Thursday, October 15, 2009
The vote confirms an identical decision by the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners in July that postponed any collection of the tax until July 1, 2010.
Due to the structure of the Los Angeles city government, certain decisions made by the Harbor Commission must be affirmed by the City Council.
Officials at the adjacent Port of Long Beach decided in April to postpone any collection of the tax until at least July 1, 2010.
The two ports jointly approved the collection of the container tax in January 2008, with an original implementation date of Jan. 1, 2009. The tax, which would have varied between $6-per-TEU and $20-per-TEU and would have been imposed on all loaded inbound and outbound boxes, was supposed to be collected through 2015.
The Port of Long Beach has paid out $2 million in legal fees to defend the CTP, and the two adjacent ports have split another $7.5 million in additional legal expenses.
The legal fees have arisen from two lawsuits, one filed by the American Trucking Associations against the ports' truck program in late 2008, and another brought against the ports by the Federal Maritime Commission. The ATA suit has been particularly lengthy and complicated, with three rounds of appearances in both Superior Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals over an injunction request against the program by the trucking group and other plaintiffs. The ATA eventually prevailed in most aspects of its case for an injunction against certain parts of the truck program. The ATA’s full suit against the ports begins in December. Earlier this year, and following the ATA prevailing at the Appeals Court level, the FMC dropped its case against the ports.
The truck program, which originally would have seen the ports pay to replace nearly 17,000 drayage trucks servicing the ports with cleaner burning models, was created in an effort to slash port-generated diesel emissions. The plan eventually evolved into a concessionaire and truck ban program paid for by a container tax, state and federal funds, and investment from the truckers themselves.
As implemented a year ago, the program requires truck operators to obtain port access licenses. It also banned all pre-1989 trucks from the ports and on Jan. 1, 2010 will expand the ban to include all trucks that do not meet 2004 model year engine criteria and newer emission standards or that are not equipped with verified emission control devices.
The port originally purchased the property for $50,000 an acre in 1996 as part of a larger 120-acre purchase from International Paper.
In 2006 Simpson Timber Co. bought the 35-acres from the port for $62,000 an acre with the intention of building a sawmill on the site. The lumber firm eventually decided not to build the sawmill and instead purchased an existing mill nearby in 2007. The port's repurchase price approved Tuesday figures out to $90,000 an acre, giving Simpson a $1 million profit on the property.
Port economic development officials said they are in talks to bring a new industrial tenant to the repurchased site.
Since 2007 the site had become embroiled in legal action after Simpson sold the property to a third party. A Superior Court Judge eventually rescinded the sale and ordered the property transferred back to Simpson this April, making way for the resale to the port.
Port officials cited the need to be conservative with the budget despite predictions of a global economic turnaround as early as next year by some experts. The Vancouver port, which deals almost exclusively with bulk and break-bulk commodities such as minerals, grains and automobiles, has been hit particularly hard by the global cargo slump.
While the 2010 budget is a sharp decline from the port's peak budget of $127.4 million in 2008, port officials said this merely reflected a drawing down of capital projects over the past several years.
The new budget still allocated about $23 million to continue work on the Terminal 5 rail loop, part of the $137 million West Vancouver Freight Access project designed to relieve freight train congestion through the port and the city.
Based on port expectations of 63 vessel calls next year and an additional 30 barges, the new budget predicts total revenues climbing to $16.6 million versus operating, capital improvement and other expenses of $16.5 million.
In releasing the new budget, port officials cited new partnerships with Ag Processing Inc., Pasha Group shipments, and Westway Terminals liquid storage as foundational to the port's economic situation next year.
The new budget retains about $3.9 million in capital improvement projects, including the development of a research and development facility, a marine cargo yard rail expansion, and additional security improvements.
The port commissioners must submit a final budget to the county by Dec. 7.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
The Port of Seattle has announced that it will close its international office in Japan at the end of the month and effectively close other offices in China, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea.
American ports for decades have maintained overseas offices to lure business and lobby for routes, but Seattle port officials said that routing and shipping decisions are now being made in the shipping lines' American offices or by beneficial cargo owners located in the United States.
While the State of Washington is making similar moves in regard to foreign trade offices, the Port of Tacoma said it has no plans to cut overseas offices or contracts.
A study of intermodal motor carrier has found that APL's Global Gateway South-Eagle Marine Services terminal at the Port of Los Angeles has the quickest truck turn times of 14 marine terminals surveyed at the adjacent ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.
Conducted during a one-week period in August by the Harbor Truckers for a Sustainable Future--an advocacy and strategy coalition of IMCs– the study incorporated daily logs from drivers and global positioning satellite information from their trucks to build a picture of accurate turn-times at the terminals.
The APL terminal was named "Most Efficient Marine Terminal" by the study, finding that average turn times were about 50 minutes (using only the outside gate/queue, inside gate, and out gate total minutes). The terminal ranked first in the paper survey, and its rankings varied between number one and number two in the surveys using the GPS data.
“When truckers come through our gate, they are our customers and we’ve got to treat them well and get them back on the road quickly," said Nathaniel Seeds, Vice President of Operations in the Americas for APL, “so awards such as this one are a great source of satisfaction for APL.”
The study also found that the turn times on night gates at all terminals were approximately thirty minutes longer than the day shift. Trouble window transactions averaged approximately 30-plus minutes, per driver, to resolve. Turn times for both shifts throughout the 15 terminals ranged from less than one hour to several hours.
Representatives of the HTFSF group plan to meet with terminals directly to discuss the turn times and seeks ways to improve efficiency.
Former Chula Vista mayor Steve Padilla was sworn in last week as the newest member of the Port of San Diego's Board of Port Commissioners.
Padilla, mayor of Chula Vista from 2002 to 2006, replaces former port commissioner Mike Najera, who resigned in May. During his tenure as mayor, Chula Vista gained nationwide attention as the largest US city with an openly-elected gay mayor.
Prior to his term as mayor, Padilla was a two-term member of the Chula Vista City Council and the first Latino to win a seat at the city dais.
In addition to working with various environmental and social groups, Padilla has also served as a member of the California Coastal Commission.
A former police officer and detective, Padilla is now president of the public policy and land use consultancy firm the Aquarius Group, which he started in 2007.
The San Diego Port's seven-member commission sets policy and manages tenants along San Diego Bay's tidelands.