International Dispatches: Freight transportation reports, projects and other news from outside North America


Europe: Road freight rates at ‘historic highs,’ index says

At 2021’s end, road freight rates were at “historic highs across Europe,” driven by a volatile mix of drivers, supply chain congestion, supply shortages, cost increases and spiking demand from “economic reopenings” across the continent, according to the European Road Freight Benchmark for Q4 2021, issued Feb. 2 by Bath, U.K.-based Transport Intelligence (Ti), Upply and IRU. And the mix of factors, which pushed the Benchmark to record highs three times in 2021, “shows few signs of unwinding in the immediate term,” they said. The findings:

• The Q4 2021 European Road Freight Rate benchmark index stood at 108.3, 1.1 points higher than Q3 2021’s figure and 3.2 points higher than Q4 2020’s.

• Q4 2021 marked the sixth consecutive quarter of rate increases across Europe.

• Rising fuel costs, up around 25% YOY in some major markets, and the ongoing driver shortage have helped drive road freight costs and rates across Europe.

• New IRU data shows driver shortages across the continent in 2021, including a shortage of up to 100,000 in the UK and over 60,000 in both Germany and Poland.

• Freight rates likely will remain high in Q1 2022 as demand “stays strong, costs high and capacity constrained,” Ti, Upply and IRU officials said.


Chinese New Year factory closures to ‘further disrupt global supply chains’ — survey

Freight forwarders and shippers expect the Chinese New Year holiday to increase global supply chain disruption, according to results of a Hamburg, Germany-based Container xChange survey issued Jan. 25. Among the survey’s findings:

• 66% of respondents said they expected Chinese New Year factory closures to further disrupt container shipping supply chains.

• 53 % said Chinese New Year would make existing ocean supply chains “even worse.”

• 60% said they’d planned for Chinese New Year factory closures by ordering inventory earlier.

Many respondents also said Chinese New Year would further delay container transit times, reduce container and slot availability, increase container and freight costs, and add to port congestion and delays. The official public holiday for Chinese New Year is Jan. 31-Feb. 6, but factory output in China typically is “impacted for far longer as many workers take extended holidays,” Container xChange officials said.


Supply chain congestion and Maersk’s ‘revamped’ transatlantic winter plan

The “severity of the weather across the Atlantic” at 2021’s end forced Denmark’s A.P. Moller – Maersk to revise its winter operations schedule for its Mediterranean to North America routes. “TA5 and TA6 services were subject to new schedules that were originally planned to run until the end of January, but current bottlenecks seen across the North America network means adjustments will continue to be in place until April 2022,” officials for the shipping giant said on Feb. 2. “The situation in North America is driven by a number of factors, including local congestion in U.S. terminals, but Maersk is doing all in its power to combat the circumstances and minimize their impact on customers until normal service resumes.”


Green for green: Lhyfe raises funds to support production site deployment strategy

Nantes, France-based Lhyfe — a producer of green hydrogen from renewable energy — raised €17 million in funds, primarily from Andera Partners via its new green infrastructure investment fund Andera Infra, Lhyfe announced on Feb. 3. Ovive and risk capital company Societe Financiere Lorient Developpement also backed the venture, which is designed to support Lhyfe’s strategy for the deployment of renewable hydrogen production sites in Europe. Lhyfe offers a turnkey hydrogen production and supply model that uses a local supply chain approach: green hydrogen is produced locally at sites powered by local renewable energy sources. The company targets industry, communities and transport companies.


Port of Amsterdam opens world’s largest lock

On Jan. 26, Dutch King Willem ceremoniously opened the IJmuiden sea lock. The new lock — the world’s largest — replaces the Noordersluis (North Lock), which dates to 1929. At 500 meters long, 70 meters wide and 18 meters deep, IJmuiden sea lock is the world’s largest, Port of Amsterdam officials said. Here’s a webcam view:


Mozambique port posts annual handling record

Port de Maputo set a new annual handling record in 2021. At 22.2 million tons, total volumes were up 21% compared with 2020’s 18.3 million tons, port officials said on Jan. 26. “This growth is a reflection of a market recovery post-COVID, but also of the efficient usage of the rehabilitated berths 7, 8 and 9, along with an expanded ferro slab footprint and dedicated rail siding,” port officials said. Rail volumes for chrome and ferro-chrome registered a decrease of 4% compared to the previous year’s total. The rail vs. road ratio also decreased from 25%/75% in 2020 to 21%/79% in 2021. “With the recent upgrades and investment in rail infrastructure inside the port, there is huge potential for growth in rail volumes,” said Maputo Port Development Co. (MPDC) CEO Osorio Lucas. The privatized MPDC is a partnership between the Mozambican Railway Co. and Portus Indico, which comprises Grindrod, DP World and local company Mozambique Gestores.


Haropa Port: 3.07 million TEUs in 2021

Haropa Port — which comprises the ports of Le Havre, Rouen and Paris — handled a record 3.07 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) in 2021, port officials said on Jan. 28. Maritime traffic increased 12% to 84 million tons. Inland traffic (full and empty containers) “registered a sharp rise” of 15%, including a 7% hike in full container inland traffic compared with the average for 2015-2019. Transhipment volume grew by 79% to a record 843,000 TEU. And liquid bulk traffic was up 6% (39Mt). “To maintain the course in 2022, Haropa Port plans an exceptional level of investment of €256 million,” Haropa officials said.


ZIM extends collaboration with 2M, launches pendulum service

Haifa, Israel-based ZIM Integrated Shipping Services Ltd. and its 2M alliance partners agreed in principle to extend their existing operational collaboration agreement on the Asia – U.S. East Coast and Asia – U.S. Gulf Coast trades based on a full slot exchange and vessel sharing agreement, ZIM announced on Jan. 27. Subject to finalizing the related documentation and to regulatory approval, the new agreement was expected to be concluded by the beginning of February and become effective on April 1. In addition, ZIM plans to launch ZIM Med Pacific, an independent pendulum service designed to address its customers' needs on the Asia to Mediterranean and Pacific North-West trades. The current collaboration with 2M partners on these trades will be terminated effective April 1. “The combined new operational mode will allow for better operational agility and provide fast and synchronized connections to ZIM's regional networks in the Mediterranean, Asia and the Pacific," ZIM President and CEO Eli Glickman said.


Baltic Exchange, TradeFlow complete escrow transaction for ‘agri-commodities’ trade

The Baltic Exchange, a provider of global freight market information and other maritime services, and fintech-enabled fund manager TradeFlow Capital Management completed a pilot escrow transaction as part of a commodity trade executed through TradeFlow, the companies announced on Jan. 10. The transaction, which involves a shipment of agri-commodities from India to China, “heralds a new age in the fast and secure digital exchange of ownership of physical commodities and payment,” Baltic Exchange officials said, adding that the service will initially focus on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) operating in the bulk commodity markets. “With a growing SME trade finance gap estimated by the Asian Development Bank (to be in excess of $1.7 trillion, this revolutionary use of escrow within a commodity trade holds the promise of unlocking and enabling additional SME commodity trades worth billions of dollars each year,” Baltic Exchange officials said.


Röhlig Logistics, Penske Logistics enter joint venture

Röhlig Logistics and Penske Logistics have formed a contract logistics joint venture company called Rohlig Penske Logistics GmbH, operating primarily in Germany and the Netherlands. The new business entity is 80% owned and operated by Röhlig Logistics and 20% owned by Penske Logistics. The joint venture’s aim: “expand into further Western European countries,” officials from both companies said on Jan. 10. The new joint venture incorporates 55,000 square miles of additional warehousing, transport management operations, and e-commerce logistics. The companies plan to “accelerate additional growth, utilize operational synergies, and enhance services levels for potential and shared mutual customers operating in Europe,” officials said.


Knorr-Bremse expands brake disc production at Berlin plant

Knorr-Bremse AG, which produces braking systems and other rail and commercial vehicle systems, has expanded its Berlin plant. The Munich, Germany-based company added nine large machining centers for the manufacture of brake discs for train braking systems. The investment has enabled Knorr-Bremse to boost the Berlin plant’s brake disc production capacity by 54%, company officials said in a Jan. 25 press statement, adding the 15 million Euro invest created 27 new full-time jobs.