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Perilous Waters: Yemen Rebels Attack, Raising Shipping Chokepoint Risks

December 8, 2023

Welcome to the inaugural edition of the OpenTrack Weekly Transportation Digest! This week’s edition leads off with a look at a recent attack by Yemen rebels targeting shipping in the Red Sea. This roundup of the news and trends shaping the transportation industry also includes items on ports in Texas, New Orleans, and Oakland, as well as an update on the concern surrounding aging rail infrastructure in the United States.

Our goal each week is to equip you with the insights needed to navigate the dynamic world of shipping and logistics.

Yemen Rebels’ Attack Underscores Need for Risk Mitigation

In a recent incident, Yemen rebels targeted shipping in the Red Sea, adding a new layer of complexity to maritime security. Since the Israel-Hamas war began, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Hormuz have been shipping “chokepoints” targeted by Yemen rebels. Now, there is a third — the Bab el-Mandeb Strait.

According to a Nov. 21 article in FreightWaves, Houthi rebels in Yemen hijacked the pure car and truck carrier (PCTC) Galaxy Leader, a vessel with ownership ties to Israeli businessman Abraham “Rami” Ungar. The vessel was on charter to Japan’s NYK and had 25 crew aboard from Ukraine, Bulgaria, the Philippines, and Mexico.

As global supply chains grapple with disruptions, staying informed about potential chokepoints that may impact container movements will be crucial. The ability to anticipate and mitigate such risks is essential for ensuring the smooth flow of goods through international waters.

Red Sea Alert: International Security Warning for Ships

The Houthi rebels’ attack came days after an international coalition set up to maintain maritime security and freedom of navigation across the Middle East region released a warning for shipping operating in the Red Sea region.

“We continue to be concerned with a heightened threat level in the Red Sea,” the International Maritime Security Construct wrote in a message published by The Maritime Executive and other outlets. “The approaches to the Bab al Mandeb continue to be an area of concern,” they wrote in advising ships on procedures for transiting the Red Sea and Bab al Mandeb.

With heightened security concerns in the Red Sea, the global shipping community faces increased scrutiny. OpenTrack users dealing with the intricacies of container tracking will benefit from understanding the geopolitical factors influencing shipping routes. Enhanced awareness allows for proactive measures to ensure cargo safety and minimize potential disruptions, reinforcing the reliability of supply chain operations.

October Cargo Volumes: Divergence in Texas and New Orleans Ports      

While Texas ports experienced a decline in cargo volumes, their counterparts in New Orleans witnessed a surge. Port Houston processed 366,208 twenty-foot equivalent container units in October, a 2% drop from the same month in 2022.

Meanwhile, at the Port of New Orleans, “container cargo totaled 41,934 TEUs in October, up 3% compared to the same month in 2022, according to the FreightWaves article, which attributed the increased volume to steel, rubber, and coffee imports.

Shippers can leverage this information to optimize route planning and resource allocation, aligning their operations with the evolving demands at specific ports. Staying attuned to regional variations empowers logistics professionals to make data-driven decisions and maintain efficiency in their supply chains.

Port of Oakland: Navigating Challenges as Cargo Volumes Drop

The Port of Oakland witnessed a significant drop in cargo volumes in October. Cargo volumes fell 12% year over year in October to 178,627 total TEUs but are gaining back volumes in exports.

“Our port remains the preferred export gateway for fruits, nuts, meats, and grains since we are the closest to agricultural areas in the Central Valley,” Port of Oakland Maritime Director Bryan Brandes said in a press release obtained by Supply Chain Dive.

This highlights the importance of agility and adaptability in response to fluctuating demand. Efficient container tracking becomes paramount in managing inventory levels and optimizing shipping schedules, allowing for strategic adjustments to align with shifting port dynamics.

Is the Nation’s Rail Infrastructure Safe?

According to The Wall Street Journal, the more than 70,000 railroad bridges across the U.S. are beginning to show their age. Several incidents in 2023 support this grim fact about the nation’s rail infrastructure:

  • February 3: About 50 cars on a Norfolk Southern train traveling from Illinois to Pennsylvania derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, spilling toxic chemicals.
  • June 24: A Montana Rail Link train derailed into the Yellowstone River, spilling asphalt, molten sulfur, and scrap metal.
  • October 15: A BNSF coal train derailed on a bridge spanning Interstate 25 north of Pueblo, Colorado. The 65-year-old bridge collapsed onto the roadway, killing a truck driver.

This has led politicians to urge companies to prioritize rail infrastructure improvements to avoid similar accidents, according to a SupplyChainBrain article.

Professionals in the rail industry, including OpenTrack users, should pay attention to this ongoing development. It emphasizes the need for robust rail tracking capabilities to anticipate and address potential disruptions promptly. OpenTrack's services become indispensable in maintaining visibility and control over rail shipments, ensuring the reliability of the entire transportation network.

Navigating Tomorrow's Transportation Challenges with Real Time Container Tracking

As we wrap up this week's edition, the overarching theme revolves around the dynamic nature of the transportation industry. OpenTrack is a reliable ally for businesses seeking to navigate these challenges seamlessly. Our suite of services empowers you with:

  • Real-time Container Tracking: Ensure visibility at every stage of your container's journey.
  • Predictive Analytics: Anticipate disruptions and proactively adjust your logistics strategies.
  • Dynamic Route Optimization: Optimize shipping routes based on the latest trends and developments.

Ready to revolutionize your logistics operations? Book a demo with OpenTrack today and discover how our solutions can elevate your shipping and tracking capabilities. Stay ahead in the fast-paced world of transportation!

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