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Today's Top Supply Chain and Logistics News From WSJ

3 Apr 2017 10:13 am
By Paul Page 

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With big container shipping alliances taking hold with the start of this month, seaports are looking at their own ways of teaming up. Several U.S. ports are joining forces, WSJ Logistics Report's Erica E. Phillips writes, as they set aside decades of regional competition to respond to the wave of consolidation hitting the shipping industry. The latest pact is by the port authorities of Georgia and Virginia, which is under review by shipping regulators and follows a tie-up by the ports of Seattle and Tacoma in Washington and a more limited agreement by California's neighboring ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The deals come as carriers set into motion three alliances that, starting this month, will control 90% of shipments on major global trade routes. That leaves ports facing a stark choice of either beefing up or falling off service maps. Shipping lines typically line up several ports in service strings, so ports may believe it makes sense to team up beforehand.

The reality of farming economics is wreaking havoc on supply and demand in the sector. U.S. farmers are expected to plant more soybeans than ever this year, the WSJ's Benjamin Parkin and Jesse Newman report, adding to a global glut that is pushing down prices and weighing on the agricultural economy. The record planting of some 90 million acres of the crop comes as Brazil and Argentina are reporting record harvests, pushing up soybean stockpiles alongside big stores of corn and wheat. Farmers are planting more soybeans even with the plentiful supplies because the crop is cheaper to cultivate than corn, and farmers are trying to slash costs as they struggle with low prices for their products. That will mean more loads moving through agriculture supply chains later this year, along with heavy pressure to slash the costs of that shipping.

One of the key transportation arteries into one of America's biggest transportation hubs will be a construction zone for several months. Transport operators, big businesses and daily commuters are looking for alternatives as the state of Georgia rebuilds a collapsed section of Interstate 85, the WSJ's Cameron McWhirter and Jennifer Smith report. The collapse that came in a heavy fire will take off the map a major route in one of the country's most congested corridors. Trucking companies expect to push more of their vehicles onto I-285, the perimeter road to the north, while local parcel carriers look for alternate routes on smaller roads that will get more crowded. Atlanta is a major distribution hub for retailers and e-commerce operations, however, and so some companies may be working to ensure that delays in Georgia don't ripple into other markets.


The rapid pace of research in autonomous driving is fueling a growing debate over the future freight-industry labor, including bedrock jobs such as truck driving. In Silicon Valley, the lineup of startups looking to take humans out of the truck is getting longer, the Financial Times reports, as companies like Starsky Robotics use big rigs to work out the future of self-driving trucks. They're targeting a "core problem" in logistics -- the difficulty in getting long-haul drivers -- and some see autonomous vehicles taking over the roads in the next decade. That could have a big impact across the population, cutting into a job that offers one of the steadiest, highest-paying jobs available that does not require a college degree, one that provides an economic lifeline for many. Still, a report by the Brookings Institution says such forecasts that the highways will soon be filled with robot trucks are overblown, however, ignoring how the business works from day to day. Authors Joseph Kane and Adie Tomer write drivers do far more than sit behind the wheel "on auto drive." Those jobs, they write, "are not likely to disappear anytime soon."



Consumer inflation in the U.S. pushed above 2% in February for the first time in five years. (WSJ)

Consumer sentiment about the U.S. economy remained high in March because of higher incomes and favorable job prospects. (WSJ)

Canadian economic output climbed in January at twice the expected rate, led by manufacturing and the energy sector. (WSJ)

A South Korean iron ore carrier, the Stellar Daisy, apparently sank in the South Atlantic off the coast of Uruguay and 22 crew members were missing. (Reuters)

U.S. oil prices rose at their steepest pace in four months in the past week. (WSJ)

Investors are dialing back expectations of major changes in U.S. trade policies, fueling a rebound in prices for some multinational companies and currencies hurt by tough White House rhetoric. (WSJ)

Caterpillar Inc. will close two factories in Illinois and Belgium, extending a downsizing in a weak market for mining and construction equipment. (WSJ)

Apple Inc. supplier Foxconn Technology Group reported its first-ever annual revenue decline, caused by a slump in iPhone sales. (WSJ)

Glencore PLC will sell a majority stake in its petroleum storage and logistics business to Chinese conglomerate HNA Group. (WSJ)

Dow Chemical Co. and DuPont Co. again pushed back the time frame to finish their merger, this time to August 2017.(WSJ)

A federal judge dismissed a CSX Corp. suit claiming the state's fuel tax discriminates against railroads. (Birmingham News)

Container freight rates out of Asia turned sharply upward ahead of the launch of new shipping alliances. (The Loadstar)

Amazon.com Inc. is placing a one-million-square-foot distribution center in Katy, Texas, its second in the Houston area. (Houston Chronicle)

U.S. auto dealership inventories have swelled to their highest level since 2004. (Yahoo Finance)

Switzerland cleared Matternet and Swiss Post to use drones to deliver blood samples and other small parcels between hospitals. (TechCrunch)

Construction began on a 1.45 million-square-foot speculative warehouse project in California's Inland Empire. (Los Angeles Times)

Louisiana's Plaquemines Port and American Patriot Holdings LLC will develop a container terminal on the lower Mississippi River. (American Shipper)

U.K. firm Kinaxia bought Panic Transport, its sixth acquisition in five years in an effort to create a national transport and logistics group. (Motor Transport)

The U.K.'s GMB union asked a court to rule drivers for logistics operator UK Express be classified as employees, not independent workers. (Belfast Telegraph)

A strike by truck drivers in India is sending the prices of farm goods soaring. (Times of India)

Organizers of Hawaii's annual Maui Carnival canceled the event because of what they called excessive shipping costs. (Maui Now)


Paul Page is deputy editor of WSJ Logistics Report. Follow him at @PaulPage, and follow the entire WSJ Logistics Report team: @brianjbaskin, @jensmithWSJ and @EEPhillips_WSJ and follow the WSJ Logistics Report on Twitter at @WSJLogistics.

Subscribe to this email newsletter by clicking here: http://on.wsj.com/Logisticsnewsletter .

Write to Paul Page at paul.page@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 03, 2017 06:13 ET (10:13 GMT)

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