ASF Logistics is a Mobile, AL based full service international logistics provider, freight forwarder, NVOCC, and custom’s house broker. ASF specializes in providing customers with solutions that provide for the optimum flow of goods, materials, and information. All business conducted as an Ocean Transport Intermediary as defined by the Federal Maritime Commission is conducted only by ASF, Inc. ASF, Inc is licensed with the Federal Maritime Commission as an Ocean Freight Forwarder and Non-Vessel Operating common carrier under Ocean Transport Intermediary License No. 020898NF.

ASF Logistics Named to 2012 Best Companies ListBusiness-Alabama-Best-Companies

ASF Logistics announced that the company, which is headquartered in Mobile, Alabama, has been recognized as one of the 2012 “Best Companies to Work for in Alabama” in the small business category. 

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Processes for new SOLAS container weight form in the works

E-commerce ocean freight booking service Inttra, container lines and forwarders are working to create processes for a new type of form that will allow shippers to electronically send the verified gross mass of their container shipments to carriers in an attempt to eliminate a potentially huge bottleneck to trade once a new global container weight requirement takes effect in July.

Inttra has estimated that manual documentation is used for as much as half of the roughly 300,000 container loads shipped each day. If the Verified Gross Mass mandated by a new rule under the Safety of Life at Sea convention cannot get into the hands of the marine terminal in enough time to use it for vessel stowage planning, a requirement of the rule, trade disruptions on a global scale could be the result.

The form in development would allow shippers, and forwarders responsible for the shipments, to send the information critical to meeting the global container weight mandate at least three days before the ship comes ashore, said Inna Kuznetsova, president of Inttra Marketplace. Carriers need the VGM before stowage plans can be made so they can determine how best to store the containers as not to cause imbalance on the vessel.

“Considering a single carrier may ship 50,000 or more boxes out of a major port monthly, faxing VGM isn’t realistic,” she told The VGM requires a signature from the shipper or forwarder whose name is on the bill of lading, so a phone call won’t work.

The need for a form other than the bookings and shipping instructions paperwork shippers file is another reminder of the complications the industry faces in meeting the mandate set to take effect July 1.

There is a thin silver lining to the transport industry’s frustration with how to comply with the regulation approved by the International Maritime Organization as an amendment to the SOLAS convention: it will push shippers from the old ways of bookings — fax and phone — to electronic submissions.

“You still have customers that send information by fax or a variety of different ways, but the most efficient system is getting that electronic, EDI (electronic data interchange) connectivity to be a much more significant percentage of the business,” said Ron Widdows, the former APL CEO who is now a consultant and chairman of the World Shipping Council. “That is going to ensure a more timely movement of the information and provide some consistency.”

Roughly half the industry sends booking and shipping instructions manually. INTTRA estimates its portal “touches” a quarter of 20-foot-equivalent units shipped globally — sometimes handling just bookings or shipping instructions. Other shippers send the two types of forms directly to carriers, but it’s unclear how many.

In the meantime, Inttra and members of its eVGM initiative — including various major carriers and forwarders such as APL, CEVA, Hapag-Lloyd and Kuehne + Nagle — have agreed on the need for a third type of form. The form would be filed before shippers and forwarders send bookings, which include dates, origins and destinations, names of vessels and whether the contents are hazardous, and shipping instructions, detailing what’s being shipped, container seal number and total weight of the shipment.

In addition to creating a new type of form, the initiative, in which BDP International and Damco are also participating, is discussing what features the form should have so it can be used in different scenarios, Kuznetsova said.

“The understanding of such scenarios led to adding features to our new software, such as enabling weighing stations to submit the weight via a mobile device either to the shipper, or to the carrier directly, if the shipper provides the necessary authorization,” she said.

Separately, Inttra plans to soon launch a new service that will allow users to send VGM either via EDI, the automated transfer of data between computers via standardized message formatting, or carriers’ websites. Shippers who move thousands of containers annually generally use EDI, which allows multiple companies in different countries to exchange documents, while smaller shipper tend to prefer web services.

Intrra’s service will have time-stamp submissions, ensuring that the latest weight is posted to the carrier’s folder. This feature, which came about from initiative discussions, allows a shipper to make a correction and receive a confirmation that a later weight was accepted.

“Digital processing also allows one to make corrections easier: should the shipper submit the VGM and then find an error and resubmit via the same message or via (shipping instructions), the time stamp should allow the terminal to pull the latest version for the carrier,” Kuznetsova said. “In general, shippers ask for flexibility – the ability to submit VGM either via the third form or via (shipping instructions) if filing early, as well as accounting for multiple scenarios, such as containers being weighed by the third party."
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What does it take to power a containership?

The Wärtsilä RT-flex96C is a two-stroke turbocharged low-speed diesel engine designed by the Finnish manufacturer Wärtsilä. It is currently considered the largest reciprocating engine in the world, designed for large container ships, running on heavy fuel oil. It stands at 13.5 metres (44 ft) high, is 26.59 m (87 ft) long, and weighs over 2300 tonnes in its largest 14-cylinder version — producing 80080 kW.

This particular engine was installed on the Emma Mærsk, the first container ship in the E-class of eight owned by the A. P. Moller-Maersk Group. When launched in 2006 she was the largest container ship ever built, and in 2010 she and her seven sister ships were among the longest container ships. Officially, she is able to carry around 14,770 TEU.
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Global demand improves, but carrier outlook gets worse

The volume of cargo handled by the container trade around the globe this year will increase by a relatively “decent” 4 to 5 percent, but this growth will not be nearly enough to make a dent in the enormous glut of vessel capacity that will continue to erode freight rates.

That was the main message delivered by panelists in the Journal of Commerce’s Webcast last week entitled “2016 Outlook Container Shipping.”

As a result, many container lines will plunge further into the red in the next year or two and may have to follow the lead of Maersk Line in laying off staff. In order to achieve a level of productivity per land-based employee equal to that of Maersk Line, which is the midst of laying off 4,000 employees, the industry as a whole would have to lay off 33,000 employees, said Lars Jensen, CEO and partner in Sea Intelligence Consulting.

Jensen made this dire prediction despite the fact that he agrees with the forecast of improving demand that JOC Economist Mario Moreno outlined in his presentation. Although Moreno lowered his earlier forecast of 4.6 percent growth to a more moderate 4 to 5 percent rate, he is still predicting a better year than 2015, which he called “disappointing,” with a growth rate that he expects will come in at under 1 percent.

U.S. containerized imports in 2016 will grow by 5.8 percent to a record 20.9 million 20-foot-equivalent units thanks to improving domestic demand and low import prices due to the strong U.S. dollar, Moreno said.

Surprisingly, despite the strong dollar, U.S. exports are forecast to rebound by 4 percent after a decline of 2.7 percent in 2015.

Trans-Pacific imports will grow by a “still respectable” 5.4 percent this year, driven in large measure by demand for home goods, Moreno said. He said the U.S. was “lucky to see” a growth in Asian imports of 3.9 percent last year after the year got off to such a poor start because retailers overstocked inventories. U.S. exports to Asia are forecast to rebound by 4.6 percent this year after a drop of 3.2 percent last year.

On the trans-Atlantic, Moreno forecast U.S. imports will increase 7.5 percent to a new peak of 3.3 million TEUs, due in large measure to ongoing demand for auto parts. U.S. exports to Europe are forecast to rebound by 4.1 percent after a decline of 3.6 percent last year.

Moreno expects Asia-Europe trade volume to increase by 4.9 percent this year, up from a 4.1 percent drop last year, because of improving fundamentals for the European consumer.

Despite these forecasts of decent volume growth this year on the main east-west trade lanes, container lines will remain in a state of upheaval for the next four years because of the delivery of so many mega-ships. “When we look at 2016 and beyond, it is not demand that will characterize the characteristics of the industry,” Jensen said. “The key driver going forward is going to be capacity.”

“Although annual capacity growth going forward is historically low at 5 to 6 percent, that’s not the way we should view it,” he said. “In 2016, a third of all the tonnage in the world will be comprised by vessels in excess of 18,000 TEUs. By 2018, there will be a tripling of the fleet of ultra-large vessels.”

“Even if annual global demand returns to levels of 8.7 percent (vs. the 4 to 5 percent rate forecast by Moreno this year), the excess capacity delivered solely in 2015 would not be absorbed until 2018,” he said.

“In 2015 alone, carriers took delivery of ships with capacity of more than 1 million TEUs with absolutely nothing to do.”

As overcapacity increases, the decline in freight rates is occurring at a faster clip. “In 2012 and 2013, it took about a year for freight rates to drop to half their levels. In 2013 it took three months. In 2014, it took just two months to cut rates in half. At the beginning of 2015 it took two weeks. And just before Christmas last year, we had a case where it took just one week.”

Jensen said that on the Asia-Europe trade, weekly declines of $170 per container have become the new normal. On the trans-Pacific trade, the new normal has become a drop of $120 per container week-over-week.

While this seemingly unstoppable decline in rates would seem to benefit shippers, it will inevitably hurt them, because as the largest vessels enter into the main trades, carriers will cascade older and smaller ships onto all other trades. “So no trade, no matter how small or how niche, will be subjected to this cascading,” Jensen said.

As carriers cascade larger ships onto smaller trades, they will reduce the number of services. “Shippers will have less choice,” he said.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that U.S. exports rose 2.7 percent in 2015. They declined 2.7 percent.
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Mission Statement

ASF Logistics strives to be the company of choice for global logistics by fostering a collaborative environment of partnerships, teamwork, and creativity. Our goal is to consistently deliver a competitive advantage to our customers through innovative and customized solutions which add value and sets them apart from their competitors.

Logistics & Supply Chain Solutions

  • Vendor management
  • Document management
  • Information management
  • Purchase order management
  • Cargo management and flow optimization
  • Consolidation
  • Carrier management
  • Transport management
  • Import planning and coordination
  • Customs house brokerage
  • Cross-docking and trans-loading
  • Distribution