In a Calgary warehouse almost as big as eight football fields, an army of robots whir about, carrying massive quantities of merchandise bound for Walmart Canada customers. Some of the robots zip around the hulking facility transporting pallets of merchandise fresh off delivery trucks. Another resembling a giant arm moves the pallets onto conveyor belts. A third group are labelers. Together, they shave down the time it takes to get products from trailers into the facility by 90 per cent — and their overlord, Walmart Canada, hopes this is just the start. It plans to bring robots to Mississauga and Cornwall, Ont., distribution centers over the next five years.

Inbound cargo volume at the nation’s major container ports in the month of May is expected to top 2 million units for the first time since last fall, as imports grow despite new supply chain challenges, according to the Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates. While it is not expected to have a national impact, the tragic collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge shows the ongoing need for flexibility and resiliency in every company’s supply chain. Baltimore is not included in Global Port Tracker’s national totals because its data is reported later than other ports. But as the Port of Baltimore has been closed to vessel traffic since a container ship struck a major bridge on March 26, the shutdown is having a regional impact because cargo that would normally go there is being diverted to other East Coast ports. The port handled 48,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in January.

A logistics strategy called transloading, used by trucking companies during the pandemic to ease the container backlog, is increasing in popularity again after U.S. West Coast ports have started to receive higher volumes of containers that are being diverted away from the East Coast. Transloading is the process of moving freight from truck to rail or rail to truck. Logistics companies tell CNBC that U.S. importers are requesting this type of service more frequently as they move more freight on new routes as a result of the Red Sea diversions and the Panama Canal drought restrictions. The February Transportation Intelligence report from economic forecasting firm FR showed that U.S. imports moved inland via transload in 2023 were between 65-70 percent percent, compared to 2021 when it was less than 60 percent.

Maritime industry experts are projecting a surge in freight rates and insurance charges—known as war risk premiums—following the move by Iranian military forces on Saturday to seize a commercial container ship near the Strait of Hormuz. The increases would be similar to price hikes that happened in January when many ocean freight carriers began to avoid the Red Sea and the Suez Canal in an effort to dodge missiles and drones being launched by Houthi rebels in Yemen. But the latest incident could trigger a more global response, affecting oil prices, shipping routes, and energy security. In the latest example of regional violence rippling out from Israel’s war with Hamas and Palestine, Iranian Navy special forces used a helicopter to forcefully board the MSC Aries, which is operated by maritime giant MSC but owned by an Israeli company, according to published reports. The seizure happened the same day that Iran fired hundreds of drones and missiles against Israel in retaliation for Israel’s earlier raid on the Iranian consulate in Syria.

That’s all for this week.  Enjoy the weekend and the song of the week, The Tortured Poets Department by Taylor Swift.

The post This Week in Logistics News (April 13 – 19) appeared first on Logistics Viewpoints.