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Baltimore Gets Closure, Minnesota DOT Funding Rail Project, and Biden Continues Trade War With China

May 31, 2024

Almost two months after the Baltimore Bridge collapse, the general public finally has some closure on the reasons behind the deadly incident. In a bid to make Minnesota more competitive on the national and global stage, the state’s DOT is funding a series of rail projects across the state. Meanwhile, it seems the U.S.-Chinese trade war continues as Biden is set to hike tariffs on Chinese businesses and supply chains by 25%.

In this month's newsletter, we are taking things a bit local. So continue reading as we explore the latest trends and stories within the freight industry across the entire U.S.

More Details Emerge Regarding Baltimore Bridge Collapse

After close to two months of conducting investigations and carrying out due diligence on the reason behind the collapse of the Baltimore Bridge in Maryland, we finally have some closure.

The National Transportation Safety Board has released a preliminary report on the events leading up to the catastrophic accident and the reasons for the collapse. According to the report, the NTSB found that the Dali vessel lost power twice before colliding with the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore on March 26, 2024. More importantly, the ship had also experienced two blackouts the day before the accident. From the report, it seems Dali knew there was a problem but allowed the vessel to continue the journey rather than find a solution.

Following the release of the report, the FBI has opened a criminal investigation into the cause of the collapse.

Final Victim Recovered

Earlier in May, the recovery crews at the collapsed Baltimore Bridge found the body of the sixth and final construction worker who died on March 26, the day of the tragedy.

Authorities announced the news on May 8 as crews planned to remove a large section of the wreckage. The recovery of the last victim happened on Tuesday, May 7. The names of the victims are Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes, Dorlian Ronial Castillo Cabrera, Maynor Yasir Suazo-Sandoval, Carlos Daniel Hernandez Estrella, Miguel Angel Luna Gonzalez, and José Mynor López. They were Latino immigrants who came to America from Mexico and were working on the bridge before the accident.

Following the last recovery, the crews conducted a controlled demolition to break up the bridge. However, the Dali's 21-member crew will remain on the ship and shelter in place during the demolition.

Minnesota DOT to Spend $10,000,000 on Rail Projects

Minnesota's Department of Transportation is splashing $10 million on rail projects across the state in a move that could further signal the comeback of rail investment.

The money is a positive development for the state’s freight industry and will allow the state to compete on an international and national level. Through this money, the Minnesota government can increase the efficiency and capacity of transporting goods via railroads. It will cut across adverse industries such as agriculture, sugar production, industrial development, and government.

The project includes developing a unit train loading facility for the Northern Country Co-op in Lansing, land for a new industrial park and innovation center for Minnesota Northern Railroad Co. in Crookston, and $1.5 million to install new railcar offloading stations for Louisiana-Pacific Corp.

Trade War Continues as Biden Imposes Tariffs on Chinese Businesses

It looks like the trade tariff war between China and the U.S. will not be slowing down anytime soon, as the Biden administration adds tariffs to Chinese businesses that manufacture ship-to-shore (STS) cranes.

The new tariffs are due to China's unfair trade practices. More importantly, the U.S. government believes it will be part of a broader strategy to safeguard American workers, companies, and supply chains. The STS cranes are necessary for port operations. One of the major suppliers of the equipment, Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries, has links to the Chinese Communist Party. Concerns have been raised about the security of U.S. ports due to suspicions that China has embedded and used cranes for espionage purposes.

While China’s biggest export market continues to make trade difficult, it will be interesting to see how the country manages and navigates the situation.

Surge in Cargo Volume For Golf Coast Ports

The Golf Coast ports, including Houston, New Orleans, and Mobile, Alabama, all enjoyed an increase in their cargo flow year-on-year for March. Corpus Christi was an exception, witnessing a 1.7% decline in shipment volume.

The Port of Houston's containerized volume increased 20% year-over-year in March to 360,991 TEUs. The port of New Orleans's volume increased 24% to 45,214 TEUs, while Mobile moved 53,608 TEUs in March, a 27% year-over-year increase. Although container volumes to the port of Corpus Christi declined in March, it still handled 10.6 million tons of crude during the month.

One of the main reasons for such high imports was the consumer spending on items like furniture and appliances. It contributed to loaded import volumes, up 23% y/y in March and 14% year to date.

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