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This Week in Logistics News (April 20 – 26)

When it come to smuggling, drug dealers are taking things to a while new level. Colombian drug smugglers are disguising cocaine as “fake coal” within major bulk consignments to try to dupe port surveillance operations, according to a new report. Anti-narcotics investigators have uncovered substantial amounts of the disguised drugs in the past two years as smugglers go to ever-more elaborate lengths to get illicit cargoes on board ships. The authorities need to carry out special chemical tests to prove they are illegal drugs, according to the report by protection and indemnity club West’s correspondent in the country. The growth of “fake coal” is just one of the new techniques with port authorities raising concerns about drugs smuggled in fruit containers and scrap metal, according to the Colombia Drug Smuggling Report 2024 by A&A Multiprime. It will be interesting to see how these smugglers will change course when fossil fuels are completely replaced by renewables. Maybe we will see cocaine turbines or solar panels. And now on to this week’s logistics news.

Amazon in the news:

Amazon launches low-cost grocery delivery subscription plan in US
AI is helping Amazon send fewer small items in comically large boxes

UPS CEO touts network flexibility in winning US Postal Service contract
Ship that hit Baltimore bridge was ‘unseaworthy’ when it left port, city claims
Alibaba unveils affordable, customizable solutions for US SMEs
Plastics industry heats world 4 times as much as air travel, report finds
Otay Mesa East Port of Entry opening delayed

Amazon has launched a new grocery delivery subscription in the United States for members of its Prime program and customers who are recipients of the government food assistance benefits. The subscription plan would allow Amazon’s Prime members to get unlimited grocery delivery at $9.99 per month on orders over $35 from Whole Foods Market, Amazon Fresh, and other local grocery and specialty retailers on the platform, including Save Mart, Bartell Drugs, Rite Aid and Pet Food Express. The service will be available in over 3,500 cities and towns across the country. Low-income citizens, who rely on the government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to support their grocery budgets, would have to pay a reduced $4.99 fee per month for the same perks and do not require a Prime membership, according to the statement by Amazon.com. The move comes as part of the company’s efforts to expand its fresh-food business in a space already occupied by players like Walmart and Target, which also have paid membership programs.

While most of the tech world is focused on new generative AI tools, Amazon has been chipping away at an ongoing challenge posed by modern consumerism: the proliferation of shipping materials. For several years now, the e-commerce giant has been developing what it describes as a “multimodal AI model” called the Package Decision Engine. The PDE’s job is to do a smarter job of selecting the right box, bag, or wrapper for each of the millions of unique items sold through the company’s warehouses. With the new program, Amazon says products are sent through a computer vision tunnel that gathers dimensions and particular features (like whether it has fragile parts or already resides in a box). Those images are then matched with a natural language processing of text-based description of the product, plus other quantitative data to match the item with its ideal shipping solution.

UPS is gearing up to move the majority of the Postal Service’s domestic air cargo volume under the new contract, which will be officially implemented the day after the FedEx deal expires. The majority of the volume will fit within UPS’ existing U.S. daytime flight operations, EVP and CFO Brian Newman said. This means the company won’t need to purchase additional aircraft, but will bring additional pilots on board to handle the volume boost, according to Tomé. Although FedEx lost out on landing the new Postal Service contract, its business with the agency has been a headwind in recent quarters as the Postal Service shifts air cargo volume to its less-expensive ground network instead. UPS EVP and Chief Commercial and Strategy Officer Matt Guffey said the new contract includes “volume protection” with established minimums to ensure enough Postal Service parcels keep flowing into its network. Guffey added that the company is meeting with the agency weekly to ensure a smooth transition before the peak holiday shipping season.

The Dali, the container ship that left the Port of Baltimore in the early hours of March 26, before crashing into the Francis Scott Key Bridge, toppling a portion of it, set sail despite its “unseaworthy” conditions, according to a Monday court filing from the city of Baltimore. In the court document, the city argues that the ship’s parent company, Grace Ocean Private Ltd., should be held liable for crashing into the Key Bridge. The filing was in response to Grace Ocean Private Ltd.’s request to limit their liability in damages they have to pay. The owner of the Dali cargo ship filed a federal lawsuit earlier this month denying responsibility for the accident and seeking to limit the total payout to $43.7 million, a fraction of the billions the cleanup and bridge rebuild is expected to cost. The company is using a law from 1851, the Limitation of Liability Act from that year, in its quest to limit its liability. The city said that 12 minutes after the Dali left port, despite warning signs, it crashed into the bridge.

Alibaba has officially introduced its Logistics Marketplace, providing U.S. small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with access to affordable and customizable logistics services to streamline their supply chains and gain global reach with greater ease. Alibaba.com’s Logistics Marketplace not only allows buyers to connect with potential logistics service providers that are pre-vetted by the platform, but identify solutions tailored to their individual logistics demands. It aims to reshape how SMEs manage their supply chain strategies, allowing them to navigate the global marketplace with fewer of the traditional logistics hurdles. Buyers using Alibaba.com’s Logistics Marketplace are able to compare real-time quotes from a wide variety of trusted logistics service providers and easily book a solution fine-tuned to their distinct need right within a single console. They will also be able to see all verified options and offerings from potential service providers, including customs clearance capabilities, local storage and warehouse space statuses, combined shipments options, opportunities for drop-shipping and more.

Pollution from the plastics industry is a major force behind the heating of the planet, according to a new report from the federal government. The industry releases about four times as many planet-warming chemicals as the airline industry, according to the paper from scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Its emissions are equivalent to those of about 600 coal plants — about three times the number that exist across the U.S. And if plastic production remains constant, by 2050 it could burn through nearly a fifth of the Earth’s remaining carbon budget — the amount of carbon dioxide climate scientists believe can be burned without tipping the climate into unsafe territory. The report from the national lab comes out as civil society and public health groups, plastics industry representatives and members of national governments prepare to travel to Ottawa, Canada, for the fourth meeting of the International Negotiating Committee, which seeks to create a legally binding treaty to reduce plastics pollution.

The Otay Mesa East Port of Entry, slated to open late this year, will not begin operations for at least another year, according to Baja California Gov. Marina del Pilar Ávila Olmeda. She blamed construction delays on the U.S. side of the border where the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) have yet to begin work on the crossing, which was supposed to be done by September. So far, a new highway connecting the future border crossing with the rest of San Diego’s highway system is almost done, but construction of the actual port of entry hasn’t started. The project on the U.S. side of the border is expect to cost $1.2 billion, said Mario Orso, project manager with Caltrans.

That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend and the song of the week, Cocaine by Eric Clapton.

The post This Week in Logistics News (April 20 – 26) appeared first on Logistics Viewpoints.

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