Dozens of U.S. industry associations urged the White House to help restart stalled talks between East and Gulf coast dockworkers and port operators, saying a strike is the last thing the economy needs amid already strained global supply chains. Earlier this month, contract negotiations broke down between the International Longshoremen’s Association and the U.S. Maritime Alliance. The current agreement, which covers about 45,000 dockworkers at facilities including six of the 10 busiest US ports, expires September 30. Global maritime trade is already under strain linked to Houthi attacks on ships through the Red Sea. Container carriers are forced to take the longer route around Southern Africa, stretching capacity, lengthening lead times for new orders and pushing up freight rates.

Tariffs, most economists would agree, act to restrict imports of the item targeted by the border tax. A US tariff on Chinese-made port cranes will be indiscriminate — hurting exports as well as imports, and boosting costs for the government, companies and consumers. That’s the argument from US seaports, which are urging the Biden administration to rethink a proposed 25 percent duty on Chinese-made gantry cranes. Such a tax would add more than $130 million in unexpected costs and disadvantage them against rivals in Canada and Mexico, the industry says. In letters to the US Trade Representative Katherine Tai last week, ports in California, Florida, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia said there are no viable alternatives to Chinese cranes. They’re asking for a delay or withdrawal of the tariff plans that are part of USTR’s 301 case against China.

As automated technology continues to thrive in grocery stores, it seems that robotic bagging can’t be too far behind. MIT’s CSAIL department this week is showcasing RoboGrocery. It combines computer vision with a soft robotic gripper to bag a wide range of items. To test the system, researchers placed 10 objects unknown to the robot on a grocery conveyer belt. The products ranged from delicate items like grapes, bread, kale, muffins and crackers to far more solid ones like soup cans, meal boxes and ice cream containers. The vision system kicks in first, detecting the objects before determining their size and orientation on the belt. As the grasper touches the grapes, pressure sensors in the fingers determine that they are, in fact, delicate and therefore should not go at the bottom of the bag — something many of us no doubt learned the hard way. Next, it notes that the soup can is a more rigid structure and sticks it in the bottom of the bag.

On June 27 in Washington D.C., the Korea-U.S. Supply Chain and Industry Dialogue Semiconductor Forum was held, marking a significant step towards enhancing the semiconductor supply chain alliance between the two nations. The forum, jointly hosted by the semiconductor industry associations of Korea and the United States, brought together leading semiconductor companies such as Samsung Electronics, SK Hynix, Intel, and Qualcomm to discuss the current challenges facing the industry. A key highlight of the forum was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the semiconductor industry associations of both countries. This MOU aims to enhance cooperation in the semiconductor supply chain, promoting collaboration in areas such as AI, R&D, workforce training, and information sharing. Kim Jung-hoe, Vice Chairman of the Korea Semiconductor Industry Association, emphasized the complementary relationship between Korea and the U.S. within the global semiconductor supply chain.

Bargain shopping apps Temu and Shein are reshaping the air cargo market out of China, eating up aircraft space at a pace that is driving up freight rates and sparking fears of a capacity squeeze during the busy peak shipping season later this year. Shipping volumes from China’s manufacturing hubs in the south in particular are surging, triggering growing competition for aircraft space. Prices out of the airfreight-heavy region in June were up about 40% from a year ago during what is normally a slack season before business accelerates for the end-of-year holiday shopping period. Industry experts say the surge is largely the result of the turbocharged growth of Temu and Shein, the China-founded e-commerce upstarts that have become a force in online retail trade.

Shippers are planning for supply chain disruption this month, after Canadian rail workers affiliated with the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) voted overwhelmingly to re-authorize strike action – and say they will walk out at the earliest opportunity. The union announced over the weekend that 10,000 workers at rail operators CN and CPKC voted, with 98.6 percent in favor of strike authorization. The vote result is valid for 60 days. Strike action had previously been authorized for May 22, but a government request to the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) on May 19 – to determine if rail services could be deemed as essential, and thus a strike would endanger public health – put this on pause. And while the CIRB decision process timeline is unknown, one large shipper told The Loadstar it was planning for supply chain disruption from mid-July.

That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend and the song of the week, I Knew You Were Trouble (Taylor’s Version) by Taylor Swift.

The post This Week in Logistics News (June 29 – July 5) appeared first on Logistics Viewpoints.