2013 Worldwide ERC, Dallas, TX - October 2013

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Port operations resume as workers temporarily end strike

The three-day strike that paralyzed the port of Baltimore is over — for now.

Striking longshoremen agreed late Friday to resume working on the docks during a 90-day "cooling-off period" while negotiations continue on a new local contract.

Work on some ships had resumed earlier in the day after an arbitrator ordered them back on the job to load and unload container ships. Now that the union has voluntarily agreed to suspend the strike, its members also will resume work on the auto carriers so critical to the port, which has become the nation's No. 1 vehicle handler.

Observers saw the 90-day "cooling off period" as significant progress, though they noted that the two sides have not come to a fundamental agreement about several outstanding issues.

"We're unloading everything coming into the port of Baltimore," said Aaron Barnett, vice president of International Longshoremen's Association Local 333. "We've put all of our people back to work."

The 3-day-old strike had presented a significant challenge to East Coast shipping. At least one ship — the CCNI Antofagasta — sailed from Baltimore to Charleston, S.C., without unloading its cargo, even as other cargo ships waited. Automakers watched negotiations closely, wondering whether to implement contingency plans to divert vehicles to other ports.

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China smog emergency shuts city of 11 million people

Air pollution in the city of Harbin in northeastern China has forced officials to close the airport, cancel some public bus routes and suspend some school classes.

BEIJING — Choking smog all but shut down one of northeastern China's largest cities on Monday, forcing schools to suspended classes, snarling traffic and closing the airport, in the country's first major air pollution crisis of the winter.

An index measuring PM2.5, or particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5), reached a reading of 1,000 in some parts of Harbin, the gritty capital of northeastern Heilongjiang province and home to some 11 million people.

A level above 300 is considered hazardous, while the World Health Organisation recommends a daily level of no more than 20.

The smog not only forced all primary and middle schools to suspend classes, but shut the airport and some public bus routes, the official Xinhua news agency reported, blaming the emergency on the first day of the heating being turned on in the city for winter. Visibility was reportedly reduced to 10 meters.

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Longshoremen strike, shut down port operations

12:22 p.m. EDT, October 16, 2013

All cargo operations at the Port of Baltimore's public marine terminals ground to a halt Wednesday after a local longshoremen's union failed to ratify a contract agreement with port operators Tuesday night.

Crowds of International Longshoremen's Association Local 333 members stood outside entrances to Dundalk Marine Terminal holding signs saying, "No contract, no work," and "ILA Port of Baltimore on STRIKE!"

The port's 400-foot super post-Panamax cranes stood quiet and motionless in the distance at Seagirt Marine Terminal, where strikers also gathered. Only a few trucks passed through the normally busy gates.

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Giant 40-ft rubber duckie designed by Dutch artist makes a splash in Pittsburgh

The first U.S. version of the 40-foot-tall rubber duckie that's made a splash in harbors from Hong Kong to Sao Paulo since 2007 will appear in Pittsburgh on Friday.

The giant yellow creature is pictured being towed up the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh.

PITTSBURGH -- The first U.S. version of the 40-foot-tall rubber duckie that's made a splash in harbors from Hong Kong to Sao Paulo since 2007 has appeared in Pittsburgh.

Each city builds its own duck from the plans of Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, and the whole project includes massive pontoons, crews to inflate and deflate the duck, and in this case, alerting organizations such as the Coast Guard and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Hofman has said the duck has "healing properties" because it knows no frontiers, doesn't discriminate and doesn't have a political connotation.

The event marks the North American debut of Hofman's Rubber Duck Project, which has taken place in other cities in Asia, Europe, Australia and South America.

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What a Partial US Government Shutdown Means for Shippers

Mark Szakonyi, Associate Editor | Sep 30, 2013 12:12PM EDT    

WASHINGTON — Shippers shouldn’t expect any delays in the clearance of cargo at ports of entry, nor will highway, road and bridge construction cease, if the federal government partially shuts down because of a fight over President Obama’s health care law.

But the potential shutdown, which would be the first in 17 years, would hurt economic growth, presenting new hurdles to shippers and transportation providers already grappling with a slow recovery since the 2008-09 recession. A shutdown lasting a few days could cost the U.S. economy 0.2 percent of annualized growth in the last three months of the year, while a shutdown lasting three to four weeks could take a 1.4 percentage point bite out of fourth quarter GDP, Mark Zandi, chief economist and co-founder of Moody Analytics, told CNN.

The larger risk is that investors’ nerves become more frazzled because of the shutdown, causing them to demand higher interest rates when the U.S. Treasury asks for $120 billion in loans on Oct. 17, according to The Washington Post. That would cause rates to jump, “leading to more expensive mortages, auto loans and credit card bills.” Ultimately, the impasse could reduce U.S. companies’ confidence to spend the cash they’ve been hoarding since the recession.

Aside from the potential negative economic impact of the shutdown, the effectiveness of the government will be severely restricted, Bruce Carlton, president and CEO of the National Industrial Transportation League, said in a statement. The potential shutdown and sequestration will force “federal managers to run multibillion dollar programs on consistently more constrained short run timetables,” he said.

“If you or your company were forced to procure essential products or services on an inconsistently applied and unpredictable one month or three month basis, what would be the impact on the price you paid?” Carlton said. “That’s the reality of ‘managing’ the federal budget on the mindless direction of continuing resolutions and across-the-board sequesters.”

In the short term, however, the impact on shippers will be minimal. Customs and Border Protection agents will continue to clear cargo, and air traffic controllers will keep manning the towers. Spending tied to trust funds — including the Highway Trust Fund, Inland Waterway Trust Fund and Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund — will continue.

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What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Shutdown

  • By Rebecca Ballhaus

Here, we tell you what to expect from a partial temporary shutdown, drawing on government agencies’ plans and information from the last time the government shut down in 1995 and 1996.

We will update this list as more information becomes available.

How will travel and transportation be affected?

Air traffic control will continue, in addition to airport and airplane safety inspections. All Federal Highway Administration activities will also continue.

According to the Department of Transportation’s contingency plan released Friday, the agency will furlough 18,481 of its 55,468 employees.

Amtrak trains will continue to run.

In the 1995-96 shutdowns, about 20,000-30,000 foreign applications for visas went unprocessed every day, and 200,000 U.S. applications for passports weren’t processed, according to the Congressional Research Service report. These delays reportedly cost U.S. tourist industries and airlines millions of dollars.

Will I be able to get a passport?

Travelers will still be able to apply for passports, since consular operations will “remain 100% operational as long as there are sufficient fees to support operations,” according to plans released Friday. Complications could arise if a passport agency is located in a government building closed by the shutdown, but the under secretary for management will treat those on a “case-by-case basis,” according to the plan.

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