Tuesday, January 23, 2018

California Court Advances Rail Plan

By Karen Robes Meeks

BNSF Railway and Port of Los Angeles officials said Friday they will discuss how to proceed with their $500 million railyard project following the outcome of a recent California Court of Appeal decision.

Approved by the port and city of Los Angeles in 2013, the Southern California International Gateway (SCIG) near-dock intermodal rail project has been tied up in litigation. Several lawsuits filed by the city of Long Beach, environmental and neighborhood groups contend that the project’s environmental impact report (EIR) did not adequately address SCIG’s impacts to neighborhoods and the environment.

In 2016, a court sided with Long Beach and others, ruling that additional study was needed on the project’s environmental impacts and invalidated parts of the EIR.

Los Angeles and BNSF appealed the decision and on January 12 the California Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s 2016 ruling on all but one EIR analysis issue: ambient air concentrations.

Extract from the ruling:

“We conclude that the exhaustion requirement that generally apply to parties contesting the adequacy of an environmental impact report do not apply to the Attorney General and that the FEIR fails to adequately consider air quality impacts of the project, particularly impacts to ambient air pollutant concentrations and cumulative impacts of such pollutant concentrations. With respect to all other claimed deficiencies, we conclude that the analysis in the FEIR satisfies the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act.” Port and BNSF officials praised the decision.

"We are pleased that the court has reversed the lower court ruling, correctly applied the law and maintained the existing scope of CEQA,” said Roger Nober, Executive Vice President Law and Corporate Affairs and Chief Legal Officer. “We are currently reviewing the ruling and will coordinate with the Port of Los Angeles regarding next steps.”

If built, SCIG would allow cargo to be loaded by rail four miles away from the port, eliminating 1.3 million annual truck trips needed to deliver goods to railyards some 24 miles away.

New Seattle Commissioners

By Karen Robes Meeks

The Port of Seattle welcomed new commissioners Peter Steinbrueck and Ryan Calkins, while Courtney Gregoire was selected as Commission President for 2018.

“I look forward to the hard work of preserving the industrial lands that support family-wage jobs throughout our region, protecting our environment, and growing our economy in ways that benefit everyone,” said Steinbrueck, a former three-term Seattle city councilman. “Our economic diversity makes King County resilient and rich in opportunities. I look forward to working with the community on growing those opportunities.”

Calkins, who works for nonprofit organization Ventures, said he was honored to join the port commission. “I look forward to bringing economic growth and expanding opportunities to our region while being environmentally sustainable in our actions,” he said.

The commission also voted Gregoire as commission president for 2018.

“The Port of Seattle will continue to lead on economic and community development for our region while leading in environmental sustainability,” she said. “We want to ensure that all of our community members benefit from the ongoing growth at our facilities throughout King County.”

San Diego Debris Removal Project

By Karen Robes Meeks

The Port of San Diego will soon be ground zero for a pilot program aiming to remove marine debris from San Diego Bay. The port has inked an agreement with Zephyr Debris Removal LLC for the one-year demonstration project.

Under the deal, Zephyr will use a custom-made vessel equipped with skimming technology. The port will offer $100,000 and the use of port-owned property to allow Zephyr to dock its boat and unload debris in exchange for a five percent share of the company’s revenue related to the technology, equipment and other considerations, according to the port.

“Zephyr’s project is a great way to kick off the year and fits my 2018 theme, ‘Ocean Optimism,’ which is the belief that we should be incredibly optimistic about the potential of the ocean economy, the Blue Economy, to be our greatest source of opportunity,” said Chairman Rafael Castellanos, Board of Port Commissioners. “Through our Blue Economy Incubator, projects like this support our position as a catalyst of our water-dependent economy while also ensuring San Diego Bay remains a vibrant resource for visitors and residents for generations to come.”

New Foss CFO

By Karen Robes Meeks

Bryceon Sumner is Foss Maritime’s new chief financial officer, the company announced earlier this month. Sumner, who earned accounting degrees from the University of Georgia and the University of Texas at Austin, will manage Foss’ financial function and performance while keeping in mind the company’s long-range strategic goals.

“Bryceon is a strategic leader with a track record of successfully leading companies’ financial functions through periods of growth and change,” said John Parrott, President and CEO of Foss Maritime. “His financial leadership experience will be a key component of Foss’ success as we continue forward and grow our service lines.”

Before coming to Foss, Sumner was chief financial officer of Dallas-based educational technology provider Academic Partnerships. His career started at Ernst & Young, where he worked on several IPOs, including a banking tech IPO that was later sold for $3.9 billion.

“I’m thrilled to join Foss in this CFO role and I think my experience in a number of different industries will bring a unique perspective to Foss,” said Sumner. “The maritime industry is fascinating to me and I’m looking forward to learning and growing with the knowledgeable leaders at Foss, to help strengthen our finances and support the important work we are doing.”

Friday, January 19, 2018

Portland Terminal 6 Best Use Determined

By Karen Robes Meeks

Terminal 6 at the Port of Portland would be best served as “a multi-use terminal that dedicates revenues from other terminal activities to support container service,” according to the port, which recently announced the findings of a consultant study and work from an industry leader committee. The findings, which were presented to the port commission earlier this month, showed that a diverse mix of cargo uses is needed to support the container business since volumes are lower than most West Coast ports.

The location, as a river port, and mergers in the marine industry may make it difficult to get a return on weekly trans-Pacific container service. Drawing carriers that offer service to Asia that align with the region’s primary export and import markets, keeping terminal rates competitive and labor productivity levels at or above West Coast standards, lowering costs and securing container volume support from the shipping community are key to the facility’s success, the study indicated.

“This analysis reinforced that there is no silver bullet for container service,” said Curtis Robinhold, Port executive director. “With the strong backing of shippers, labor and businesses, I’m hopeful that we can continue to offer container service options for shippers at T-6, while ensuring long-term financial stability. We heard strong support from our partners in the shipping community that they are willing to do what it takes to help support container service at the terminal.”

Meanwhile, the port and BNSF are teaming up to offer a rail shuttle between Terminal 6 and Puget Sound ports. Also, Swire Shipping now calls at T-6 monthly with a general cargo/container service to New Zealand/Australia and Asia.

Vancouver Energy Faces Lease Loss

By Karen Robes Meeks

The Port of Vancouver USA’s Board of Commissioners recently voted 3-0 to give notice to Vancouver Energy, a joint venture between Andeavor (formerly Tesoro Corp.) and Savage Companies planning to build a $210 million terminal at the port. The company must get the necessary licenses, permits and approvals to operate by March 31 or face lease termination.

The proposed terminal would take up to 360,000 barrels of crude delivered daily by rail and store it before transferring it to vessels going to West Coast oil refineries, where it would become transportation fuel and other products for US consumers. When fully operational, the business would have the potential to generate $2 billion for the local and regional economy and “uniquely positions Washington to bring lower-carbon fuels to the West Coast,” according to Vancouver Energy’s website. The project, which has been under review by the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) since August 2013, received a setback December 19 when the council announced it would recommend that Gov. Jay Inslee deny the project.

“It’s gratifying to have our commission be united in its vision for the future of the port and community,” said Commission President Eric LaBrant. “We still await the governor’s decision on the project and we continue to be focused on supporting businesses, growing jobs and providing benefit to our community.”

Commissioner Jerry Oliver, a longtime supporter of the project and the EFSEC review process, said he was aware of the council’s rejection, but still sees a way forward. “I believe that when the decision on the oil terminal is behind us, in five years or ten years, the port will still be doing great things for the benefit of the community,” he said.

San Francisco Seeks New Operator for Shipyard

By Karen Robes Meeks

The Port of San Francisco plans to re-issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) with broader parameters for a new operator of the Pier 70 shipyard in hope that the port commission could consider it on February 27.

The port only received three responses to the first RFP release in August, but found only one deemed responsive.

Port officials believe the new RFP will draw a larger bidding pool as it may offer more flexibility in developing proposals. Allowing for possible public investment in the shipyard’s infrastructure, as well as consideration for capital equipment ownership transfer to help pay for needed facility improvements are two of the options not included in the previous RFP that could make a difference. Since the former shipyard operator halted operations in May, the port has been absorbing the cost to maintain the Pier 70 shipyard while looking for a new operator.

The Pier 70 shipyard is vital in supporting the area’s “growing passenger cruise industry, government and defense fleets, the domestic oil refineries business, and regional Bay Area maritime passenger and harbor service support vessels,” according to the port.