Friday, October 21, 2016

SFFD Commissions New Fireboat

By Mark Edward Nero

A new $11.8 million fireboat designed by Jensen Maritime Consultants of Seattle and built by Vigor Fab in Seattle was commissioned by the San Francisco Fire Dept. during an Oct. 17 ceremony at McCovey Cove in San Francisco.

The state-of-the-art 88-foot vessel’s name, St. Francis, was also unveiled during the event. The fireboat’s naming came as a result of a contest was open to San Francisco school-aged children early this year. The child that submitted the winning name, along with their family, attended the event.

St. Francis was under construction off and on for about 20 months. Manufacture of the new boat was delayed several times for various reasons; at one point, the electrical subcontractor company working on it went bankrupt.

The fireboat was finally delivered to the city of San Francisco in late July after a three-day journey from the Pacific Northwest.

The vessel, formerly known only as Fireboat 3, is capable of pumping 18,000 gallons per minute through five water cannons. She is equipped with a stern launch ramp, similar to those US Coast Guard cutters use to deploy pursuit boats to capture smugglers.

Other features of the new vessel include: an enhanced foam firefighting system for the suppression of petroleum-based fires; a patient treatment area for EMS response; radiation detection equipment; remote firefighting systems to prevent firefighters being exposed to heat and smoke; a rapid deployment rescue boat; advanced marine electronics; command center; and an on-board compressor for filling air bottles for firefighting and dive operations.

The SF Fire Dept. says it paid for the new boat mostly with a port security grant along with $400,000 from the Bay Area Urban Areas Security Initiative.

The SFFD also has two other fireboats in service: Guardian, which entered service in 1990, and Phoenix, which was commissioned in 1955.

Seattle’s Terminal 5 Moves Closer to ‘Big Ship Readiness’

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of Seattle has completed an environmental analysis of Terminal 5 and has released a Final Environmental Impact Statement on the project, which aims to modernize the cargo-handling facility in order to serve larger cargo vessels.

The proposed upgrades to Terminal 5 include wharf rehabilitation, berth deepening, electrical service and improvements to the upland portions of the property.

“With this Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for Terminal 5, we are one step closer to making this prime maritime asset ‘Big Ship Ready’ and able to handle the largest container vessels working the market today,” Port of Tacoma Commission President and Northwest Seaport Alliance Co-Chair Connie Bacon said. “This region needs this terminal to remain competitive in today’s global economy.”

The Northwest Seaport Alliance is a marine cargo operating partnership of the ports of Seattle and Tacoma.

The FEIS evaluated potential impacts to earth, air, water, plants, animals, energy and natural resources, environmental health, noise, aesthetics (including light and glare), historic and cultural resources, transportation and public services.

“Based on public comment, we are including a number of improvements (to the FEIS), such as shore power for vessels, installing gates for noise and safety mitigation for rail, and significant traffic improvement measures,” Port of Seattle Commission president and Northwest Seaport Alliance Co-Chair John Creighton said. Mitigation measures for the project include construction of plug-in capability for shore power at two berths, tracking of air quality performance, establishment of a safety corridor between the Terminal 5 gate and the Duwamish river in order to minimize the need to use locomotive horns, required use of ambient-sensing broadband back up alarms, implementation of a Gate Queue Management plan, establishing a truck driver information system, comprehensive traffic signal improvements along SW Spokane Street and an operation noise management plan to ensure and monitor compliance with the Seattle noise code.

The FEIS can be reviewed and downloaded at the Port of Seattle website. More information about the proposed project is available on The Northwest Seaport Alliance website.

The Port of Seattle Commission is required to approve the recommended improvements during a future public session.

Port of Oakland Sets Revenue Record

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of Oakland said Oct. 18 that its operating revenue for the fiscal year ending June 31 was $338 million, making it a record year for the port. The amount was up 0.4 percent from the previous record of $336.6 million, set in FY 2015.

The port’s operating revenue held steady in FY 2016 despite the departure of a bankrupt tenant. On Feb. 1, Outer Harbor Terminal LLC, formerly known as Ports America, filed for bankruptcy, just two weeks after it announced that it would wind down operations at the port’s Outer Harbor terminal.

The company, which had run of five marine terminals at the port, was about six years into a 50-year lease with Oakland.

There was a 6.2 percent decline in maritime revenue resulting from the departure of Outer Harbor Terminal, LLC, according to the port, but that was offset by a 6.7 percent increase in operating revenue for the port’s aviation division, which runs Oakland International Airport. There was an eight percent jump in passenger traffic at Oakland International Airport during the fiscal year, according to port data.

The port’s FY 2016 revenue by business line includes maritime revenue of $148.8 million, down 6.2 percent from FY 2015; aviation revenue of $173.1 million, up 6.7 percent from FY 2015; commercial real estate revenue of $16.2 million, up 2.7 percent from FY 2015.

Seattle-Tacoma Cargo Volumes Flat

By Mark Edward Nero

Total container volumes at the Seattle-Tacoma port complex are essentially flat year-to-date through September, down less than one percent to 2,657,481 TEUs, according to data released Oct. 17.

Weak empty and domestic volumes continue to drag down overall container volume growth. Domestic volumes are down three percent year to date as Alaska struggles with a decrease in oil- and gas-related project activity due to low commodity prices.

However, full imports for the month of September were up a combined four percent compared to the same month last year at the two ports, while full exports grew six percent, according to the data.

Year to date 2016, full imports are up three percent to 1.01 TEUs and full exports jumped 12 percent to 713,579 TEUs.

In other cargo news, breakbulk cargo is down 28 percent year to date to 141,942 metric tons as the global downturn in agricultural, mining and construction equipment and a strong US dollar affect volumes.

Also, log exports fell 40 percent year-to-date to 124,456 metric tons, with the fall being blamed on decreased demand in China and competition from New Zealand.

Additionally, auto imports and exports fell seven percent to 130,478 units, something that the ports said was due to vehicle manufacturers moving factory locations, thereby shifting the supply chain.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Major Arctic Oil Finds

By Mark Edward Nero

Two oil companies are claiming recent oil discoveries north of the Arctic Circle that could produce a combined 10 billion barrels of oil.

Earlier this year, Colorado-based Armstrong Energy announced a major oil discovery involving multiple pools in Alaska’s Colville River Delta, west of Prudhoe Bay. According to a report in Petroleum News the company claims almost 500 million barrels of proven contingent oil reserves, and probable contingent reserves of 1.4 billion barrels and possibly as many as 3.7 billion barrels.

Earlier this month, Alaska’s Caelus Energy announced a find at Smith Bay, a few hundred miles west of Prudhoe Bay, which could yield from 6 to 10 billion barrels of oil. The company says the new discovery has the potential to provide 200,000 barrels/day of light oil to the Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS), which would increase throughput by 40 percent and extend the pipeline’s long-term viability by reducing the average viscosity of its oil.

“This discovery could be really exciting for the State of Alaska,” says Caelus CEO Jim Musselman. “It has the size and scale to play a meaningful role in sustaining the Alaskan oil business over the next three or four decades.”

Caelus is currently planning an appraisal program, which will include drilling an additional appraisal well. The company is also studying and planning the facilities build out to process and transport the oil to TAPS. Based on the “Historical Resource and Recovery Growth in Developed Fields on the Arctic Slope of Alaska” (Alaska DNR Division of Oil & Gas, 2004) the two discoveries contain as much as 11.2 billion barrels, or roughly 45 percent of the historical yield of the Prudhoe Bay fields.

TraPac Doubling Oakland Footprint

By Mark Edward Nero

Container terminal operator and stevedore TraPac LLC plans to nearly double its marine terminal size at the Port of Oakland, the company revealed Oct. 13.

TraPac, which began Oakland operations in 1991 and also manages terminals in Los Angeles and Jacksonville, Florida says it plans to lease an additional 57 acres and two vessel berths on the Port of Oakland’s Outer Harbor. If the deal is approved, it would strengthen TraPac’s position as the second-largest terminal operator in Oakland.

According to the Port of Oakland, TraPac will invest to upgrade and modernize the new terminal acreage under its control in Oakland. Among other things, TraPac says it plans to construct a new gate to give harbor truckers better access to the terminal.

TraPac disclosed its plans at the most recent meeting of Oakland’s Board of Port Commissioners. The proposed 14-year lease agreement with the port becomes final if the Board approves it at an Oct. 27 meeting.

“This is a significant step forward for TraPac and the port,” Oakland Maritime Director John Driscoll said. “TraPac gets room to expand its thriving business and the port gets to revitalize valuable property with a highly respected tenant.”

TraPac, which handles 20 percent of the containerized cargo moving through the Port of Oakland, manages two vessel berths and 66 acres of land. Under the new agreement, it would have four berths and 123 acres, with much of the land used for cargo handling.

“Our business is growing and placing new demands on our operations,” said Mike Porte, general manager of TraPac’s Oakland site. “With this new agreement we can meet the demands and the service expectations of our customers.”

“With this expansion, we’re demonstrating our long-term commitment to Oakland,” Porte said.

Norwegian Cruise Line Bringing New Ship to Seattle

By Mark Edward Nero

On Oct. 13, the Port of Seattle and Norwegian Cruise Line revealed that the newest ship in Norwegian’s fleet, the Norwegian Bliss, will homeport in Seattle beginning in 2018.

“As we cross the one million passenger mark next year, having the largest vessel scheduled on the West Coast for the 2018 cruise season shows real commitment by Norwegian Cruise Line to invest in Seattle,” Port of Seattle Commission President John Creighton said. “Larger cruise vessels like the Norwegian Bliss mean more passengers bringing more revenue and jobs to our region.”

Norwegian Bliss, which is scheduled for delivery in spring 2018, is to be constructed at Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany. The 163,000 gross ton ship is designed to accommodate about 4,000 guests.

After a transatlantic cruise and a Panama Canal transit across the new locks, the vessel is to sail north along the West Coast, reaching Seattle for the start of the 2018 summer cruising season. After it’s arrival, Norwegian Bliss is scheduled to sail weekly seven-day Alaskan Adventure cruises from Pier 66 in Seattle.

The ship’s itinerary will feature calls in Ketchikan, Juno, Skagway and Victoria, British Columbia, along with scenic glacier cruising.

“Norwegian was the first line to begin cruising to Alaska from Seattle in 2000 and it’s only fitting that we bring our newest ship, Norwegian Bliss, directly to this incredible location,” Norwegian Cruise Line President and CEO Andy Stuart said in a statement. “Alaska is one of the top destinations for our guests to explore and we are thrilled to be the first cruise line to offer guests the opportunity to experience this coveted destination on a brand new, state-of-the-art cruise ship from Seattle.”

Norwegian Cruise Line has also committed to make tenant improvements to the Bell Street Cruise Terminal estimated at $30 million which could significantly expand the portion of the facilities used for processing cruise passengers. Under the new lease, Norwegian will manage the cruise operations at the terminal and have priority rights to the cruise vessel berth during the cruise season. The port will operate the facilities outside the cruise season.