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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Chemical Spill Evacuates Port of Olympia

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of Olympia was temporarily evacuated the morning of Jan. 27 after a hydrogen peroxide spill occurred at a new stormwater treatment plant that just opened at the port in December. The leak is believed to have originated from a pipe entering a 3,300-gallon tank.

Hydrogen peroxide, which is used to bring the pH factor in stormwater to normal, entered storm drains in and around the port and caused a vapor to rise from the drains and a building, according to the state Department of Ecology.

This led to the Olympia Fire Department calling for evacuations within a quarter mile as a precaution. The port and a few nearby businesses were evacuated for about three hours and another six-to-eight businesses within 20 city blocks were sheltered in place during the incident.

No injuries were reported.

Hydrogen peroxide is a weak acid that’s potentially explosive and not suitable for ingestion in high concentrations due to the potential for causing irritation to the mucus membrane, eyes and skin. In low concentrations, however, it’s commonly used for medical purposes.

Tug Sinks Off Hawaii Coast

By Mark Edward Nero

Eleven people were rescued and a thin sheen of oil was visible in the water after a 95-foot towing vessel sank about two and half miles west of Barbers Point Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii on Jan. 22.

Watch standers at the Coast Guard Sector Honolulu command center received a call at 3:13 pm from the pilot aboard the towing vessel Nalani stating their vessel was taking on water and they were in danger of sinking.

The Coast Guard Cutter Kittiwake, an 87-foot coastal patrol boat homeported in Honolulu launched to the scene, along with a 45-foot response boat crew from Coast Guard Station Honolulu and an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point.

The towing vessel Tiger 7 and a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration patrol boat also heard the distress call and arrived on scene to assist.

The crew of the NOAA vessel safely rescued nine crewmembers, while the Tiger 7 crew rescued two. All 11 survivors were wearing lifejackets; no injuries were reported.

Shortly after the rescue, all 11 survivors were transported back to Honolulu.

The Nalani sank in about 2,200 feet of water and was carrying an estimated 75,000 gallons of diesel fuel. An oil sheen was observed by Coast Guard responders before nightfall, but as of Jan. 25, shoreline and near-shore assessments indicated no sheening or smell of diesel, and no oiled wildlife has been observed, according to the Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard is conducting an investigation into the sinking and has begun interviews with the crew. The cause of the sinking is unknown and is under investigation. The vessel has not been recovered.

PMA, ILWU Reach Chassis Deal

By Mark Edward Nero

The Pacific Maritime Association and International Longshore & Warehouse Union, which have been locked in negotiations on a new six-year contract for nearly nine months, have come to an agreement on a major issue: jurisdiction over chassis maintenance and repair, the PMA revealed this week.

The agreement is believed to cover the maintenance, repair and inspection of the chassis’ used by trucks to haul cargo containers to and from terminals. Jurisdiction of them became an issue after ocean carriers stopped providing their own chassis, which forced the intermodal industry to utilize chassis pools and chassis leasing companies that aren’t part of the PMA.

“A tentative agreement was reached on the chassis topic, and we are hopeful that this will allow us to move toward conclusion of a full agreement in the near term,” the PMA said in a Jan. 27 statement, without disclosing exact details regarding the arrangement. The ILWU later confirmed the news.

This is only the second major issue that the two sides have come to an agreement on since last May: in August the PMA and ILWU released a joint statement announcing they had reached a tentative agreement on health benefits for workers.

The two sides are still negotiating other contract issues, including wages and pensions, but both say they’ve agreed not to discuss the terms of the tentative agreements while negotiations continue. The previous six-year labor pact, which covered almost 20,000 longshore workers at 29 ports up and down the West Coast, expired at 5 pm on July 1, 2014.

FMC to Host Environmental Forum

By Mark Edward Nero

The Federal Maritime Commission is scheduled to host its third annual Port Environmental Initiatives Forum next month in Washington DC.

This year’s discussion, according to the Maritime Commission, will focus on cooperation among competing neighbor ports and terminals to achieve environmental benefits in their surrounding communities under the authority of the Shipping Act of 1984.

The moderator will be Kurt Nagle, president of the American Association of Ports Authorities.

Among the scheduled participants are the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, as well as the Port of New York/New Jersey. The ports of Seattle and Tacoma have also been invited to participate, according to the Maritime Commission.

The gathering is scheduled to begin at 10:30 am Feb. 20 at the Federal Maritime Commission, 800 N. Capitol St. NW, Main Hearing Room – 1st floor Washington, D.C. 20573.

The FMC says that walk-ins will be welcomed, but that those wishing to RSVP may do so by emailing cstavropoulos@fmc.gov.

Monday, January 26, 2015

San Pedro Bay Dockworkers Protest Labor Cutbacks

By Mark Edward Nero

Thousands of dockworkers from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and their supporters held a march and rally on Jan. 22 to protest the suspension of night shifts at the ports by the Pacific Maritime Association.

An estimated 6,000 people, led by a high school marching band, walked along Harbor Blvd. from the Vincent Thomas Bridge in San Pedro to the Maritime Museum about half a mile away around sunset. The march was organized by the office of Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino, who represents the district that includes the port.

The PMA said Jan. 12 that it would no longer assign crews to load and unload cargo ships overnight at the two ports so that they could better deal with the problem of traffic congestion that has been plaguing port terminals for several months.

The reduction in operating hours has had a negative effect on dockworkers, according to the International Longshore & Warehouse Union. More than 800 jobs have been affected, according to the ILWU.

The union blames the congestion issues on “managerial mistakes,” including a lack of dock space for containers and shortages of chassis, and says that cancelling night shifts and reducing bulk operations will do nothing to ease congestion.

On the other hand the PMA, which has been engaged in contract negotiations with the ILWU since May 2014, claims that the union has orchestrated the situation by engaging in a work slowdown.
The PMA has given no indication that it is willing to resume night shift anytime soon and neither side has indicated that contract negotiations could be wrapped up in the near future.

Study: Inland Waterways Investment Could Mean $14 Million in Jobs

By Mark Edward Nero

The National Waterways Foundation, a Washington, DC-area based research center, on Jan. 26 released a two-year study examining the waterways’ national economic return on investment and the need for and benefits of an accelerated program of waterways system improvements that sustain and create jobs.

The study, conducted by the University of Tennessee and the University of Kentucky, is titled “Inland Navigation in the United States: An Evaluation of Economic Impacts and the Potential Effects of Infrastructure Investment.”

It evaluates the inland navigation system as it is currently funded and configured, and as it might be through renewed infrastructure investment. The study begins with a basic analytical framework examining navigation’s role as a productive input in various industrial processes and reflects actual, real-world economic interactions and consequences if the system were to suddenly shut down and then if proper infrastructure investments were made.

Specifically, the study found that:
  • Investment in badly needed modernization improvements to America’s inland waterways’ aging lock and dam infrastructure could lead to 350,000 job-years of new, full-time employment with a present value of more than $14 billion over the 10-year period examined in the study.
  • Investment in inland waterways could sustain 541,000 jobs and over $1 billion in new job income annually.
  • If 21 priority navigation projects were completed at an estimated total cost of $5.8 billion, the 20-year sum of related economic output activity would exceed $82 billion.
  • New freight capacity could result in robust economic impact in the creation of some 12,000 new full-time, permanent jobs each year with annual incomes in excess of $500 million.
  • If commercial shipping on US waterways ceased entirely, there would be immediate, devastating economic consequences with a total 10-year loss of $1 trillion. Also, shipping costs would increase by about $12.5 billion.
  • With a loss of waterways’ shipping, an estimated 75 percent of freight would be diverted to truck and/or rail, and there would be a 25 percent loss due to decreased production.

NASSCO Receives $33 Million Nimitz Contract

By Mark Edward Nero

San Diego-based shipbuilding company General Dynamics NASSCO has been awarded a $33.7 million modification to a previously awarded contract for repair and alterations to the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, the US Navy said Jan. 22.

This modification, according to the US Navy, is awarded under the existing five-year contract for non-nuclear maintenance, repair and alterations of CVN 68 and CVN 78 class ships. Exercise of the option authorizes the first major industrial availability of the contract, which entails modification and repair of equipment, hull and systems.

The USS Nimitz is scheduled to undergo an “extended planned incremental availability,” which is military terminology for an opportunity in a ship’s life cycle to conduct repairs and alterations.

The Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility in Bremerton, Washington, is the contracting activity for the work. All labor on the ship is scheduled to be performed in Bremerton, Wash. and is anticipated to be completed by June 2016, according to the Navy.

The USS Nimitz, which was commissioned in May 1975, is one of 10 supercarriers used by the Navy. It is 1,092 feet (332.8 meters) long, has a beam of 252 feet (76.8 meters) and can travel up to 31.5 knots. It has been homeported at Naval Station Everett since 2012.