This Week in Logistics News (February 11-17)

A couple of weeks ago was Groundhog day, where we “learn” whether we have to endure six more weeks of winter or can expect a rush order to spring.  I, for one, did not believe Punxsutawney Phil when he saw his shadow and called for six more weeks of winter. This was due to the fact that we had experienced a mild winter so far. Well, Punxsutawney Phil apparently knew what he was talking about. My kids missed three straight days of school and I endured the longest commute home in the history of my life. In a span of five days, we received over 30 inches of snow,endured countless hours of shoveling / snow-blowing, and set a few records on our sleds. All in all, it made me wish I had been on a ski vacation…or somewhere tropical.

And now, on to the news:

Supply chain planning software vendor E2open Inc. has merged with business process software provider Steelwedge Software Inc. The joint venture’s aim is to build a platform that combines planning and execution. This is E2open’s latest move to build out its control tower business and continue to grow its cloud-based software business as well. The merger enables E2open to sell into a new client base, as well as add additional services, specifically sales and operations planning (S&OP), to its current customers.

The home grocery delivery business is booming. And Walmart is expanding its tests in Toronto. After testing delivery of groceries ordered online to three Toronto condos, Walmart will be taking the service to more homes in the city core. According to Walmart CEO Lee Tappenden, the original test had Walmart using its own trucks; moving forward, the retailer will work with “Uber-style” services for home deliveries. The service currently has a $50 minimum order threshold and a $10 delivery fee. With more and more consumers turning to the Web for grocery shopping, it is not surprising to see Walmart rolling out a bigger test market. It’s also not surprising to see customers willing to pay a premium for home delivery.

The Panama Canal has set a new monthly tonnage record for January 2017. During the month, 1,260 ships went through both the expanded and original locks with a record 36.1 million tons of cargo. The previous record was established in December (not surprisingly), when 35.4 tons moved through the canal. This is largely a result of the canal expanding to handle more ships in June of 2016. Prior to the new expansion, the record stood at 30.4 tons in October of 2014. Seven months after the beginning of operations, the expanded canal has already transited more than 750 neopanamax vessels – more than 50 percent of which were container ships. The expanded canal has also accommodated liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) vessels, as well as bulk carriers, tankers, and vehicle carriers.

As mentioned in the intro this week, it has been a snowy month so far. As a result, following New Hampshire’s lead, Maine Gov. Paul LePage issued an emergency declaration suspending hours-of-service regulations for truckers delivering residential and business heating fuels to the state. New England as a whole was hard hit with back to back storms over the last week. Maine has been especially hard-hit over the last week, with 40 inches falling in parts of the state over the weekend, and an additional foot this week. Residential and commercial heating fuel is a necessity at this point. Maine’s suspension of hours regulations is effective through Feb. 28, according to the declaration.

With global trade growing, Qatar Airways Cargo is beginning its new freighter service calling at Miami International before heading off to South America. The service will fly twice weekly between Qatar and South America to meet growing export demand. Qatar Airways Cargo will handle major temperature-sensitive commodities out of Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires and Quito such as fresh flowers and pharmaceuticals, in addition to high-value imports into South America including medicine, automotive equipment, chemical products, high-tech commodities and equipment for the oil and gas industry.

Speaking of fresh flowers, earlier this week they poured into Miami International Airport. In fact, billions of flowers flew into the U.S. to prepare for the big Valentine’s Day demand. This is all part of the nearly $20 billion Valentine’s Day Market. Most arrive in Miami from Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, and the Netherlands. According to UPS, nearly 90 percent of flower imports run through Miami; this means a drastic increase in resources leading up to Valentine’s Day. According to UPS officials, the company added 34 temperature-controlled flights to deliver the 236,000 boxes of blooms that flowed through their network in the two weeks prior to Valentine’s Day.

And finally, the DAT North American Freight Index edged downward in January as spot truckload freight settled into a typical post-holiday pattern. The Freight Index dropped 2.5 percent in January compared to an exceptionally strong December and was 56 percent higher year over year, said DAT Solutions, which operates the industry’s largest on-demand freight exchange for spot freight. Spot van, refrigerated, and flatbed rates in January were higher year over year, but an influx of capacity from contract carriers onto the spot market depressed rates compared to December.

That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend, and the song of the week (in honor of Groundhog Day), I got You Babe by Sonny and Cher.