Tuesday, March 28, 2017

NASSCO Christens, Launches Final ‘ECO Class’ Vessel

By Mark Edward Nero

On Saturday, March 25, General Dynamics NASSCO christened and launched the Palmetto State – the final ship in an eight-ship “ECO Class” tanker program to be constructed at the company’s San Diego headquarters.

According to NASSCO, the new ECO-class design symbolizes the emerging direction of the shipping industry in the US toward cleaner, more fuel-efficient modes of transporting product. The design provides a 33 percent fuel efficiency improvement compared to product tankers built just a few years ago.

In 2013, NASSCO entered into agreements with two companies, American Petroleum Tankers and SEA-Vista LLC, to design and construct a total of eight 50,000 deadweight-ton, LNG-conversion-ready product tankers to include a 330,000-barrel cargo capacity each. Seven of the eight tankers have been delivered to their respective customers. The final tanker, the Palmetto State, is scheduled for delivery this summer.

More than a thousand shipbuilders, their families and friends, and members of the community attended the christening celebration. Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-San Diego) served as the principal speaker for the event.

The ship’s sponsor, who christened the vessel with the traditional break of a champagne bottle on the ship’s hull, was Linda Rankine, the wife of Bill Rankine, manager of marine chartering and operations for CITGO. NASSCO’s manager of planning, Karen Herrmann, served as the trigger honoree, and CITGO marine chartering manager Shari Flippin acted as the first shore removal honoree.

The Palmetto State and her sister ships are the most fuel-efficient tankers to service the Jones Act trade, according to NASSCO, which is the only major shipyard on the West Coast of the United States conducting design, construction and repair of commercial and US Navy ships.

In the past decade, NASSCO has delivered 29 ocean-going ships to government and commercial customers, including the world’s first LNG-powered containerships. In the past two years, NASSCO processed more than 120,000 tons of steel.

1,000th Neo-Panamax Vessel Passes Through Expanded Panama Canal

By Mark Edward Nero

Less than nine months after the inauguration of the expansion of the Panama Canal, the waterway has welcomed its 1,000th Neo-Panamax vessel.

On Sunday, March 19, Mediterranean Shipping Co.’s containership MSC Anzu made the historic 1,000th transit through the expanded canal, heading northbound from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. The Panama-flagged containership, which was built in 2015, measures about 300 meters (984 feet) in length and 48.23 meters (157 feet) in beam with a carrying capacity of over 9,000 TEUs.

The 1000th transit marked a significant milestone for the Expanded Canal, which is experiencing a steady flow of traffic – including containerships, liquid petroleum gas vessels and liquefied natural gas vessels. Other segments like dry bulk carriers, vehicle carriers and crude product tankers have also transited through the expanded canal, according to the Panama Canal Authority, the government of Panama agency charged with managing, operating and maintaining the canal.

According to the same source, as of March 2017, the average number of Neo-Panamax vessels transiting the new lane per day is 5.9. In February, the Panama Canal set a new daily tonnage record of 1.18 million tons after welcoming a total of 1,180 vessels through both the expanded and original locks. The previous records were established in December 2016 and January 2017, when the waterway set monthly tonnage records for transiting 35.4 million tons and 36.1 million tons, respectively.

AAPA Launches Port Infrastructure Advocacy Campaign

By Mark Edward Nero

The American Association of Port Authorities has launched a campaign that will advocate for transportation infrastructure investment on behalf of the nation’s manufacturers, farmers and other workers who count on modern and efficient seaports to move American products to vital overseas markets.

Called the “America: Keep It Moving” campaign, AAPA’s US members in the coming months plan to coordinate actions to inform policymakers, and those who influence policy, about the job-creating power of US ports as the Trump Administration and Congress consider plans for national infrastructure improvements and funding.

“The nation’s seaports serve a vital role in US job creation, economic prosperity and international competitiveness,” AAPA President and CEO Kurt Nagle said in a statement. “To help American businesses compete in overseas markets, the Administration and Congress must make investments today to build a 21st century seaport infrastructure.”

Port activity supports 23 million American jobs and generates $321 billion in federal, state and local tax revenue each year, according to the AAPA, while the total value of economic activity related to America’s ports is $4.6 trillion. “Ports send products made in America’s cities, towns and rural communities to markets around the world,” Nagle said. “This activity is critical to the workers and management of US manufacturers, service companies, farmers and nearly every other kind of business across the nation.”

One of every three acres on American farmland is planted for export markets, according to the US Chamber of Commerce, and nearly 12 million jobs are supported by exports nationwide, including a quarter of all manufacturing jobs. Infrastructure investment impacts how efficiently US goods are transported to port facilities for export. Among the highways that take US goods to market, some 1,200 miles of the nation’s road, bridges and tunnels serve as vital freight connections to ports, much of which is in dire need of investment.

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, the cost of deficient highways could cost US businesses and households up to $575 billion by 2025, reaching a $3.2 trillion loss by 2040.

The volume of freight in the US is projected to grow more than 40 percent by 2045, while the value of that same freight is projected to increase about 92 percent, according to the US Department of Transportation. By 2037, the US is expected to export over 52 million shipping containers through US seaports annually.

“We must prepare the nation’s infrastructure to meet a growing demand for the safe, efficient movement of freight,” Nagle said. “To keep America moving, the time to invest in port infrastructure is now.”

Port of Portland Hires O’Hollaren As Maritime Marketing Head

By Mark Edward Nero

Ken O’Hollaren, the ex-CEO of the Port of Longview and former executive director of the Port of Port Angeles, is on the move again. He has been hired to lead the Port of Portland’s marine marketing efforts, the port announced March 20.

“We are excited to have Ken’s ideas and expertise as we look to grow our strong position as an auto and bulk gateway and set a new vision for business activity at Terminal 6,” the Port of Portland’s chief commercial officer, Keith Leavitt, said in a statement. “Ken is a highly-regarded leader in the Pacific Northwest marine port sector.”

O’Hollaren was the executive director of the Port of Longview until retiring at the end of 2012 after nearly 25 years in the position. He was brought on at the Port of Port Angeles as interim executive director in July 2013 and was later named to the position permanently. He resigned after two years, citing a desire to spend more time with family.

O’Hollaren also previously served as chair of the Interstate Columbia River Improvement Project, the plan to deepen the Columbia River shipping channel, and is a past chairman of the American Association of Port Authorities.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Seaport Alliance Says YTD Traffic Up Eight Percent

By Mark Edward Nero

The Northwest Seaport Alliance recorded an eight percent year-to-date increase in container cargo through February 2017, according to newly released data.

International container volumes for the month of February remained steady with a 9.1 percent year-to-date increase despite fewer sailings. Compared to same time last year, full export loads saw a four percent increase, and import loads were up more than seven percent for the year.

As anticipated, we saw fewer vessel arrivals and amended service schedules by ocean carriers in February due to the Lunar New Year holiday, which began more than 10 days earlier than last year. In observance of the holiday, the factories in China traditionally shut down production for up to two weeks. As a result, total container volumes declined by 0.8 percent for the month.

At 102,697 TEUs, full imports declined four percent compared to February 2016. Meanwhile, full exports recorded 71,243 TEUs, nearly a seven percent dip. Overall, total international TEU volumes grew 1 percent in February due to an increase in empty containers.

Total domestic volumes declined almost eight percent, compared to February 2016. Year to date, Alaska volumes declined more than six percent in February and are expected to decline five to six percent this year due to soft market conditions. The Pacific Northwest trade with Hawaii, however, is expected to show modest growth in 2017.

The Seaport Alliance’s container volumes for February 2017 can be viewed at https://www.nwseaportalliance.com/sites/default/files/seaport_alliance_full_mty_by_month_2016vs17.pdf and the cargo statistics for the month are available at https://www.nwseaportalliance.com/sites/default/files/seaport_alliance-5-year_history_feb_17.pdf

Port of Oakland Ready for Alliance Changes

By Mark Edward Nero

In an effort to soothe importers and exporters fearful of fallout as ocean carriers switch partners next month, Port of Oakland officials said March 22 that they expect to take on upcoming changes to container shipping alliances with little disruption.

“We’ve spoken to the shipping lines, we’ve spoken to our marine terminal operators and we understand their schedules,” Port of Oakland Maritime Director John Driscoll said. “We’re confident that Oakland will be able to accommodate the newly formed alliances efficiently.”

Eleven of the world’s largest container shipping lines are coming together in three new alliances. The port said it expects cargo volume to hold steady once new alliances begin operation April 1. Fewer but larger ships are expected to visit Oakland weekly, laden with more ocean containers. This is a change that reflects industry-wide consolidation as shipping lines cut excess vessel capacity to trim costs.

The carriers are changing partners after bankruptcy, acquisitions and consolidation roiled container shipping in 2016. Alliances allow participating carriers to share ships and port calls to reduce expenses while at the same time expanding service.

Some industry experts foresee port disruption if arrival schedules change or shipping lines redirect to different marine terminals, with the worry being that cargo flow could be inhibited, leading to congestion at major ports.

Oakland officials said they don’t foresee difficulties in working with the new alliances. Since most of the port’s vessel calls are concentrated in just three marine terminals, that means cargo relocation should be minimal.

The port said it expects to handle 29 weekly and two fortnightly vessel calls in the new alliance structure, and that it anticipates no loss of cargo in Oakland, even though weekly vessel calls will decrease from 32 to 29.

The Port of Oakland is expected to receive direct calls from 13 different Chinese ports, including six weekly calls from Taiwan and four from Southeast Asia, and seven weekly services from Oakland to ports in Japan.

It’s expected to take two-to-three months for all alliance changes to take hold, with the process including slotting vessels into new service rotations, and in some cases, older ships being replaced with newer, larger ones.

POLA to Hold Community Meeting on Waterfront Development

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of Los Angeles says it will host a public meeting on the status of the Wilmington Waterfront Development Program from 6 pm to 8 pm Thursday, March 30 at the cornerstone of the project, Banning’s Landing Community Center, 100 E. Water St. in Wilmington on the Los Angeles Waterfront.

Attendees will get a detailed update on the Wilmington Waterfront Development Program and Wilmington Waterfront Promenade, as port staff presents design updates for the promenade that have evolved from the original Environmental Impact Report and master plan renderings to the current detailed design, based on community feedback.

Key elements of the design are public access and connectivity to the water’s edge. As part of the meeting, the port will conduct a question and answer forum. Simultaneous Spanish translation service will be provided, according to the port.

The designer of the Wilmington Waterfront Promenade, Sasaki Associates, was approved by the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners in October 2015. In February 2017, the Harbor Commission approved T.Y. Lin International Group to design a pedestrian bridge on the Wilmington Waterfront, the Avalon Promenade and Gateway.

This summer, the port says, it expects to host additional public meetings to gather community input on the design of another aspect of the waterfront development, the Avalon Promenade and Gateway.