Wednesday, May 13, 2009

May 5, 2009 May 5, 2009 – 1:48 pm-->By Alan Field Breakbulk from the Journal of Commerce

Shipping near record low, says industry group

The United States imported a total of 1.5 million net tons of steel in March, the American Iron and Steel Institute reported, based on preliminary Census Bureau data. Imports of this breakbulk cargo included 1.437 million net tons of finished steel, down 3 percent from February.
Precision Metalforming Association President William E. Gaskin said, “The continuing fall in steel imports in March is not a surprise given the lingering sluggishness in the U.S. manufacturing sector, which has had a real impact on our members. According to PMA’s most recent survey of business conditions, the number of metal forming companies with a portion of their workforce on short time or layoffs increased to 85 percent in April, up from 76 percent in March. And while optimism about expectations for new orders has risen over the past few months, current shipping levels remain near record lows.”

China dominates imports

In March, the largest volume of finished imports from offshore was from China (196,000 net tons, down 28 percent from February). The March tonnage from China was 14 percent of all finished imports. Other major offshore suppliers in March were Korea, Japan, and India.
March imports of hot-rolled steel dropped seven percent from February’s levels, from 152,983 to 141,792 metric tons. Cold-rolled steel imports also declined, from 111,625 metric tons in February to 96,236 metric tons in March, a drop of 14 percent.

Key products that increased in March compared to February included reinforcing bars (up 155 percent), mechanical tubing (up 46 percent), hot dipped galvanized sheet & strip (up 28 percent), line pipe (up 24 percent) and standard pipe (up 24 percent).

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Piracy could bring maritime trade to its knees:
By Michael Edwards
Posted Wed Apr 15, 2009 8:24am AEST Updated Wed Apr 15, 2009 9:14am AEST ABC News

Maritime experts say shipping will only get slower and more expensive unless something is done to stop the threat of Somali pirates.

As details continue to emerge about the dramatic rescue of the American ship Captain Richard Phillips, more questions are being asked about the impact of piracy on shipping routes.
This comes as Somali pirates raised the stakes this morning, seizing two more ships and throwing down the gauntlet to tough-talking US President Barack Obama.

To get an idea of the piracy situation off the horn of Africa, look at ABC News Online's interactive map.
The problem has already sent insurance rates up and more ships are opting to take the slower route around South Africa instead of through the Suez Canal.

Australia's shipping industry says it will have an adverse effect on the world economy as trade slows down.

Friends and colleagues of Captain Richard Phillips are still dealing with his dramatic rescue at the hands of US Navy Seal marksmen.

Shane Murphy is Captain Phillips's chief mate onboard the Maersk Alabama. I just got off the phone with our captain, Richard Phillips for the first time, and it was an extremely emotional experience for all of us to actually hear his voice and hear the condition he was in," he said.
"He is absolutely elated and he couldn't be prouder of us for doing what he trained us to do. And that's really, when the story unfolds you'll see that's really all we did.

"We did everything that we were trained to do. And we have the captain; ultimately everybody you see here before you today has the Captain, Captain Phillips, to thank for their lives and their freedom."

But despite the US Navy's victory this time, experts say the threat posed by Somali pirates is as strong as ever.

John Burnett is an expert on international piracy, and he told Radio National's breakfast program that poverty drives many young Somali men to become pirates.

"These kids, the young men, if they're lucky will earn probably even less than $30 a month. So when they become a pirate they will earn something in the hundreds of thousands and that's a hell of a lot more profitable and less risky than pulling up a half empty fishing net," he said.
And the toll extracted by the pirates is increasing.

There's the cost of ships out of commission as well as ransoms to free crews and extra security measures. Add to that rising insurance premiums and higher labour costs for crews travelling in the area.

And there are extra costs for shipping companies which are choosing to avoid the area.
Llew Russell is the chief executive of Shipping Australia, the peak body for Australia's shipping industry.

"We're most concerned about the increase in piracy that's been occurring particularly over the last few weeks," he said. "With the winter monsoons declining over there we're finding a big upsurge in piracy and we feel it will encourage more people to go around the Cape, which is much longer, consumes more fuel and is more costly."

Mr Russell says going to or from Europe around South Africa adds at least 10 to 14 days to an ocean voyage.

He says many shipping companies are being forced to pay for specialised equipment to thwart attacks.

"A ship thwarted an attack a week or so ago by putting barbed wire right around it. I mean, they're trailing nets out behind the ship to foul the propellers of their little speed boats and so on that they use. All these techniques are being used to try to thwart the attacks," he said.
Mr Russell says if nothing is done it's the world's economy which will suffer.

"I think it'll impact on world trade because you not only have Somalia, you have other countries looking at what Somalia's doing," he said.

"So I can only see the situation getting worse. The only way you can tackle this sort of piracy is on land.

"In fact one has to look at building up the economies of northern Somalia and helping those people in ways other than encouraging piracy. That I think is the longer term answer

Friday, May 08, 2009

WTO's Lamy says Doha round relaunch awaits U.S.

Links to this article
By Doug PalmerReuters Friday, April 24, 2009; 11:08 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A renewed push to finish long-running world trade talks cannot begin until the United States is ready to engage, the head of the World Trade Organization said on Friday.

Completing the Doha round of talks would help pull the global economy out of recession by unleashing new trade flows and "help restore confidence at this moment of crisis," Pascal Lamy, the WTO's director general, said at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

"I cannot restart a political process without the U.S. being ready," Lamy said. That opportunity could come at a number of international meetings over the next several months.

The Obama administration's position on the Doha round of trade talks "is emerging little by little" and is positive but the process has been slow, Lamy said. if (There is much goodwill among negotiators in Geneva for the new U.S. administration but patience is not infinite, he said.

The talks, officially known as the Doha Development Agenda, were launched more than seven years ago in the capital of Qatar with the goal of helping poor countries prosper through trade.
Many developing countries, who make up of the majority of the WTO's 153 members, are anxious for the talks to conclude.

They stand to benefit if rich countries make long-awaited farm subsidy cuts and open their manufacturing and agricultural markets to more imports from developing nations, Lamy said.
U.S. farm, manufacturing and services groups strongly object to a set of proposed texts for concluding the round put forward in December. They have urged the Obama administration to refuse to restart talks on the basis of those texts.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said on Thursday the United States remains committed to a successful end of the round but needs a better idea of what it will "get" in exchange for what it gives up. Kirk said the United States would soon set out new ideas for moving the talks forward.

Lamy, in Washington for the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, is expected to meet Kirk.

Lamy argued that U.S. business already would benefit more from the round than it publicly admits.
If the United States wants developing countries to clarify what new market openings they will make, it would help for Washington to identify which goods it will exclude from a pledge rich countries made in 2005 not to impose duties or quota on imports from the poorest countries, Lamy said.

Developing countries fear the United States will use its insistence on excluding 3 percent of products from the duty-free, quota-free pledge to maintain barriers in areas of greatest interest to them, such as textiles and sugar.

Sounding a warning against protectionism, Lamy said he has hung a picture in his office of the two U.S. lawmakers who authored the 1930 Smoot-Hawley tariff act often blamed for deepening and prolonging the Great Depression by triggering tit-for-tat retaliation around the globe.
But that trauma led to the rules-based world trading system that has provided "more than 60 years of economic stability," Lamy said.

(Editing by John O'Callaghan)