Tag Archives: reliability

Midwest soybean farmers to help pay for Pacific Northwest export terminal; rail service is risky for harvest this year.

Soybean exports are one of the US major sources of export revenue. China is the biggest consumer of soybeans that are exported, about half the US crop. The US competes with Brazil for the Far East soybean market.

Most soybeans to China are for pig feed. However, they can be used to produce biofuel as well.

The new port, in Aberdeen, WA, near Seattle and Tacoma, will export soybean meal. Six state Soybean Associations will chip in to cover the cost, along with the Soy Transportation Coalition. They’ll contribute $900K of the cost.

The terminal will have rail service, involving an interchange between the BNSF and UP main lines, which are predominant in service to Midwest farmers and their elevators, and the Puget Sound and Pacific line, which goes right to the port.

Like the agricultural shipping terminal near Oakland, CA, this facility ought to be of great value in exporting soybean products.

Elsewhere, corn farmers in the US Midwest are worried that railroad inefficiency and poor reliability will prevent grain exports from being shipped as the harvest comes on. A good summary of the situation is in the second article.

Many elevators rely on rail transport to get their grain to a port for export. Some can use barges down the Mississippi, but others, in locations more than 200 mi. from a Mississippi port, use rail at local sidings at elevators. Railroads will need to up their game to support the US export market for agricultural products.

Joanna Marsh Thursday, September 1, 2022

Midwest soybean farmers to help pay for Pacific Northwest export terminal – FreightWaves

 Joanna Marsh Friday, September 2, 2022

Grain shippers eye hiccups on rail network

2021 vessel reliability recorded at its lowest ever

Ocean carriers are running a business in which their reliability of completing voyages planned in advance ranges around 30% to 40%. The highest reported here, by Sea-Intelligence Maritime Analysis, is Maersk at 46%. How can you run a business with these kinds of service levels?

The answer seems to be, VERY profitably. Most ocean carriers reported billions in net income.

I like this graph from the article.

Source: Sea-Intelligence, from article below.

While the trend down coincides with COVID, service levels were not great even before 2019. It’s due to the canceled sailings and skipped stops that are commonplace today. Port congestion has not helped.

But we can see a significant number of firms changing their level of dependency on the scheduled services offered by the major ocean carriers and the alliances,. Large shippers are buying their own ships and containers, usually of smaller size, and choosing when their shipments are scheduled, where they go, and how they get to their warehouses. Even some forwarders and brokers have started doing this. Other firms are looking for brokers who can help them find ways to get their cargo on time.

I think the large carriers have to start looking at how to improve service levels. If it means smaller ships and frequent sailings that don’t get canceled, that’s what it will take.

Perhaps we need feeder ships to allow the ocean carriers to consolidate multiple loads onto their giant ships for long voyages, but offload them near the destination. Years ago Al Baird, an English maritime economist, wrote about offshore container terminals, that could be used with short-range feeders to relieve the wharf pressure on our landside container terminals of today.

New thinking is needed to improve carrier on-time reliability. It won’t come without effort and money. But we can’t keep relying on ‘someone else’ to brainstorm solutions and give them a try. Especially when we’re earning billions.

8 February 2022 Jack Donnelly Ports and Terminals, Shipping Lines

2021 vessel reliability recorded at its lowest ever – Port Technology International

Vessel schedule reliability lowest on record

The nice graphs here show that ocean carrier schedule reliability is extremely low, hovering between 30 and 40%.

Source: Sea-Intelligence, via Port Technology International

The COVID years of 2020 and 2021 have seen a remarkable drop from the 70% to 80% reliability of 2018 and 2019. Is COVID likely the culprit? To some extent the disruption it triggered caused order fluctuation that the ocean carriers with their very large ships were not prepared for. The ensuing port congestion coupled with the practice of blanking sailings of the very large ships when they were not nearly full caused the drop.

I don’t see how a service with a 30% to 40% reliability can maintain itself. The ocean carriers say that back to normal demand will fix the problem, but the fact is that demand for instance from Asia to the West Coast US is actually still below peaks of 2019. So normal demand would be higher, not lower.

Vessel schedule reliability lowest on record 27 January 2022 Port Technology International Team

Vessel schedule reliability lowest on record – Port Technology International