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The following is the April, 1999 edition of "The Bulletin". Any questions or comments regarding content should be addressed to Alistar Mcnab at 713-678-4300.
Have you noticed that over half of the articles in recent editions of the Bulletin have been about local news? While we still intend to record news items of major national impact we are well aware that you are reading about these in other more timely publications. On the other hand, original material from our own back yard can now be found right here in the Bulletin and we hope you will come to rely on us to be kept up-to-date on what's going on in our regional maritime and logistics sectors.
We're also now in the desktop publishing business and you will be noticing the introduction of photographs and graphics as we become better acquainted with our magic machines. Our color cover is just the start!
And can you believe we're also on the Internet? By logging on to you will find our latest news by accessing the Press Releases, going down to Newsletters and clicking on Greater Houston Port Bureau. What could be simpler than that? While you're at it, Mark Moore's entire CargoTrax website is worth checking out.
The Port Bureau, and its subsidiary, the Marine Exchange of the West Gulf Inc., truly strive to be relevant to their members. In seventy years, we have come through a great deal and seen many changes. Provided we don't self-destruct over Y2K, the Bureau and Exchange plan to be around just as long as we're useful to those who support us with their membership. And if you're not a member but are reading this, then what are you waiting for? Now's the time to sign up before we go to press with the new Membership Directory and Register where your own free entry will include 50 words for your corporate message. Mind you, also buying advertising space won't hurt either. Welcome Aboard!
With kind regards,
Alistair Macnab
 Landed Ship Parts Don't Require Customs Entry
In a recent Federal Register notice, the U.S. Customs are proposing that vessel equipment landed ashore for repair and return to the same vessel will not need to be covered by a Temporary Importation Bond (TIB) as is currently the case.
Customs say the proposal would eliminate uncertainty and a lack of uniformity in the treatment that Customs has accorded vessel equipment temporarily landed for repair and return. Not all ports have applied the TIB procedures. Should you be interested in commenting on this proposal, you have until May 17th to write to the Regulations Branch of the U.S. Customs but for more information, you may contact Larry Burton on 202-927-1287.
 INTERTANKO holding their 1999 Annual General Meeting and Tanker Industry Exhibition in Houston
The Omni Houston Hotel will be the place to be for the tanker industry between April 25th and 29th when the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners convenes for what will be the sixth in a series of successful tanker industry meetings.
The Port of Houston certainly ranks in world-class terms as a tanker port and in 1998, no less than 46% of the entire port traffic was in bulk oils and chemicals when 3,295 bulk liquid vessels arrived into our port.
Merely counting port arrivals, however, only tells part of the story because many tankers are engaged in what's known as "parcel" activity in that each ship carries many different products and is obliged to call at a number of bulk liquid terminals up and down the Ship Channel. Cargo operations and shifting berths often take place at between six to ten different terminals during each port call - each move requiring the separate calling out of pilots, tugs and linesmen.
Scheduling a port call in order to avoid unnecessary delays and expenses requires a high degree of coordination among all the many parties involved. Owners, their superintendents and agents, must work closely with the many terminals while the terminals themselves need to sequence their activities to match the cargo requirements of each arriving ship.
Conflicting vessel arrival times and the non-availability of lay-by berths are circumstances to be avoided at all costs. Because of the paramount importance of safe traffic operations in the Ship Channel, if a tanker finds itself with the need to vacate a berth and has no other immediately available to receive it, then it is obliged to return to Bolivar Roads to wait for an open berth assignment.
Discussions are now under way among interested parties to look at the possibility of developing a more cohesive and integrated tanker traffic management plan. Such an arrangement would be designed to keep vessels moving sequentially around the terminals thus avoiding costly delays. The Port Bureau has expressed an interest in coordinating and managing such a scheme and looks forward to working with tanker operators and terminal proprietors as the study progresses. To learn more about this project, you should contact Captain Alistair Macnab on 713-678-4300.
 The Ocean Shipping Reform Act (OSRA) of 1998
One of the original functions of the Greater Houston Port Bureau from its inception seventy years ago has been to create and file mandatory tariff and rate agreements with the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) and other regulatory bodies on behalf of ports, terminals, stevedores, transportation companies, and so on. In recent times this has been accomplished through the FMC's cumbersome and specialized Automated Tariff Filing and Information System (ATFI), a complex and inflexible reporting format.
All this will be changed when OSRA comes into effect on May 1st. when tariffs and rates can be filed on and via the Internet. Organizations still required to file tariffs and rates will now be able to use off-the-shelf software to file via the Internet and their customers will be able to access these files also via the Internet although there is a provision in OSRA that there can be a charge for this public access.
The Port Bureau will continue, as before, to assist organizations to comply with OSRA and to file and manage their tariffs. We have already made arrangements for tariffs to be available on the Internet, either with free or password (i.e. fee-paying) access. For more details, you should speak with John Wentz on 713-678-4300.
 Small Shippers and OSRA; What's New in Service Contracts?
Late last year, the Port Bureau formed the Texas Gulf International Shippers' Association (TGISA) with the purpose of assisting small (and medium) shippers to obtain confidential service contract terms from ocean carriers under OSRA which becomes effective on May 1st.
Recognizing that each business has a core competency and that many shippers are often production or sales oriented and maybe lack the experience to negotiate with ocean carriers, our Association offers its hands-on experience in shipping and knowledge of ocean trade lanes and services with particular reference to Houston-based shippers desirous of utilizing the services of ocean carriers offering direct services to and from the Port of Houston.
Deregulation may or may not produce lower transportation costs but this new trading environment will require shippers to know more about the ocean link in their supply chains. Since there will no longer be any published service contract terms to refer to, it will be necessary for shippers to obtain rates and services intelligence from other sources and this is where TGISA should prove its worth.
It should be kept in mind that the only service contract terms that will be made available to the public in tariff form after May 1st will be the origin and destination port ranges, the commodities, the volume covered by the contract, and the contract's duration. All other terms and conditions will remain confidential.
Right now, there are many possibilities for a shipper to protect his best interests while adjusting to the real challenge of operating in a fundamentally new competitive environment. These include joining a national or commodity-specific shippers association, placing the responsibility in the hands of a freight forwarder or NVOCC, or even by uniting with other shippers to collectively enter into a service contract with a carrier.
The Texas Gulf International Shippers Association, on the other hand, by focusing on Houston-based shippers and on carriers providing direct calls to the Port of Houston, offers a unique alternative to the larger co-operatives and the more diverse demands of their members. While it is generally recognized that ocean deregulation can only increase the competitive advantages of negotiating rates and services co-operatively, many small and medium companies may desire to maintain a close watch on their transportation arrangements and find a certain comfort factor in working with an association designed to reflect their more localized concerns.
The TGISA is a not-for-profit association, managed by the Greater Houston Port Bureau exclusively for its members. Deregulation after OSRA is relatively new territory for most small to medium exporters, importers, and traders. The fine art or rate making will always be "What the market will bear" which demands that rate negotiations have to begin from a position of knowledge and strength. If you believe that the Texas Gulf International Shippers' Association may be helpful to you as you seek access to more competitive ocean rates and services, call Alistair Macnab on 713-678-4300.
 "OSRA and its Impact"
The previous two articles highlight the new circumstances which will affect both tariff filers and shippers after May 1st when the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 1998 comes into force.
In many cases, there now seem to be more questions than answers so the USGICC will offer a small panel of experts to provide clarification of some of the working details of OSRA at its monthly meeting on April 8th. As customary, the Club meets in the Plaza Suite of the Fountain View Restaurant at 2777 Allen Parkway (the Riviana Building) at 1145 hours. Lunch will cost $17.00 and refreshment tickets are available at $3.00 each. The advice offered and the exchange of information are free.
As this is expected to be a popular meeting, it will be necessary to confirm your attendance by calling Cynthia or Jeannie at the Port Bureau on 713-678-4300. The Club is open to all members of the Port Bureau, the Marine Exchange, and their friends. For thirteen years, the Commerce Club has been offering a lively and stimulating forum for the exchange of ideas and for meeting and making friends. April's OSRA program is a particularly good opportunity to visit the Club if you have never done so. For those of you who attend regularly, April's lunch is one you won't want to miss.
 U.S.A. Steel Imports Trending Downwards (But so are Exports)
In response to the prevailing uncertainties in the steel market, January 1999 imports of semi-finished steel products were down 13.6% to 406,000 short tons when compared with January 1998.
Substantial downturns in steel imports from Russia, Turkey and Ukraine are now being noticed even as imports from such countries as India, China and Indonesia are showing gains.
For the record, the January 1999 total imports were 2,740,000 short tons, down 4.2% from a month earlier. Steel exports were recorded at 373,000 short tons, up 1.9% from December 1998 but down a significant 27.6% from January 1998.
In the mean time, there are fears that protectionism was behind the recent vote by the U.S. House of Representatives to impose quotas on steel imports into the U.S.A. Passed by a vote of 289 to 141 (one short of the number needed to override a veto) the bill will now go forward to the Senate and ultimately to the President who has expressed some opposition to it.
There is a strong body of opinion that this bill is unlikely to become law as it clearly violates the U.S.A's world trade commitments. But its very presence is certainly slowing down steel imports and will do nothing for steel exports as overseas markets seek a tit-for-tat protection against what is seen as a clear case of American xenophobia.
For more information, you can call Eric Blomquist at the American Institute for International Steel(AIIS) in Washington DC on 202-466-6210.
 Texas Gulf Ocean Traffic, 1st Quarter, 1999
The numbers are in for traffic performance at Texas Gulf ports over the first quarter of 1999 and although there is a overall downturn in the number of ship calls when compared with the first quarter of 1998, there are also some interesting surprises.
In Houston, for example, calls by breakbulk general cargo vessels are almost unchanged with 257 ships of this type arriving during the first quarter of 1998 versus 261 this year for an increase of 4. Full container ship calls, also, actually showed a substantial increase of 17.2 percent, quarter-on-quarter, with 179 vessel arrivals of this class this year outperforming last year's total of 167.
On the other hand, bulk carrier arrivals at Houston were down 21.6%, chemical tankers down by 8.4%, and oil tankers down by 8.3% when the first quarters of 1998 and 1999 are compared. Overall, Houston's port traffic was 4.9% off within the same time frames.
Other Texas ports also reported mixed results with Galveston and Corpus Christi showing little change but with Texas City, Freeport, and Brownsville returning numbers to reflect the general downturn in world maritime commerce. Year-to-date arrival statistics at these ports are:
  1Q 1999 1Q 1998
Galveston 123 129
Texas City 315 348
Brownsville 37 47
Corpus Christi 380 383
Freeport 170 197
The Marine Exchange of the West Gulf collects and collates these statistics for members and also provides port activity by vessel type, agent, individual berth, and flag. Additional data can be captured upon demand. For more information, please call Alton Landry on 713-678-7711.
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