NORTHERN SHIPPING LANES
POPULATED BY ICEBERGS
The International Ice Patrol (IIP) expressing concern about a swarm of icebergs
invading North Atlantic shipping lanes in April is perhaps the height of irony. The IIP
was created in the wake of the Titanic disaster, in which history’s most famous ship
sank after striking an iceberg in the North Atlantic on an April night in 1912.
This year, more than 480 spring icebergs drifted into shipping lanes, according to
published reports in mid-April. That number is usually not seen until late summer.
As a result, ships detoured more than 400 nautical miles to avoid the most
treacherous areas of the sea.
U.S. Coast Guard commander Gabrielle McGrath, head of the IIP, told Popular
Science that the number of icebergs in the transatlantic lanes increased more than
12-fold (from 37 to 455) during a weeklong period in late March and early April.
“I have about a decade of experience with the Ice Patrol, and in my time here, and
talking with people who have been here longer, I’ve never seen anything like this or
heard of anything like this before,” McGrath told Popular Science.
Icebergs seal their fate by drifting into warmer waters, where they are broken
up even faster by storm-created waves. However, that’s of little consolation to
shippers that lose time and fuel due to the detour. But safety must come first.
While truck-driver shortages are often
part of the logistics news feed, a paucity
of pilots could get just as critical — and
impact an e-commerce industry that is
taking off. A 2013 study by the University
of North Dakota (UND) projected 12,000
unfilled pilot vacancies by 2025, and
regional carriers are already seeing
disruptions, Air Cargo World reports.
Retirements loom, and new pilot training
has become costly and time-consuming,
due in part to regulations stemming
from air disasters. The UND study found
that initial pilot training costs more than
US$160,000, and a federal law requires
that most pilots have 1,500 hours of flight
time and airline transport certification
before flying commercially.
Regional carriers have cancelled routes
and scrambled to maintain crews, but
Stan Bernstein, president of the Regional
Air Cargo Carriers Association (RACCA)
warns that — amid consumers’ growing
expectations of quick package delivery —
those are short-term fixes.
“Millions of Americans are not going to
get their online purchases delivered to
their front door if the situation does not
improve,” Bernstein told Air Cargo World.
Definition: Datamyne, a Miami-based
trade data provider, defines beneficial
cargo owner (BCO) as “an importer that
takes control of its cargo at the point
of entry and does not use a third-party source.” A BCO is a company
with enough importing inventory
and influence to negotiate contracts
directly with a vessel operating
common carrier (VOCC).
Field guide: The percentage of imports
by BCOs has declined in recent years,
according to Datamyne research. In
2015, about 63 percent of all vessel
imports, in terms of 20-foot equivalent
units (TEUs), were acquired by a BCO,
down from 74 percent in 2005. This
indicates more importers are using
such third parties as a non-vessel
operating common carrier (NVOCC)
or freight forwarder.
Factoid: The West Coast share of
Asian imports has declined from 78.4
percent in 2005 to 66.8 percent in
2016, according to joc.com, and BCOs
might be a factor. Perhaps weary of
labor disruptions at West Coast ports in
recent years, BCOs have set up import
distribution centers along the East and
Gulf coasts. ISM
BENEFICIAL CARGO OWNER