Monday, September 15, 2014

Importing Trouble

In today’s world, international commerce comes with unintended consequences.

Our interdependent, linked-in, global economy depends on a vast array of goods moving from one continent or region to another. As recent events are spotlighting, sometimes shippers import more than they bargained for.

Zebra mussels carried to the Great Lakes on cargo ships have profoundly altered the ecosystem there in the past 20 years. Formosan termites have become established in Florida and throughout the South after arriving in the wood of shipping pallets. Now, with the Ebola virus rampant in West Africa and fueling fears of spreading worldwide, attention has turned to maritime shipping as a potential conduit for the deadly human disease.

Ocean carrier Hapag-Lloyd has announced it will begin charging an Ebola inspection fee on all shipments to and from West Africa, $250 per 20-foot container and $350 per 40-foot container, for all ships touching Senegal, Ivory Coast, Togo, Benin and Nigeria, with shipments for U.S. origin or destination charged the fee beginning Sept. 29. With national government agencies including the Ivory Coast Port Health Dept. mandating inspections, it is not only the cargo but even more so the crew being inspected, in a move expected to cause delays and disruptions in addition to the higher costs. According to PIERS shipping data, West African countries stricken with Ebola sent a total of 2,862 TEUs, or 20-foot equivalent shipping container units, into this country from January through July, including cocoa beans, auto parts and miscellaneous rubber products.

But the United States is not only the target, but sometimes the source of contamination. After an outbreak of avian influenza or bird flu in Salem County, New Jersey, Hong Kong’s Centre for Food Safety has banned the import of poultry from the affected area. There is some irony here, as in this country, winter disease scares typically focus on a “Hong Kong flu” or “Asian flu.” We’re sharing more of everything these days – even trouble.

Kirk Shearer
800-989-0054 x103

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