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            august 26, 2019

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Panama expects fresh flow of Asian boxes as LA dockers block automation


The Panama Canal Authority says it expects dockers' attempt to block automation at a Los Angeles marine terminal will result in more Asian cargo flowing through the waterway to US Atlantic and Gulf Coast ports, reports IHS media.
"Customers will look for alternatives. One has told me, 'We've got ships that float; we can take them anywhere.' People have to be very careful when they do things," said Panama Canal CEO Jorge Luis Quijano.
"Automation is already here. It may not be something that is having an immediate impact but it is coming," he said.
Such moves are expected in light of the docker union's opposition to Maersk's application for a permit to lay the ground work to have self-driving yard trucks at its APMT Los Angeles terminal.
Opposition from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) comes despite its agreement in its 2008 contact not to interfere in terminal operators' plans to automate facilities.
"We are already handling 14,000-TEU ships," Mr Quijano said. "We still see growth in the number of containerships. We are now moving up to 15,000-TEU ships."
The Panama Canal saw 4.4 per cent growth in Asia-US east coast container cargo tonnage last year compared with 2017, while the canal's total container trade rose five per cent, Mr Quijano said.
He said carriers' shift to burning low-sulphur fuel to meet the International Maritime Organisation's tougher 2020 emission control rules, starting January 1, would benefit the canal as more operators calling the US east coast cut transit times in the face of higher fuel costs.
"With fuel prices of US$500 - $600 a tonne we'll see a positive outcome. On the headhaul, which carries a lot of high value cargo, we're still the most economic route" with a time savings of around a week for 13,000-14,000 TEU vessels sailing to the US east coast compared with the Suez Canal.

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