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This time last year European Abnormal Freight Ltd (EAF) was asked in April 2011 to help move the 117 tonne, 4 metre square granite Tsunami Memorial from France to London. As freight forwarding projects go it was the biggest transportation of a single piece of stone in the UK or France since the building of Stonehenge and the tale of how the giant piece came to arrive at the Natural History Museums gardens is worth telling.

Transports Courcelle in France were granted the haulage contract whilst EAF was appointed the UK Transport Project Manager whose management role was to provide full route planning with owner Marc Wodehouse taking personal control. The UK Highways Agency had stipulated that, once the convoy arrived by ferry from Cherbourg into Poole, it would have to utilise a coastal barge from Poole to London. EAF successfully lobbied all the relevant parties and obtained a special permission “BE16 Dispensation” to transport the load entirely by road. This alone saved the project more than £60k in barge and extra crane costs.

The project was mainly funded by a £500,000 grant from the Department for Sport, Media & Culture and the unveiling of the memorial was scheduled for the 5th July opening by HRH Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall.EAF successfully addressed ground strengthening and weight issues with London Underground and re-scheduling of long term works on Cromwell Road by British Gas. Apart from Prince Charles’s diary there was an extensive summer and autumn programme of “trial” road closures, by the London Olympic committee which could affect the delivery programme.

The load had to arrive on the weekend of the 28th June 2011 and failure to meet this deadline would put the project back to May 2013. Three weeks before the ceremony, serious loading issues in Castres, France had delayed the scheduled start date from the 4th to the 15th of June. The Transit time in France alone was 11 days and to exacerbate the situation there was now a public holiday in the middle of the revised schedule. Courcelle also confirmed that the new timescale meant it was impossible to meet the arrival date in the UK of the 28th June because French Law forbids “Convoi Exceptionnel” transport taking place over on weekends.

With the exception of humanitarian loads, the French government have never given dispensation to drive abnormal loads on weekends. As far as all parties were concerned, the project was on the verge of collapse. EAF stepped in and over five very challenging days corresponded with the Department for Sport, Media & Culture, the French Embassy in London, five prefectures, the British Embassy in Paris and, ultimately, the French Ministry of Culture & Media.

At 4pm on the afternoon of the 14th June (one hour before close of play), as a result of a telephone conversation with the Minister of Culture & Media for France, Monsieur Frédéric Mitterrand, and his direct intervention, EAF obtained the first ever dispensation for a “Super Heavy” Load to travel on French roads on a weekend, thus maintaining the original schedule.

Mike Holland, Chairman of the Tsunami Memorial Project, commented:

“EAF’s Marc Wodehouse was absolutely key to the successful delivery of the Memorial, he became part of us rather than just an external supplier. Whenever we faltered he found a solution, failure was never an option and Marc’s positive attitude became the standard we came to demand from everyone. I am deeply grateful and indebted to Marc for his enthusiasm, total dedication and great humour no matter how difficult the challenge. We would not have succeeded without him.”

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NETHERLANDS – WORLDWIDE – One of the leading marine survey companies has collaborated with other industry partners to launch what it claims is the worlds largest on line database for transporting cargo of every type. BMT De Beer, a subsidiary of BMT Group Ltd has collaborated with such groups as the Container Owners Association and GDV Transport Information Services to produce the CargoHandbook.

As well as a basic description and photograph of the cargo product, people can access information on the shipment/storage requirements including optimum temperature/humidity and moisture and the risk factors associated with the particular product thus ensuring safer transport methods. Managed by a dedicated team of people at BMT De Beer in order to ensure continuity and quality of the data, people using the website will also be able to contact BMT to share additional information on a particular product, helping to expand the data available.

By providing a free to use archive BMT De Beer aims to provide and share information on cargo transportation with the wider market and therefore help to reduce the number of cargo incidents and claims that occur. Jeroen De Haas, Managing Director at BMT De Beer explains:

“While every mode of transport has its own challenges and limitations, it is particularly during marine transportation that cargoes are often exposed to extreme conditions such as the forces caused by a rolling vessel or the constantly changing atmosphere. A strong understanding of cargoes and their specific transportation requirements is the key to ensuring the cargo arrives at its destination undamaged. This subscription free, online platform will provide quick and easy access to information that isn’t readily available to the market today.

“This will be an evolving process and BMT invested in this initiative because we are committed to collaborating with the wider market to ensure that CargoHandbook becomes the recognised source of knowledge on anything related to cargo transportation. Digitalising this information will allow informed decisions to be made quicker and in turn will help to minimise the number of claims made.”

US – CHINA – Following our story last month concerning the rebranding of YRC Worldwide, the trucking and logistics group, which incorporates subsidiary YRC Freight, has, as predicted, continued its disposal of assets with the sale of the groups interest in Shanghai Jiayu Logistics Co., Ltd. to its 35-percent joint venture partner. YRC bought its 65% stake in the company in 2008 after a period stretching back several years when it had grown enormously through an acquisition policy started when the Yellow Corporation bought out the Roadway Corporation in a billion dollar deal to form the Yellow Roadway Corporation.

YRC paid $47.7 million when they purchased their share of Shanghai Jiayu Logistics, principally a less than truckload road haulage outfit, but never took up the option they had to buy the balance of shares in 2010 at the $14 million agreed. The deal was described at the time by then Chairman, President and CEO of YRC Worldwide, Bill Zollars, as, “The next step in building a comprehensive portfolio of logistics services for our customers in China.”

As there has been no word from YRC we must assume their investment in JHJ International Transport, which covers all of mainland China having offices throughout the country, remains intact. The sale of Jiayu is subject to Chinese regulatory approval and expected to close in the second quarter of 2012. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. James Welch, chief executive officer of YRC Worldwide, commented:

“This is another important step in the continuing process to sharpen our focus on North American less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping. Our emphasis on core LTL services has resulted in significant increases in on-time service and our customers are responding very favourably. This transaction allows us to further simplify our portfolio and streamline our operations as we concentrate on regaining the North American LTL market leader position.”

US – Sadly some of our best read stories concern the criminal activities of the few freight forwarding executives who are prepared to break the law in order to turn a profit. As times get harder financially the line between fair competition and conspiracy blurs for some as evidenced by the surge in anti trust cases prosecuted globally which we have witnessed in the past two years. Some acts however are blatantly criminal and this week two cases concerning the cargo screening and shipping of air freight have resulted in the prosecution and punishment of several individuals and companies involved in nefarious activities.

The first case concerns the arrest and detention of Ulrich Davis aged 50 who was caught as he tried to board a flight to the Netherlands at Newark Liberty International Airport last August. Davis, a Dutch national, pleaded guilty this week to charges of conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Iranian Transactions Regulations by misdeclaring chemicals and aircraft parts destined for Iran.

Evidence against Davis was overwhelming in that e mails he had sent to another company made it plain he knew what he was doing was illegal. The items concerned were suspected to be for military use and one of the consignees were allegedly described as ‘C-130 Red Crescent’ seemingly implying the supplies were for a section of the International Red Cross. Observers have speculated that these were parts for C-130 Hercules military transport aircraft at least twelve of which are still in service with the Iranian air force.

Davis used his position as manager of a Netherlands based freight forwarder with a New Jersey office (we are not allowed to name the company) to issue and conspire with others to issue airwaybills showing false details, the nature of the goods being such that they constituted a threat to national security. Because of his guilty plea Davis will avoid the maximum term of twenty years imprisonment but is likely to receive a five year term plus a fine up to a quarter of a million dollars when sentenced.

In the second case three employees of OHL (part of Ozburn-Hessey Logistics, LLC), a subsidiary previously being known as ActivAir and one of the world’s largest third party logistics providers, have each pleaded guilty following a federal investigation. The three confessed to failing to screen cargo due to load on passenger flights despite strict regulations as to how the procedure should be undertaken.

The offences occurred at the company’s Fortune Circle premises at Indianapolis Airport and once again penalties could be up to five years in prison with quarter of a million dollar fines for each defendant. Mitchell Totty, Brian Vanhandel and Andrew Barnes are each accused of conspiring together to violate the law instituted in 2010 which insists on accurate records regarding screened cargo following incidents when bombs were discovered whilst being carried as freight aboard passenger aircraft in Dubai and the UK.

OHL has fully cooperated with the authorities and accepted responsibility for its employees behaviour but the admission led to the company receiving a record fine of $1 million for the offences and U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett commented the safety of the travelling public was paramount and that there could be no tolerance for shortcuts when matters of national security were involved.

Bali shipping line news After the recent news that CMA CGM and MSC will be working more closely together to maximise efficiency of freight services the two giant container shipping lines have confirmed adjustments to their schedules whilst MaerskHamburg SüdCSAV and CSCL have also seen Winter season restructuring.

In an effort to balance supply and demand during the forthcoming traditional period of weaker demand, Hamburg Süd and Maersk Line on the one hand and CMA-CGM, CSAV and CSCL on the other, have reached an agreement to adjust their services between Asia, South Africa and the East Coast of South America as from this month until next May.

Each Group is currently operating two weekly services in the trade. For the period from December 2011 through May 2012, the existing ASAS/NGX Sling 2 service will be merged with the existing ASAX/SEAS Sling 2 service. The current capacity deployed by the carriers in the ASAS/NGX Sling 1 service (Maersk and Hamburg Süd ) and ASAX/SEAS Sling 1 service (CMA CGM, CSAV, CSCL) will remain unchanged and independent. This means the ASAX/SEAS 1 which currently utilises eleven 6,500 TEU vessels will now have the same number of smaller ships each between 4,200 and 4,600 capacity. Starting vessel for this New Joint Service will be MV Cap Jackson – Shanghai – December 16th and the rotation is :

Shanghai – Ningbo – Nansha – Hong Kong – Chiwan – Tanjung Pelepas – Singapore – Durban – Rio de Janeiro – Santos – Paranagua – Itajai – Santos – Port Elizabeth – Durban – Singapore – Hong Kong – Shanghai

Meanwhile the CMA CGM and MSC agreement means that from April 2012 the Asia-North Europe services (French Asia Line or FAL routes) will vary as follows.

FAL 1: operated by CMA CGM with 11 vessels of 13,800 – 14,000 TEU. Port rotation: Ningbo, Shanghai, Nansha, Hong Kong, Chiwan, Yantian, Vung Tau, Southampton, Hamburg, Bremerhaven, Rotterdam, Zeebrugge, Le Havre, Malta, Korfakkan, Port Kelang, Singapore, Yantian, Ningbo.

FAL 2: this service remains unchanged.

FAL 3: operated by CMA CGM with 11 vessels of 11,400 TEU. Port Rotation: Xingang, Pusan, Qingdao, Shanghai, Xiamen, Singapore, Port Kelang, Tangiers, Le Havre, Hamburg, Bremerhaven, Antwerp, Zeebrugge, Beirut, Jeddah, Port Kelang, Singapore, Xingang.

FAL 6: operated by MSC with 11 vessels of 14,000 TEU. Port Rotation: Dalian, Xingang, Kwang Yang, Pusan, Qingdao, Ningbo, Shanghai, Singapore, Port Kelang, Felixstowe, Zeebrugge, Antwerp, Rotterdam, Southampton, Valencia, Jebel Ali, Singapore, Hong Kong, Dalian.

FAL 7: operated by MSC with 11 vessels of 14,000 TEU. Port rotation: Ningbo, Shanghai, Xiamen, Chiwan, Yantian, Sines, Le Havre, Rotterdam, Antwerp, Felixstowe, Gioia Tauro, Singapore, Chiwan, Xiamen, Ningbo.

The existing agreement with Maersk Line on the Asia-Med trade will remain unchanged and final port coverage and transit times will be confirmed at a later stage as will any news regarding further rationalisation to the other FAL services.

Both MSC and CMA CGM have been at pains to stress that there new cooperation should not be viewed as any form of amalgamation with no staff being affected and no sharing of facilities. Such a move would undoubtedly set alarm bells ringing in the offices of anti trust authorities particularly those of the EU’s Competition Commissioner

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