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American Shipper

ICC issues warning on port bottlenecks

ICC issues warning on port bottlenecks

   The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) has expressed concern over the impact of port bottlenecks on global trade and called for urgent remedial action.

   In a statement issued in connection with the International Association of Ports and Harbors conference held in Shanghai on May 21-27, the ICC’s committee on maritime transport warned that freight transport infrastructure serving many ports is incapable of adequately handling current container volumes.

   “ICC is concerned about the inadequacy of infrastructure serving many ports worldwide, threatening the smooth flow of global trade,” the Paris-based business group said.

   The ICC’s committee on maritime transport spelled out the consequences of delays caused by freight bottlenecks: missed berthing slots in subsequent ports, missed feeder and train connections, and higher fuel costs to adjust schedules.

   “Delays seriously affect just-in-time distribution methods,” it said. “Problems in one region affect the performance of facilities along the entire supply chain, incurring additional costs.”

   In many ports, freight containers are piling high as a result of bottlenecks.

   The ICC’s main points, it said, are that port capacity shortages harm world trade, demand for capacity is rising, freight industry stakeholders and public authorities must work together to expand capacity and provide the necessary funding, and “action is needed now.”

   “We call for greater investment — it’s a message mainly to policymakers,” said Viviane Schiavi, senior policy manager at the ICC. She added that industry should also work on helping to solve congestion problems. Owners and operators of ports and terminals need to plan now for the future, and public authorities should ensure that the necessary planning and investment tools are in place.

   “Some of the issues are structural,” Schiavi said.

   The ICC urged the freight industry and public authorities to act now to expand freight transport infrastructure, reducing congestion on roads and railways to ports and eliminating bottlenecks.

   Industry and wider business concerns over port congestion are being expressed as the volume of international shipping containers continues to rise fast. The ICC said transpacific cargo will grow by an anticipated 10-12 percent in 2006, while Russia’s container traffic is rising by 15-20 percent a year. China’s containerized export trade is also booming.

   “World trade and commerce depend on sufficient and reliable transport services,” said Lua Cheng Eng, chairman of the ICC committee on maritime transport and advisor to Neptune Orient Lines. “So does the economic health of individual trading nations, their businesses, their workforces and ultimately their citizens,” he added. Lua is the former chairman of Neptune Orient Lines, the parent company of APL.

   The specialized ICC committee on maritime transport brings together maritime transport providers and users.

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