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Journal of Commerce Looks Forward to April Breakbulk and Project Cargo Conference in New Orleans

Portnola Project Cargo Barge 8 2017 Dsc 3603

Guest Column By Janet Nodar

The Journal of Commerce (JOC) is thrilled to be back in New Orleans with a breakbulk and project cargo conference. We've been covering breakbulk cargo shipping since the JOC was founded by Samuel F.B. Morse as a New York City newspaper in 1827. Since those days, container shipping has changed and simplified how much of the world's general cargo travels, but breakbulk and project cargo still require special handling, equipment and a unique knowledge base. While the JOC covers container shipping exhaustively, it has never lost interest in breakbulk cargo.

The JOC's original breakbulk conference got off the ground approximately 30 years ago as a small, industry- and journalist-led event held in a French Quarter hotel. It grew into an exhibition large enough for the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, and then began alternating between New Orleans and Houston before moving to Houston. In 2015, the private equity firm that then owned the Journal of Commerce sold all the breakbulk conferences, including Breakbulk Americas, to event organizer ITE Exhibitions (now Hyve). During the same period, the global data company IHS Markit purchased the Journal of Commerce.

The JOC's dedication to unbiased journalism drew me back to become senior editor for project and breakbulk cargo in 2018. I began covering Gulf Coast shipping in late 2005 as a reporter for the JOC publication Gulf Shipper. In 2009, I became the editor of Breakbulk Magazine, then published by the JOC, and gradually became more involved with content programming for the breakbulk events. I remained with breakbulk when it was sold to ITE. I'm now very happy to be back as an editor and as chair of the JOC's newly revived project and breakbulk conference.

Last year, we renewed the original New Orleans-based JOC breakbulk and project cargo conference. It was quite a success, with more than 400 in attendance. The 2020 JOC Breakbulk and Project Cargo Conference, which will be held April 27-29 at the Hilton Riverside, will be just as content- and networking-driven, with an intense focus on senior-level information sharing. Our program will examine key market and industry pressures, opportunities and strategic challenges facing the sector as its practitioners navigate the world’s most complex transportation supply chains.

The economic outlook seems to be stabilizing a bit in early 2020, and project cargo shippers are reporting healthy order books and backlogs. Module and heavy-deck carriers sense opportunity, while freight rates for the MPV/HL sector inch higher. Owner/operator consolidation, a historically slim vessel orderbook and the reality of IMO 2020 are all kicking in, perhaps foreshadowing a healthier market from the carrier perspective – even as disorder at one of the larger MPV/HL carriers causes some ripples.

In the long run, investments in power generation, particularly wind energy, are expected to be influential market drivers. The project and breakbulk sector is slowly accepting modern expectations for transparency, safety, integrity and digitization — required by project owners, expected by a new generation of project talent and necessary to stay competitive in an increasingly interconnected world. We will explore these and other questions in depth at the JOC's 2020 Breakbulk and Project Cargo Conference. I hope to see you there!

Contact Janet Nodar at janet.nodar@ihsmarkit.com and follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter @janet_nodar.