Thursday, December 3, 2009

Long Beach Port: Truck Program To Meet Emission Goals Two Years Early

A Port of Long Beach program to cut port-servicing diesel truck emissions by 80 percent is set to meet its original goal two years ahead of schedule, according to port officials.

Port Executive Director Richard Steinke told the Long Beach City Council on Tuesday that a second ban on certain model year trucks– set to take effect Jan. 1, 2010– will remove an additional 8,000 older trucks from the port drayage service and push the port truck program over the 80 percent emission reduction goal.

The first ban, which took effect at the start of the truck plan on Oct. 1, 2008, barred more than 2,200 pre-1989 model year trucks in the port-servicing fleet from entering the ports. The impending Jan. 1, 2010 ban will bar all pre-1994 trucks from port service as well as all 1994-2003 models that have not been retrofit with pollution control devices.

"Beginning on New Year's Day, Jan. 1, 2010, 8,000 more dirty trucks will be banned forever from working at the port and polluting our air," Steinke told the Council.

Although Steinke's comments seemed to indicate that the 8,000 trucks will be removed directly by the ban, a port news release issued Tuesday appeared to break down the number differently, stating that "Most of the aging big-rigs are already gone, replaced by 5,600 newer, safer and cleaner trucks," with another 2,400 newer trucks already on order and merely awaiting delivery.

The port news release also stated that by Jan. 1, 2010, 90 percent of the trucks providing drayage service to the port would be 2007 model year trucks or newer.

Steinke congratulated the trucking industry for picking up the cost of this ahead-of-schedule transition "on its own dime." The port, for its part, has helped finance "several hundred" newer trucks, according to Stienke, 81 percent of which are alternative fueled vehicles.

While little public documentation exists to support the port claims, the port has completed an air inventory report that details air quality measurements that covers at least a portion of the first year of the truck program. The report is set to be released by the port, perhaps within the month, following an ongoing review of the document by the California Air Resources Board.

Port officials have also indicated that given the apparent success of meeting the truck program goals two years ahead of schedule, new and even more stringent targets for emissions reductions are under consideration and could be amended to the port's clean air plans in the near future.

A truck plan with similar air quality goals was also adopted by the neighboring Port of Los Angeles, but has been hampered by litigation from the trucking industry over several non-environmental points such as language requiring truck drivers to operate only as employees of trucking firms. Long Beach, which never included employee-only language in its plan, settled with the American Trucking Associations in October over the remaining non-environmental issues and has since been removed by a federal judge from the litigation.

Coalition Turns Over Oakland Drayage Fleet Ahead of Port Deadline

A coalition of importers, exporters, trucking companies and ocean carriers has announced that its fleet members servicing the Port of Oakland have met the emissions standards under the port's Clean Truck Management Plan set to take effect Jan. 1.

Coalition for Responsible Transportation members GSC Logistics and California Multimodal, according to a CRT release, have deployed over 200 cleaner-burning trucks meeting the port standards. According to the California Air Resources Board, these trucks will reduce diesel particulate matter by 85 percent per mile driven.

"These companies demonstrate how the trucking industry is really stepping up to meet the new environmental standards," said Port of Oakland Executive Director Omar Benjamin. "These cleaner trucks will significantly reduce diesel particulate emissions and clean the air for a healthier community."

"For GSC, protecting the environment is not just a company initiative, it is our responsibility as members of the community to work toward reversing the threats of pollution and climate change," said Andy Garcia, chairman and executive vice president of GSC Logistics.

According to the CRT, over 90 percent of the clean trucks deployed by GSC Logistics and California Multimodal have been privately financed through a financial support model that includes the trucking company, truck driver, and the importers and exporters who have made financial commitments to use the cleanest available trucks in the marketplace.

Similar private financing moves in response to the Southern California ports' truck programs have seen the industry turn over more than 8,000 vehicles in the Long Beach and Los Angeles drayage fleet.

Longview Port Named Washington Port of Year

The Washington state Port of Longview has been named the 2009 Port of the Year by the Washington Public Ports Association.

In awarding the honor, the WPPA cited the port's successful efforts to recruit the EGT Development grain terminal. The large export grain facility is being built by EGT Development LLC, a partnership by St. Louis-based Bunge North America, Japan's Itochu Corp. and South Korean shipping company STX Pan Ocean. Construction on the 38-acre $200 million project began in August. When completed in 2011, the state-of-the-art facility will allow the simultaneous unloading of up to four, 110-rail car trains.
The WPPA also cited the Longview port's record revenues in 2008--due in large part to the port's development and growth in the wind-energy sector.

“This award is a true reflection of the staff’s dedication and the community’s support of the Port of Longview,” said Longview Executive Director Ken O’Hollaren in a written statement.

Ad Exec Named to Long Beach Port Governing Board

Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster on Tuesday nominated advertising executive and former city planning commissioner Thomas Fields to the Port of Long Beach's Board of Harbor Commissioners.

If confirmed by the Long Beach City Council, Fields will fill the board seat vacated by retiring Commissioner James Hankla during the summer.

"I am honored to have been asked by Mayor Bob Foster to serve on the Harbor Commission," Fields said in a port news release. "This is a major responsibility and I look forward to fulfilling the trust placed in me by the Mayor."

The non-elected five-member Board of Harbor Commissioners manages the city's Harbor Department and sets policy for the Port of Long Beach, the second busiest container port in the Western Hemisphere.

Fields, a Long Beach resident for more than 30 years, has served on the city’s Redevelopment Agency Board and the Planning Commission. He is founder and owner of Thomas Fields Associates, a marketing and advertising agency whose clients include 20th Century Fox, Hyundai, and the Long Beach Housing Development Company. Fields lives in the city’s Eighth Council District, and also serves as vice president on the board of directors for the charitable, non-profit Ronald McDonald House.

Fields' appointment will be reviewed by the Personnel and Civil Service Committee and must be confirmed by the City Council.

News Briefs: Successful Transit of the Northeast Passage

(As seen in the November issue of Pacific Maritime Magazine) Photo:The Russian icebreaker 50 LetPobedyBeluga Foresight leads the 12,744-dwt heavylift ship through an ice field in the Northeast Passage. -Philips Publishing Group File Photo

Near record low sea ice conditions in the Arctic this past summer allowed two German heavylift vessels, the 12,744-dwt twins Beluga Fraternity and Beluga Foresight, to navigate the Northeast Passage between Asia and Europe with commercial cargo, making them the first western merchant vessels to do so. Operated by Germany’s Beluga group, the vessels departed Ulsan, South Korea in late July and spent nearly a month at the Russian port of Vladivostok awaiting various clearances. They then met up with the Russian icebreaker 50 Let Pobedy off Vilkizki Strait on August 31 and moved into the Northeast Passage, the Russian icebreaker Rossia joining the convoy on September 4.

Between September 7 and 14 they were able to safely discharge 44 heavy modules for a Russian water power plant at the mouth of the Ob River before departing for Archangelsk via the Barents Sea. At Archangelsk the ships loaded 6,000 tons of steel pipe each before departing for Onne, Nigeria and a much warmer climate.

Beluga officials, who plan to operate another Northeast Passage sealift next summer with larger “P” class vessels, said there was very little to no ice to break along the route and that the journey saved approximately 3,000 miles and 300,000 euros per vessel compared to traveling via Suez. However, the charter for the voyage, General Electric, had to cover mandatory fees for the Russian icebreaker escort, which were not disclosed.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

State Report Finds Bay Area Pilots' Board Still Missing Mark

The state of California's Bureau of State Audits issued a scathing report last week detailing failings and inadequacies of the state board that licenses and regulates pilots in the Bay Area.

The report found that the California Board of Pilot Commissioners for San Francisco, San Pablo and Suisun bays continues to certify pilots without adequate medical review, has failed to investigate accidents involving pilots in a timely manner, and has failed to provide proper training for pilots according to state guidelines.

The pilots, who guide arriving and departing ships into local waterways and earn about $400,000 a year, have been under intense scrutiny since the November 2007 Cosco Busan allision with the Oakland Bay Bridge and resultant oil spill that oiled stretches of San Francisco Bay. The main cause of the allision was later determined to be the fault of Captain John Cota, a state pilot who was at the helm of the Cosco Busan during the incident. Cota is now serving a 10-month stretch in federal prison over the incident. During the Cosco Busan investigation, Cota's medical fitness and the review of this fitness by the pilot board were called into question.

Following the Cosco Busan incident, state lawmakers passed stringent regulations regarding, among other things, the pilot board's medical review process.
Last week's 68-page report detailed nine areas of concern found by the state auditor, including:

  • The board paid for business-class airfare for pilots attending training in France, which may constitute a misuse of public funds.
  • The board lacked a procedure, required in state law, for access to confidential information, and it released information to the public that included a pilot's home address and Social Security number.
  • The board did not consistently adhere to state law when licensing pilots. In one case, it licensed a pilot 28 days before he received a required physical examination; he piloted vessels 18 times during this period.
  • The board renewed some pilots' licenses even though the pilots had received physical examinations from physicians the board had not appointed and, in one case, renewed a license for a pilot who had not had a physical examination that year.
  • Of the 24 investigations the state reviewed, 17 went beyond the 90-day statutory deadline for completion.
  • The board did not investigate reports of suspected safety standard violations of pilot boarding equipment, as required by law.
  • The board failed to ensure that all pilots completed required training within specified time frames.
  • The board did not ensure that some of its members and investigators filed required statements of economic interests.
  • The board did not approve several changes to the rates pilots charge for their services, as required by law.

You can view the entire Bureau of State Audits' report at

FOR THE RECORD: In the Tuesday, Dec. 1, PMM Online, a headline regarding a state of California report critical of the state board that governs the Bay Area bar pilots incorrectly described the contents of the article.

The headline should have read "State Report Finds Bay Area Pilots' Board Still Missing Mark."

As stated in the article, the Bureau of State Audits report criticized certain actions and inactions by the California Board of Pilot Commissioners for San Francisco, San Pablo and Suisun Bays. The report did not investigate or find fault with the individual licensed pilots regulated by the pilots' board. We regret if the incorrect headline implied otherwise.

CARB Extends Statewide Drayage Truck Ban for a Few

Good news and bad news from the state of California regarding the impending January 1, 2010 statewide ban of older diesel drayage trucks.

The good news is that the California Air Resources Board has extended the ban start date to April 30, 2010.

The bad news is that the extension only applies to a very small number of truck owners– namely those that have already been approved for state grants to retrofit their trucks but have not yet received the funds from the state.

Truckers throughout the state have been petitioning Sacramento to extend the deadline, which threatens to idle thousands of port-servicing trucks as of Jan. 1, 2010. CARB is instituting the ban in an effort to dramatically cut diesel emissions throughout the state.

The new CARB extension will allow trucks pre-approved for retrofit or upgrade funds to continue operating in the ports and rail yards until the funds are made available or April 30, 2010, whichever comes first. CARB will be offering stickers to trucks that fit the extension criteria.

These include:
  • The truck is approved for air quality incentive funding administered by the air districts in the South Coast, Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley, San Diego, Imperial or Port of Long Beach under a Proposition 1B truck retrofit or replacement grant, or
  • The truck is approved for air quality incentive funding administered by the air districts in the South Coast or Bay Area or the Port of Long Beach, operating under a related non-Proposition 1B drayage truck incentive program for scrappage and replacement with a diesel or alternative fuel truck meeting 2007 emission levels or retrofitted with a CARB-verified level 3 PM filter, or
  • The truck is covered by an incentive program contract that was fully executed by Dec. 4, 2009, or
  • The incentive applicant has been notified in writing by an air district or port that the specific truck has been selected for funding after a successful pre-inspection and compliance check and the applicant submitted a valid purchase order to the local agency by Dec. 4, 2009.

Last month, more than 1,000 drayage truckers in the Bay Area were notified that their applications for state funding were denied after the $22 million in set-aside state funds for retrofits and upgrades ran out. None of these denied applicants would be eligible for the new CARB extension and will be banned from entering ports and rail yards on Jan. 1, 2010.

Hueneme Port Autos Flat Through 2012

The niche Port of Hueneme, which for nearly twenty years has been the final resting place of breakbulk customers shooed away by the container-centric Southern California ports, is now facing the full sting of the global economic downturn.

During the annual "state of the port" presentation made Monday, officials forecast that the port's all-important automobile import sector is not likely to pick up until 2012 or 2013.

Despite this, the president of the port's harbor commission remains confident that the turnaround will come.

“Obviously, I can’t look into a crystal ball,” said commission president Jesse Ramirez. “But by all indicators, by 2012 we’ll be looking pretty good.”

Ramirez said that despite some quarterly increases in business at the port over the past year, the numbers for the entire fiscal year still remain down more than 20 percent over year-ago period. In addition, the port is projecting that cargo volumes will remain stagnant through 2012, with any hopes of an increase coming after this period.

And for Hueneme, lost cargo volumes are lost revenues as the port makes its money on charges based on the tonnage weight of cargo.

While produce such as bananas and pineapples, another staple of Hueneme's business, has remained fairly strong during the auto sector collapse, port officials can not help but point to the fact that cars bring in a much higher level of revenue. For example, a ton of bananas will generate about $4.50 a ton in revenue for the port, while a ton of automobiles will generate $22 for the port.

All told, the port reported a more than 10 percent drop off in total revenue for the 2008-2009 fiscal year.

Guam Port Misuse Saga Continues

Like The Godfather’s Michael Corleone lamenting that he keeps being pulled back into his criminal past, the Port Authority of Guam can not seem to get away from the Guam Shipyard misuse incident.

Despite PAG offering last week what it considered the last word on the subject, namely that all cargo will move through the island under the auspices of PAG as Guam law states or face legal action, the firm at the root of the shipyard incident is now challenging nearly $1 million in fees levied against it by PAG over the misuse.

Watts Constructors, which has used the Guam Shipyard to load several shipments of cargo and thus circumvented the PAG-controlled commercial port, now claims that the PAG-imposed penalties are unfair and that the firm was forced to use the shipyard because the normal port facilities could not handle the shipment.

"We understand that the Port wants to be the exclusive commercial port on Guam," said a Watts Constructors' news release. "However, as it stands now and as our situation shows, the Port is simply not yet equipped to handle the full range of cargo moving on and off the island today."

Guam law states that all cargo moving on and off the island must be handled by the PAG-controlled commercial port. However, the port has struggled in recent years to upgrade the facilities, including several failed attempts to replace decades-old cranes.

After learning of the shipyard misuse, PAG required Watts to pay fees to the port for the illegal shipment. The state government also fined the shipping agent involved.
Watts is now arguing that Guam law does not support the PAG's position in imposing those charges.

"The Port had neither the capacity nor capability to handle the load-out operations for the second voyage bound for Pearl Harbor," said the Watts release. "Thus, Watts Constructors used the Guam Shipyard Facility to load the remaining Navy cargo onto its vessel."