NEWS 

Delays expected due to blizzard

UNITED STATES (Jan. 25, 2016) – Delays expected due to blizzard

Following a record-breaking winter storm, many U.S. government agencies, foreign embassies, consulates and other offices remain closed in the Washington, D.C. area, and services have been impacted in states from New York to North Carolina.

All applicants should anticipate delays in immigration, visa and other services, as the aftermath of the storm is also disrupting mail delivery and transportation. FedEx and UPS are both reporting significant delays in package and mail services.

In addition, as the area digs out of the snow in the coming days, government and consular offices that reopen may be operating with reduced staff due to road conditions and transportation affecting personnel who commute to those offices.

Winter Storm Jonas began Friday and dumped more than two feet of snow on the East Coast over the weekend with some areas reporting more than 40 inches. Federal and local government offices in the D.C. area remained closed Monday as did public schools in several states. Local transportation is also running on restricted schedules. Airlines canceled approximately 12,000 flights since Friday.

- Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP

Courtesy of https://www.balglobal.com/News/News/Details/tabid/1136/id/4941/language/en-US/UNITED-STATES-Jan-25-2016-Delays-expected-due-to-blizzard.aspx

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Visa Systems Issues June 2015

Technological Systems Issue

JUNE 29, 2015

Visa System Issues

  • All visa-issuing embassies and consulates are now back online. We are scheduling visa interviews and issuing nonimmigrant and immigrant visas.

  • We issued more than 410,000 nonimmigrant visas from June 21 through June 29. Consular staff worked through the weekend to diminish our backlog, the bulk of which has now been cleared. 

  • We have issued all remaining H-2 visas for temporary workers that were pending during the June 9 – June 19 timeframe. Mexico posts are now processing all H-2 visas as normal.

  • We are still experiencing problems with some online immigrant visa application forms. We hope to have a fix in place for this by early next week.

  • We deeply regret the inconvenience to travelers who are waiting for visas, as well as their families and U.S. businesses that have been affected.
Please find more information from the Department of State here

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US Congress steps up pressure on ILWU, PMA to reach deal

Feb 02, 2015 3:01PM EST

The U.S. Congress is stepping up its pressure on the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association to reach a “swift resolution” to their 9-month-old contract negotiations.

Eighty-four U.S. House members have signed a letter urging the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association to reach a deal to end the economic pain rippling through supply chains. Although more members of Congress are wading into the the issue, there’s little that lawmakers can do except to urge the two sides to reach agreement.

The most recent letter was organized by Reps. Dave Weichert, R-Wash., and Kurt Schrader, D-Ore. It followed a letter by the co-chairs of the bipartisan, 90-member Congressional Ports Caucus urging both sides “to reach a mutually acceptable resolution.”

Rep. Janice Hahn, D-Calif., whose district includes the Los Angeles-Long Beach port area, later criticized employers when they quit hiring night work gangs in response to what the PMA said were ILWU-orchestrated slowdowns.

Last November, the six U.S. senators from California, Washington and Oregon signed a letter urging the two sides to reach agreement.

There’s been some discussion of bringing longshore labor relations under the Railway Labor Act, which covers the railroad and airline industries, but such a change would encounter strong opposition and has not been seriously pursued.

Former Rep. Jack Kingston, a Republican who represented Georgia's first congressional district from 1993 until this year, said West Coast congestion and longshore labor get little attention in comparision with other subjects. "I think right now things are kind of quiet and focused on the world of other issues, like Isis and healthcare and things like that, so it's not a top-tier issue," he told JOC.com.

The letter from the 84 House members to ILWU President Robert McEllrath and PMA President James McKenna indicated that some lawmakers are paying attention. The House members said port delays are being “felt in all parts of the supply chain and across the entire country. Our constituents are losing business, letting employees go, and worrying about the future.”

The letter cited a report last year by the National Retail Federation and National Association of Manufacturers estimating that a 10-day shutdown of West Coast ports would cost the economy more than $21 billion.

Even without a port shutdown, companies are incurring costs and lost sales from delays at the ports. Retailers and manufacturers have had to reroute shipments, and agricultural exporters say they’re being shut out of overseas markets. Meat and poultry producer Tyson Foods said last week that the delays are affecting export supply chains and soon could be felt by livestock producers

Contact Joseph Bonney at jbonney@joc.com and follow him on Twitter: @JosephBonney.

Courtesy of www.joc.com

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LA-Long Beach container ship backup reaches 2-year high

12 ships were anchored in San Pedro Bay on Tuesday morning waiting to berth. Source: Marine Exchange of Southern California

Twelve container ships were anchored in the waters off the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach this morning, the most waiting at one time in San Pedro Bay in two years, surpassing the previous record set on Oct. 26 as congestion continues to crush the largest container gateway in the Americas.

The queue dipped to eight on Monday, down from nine on Sunday but up from seven on Saturday and six on Friday, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California. Last week, the high was on Thursday, Nov. 6, with 10 ships at anchor in the afternoon.

Waiting for berths this morning were APL Holland, operated by APL; MSC Francesca and Navarino, operated by Mediterranean Shipping Co.; YM Efficiency and OOCL Kuala Lumpur, operated by OOCL (USA); Hammonia Roma, operated by Hapag-Lloyd; Hanjin Netherlands, operated by Hanjin; Ever Deluxe and Ever Learned, operated by Evergreen; Cap Corrientes, operated by Hamburg Süd; NYK Meteor, operated by NYK Line; and Shengking, operated by Interocean Steamship. Four of those ships were due to berth today, with another four set to arrive, the Marine Exchange said.

In the next three days, 19 container ships are scheduled to arrive; of those, 15 are due to berth and four are set to anchor.

There’s usually zero wait times for container ships at Los Angeles-Long Beach, according to Capt. J. Kipling Louttit, executive director of the Marine Exchange of California, a sign that congestion remains a serious problem at the port complex.

The Marine Exchange has been providing JOC.com with daily updates on container ships anchored in San Pedro Bay since the end of October.

Courtesy of www.joc.com

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ILWU, employers agree to 72-hour break in talks

JOC Staff | Jul 07, 2014 11:15PM EDT

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union and U.S. West Coast waterfront employers have agreed to take a 72-hour break from negotiations to allow the union to attend “an unrelated negotiation” in the Pacific Northwest.

The six-year contract, which expired July 1, was be extended during the break from 8 a.m. today and through Saturday, the ILWU and Pacific Maritime Association said in a terse statement released Monday night. The announcement comes hours after the Teamsters union protested outsides marine terminals at the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex, raising fears, which proved unfounded yesterday, that protestors would erect picket lines and the longshore would refuse to cross the lines.

According to the statement: "The parties have agreed to take a 72-hour break from negotiations on a new coast-wide contract while the ILWU attends to an unrelated negotiation taking place in the Pacific Northwest. During this break, starting at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, July 8, through 8 a.m. on Friday, July 11, the parties have agreed to extend the previous six-year contract, which expired last week. The PMA and ILWU are negotiating a new contract covering nearly 20,000 longshore workers at 29 West Coast ports."

Cargo operations at the busiest ports in the nation continued unimpeded yesterday despite Teamsters’ threats of an “indefinite strike” against three harbor trucking companies. The Teamsters protestors distributed flyers accusing harbor trucking companies of misclassifying drivers, but they didn’t block access to the terminals. 

From joc.com

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Threat of Costly West Coast Port Shutdown Spurs Pay Talks

Jul 1, 2014 12:42 AM ET

Twelve years after a labor dispute closed West Coast ports and cost the U.S. economy $1 billion a day, negotiators on both sides want to avoid a repeat that could be twice as expensive.

Talks between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association may go on for weeks without any disruption after the contract for about 20,000 dockworkers at 29 ports expires today at 5 p.m. Pacific time. A strike or lockout at ports whose operations contribute to 12.5 percent of gross domestic product would be a blow to the economy and could be a public relations disaster for a union whose members earn from $25 to $40 an hour. 

Continue reading on Bloomberg.com 

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Weather, Congestion Produce Chassis Shortages

per www.joc.com 

Winter weather has combined with congestion at terminals and backlogs for repairs to produce chassis shortages at the Port of New York and New Jersey and at Midwest rail terminals.

New York-New Jersey drayage drivers have complained for weeks about tight supplies of chassis at some terminals.

Truckers are reluctant to send drivers to congested terminals where they may spend several hours merely returning a chassis. Terminals also have a large backlog of chassis that have been “deadlined” for repairs by International Longshoremen’s Association mechanics.

“The fellows aren’t returning chassis. They’re holding onto them,” said Dick Jones, executive director of the Association of Bi-State Motor Carriers. “They’d rather the per-diem than send a driver back with an empty chassis and gamble on being able to find a good one.”

Another contributor to chassis shortages is extended free time for container usage that shippers often negotiate with ocean carriers. Many roadworthy chassis are sitting under containers waiting to be unloaded at distribution centers.

“It’s really affecting the flow of commerce,” said Eric Zeitouni, president of Blue Arrow Warehouse in Monroe, N.J. “It’s causing a frenzy in the entire market.”

Slow deliveries keep chassis out of system

Chassis shortages haven’t been limited to marine terminals. A series of winter storms have slowed deliveries at warehouses across the Midwest and slowed the return of intermodal equipment.

“It’s all due to the weather and the good chassis not being returned at the velocity the terminals need,” said Jason Hilsenbeck, owner of Load-Match and Drayage.com. “All the good chassis get sucked right out of the terminals, and you’re left with the ones that need repair.”

“I have emails from truckers in Chicago saying their parking lots are overflowing with containers that still need to be delivered. Those chassis probably are good, but they’re not available to take other containers,” he said.

“You can go from Minneapolis to Chicago to Detroit to Cleveland, over to Boston, down to New York and Norfolk, and come back through Cincinnati — that’s your path of congestion and severe chassis shortages,” Hilsenbeck said.

The Los Angeles-Long Beach complex in Southern California is also suffering from chassis “dislocations,” which are leading to long turn times for truckers at terminals. Problems there are linked to carriers’ sale of containers as they get out of the chassis provision business.

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Winter Weather Closes Southern US Ports

JOC Staff | Jan 28, 2014 10:22AM EST

Forecasts of freezing rain and icy roads and bridges have led to announcements of halts in service at ports from Virginia to Texas.

  • The Port of Virginia said its truck gates, empty container yards and rail operations would close from 5 p.m. today to 1 p.m. tomorrow, but that the schedule might be modified if conditions change.
  • Virginia’s Newport News Marine Terminal will close from 2 p.m. today until 8 a.m. The port authority said vessels on berth will work until 9 p.m., but most pier-side cargo operations are expected to be completed by 7 p.m. Vessel operations at Norfolk International Terminals and APM Terminals Portsmouth will resume at 1 p.m. tomorrow.
  • The port authority said weather is not forecast to have an impact on cargo operations at Virginia Inland Port in Front Royal, or the Port of Richmond.
  • The North Carolina State Ports Authority said its Wilmington and Morehead City terminals would be closed to port authority employees today but that tenants would have access.
  • The South Carolina Ports Authority said Charleston terminals would close from 3 p.m. today until 1 p.m. tomorrow but that the schedule might be altered if conditions changed.
  • The Port of Houston said its Bayport and Barbours Cut container terminals and its Turning Basin breakbulk terminals would be closed all day today.
  • The Port of New Orleans’ Napoleon Container Terminal is closed today, along with schools and most government offices in the area. Terminal operator Ports America said an update was expected this afternoon about tomorrow’s operations.
  • The Alabama Port Authority said its public seaport terminals were closed until further notice because worsening weather expected to bring freezing rain and ice, 20- to 30-knot winds, and 10-foot seas offshore. The port authority said vessel arrivals and departures wouldn’t be affected but that ice accumulations of up to three tenths of an inch would make roads and bridges hazardous.
  • The port authorities advised customers to check port websites for updates.

www.joc.com

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Once-in-a-generation winter storm descends on Deep South

A brutal winter freeze began to descend on the Deep South early Tuesday with a huge swath of the region in the crosshairs of a storm that forecasters called "potentially paralyzing."

The storm was still in its infancy at 3:30 a.m. ET but meteorologists at The Weather Channel said they already had reports of sleet and freezing rain in parts of Texas and Louisiana.

Schools from the Lone Star State to Florida earlier announced that they would close Tuesday, and the storm is playing havoc with air travel. As of 6:45 a.m. ET, airlines had cancelled 2,665 flights across the country, with Atlanta's Hartsfield–Jackson and Houston's George Bush Intercontinental airports bearing the brunt, according to FlightAware early Tuesday.

Winter storm alerts have been issued by the National Weather Service all the way from central Texas eastward through the Gulf Coast into Georgia, the Carolinas and far southeast Virginia.

Nearly 60 million people are affected by a cold weather warning or watch Monday night. By Friday, however, temperatures will rise above normal for much of the country. NBC News' Al Roker reports.

Weather Channel meteorologist Nick Wiltgen described it as a "potentially paralyzing winter storm." And the forecaster’s winter weather expert, Tom Niziol, said the South was in for weather "that many parts have not seen in years" — perhaps the biggest winter weather event in a generation.

The nasty weather will reach so far south that Johnson Space Center, in Houston, said it would be closed.

The the biggest snow threat lay in eastern and central Texas, including Houston, and stretched to southeast Virginia. Eastern North Carolina and southeast Virginia would have the greatest chance of getting more than six inches of snow, according to The Weather Channel.

More

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West Coast Ports to See New Threats in the New Year

JOC Staff | Jan 06, 2014 11:46AM EST        

Port of Los AngelesPort of Los Angeles

U.S. West Coast ports have arrived at a “crossroads” in 2014, according to the head of the Pacific Maritime Association.

In the next 12 months, U.S. West Coast ports will have to continue their fight for market share in the Asia-Pacific trade in the face of potential labor instability, productivity challenges and emerging competitive threats such as the expansion of the Panama Canal and growing volumes to the U.S. East Coast via the Suez Canal.

However, James McKenna, president and CEO of the PMA, said in JOC’s 2014 Annual Review and Outlook that 2014 represents an opportunity for West Coast ports to solidify their position as the “gateway of choice” for goods being sent to and from Asia. West Coast ports will be well-positioned if a new longshore labor contract can be negotiated this spring without disurption on the docks and if bigger ships now calling at West Coast ports can be handled efficiently.

PMA, which represents West Coast shipping companies and terminal operators in their dealings with longshore labor, will be tasked with negotiating a new labor contract with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents West Coast dockworkers. The talks are set to begin in April in preparation for the expiration of the parties’ current six-year labor contract on June 30. If negotiations turn sour, as they did in the 2002 and 2008 negotiations, there may be delays to container movements, and the reputation of West Coast ports as effective gateways for trade could suffer.

Continue reading

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'A real mess': Up to 100 million face mammoth winter storm - per NBC News

Some of the U.S.'s biggest cities braced for what's expected to be another mammoth snowfall and blizzard-like conditions in the Midwest and the Northeast — with as much as a foot and a half forecast through Friday.

Winter storm warnings stretched from Chicago through the New York tri-state region into New England — affecting an area home to more than 100 million people.

Officials in New York, New Jersey, and other areas of the East Coast are preparing for a major winter storm, warning residents to avoid travel. NBC's Tom Llamas reports.

Snow began to fall in Boston, the first major city on the East Coast to be hit, at around 1:30 a.m. ET on Thursday.

"It's going to be a long-duration event," said Michael Palmer, lead meteorologist at The Weather Channel. "The wind is going to whip around the snow and reduce the visibility, creating near-blizzard conditions in Boston, much of Connecticut and then down maybe as far south as New Jersey and even New York City."

The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning on Long Island in New York beginning at 6 p.m. Thursday, predicting inch-an-hour snow with 45 mph winds during the worst of it Thursday night. Blizzard conditions also are warned for Cape Cod and coastal Massachusetts.

Full article

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'Major ice storm' threatens power supply in South, Midwest; temperatures dip

An arctic blast which threatens 32 million people could knock out power by coating parts of the South and Midwest with ice and send temperatures sinking by as much as 50 degrees Thursday, forecasters warned.

"A major ice storm is possible from northeast Texas into west Tennessee where ice accretions of 1/2 inch or more are possible," said Kevin Roth, lead meteorologist with The Weather Channel. He added that ice would weigh down power lines and tree limbs, potentially causing power outages as they fall. 

Roth said the region faced a "good 12 to 14 hours of freezing rain and ice" as a winter storm and "surging arctic air mass meet in the southern Plains."

Although temperatures neared 80 degrees on Wednesday in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the mercury was expected to dip into the 30s on Thursday. In Lubbock, Texas, the high Tuesday was 77. The low Saturday morning could be below 10.

A winter storm alert will be in effect for the Dallas-Fort Worth area from 6 p.m. Thursday until 6 p.m. Friday, with sleet and freezing rain expected, NBCDFW.com reported

More

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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.


Read more: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-md-port-partially-reopened-20131018,0,3196467.story#ixzz2iMfBItIQ

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Hundreds of flights delayed, canceled as holiday storms travel across country

By NBC News staff and wire reports

Some 683 flights were canceled or delayed early Wednesday as storms across the U.S. continued to cause travel chaos for millions of travelers.

Before daybreak on Wednesday, the travel website flightsStats.com reported that 372 flights were canceled and 311 delayed. The disruptions come as many families will be trying to make their way home after the holiday celebrations.

Travel on the roads was also affected with icy conditions reported across the nation’s midsection.

The storms contributed to a 21-vehicle pile-up Tuesday that shut down a major highway in Oklahoma City, as well as tens of thousands of power outages.

Read more: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/12/26/16161514-hundreds-of-flights-delayed-canceled-as-holiday-storms-travel-across-country?lite

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