Thursday, December 27, 2012

Diesel Prices Fall, Gasoline Rises

As the holiday week opened, diesel prices continued their recent downward trend, while gasoline prices crept back upward.

The Department of Energy's Information Administration reported a nationwide drop of 2.2 cents in the price of a gallon diesel earlier this week. The average price was $3.92 per gallon.

The steepest decrease in diesel and the cheapest overall prices were seen in the Rocky Mountain region, where prices fell 7.5 cents per gallon to rest at $3.79.

The most expensive diesel prices can still be found on the East Coast, specifically in the New England and Central Atlantic regions, where prices are still over the $4-mark.

Kevin Brown, fleet manager at Conley Trucking outside of Buffalo, N.Y., last week said diesel prices were $4.23 per gallon, well above the average reported for the region. "We have had some of the highest prices in New York ... and yet much closer to suppliers than most," he said.

Gasoline prices climbed incrementally across the nation by 0.3 cents to land at $3.26 per gallon. The cheapest gasoline prices can be found in the Gulf Coast region at $3.10 per gallon.

Crude oil, meanwhile jumped up by $2.37 to $90.98 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange yesterday, the highest settlement since Oct. 18, as President Obama and Congress return to Washington today to discuss how to avoid more than $600 billion in expiring tax cuts and mandatory spending cuts scheduled for January -- aka the "fiscal cliff."
Story from

Friday, December 21, 2012

Retailers, Intermodal Trucking Worry About Potential Port Strike

A coalition of more than 100 local, state and national trade associations sent a letter to President Obama yesterday urging action to prevent an East and Gulf Coast port strike next week over intermodal container handling.

The letter urges immediate action by the White House to ensure that the lack of progress in ongoing labor contract negotiations between the International Longshoremens Association, which represents 14,500 dockworkers in East and Gulf Coast ports, and the U.S. Maritime Alliance, which represents management for shipping lines and port employers, does not result in a strike.

The bargaining is for a new master contract governing containerized cargoes - commodities shipped in 20- or 40-foot containers. The latest talks between the parties broke down Dec. 18, less than two weeks before the current contract expires on Dec. 29.

A strike was averted Oct. 1 when both sides agreed to a 90-day extension through Dec. 29 - after the U.S. elections and the holiday shopping season. The group said that failure to reach a contract agreement would result in a coast-wide shutdown at 14 containerized ports from Maine to Texas which would have serious economy-wide impacts.

The impacted ports would include Boston; New York and New Jersey; Delaware River [Philadelphia]; Baltimore; Hampton Roads, Va. [Norfolk]; Wilmington, N.C.; Charleston, S.C., Savannah, Ga.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Miami; Tampa, Fla.; Mobile, Ala.; New Orleans; and Houston.

Read more here.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Retail Imports to Increase 3.9% in December Despite Port Strike

Import cargo volume at the nation's major retail container ports is expected to increase 3.9% in December despite a strike that closed the nation's largest port complex for the first few days of the month.

Retailers are keeping a close watch on a possible strike on the East Coast and Gulf Coast, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

"After a strong kickoff on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the holiday season is looking good and these numbers reflect that," NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. "Nonetheless, we narrowly avoided what could have been a long-term disruption with the strike in Los Angeles and Long Beach and don't want to run that risk on the East Coast and Gulf Coast. NRF is continuing to urge labor, management and lawmakers to do whatever is necessary to keep our nation's ports running smoothly."

U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.39 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units in October, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 1% from September, but up 5.2% from October 2011. One TEU is one 20-foot cargo container or its equivalent.

November was estimated at 1.22 million TEU, down 5.6% from last year. The downturn was due in part to the eight-day strike that closed most terminals at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach beginning in the last few days of November, but also because November is a traditionally weak month after most holiday cargo has arrived.

December is forecast at 1.27 million TEU, up 3.9% from last year, with January forecast at 1.31 million TEU, up 2% from January 2012; February at 1.15 million TEU, up 5.9%; March at 1.27 million TEU, up 2%, and April at 1.35 million TEU, up 3.2%.

August, September and October are the three busiest months of the year as retailers bring merchandise into the country for the holiday season, and volume for the three months combined was up 3.6% at 4.2 million TEU. While cargo volume does not correlate directly with sales, NRF is forecasting that holiday sales will increase 4.1% to $586.1 billion this year.??

The first half of 2012 totaled 7.7 million TEU, up 3% from the same period last year. For the full year, 2012 is expected to total 15.8 million TEU, up 2.5% from 2011.

Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said the Los Angeles/Long Beach strike shifted some cargo into December but would not have a significant effect on net volume for the year. But retailers are closely monitoring the situation at East Coast and Gulf Coast ports, where a contract extension expires Dec. 29.

"While the strike led to some diversion of cargo to Oakland and ports further afield, we believe much of the cargo destined for LA/Long Beach will simply arrive at the port later as vessels adjust their rotations," Hackett said. "As we look ahead into the coming months of 2013, the main threat to cargo flows through the ports would be a strike on East Coast and Gulf Coast. There is little option for diversion."