo containers when they are transferred from ship or rail to truck for final delivery, announced John H. Hill, administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), and published on the Federal Register.

“We want to ensure that every piece of equipment traveling on our highways is operating safely,” said Hill. “These new rules will bring new safety and enforcement focus on the chassis and equipment used to haul goods on our nation’s roads every day.”

The new regulations make intermodal equipment providers subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) for the first time, and establish shared safety responsibility among intermodal equipment providers, motor carriers, and drivers.

Beginning in December 2009, intermodal equipment providers must have in effect regular and systematic inspection, repair, and maintenance programs for intermodal chassis; they will also need to track defects reported and repairs made. By December 2010, each intermodal provider is required to identify its equipment with a USDOT number. FMCSA’s final rule also outlines inspection requirements for motor carriers and drivers operating intermodal equipment.

Intermodal equipment providers will be subject to on-site reviews to ensure compliance with the new rules. Penalties for violating these rules range from civil fines to a prohibition on providing or operating intermodal equipment found to pose an imminent hazard.

The final rule on this Intermodal Chassis is available for review here.

Barb Kampbell of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at