Tuesday, October 21, 2014

OOCL Exec Honored By POLB

By Mark Edward Nero

Orient Overseas Container Line CEO and Managing Director Andy Tung was presented with the “Port Pilot Award” by the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners on Oct. 20. The award is presented to business and political leaders and advocates who have made contributions to international trade within the maritime industry.

Tung is the 77th recipient of the award and the first third-generation Port Pilot winner. His father, C.H. Tung, and grandfather, C.Y. Tung, were recipients in 1987 and 1977, respectively.

Tung has led the Hong Kong-based OOCL, one of the top shipping lines calling at the Port of Long Beach, in various management roles since March 2006. However, he first worked for OOCL from 1993 to 1998 and has held top management jobs in the maritime industry in both the United States and Hong Kong.

Prior to his return to OOCL, he was a director of Cargosmart in Hong Kong and worked at Kong Dragon Airlines.

Under Tung’s leadership, OOCL has been in partnership with the Port of Long Beach on the $1.3 billion Middle Harbor modernization project. The new terminal is expected to utilize the world’s most advanced technology, doubling capacity and cutting emissions in half.

The Port Pilot Award was established in 1954 by the Port of Long Beach to recognize significant contributions to the advancement of world trade. The award is named for the harbor port pilots who guide cargo ships safely in and out of the port in all conditions.

More information about the award and a complete list of honorees is available at

California's Smaller Ports Handling Bulk and Breakbulk

By Jim Shaw

California's large ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland are well known for their container handling clout but the Golden State also has a number of smaller ports that are efficient cargo handlers in their own right, and many cater to the bulk, breakbulk and neo-bulk cargoes that the bigger ports sometimes shun. These smaller gateways stretch from the natural harbors of San Diego in the south to Humboldt Bay in the north, with a large cluster of facilities, both privately and publicly owned, maintained within the reaches of greater San Francisco Bay. It's worthwhile talking a look at these ports and facilities to see how they assist the world's eighth largest economy in handling its growing volume of imports and exports.

Port of San Diego
In Southern California, the ports of San Diego and Hueneme act as "satellite ports" for the larger gateways of Los Angeles and Long Beach within San Pedro Bay. San Diego is the only natural harbor of the four and functions as the US Navy's largest base in the Pacific. However it is also a large shipbuilding and repair center, and it still moves a considerable amount of commercial cargo, making it California's fifth largest port by tonnage when petroleum is not counted. Two large cargo terminals, Tenth Avenue and National City, offer a total of 15 berths. Refrigerated produce and dry bulks are handled at Tenth Avenue while National City specializes in autos, lumber and project cargoes. The total amounts to about 1.8 million tons of freight annually, including around 356,000 vehicles and over 100,000 TEUs of containerized goods, principally bananas and other tropical produce.

The port also handles cruise ships but these have been declining in number over the past several years because of the well publicized narcotics problems in neighboring Mexico. Cruise ship calls, in fact, have dropped from a peak of more than 250 in 2008 to fewer than 70 ships expected this year.

Port of Hueneme
To the north, the Port of Hueneme handles cargoes similar to those in San Diego – refrigerated produce and automobiles - but no dry bulks or cruise ships. Although a long ocean pier was built at Hueneme in the late 1800s to handle grain exports the port, as it stands today, was largely created during World War II. It remains a Navy-controlled harbor, the only one between San Diego and Puget Sound, but has also developed as a commercial gateway.

In 1977 Japan's Mazda Motors elected to use Hueneme as its West Coast base for imported automobiles. Two years later Del Monte selected the man-made harbor as its west coast importing and distribution hub for fruit and produce. Since then other produce handlers, including NYKCool, Sunkist Growers, Pacific Fruit and Chiquita, have moved fruit and produce through Hueneme while auto brands have grown to include BMW, Mini Cooper, Roll Royce, Mitsubishi, Suzuki, Land Rover, Jaguar, Volvo, Saab, Hyundai and Kia.

Owned and operated by the Oxnard Harbor District, Hueneme currently handles about 1.4 million tons of cargo annually, including some inbound liquid fertilizer, and also serves as a supply base for Southern California's offshore oil industry.

San Francisco Bay Ports
Within San Francisco Bay the Port of Oakland now dominates container traffic but there are several smaller ports in the greater Bay Area as well as a large number of private terminals that handle bulk, breakbulk, neo-bulk and heavylift cargoes. The Port of San Francisco itself, once the leading port of the Pacific, handles very little general cargo these days, amounting to just over 7,300 tons last year. 

However, it has become a base for aggregate imports and this commodity, destined for the local construction trades and brought in by self-discharging ships, totals about 1.2 million tons annually.

San Francisco also remains a cruise port, hosting from 60 to 80 vessel calls and 200,000 passengers annually. To better handle these ships the new James R. Herman Cruise Terminal is nearing completion at Pier 27 and will replace the port's aging Pier 35 structure by the end of the year.

Port of Redwood City
South of San Francisco the Port of Redwood City has also become a base for imported aggregates and this trade now dominates the port's tonnage figures although some scrap metal is exported and limited amounts of bauxite and gypsum imported. Earlier this year the port completed a $17 million wharf modernization program which saw a new 430-foot by 60-foot concrete structure replace a wooden dock built during World War II. The new wharf has been specifically sized to accommodate a conveyor and hopper system and is being used to handle aggregates as well as other dry bulk commodities. Opened as a commercial port in 1937, and substantially expanded during the war years, Redwood City has been handling about 1.4 million tons of cargo a year moved by an average of 50 deepsea ships and 25 barges.

Port of Richmond
In the northern reaches of San Francisco Bay the Port of Richmond is situated next to one of the world's oldest and largest oil refineries. Operated by Standard Oil, the refinery's import and export figures are included with the port's, making Richmond the State of California's third largest port in terms of overall tonnage, with more than 18 million tons of liquid, general and dry bulk cargo moved annually. The port itself, administered by the City of Richmond, contains five city-owned docks handling about 255,000 tons of cargo annually, and ten privately-owned terminals. One of the largest of the latter is the Levin-Richmond Terminal, which moves a wide variety of bulks, including scrap metal, iron ore, petroleum coke and coal. It also operates its own short line railroad which interchanges with two mainline carriers. The port's city-owned Pt. Potrero Marine Terminal is the largest import automobile facility on San Francisco Bay and handles Honda and Subaru automobiles.

Port of Benicia
To the east on Carquinez Strait the Port of Benicia, formerly the US Army's Benicia Arsenal, features a single 2,401-foot-long deepwater pier that can accommodate three vessels simultaneously. The pier, and an adjoining 640 acres of storage area, is used by the Benicia Port Terminal Company, an AMPORTS company, to handle General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, and Toyota automobiles while the Valero Corporation makes use of a portion of the pier to export bulk petroleum coke. Valera also maintains an adjacent tanker berth that serves its Benicia oil refinery.

A number of private facilities are located across the Strait, including the C&H Sugar docks at Crockett, while other installations are located to the east at Pittsburg and Antioch, one of the largest being the USS-POSCO complex at Pittsburg which handles steel coils.

Port of West Sacramento
Inland to the east, the ports of Sacramento and Stockton are reached by dredged deepwater channels maintained at depths of 30 feet and 35 feet respectively. Sacramento, the capital of California, has been seeing fewer ships each year because of its shallow channel, which restricts ship size as well as the loads they can carry. In 2006 the City of West Sacramento assumed responsibility for the port, after which it became known as the Port of West Sacramento. Last year all remaining cargo operations, principally the export of bulk and bagged rice and the import of dry and liquid fertilizers, were taken over by Seattle-based SSA Marine under a long-term lease agreement. This has seen the port's cargo volume stabilize at about 300,000 tons annually

Port of Stockton
The Port of Stockton, like Sacramento, serves California's inland agricultural region and thus handles such commodities as rice, animal feed and fertilizer. While Sacramento has berths for eight ships, Stockton can berth up to 15 following its incorporation of the former Rough and Ready Island Navy Base. This has also given it one of the largest land areas of any West Coast port, with more than 4,000 acres either currently operational or available for development.

Stockton's main imports are fertilizers and molasses, plus some steel products, while major exports include rice, sulfur, iron ore and coal. The latter two commodities have been coming in by rail from the Rocky Mountains area for export to Asia and have built up to nearly 1 million tons shipped annually. Last year a rail loop track was extended to allow the handling of six unit trains weekly. This has helped Stockton draw in around 400 vessel calls each year moving just over 3 million tons of import and export cargo.

Counting vessels drawn into San Francisco Bay by Stockton and other small ports, as well as the large container ships that dock at Oakland and the cruise liners calling at San Francisco, the Golden Gate sees an average of 3,500 ships arrive each year.

Humboldt Bay
North of San Francisco Bay only one California commercial port remains. This is the Port of Humboldt Bay, sometimes also called the Port of Eureka, which lies about 100 miles south of the Oregon border. Not discovered by navigators until 1806, the natural harbor has been used for lumber exports since shortly after the California Gold Rush, reaching a peak about 25 years ago. Although there are almost a dozen deepwater facilities located within the harbor most have deteriorated since the lumber boom and only a few remain serviceable today. In recent years log exporting has resumed at the port and this sees about a ship a month handled, with around 350,000 tons exported annually.

POLB Temporarily Extends Demurrage Window

By Mark Edward Nero

From now through the end of October, containers imported into the Port of Long Beach will have an extra three days that they can remain on the docks before fees kick in, the port revealed Oct. 17.

The move is being made to give some relief to cargo owners as the supply chain works to eliminate congestion that has plagued the port for months. From Oct. 18 through Oct. 31, the “free” time that containers can sit before demurrage is charged has been extended from four to seven business days.

“The terminal congestion is very unfortunate, and a truly exceptional occurrence, so I am using my authority to waive demurrage fees through the end of the month,” Port of Long Beach Chief Executive Jon Slangerup said.

A number of factors have combined to back up cargo at the local port complex in recent weeks: an upswing in cargo shipments arriving for the holiday shopping season, the arrival of larger ships that can carry 50 percent more cargo and a shortage of truck chassis to haul containers.

“As additional cargo flows through the port, helping to sustain jobs both locally and throughout the country, the Port of Long Beach is doing what it can to help terminal operators ease congestion and move cargo through the port efficiently,” the port said in a statement announcing the move.

The adjoining Port of Los Angeles, however, says it has no plans to introduce such a waiver.
“There is a concern that this will not help the overall situation,” POLA spokesman Phillip Sanfield told Pacific Maritime Magazine, saying that instead, the port is looking at other anti-congestion measures, including opening up more areas to temporary container and chassis storage.

Tacoma’s Cargo Surges; Seattle’s Drops

By Mark Edward Nero

Container volumes through the Port of Tacoma surged in September, posting a 20 percent gain over the same month last year, according to newly-released data. The port handled 225,890 TEUs last month, making it the busiest month since September 2005 when 216,430 TEUs were handled.

Last month’s strong volumes are expected to signal the end of the peak shipping period, when retailers increase inventories to prepare for the holiday shopping season. The statistics also reflect additional volume from larger vessels and shipping line alliances calling at Tacoma, according to the port.

For the calendar year, Tacoma handled 1.6 million TEUs through September, a 10 percent increase year to date. Also, full containerized imports grew 13 percent year to date to 590,418 TEUs, while exports improved 9 percent to 418,713 TEUs. Domestic volumes posted a four percent gain year to date to 355,766 TEUs.

Meanwhile at the Port of Seattle, there was a 23 percent drop in container volumes last month compared to September 2013.

Seattle saw about 109,000 TEUs last month, compared to more than 142,000 in September 2013. For the calendar year to date, volumes have dropped about 12 percent, falling from about 1.22 million through the first nine months of last year to just over one million during the same period in 2014.

Despite Tacoma’s recent growth in container volumes, the Puget Sound gateway continues to lose market share on the West Coast, mainly due to Seattle’s losses. On Oct. 7, the two ports announced that they had agreed to a special alliance which, pending review by the Federal Maritime Commission, could attract more cargo and grow jobs in the region by unifying the management of the marine cargo terminals at the ports.

Foss Tows Incapacitated Cargo Ship

By Mark Edward Nero

An incapacitated Russian cargo ship that had lost power due to mechanical failure after leaving the Port of Everett, Washington was towed to the Port of Prince Rupert by a Foss Maritime tug on Oct. 20 after drifting for nearly three days.

Foss Maritime’s oceangoing tug, the Barbara Foss, towed the Russian cargo vessel, Simushir, which lost power due to mechanical failure late on the night of Oct. 16 off the west coast of Haida Gwaii, also known as the Queen Charlotte Islands. The ship had recently left Everett on its way back to Russia when a broken oil heater rendered the vessel disabled.

A Canadian Coast Guard vessel arrived at the scene last Friday to tow the ship, but could not keep a tow line attached and the ship again went adrift.

The Barbara Foss was eventually called in and managed to tow the stranded ship to the Port of Prince Rupert, BC early Monday morning, where two assist tugs and a pilot were on hand to help the ship dock.

The Simushir, which is roughly 443 feet long and was built in 1998, is owned by Russia-based Sakhalin Shipping Co., commonly known as SASCO. According to SASCO, the vessel was carrying about 400 tons of bunker oil, 298 containers filled with mining equipment, and 50 tons of diesel fuel when it lost power.

The Simushir had been traveling with a crew of 11, but officials said the vessel’s captain was reported injured and had to be evacuated by helicopter to Haida Gwaii on Oct. 17. No further medical details were given.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Ferry Crashes Into Pier, Passengers Hospitalized

By Mark Edward Nero

The US Coast Guard is investigating an allision that occurred when a passenger ferry struck a piling at Pier 41 in San Francisco the evening of Oct. 12.

The Peralta, operated by Blue & Gold Fleet, allided with a piling while backing out of the terminal at Pier 41 at about 5:45 p.m. Ten passengers sustained minor to moderate injuries, mostly neck and back pain, and were taken to a local hospital for evaluation, according to the Coast Guard.

One passenger told the local ABC affiliate during the accident’s aftermath that children aboard went “flying” around the ferry after the accident. More than 200 people are believed to have been onboard the vessel during the incident.

The Peralta was temporarily taken out of service after inspectors and investigators from Coast Guard Sector San Francisco boarded the ferry, but the vessel was later cleared to be put back into service. No structural damage to the Nichols-built ferry was found, just minor paint damage; damage to the piling at Pier 41 was also found to be minor.

Blue & Gold Fleet, which bills itself as “the Bay Area’s largest and premier provider of tourist attractions,” provides bay cruises, sightseeing tours and private cruises in addition to ferry services. The company’s based at Pier 39 in San Francisco.

Although the cause of the incident is still under investigation, the ABC affiliate reported that the cause has been determined not to be mechanical and that the investigation’s now focused on the crew.

Former Shipyard Land Up for Sale

By Mark Edward Nero

The land that formerly housed the JM Martinac Shipbuilding Co., which operated in the Tacoma area for 90 years until it was foreclosed on last summer, is now up for sale.

The nearly seven-acre property was bought at an auction in July by a limited liability corporation led by Alaskan Leader Fisheries, which then put the property on the market in mid-September for about $8 million.

The property, which includes two shipbuilding ways, multiple boat sheds, an office building and several storage buildings, saw the production of boats ranging from giant tuna clippers to tugs. More than a year ago, the yard’s owner began to have financial problems and was unable to pay off a $6 million loan from Alaskan Leader, a fishing company with offices in Lynden, Wash. and Anchorage, Alaska.

Alaskan Leader moved forward with last summer’s foreclosure action after the overdue payments and failure to pay taxes on the property put Martinac in default of its loan agreement.

The JM Martinac Shipbuilding Corp. was founded in 1924 on the Thea Foss Waterway in Tacoma and is believed to have built more than 250 vessels during its 90-year history.

The sale of the property is being handled by commercial real estate company Colliers International.