North America Market Update (November 2022)

  • Another railroad union rejects contract deal raising possibility of a strike or congressional action:The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers (IBB) is the third union to have rejected its tentative agreement with the US railroads. While there was a deal struck in September between the 12 unions representing 115,000 railroad workers and the National Carrier’s Conference Committee, select unions have continued to vote down the proposal in subsequent voting measures over quality-of-life issues. To date, seven unions have ratified the agreement with the BLET and SMART-TD unions to conclude voting on November 20th. The cooling off period is December 9th, after which time a potential strike could occur, unless Congress intervenes.
  • ILWU / PMA negotiations languish on West Coast:West Coast ports continue to operate business as usual, though more than four months have lapsed since the labor contract expired on June 30th. Talks have been stalled for several months and industry officials do not believe talks will conclude until sometime in 2023. Talks have been delayed over an intra-union dispute between the ILWU and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union over which workers at SSA Marine’s Seattle terminal get to perform a particular job function. The dispute was the subject of a National Labor Relations Board hearing that began on November 3rd and has since been adjourned, though will resume at the end of the month. Bargaining is expected to resume shortly between the PMA and ILWU.

 

We continue to see signs of normalization in some markets. Overall trends for both East and West coasts look to be improving through the end of the year compared to October. The rate of cargo volume decline has slowed as customers are finalizing their 2022 shipping activity.

Customers should be mindful of the upcoming Chinese New Year holiday period, which begins on Sunday, January 22nd, 2023, and culminates with the Lantern Festival on February 5th.

Network optimizations executed in the past month have begun to improve conditions, particularly in the Pacific Northwest. We continue to see the reduction of dwelling container units for both imports and exports. The top dwelling import locations are Baltimore, Prince Rupert, Houston, and North Charleston. The top dwelling export locations are Houston, Savannah, and North Charleston. Empty container availability remains good throughout North America and there are no issues for covering export demand. The longest vessel waiting times we are seeing are in Baltimore, Savannah, Houston, Oakland, and Vancouver.

As a result of slowing economic activity, global container demand is expected to contract between –2 and –4% in 2022.

In 2023, the global container market is expected to be broadly flat to negative, however given the current macroeconomic backdrop risks are skewed to the downside.

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