Thursday, December 10, 2009

Obama Names Matsuda to Head MarAd

The White House has announced that President Obama will promote David Matsuda to the top executive slot at the Maritime Administration. Matsuda has been serving as the Acting Administrator of the Maritime Administration since he was appointed as Deputy Maritime Administrator on July 28.

The Maritime Administration, or MarAd, is the agency within the US Department of Transportation dealing with waterborne transportation. It is charged with promoting the use of waterborne transportation and its seamless integration with other segments of the transportation system. It is also tasked with securing the viability of the US Merchant Marine.

Prior to joining MarAd, Matsuda served as the US DOT’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy from March thru July. Prior to that, Matsuda spent seven years on Capitol Hill. While working in the US Senate he was engaged in the formulation and debate of most major federal transportation legislation as senior counsel and primary transportation advisor to US Senator Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey.

In 2002, Matsuda was named a Georgetown University Government Affairs Institute Fellow serving on the staff of the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. From 1998 to 2002, he worked as an attorney with the safety law division of the U.S. DOT’s Federal Railroad Administration.

Vancouver USA Lures New Mega-Bulk Customer

The Washington state Port of Vancouver, which has made a name for itself as a handler of mega-bulk cargo, has been selected as the new port of entry for an unnamed South Korean manufacturer that ships oil refinery components to the Alberta oil works in Canada.

The port expects to sign a final agreement with the Korean firm by the end of the first quarter 2010 with shipments to begin short thereafter. Citing confidentiality due to the lack of final contract signatures, the port has refused to name the Korean firm, the number of annual shipments the deal could bring to Vancouver, and the possible revenues to be generated.

During the summer, the Korean firm quietly shipped one of the 156-ton oil refinery components through the port as a test. The module was easily handled by the port's two mobile cranes, which are more well know for offloading windmill turbines and components. The port's two mobile cranes are the largest of their type in North America and each is capable of lifting the equivalent weight of two space shuttles, or about 140 metric tons.

The deal comes as good news to the port, which although continuing to move fair amounts of mega-bulk cargo, has suffered otherwise at the hands of the global recession like all the West Coast ports. Total annual cargo tonnage moving through the port this year is expected to fall to pre-2006 levels.

What is Vancouver’s gain, however, is a loss for an unnamed Gulf port. The Korean manufacturer has been shipping the oil refinery components through a Texas port and then trucking the massive cargo to Alberta.

Long Beach Port IT Head Wins Top Award

The head information technology executive at the Port of Long Beach has been awarded the 2009 Best of California Award for Leadership in Management of Information Technology from the Center for Digital Government.

Doug Albrecht, Director of Information Management for the City of Long Beach Harbor Department, was among six recipients of the annual award selected by state and local government IT leaders throughout California.

The Port of Long Beach, the second busiest container port in the Western Hemisphere, is managed and operated by the 400-plus staff members of the City of Long Beach Harbor Department.

In honoring Albrecht, the CDG cited several recent projects implemented by the port's Information Management division, including the development of state-of-the-art IT architecture for the port's new Security Command and Control Center, the recently opened headquarters for the port's internal security forces that also serves as a regional security center for various federal and local agencies.

Prior to joining the Harbor Department 20 years ago, Albrecht spent 14 years in the private sector, developing records-keeping software.

Vancouver USA Port Renews Trimac Lease

The Washington state Port of Vancouver has renegotiated a new five year lease with long-time tenant Trimac Panel Products. The plywood products manufacturing firm, headquartered in Portland, Oregon, has been a tenant at the port for 20 years.

The new five year lease will be based on the firm's gross sales revenue per quarter, a deal worked out with the port to alleviate some financial pressure on the firm, which as a producer of high-end laminated and liquid finished panels for construction customers around the world, was stung hard by the collapse of the global housing markets.

Under the new deal with the port, Trimac will pay $31,000 per month, according to the The Columbian newspaper, with the amount rising to $3 million per quarter if sales increase.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Feds Plan to Extend 100 Percent Box Scan Deadline to 2014

The federal government plans to extend the deadline for reaching 100 percent scanning of containers at foreign ports being loaded on United States-bound vessels, citing funding and technology limitations.

US Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told a US Senate panel last week that due to these limitations, the scanning deadline called for in a 2007 law that sought to close potential homeland security loopholes following the Sept. 11. 2001 terrorist attacks could not be met.

“In order to implement the 100 percent scanning requirement by the 2012 deadline, DHS would need significant resources for greater manpower and technology, technologies that do not currently exist, and the redesign of many ports,” Napolitano told members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Wednesday.

While Napolitano did not offer specifics as to the extensions, a Government Accounting Office report issued the same day said that the government will offer a blanket extension through July 2014 to all foreign ports.

In 2007 Congress passed and President George Bush signed the 9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act, which adopted about 80 percent of the security recommendations made by the Congressional 9/11 Commission. Included in these was a recommendation to provide 100 percent scanning by July 2012 of all US-bound containers before being loaded aboard vessels at foreign ports. The law, however, provided criteria by which the DHS Secretary could grant two-year extensions for ports that could not meet the deadline, including technology limitations, incompatible port facilities and marked disruptions to the flow of cargo.

The GAO report found that the potential to disrupt the flow of trade and limitations of existing scanning technology would apply to all foreign ports and thus warrant the blanket deadline extension.

Napolitano told the Senate panel that a $100 million Customs and Border Protection pilot scanning program at five foreign ports found that port configuration problems were prevalent and presented difficulties to achieving 100 percent scanning. Problems with the efficacy of the high-tech equipment in a marine environment were also noted.
The secretary also told the panel that total DHS bill for 100 percent scanning at 700 foreign ports, not including those costs borne by foreign governments or ports, could reach nearly $17 billion, or about $8 million for each of the 2,100 trade lanes servicing the US.

“Installing equipment and placing personnel at all of these ports– even the tiny ones– would strain government resources without a guarantee of results,” Napolitano told the senators. The CBP pilot program, according to the GAO report, was able to achieve no greater than 86 percent scanning of container headed to the US, despite the relatively small size of three of the ports in the program. At the two large ports in the program, Hong Kong and Busan, South Korea– where scanning was only implemented at one terminal and one gate– scanning configurations could not sustain more scanning levels of more than 5 percent.

Napolitano, who did not say when her agency would officially seek the 2014 extensions, also left the door open for resetting the deadline to an earlier date if technology breakthroughs were developed.

Senators on the panel, some staunch supporters of the original 2007 law and 2012 deadline, appeared sympathetic to the problems expressed by the secretary.

"I have my questions about whether that's doable," panel chair Sen. John D. Rockefeller, D-W.Va, said of the 2012 deadline. "That does not mean that we should not continue to strengthen our security protocols to prevent high-risk cargo from entering this country, whether by land, sea or air."

Israel Corp CEO Named Chair of Zim Board

The Board of Directors of Zim Integrated Shipping Services has appointed Nir Gilad to serve as Chairman of the Zim board, according to a notification to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange by Zim parent firm Israel Corporation Ltd.

Gilad, an accountant and former budget minister for the Israeli government and current CEO of Israel Corp., succeeds Idan Ofer who is stepping down at the end of his five-year term as chairman. Ofer's family remain the largest shareholders of Israel Corp., with Ofer himself owning 3.9 percent of the firm's stock, Ofer Holdings owning 2.9 percent and the Ofer family-controlled Millennium Investments Elad owning 46.9 percent.

Gilad takes the helm of Zim's board less than two weeks after the shipping firm reported a third quarter loss of $208 million and a month after Zim shareholders approved a restructuring plan that includes raising $450 million in cash by selling stock rights in the firm.

CTSA to Raise Bunker Charge Jan. 1

Members of the Canada Transpacific Stabilization Agreement, which include ocean carriers APL, COSCO Container Lines, Evergreen, Hapag-Lloyd, Hyundai Merchant Marine, “K” Line, NYK Line, OOCL, Yang Ming and Zim Integrated Shipping Services, said last week that they will raise their bunker surcharge effective Jan. 1, 2010.

For cargo moving through the Canadian West Coast ports, the group's Bunker Surcharge/Fuel Recovery Charge will increase $32 per 20-foot container to $278, $40 per 40-foot container to $348, $46 per 40-foot high-cube container to $392, and $50 per 45-foot container to $440.

Rates will also increase for East Coast traffic, with the group's Bunker Surcharge/Fuel Recovery Charge increasing $61 per 20-foot container to $551, $76 per 40-foot container to $689, $85 per 40-foot high-cube container to $775, and $96 per 45-foot container to $872.

The CTSA members said they will continue to monitor fuel prices and notify customers of any further adjustments. The group last adjusted the Bunker Surcharge/Fuel Recovery Charge in October of this year.

Obama Nominates Khouri for FMC Seat

President Obama intends to nominate attorney Michael A. Khouri, a 35-year veteran of the maritime industry, to a seat on the five-member board of the Federal Maritime Commission.

If confirmed by Congress, Khouri will fill one of two vacant seats on the Commission board and become the second person named as a FMC commissioner by Obama. Two Bush appointees are still serving terms on the panel.

Most recently Khouri served as a private attorney with the Louisville, Ky.-based law firm of Pedley & Gordinier. Prior to this he spent 23 years with Jeffersonville, Ind.-based American Commercial Lines, where he rose to serve as general counsel and senior vice-president. ACL is a barge and shipbuilding firm that services the Gulf Coast and Mississippi River watershed. Previously Khouri served as president and CEO of Memphis, Tenn.-based MERS/Economy Boat, a fuel and supply chandler.

Khouri, who began his maritime career as a deckhand in the 1970s, has also served on the boards of two influential maritime industry trade and lobbying groups– the American Waterways Operators Association and the Waterways Council Inc.

The FMC Board currently consists of Obama-appointee and chair Richard Lidinsky, Jr., and Bush appointees Joeseph Brennan and Rebecca Dye.

Special Feature: Small Tug for a Big Job

By: Hugh Ware (As seen in the December issue of Pacific Maritime Magazine) Photo: Philips Publishing Group File Photo

There is an amazing collection of tug smarts that reside just north of the US/Canada border in British Columbia. An example is the hydrogen-electric hybrid tug that Mark Mulligan’s Capilano Maritime Design Ltd is developing with Seaspan International Ltd., DC Maritime Technologies Inc. and Ballard Power Systems (see Pacific Maritime Magazine, August 2009). Another set of tug smarts resides in the brain of Vancouver-based, innovative tug-designer A.G. “Al” McIlwain, whose simple but cleverly innovative tugs are popular in both British Columbia and New Zealand and Australia. And don’t forget Vancouver’s Robert Allan Ltd., possibly the world’s leading tug designer, and Ladysmith’s Ron Burchett, the knowledgeable and creative maker of radio-controlled model tugs.

While it may look like a toy, the latest concept tug out of British Columbia is the brainchild of Burchett and Robert Allan. They call it the BRAtt (Burchett Robert Allan training tug), and it’s no toy; it is a real, commercial-grade tug but at a quarter-scale version of a Robert Allan Ltd. -designed tug.

At just under the 26-foot length that requires a license to operate, road-truckable and with 8,000+ pounds of bollard pull, this little vessel has the heft and grunt to perform useful work such as dead-tug movement, barge assist, yarding, or acting as a line or boom boat. But, in spite of its obvious usefulness as a general-purpose workboat, the BRAtt is primarily designed to be a tool for training new Z-drive tug operators.

So why a dedicated training tug? The answer is simple: there is a need. Many tugs are being built worldwide, most use stern-mounted azimuthing drives and operators must be found for these new additions to tug fleets, as many tug skippers are approaching retirement.

What is the best way to train operators required for all these new ASDs? On-the-job training is the traditional method. By and large, it has worked but it may take years before an all-round competence is achieved. Training can be a hit-and-miss procedure—intermittent lessons as opportunities become available. Results are highly variable and utterly dependent on the patience and teaching abilities of whoever does the training. Hang around the wheelhouse long enough and maybe a deckhand or mate can learn to drive an ASD safely to the full potential of the tug but can he, and his employer, afford to wait that long?

Radio-controlled models hold promise as training tools, but here the operator is not part of the tug. He can only control a remote object floating in a pond and the tug moves and reacts unnaturally fast. And a pond is just a small pond. Driving a radio-controlled tug is fun and it can teach useful lessons. It’s a good starting point, but the training is not particularly realistic. Burchett knows this all too well. Although he has presented papers at international conferences advocating the use of RC models for training tug masters, now he advocates the BRAtt as the next step in the training regime.

Another training method, computer simulation, varies tremendously in cost and quality. At one end are the inexpensive PC-based computer “games” such as ShipSim™ that, in the words of one reviewer, enable an operator to do some “ship-handling with the benefit of a reset button.” Such games provide remarkable recreations of many harbors and multiple ship types, control of what is happening and different views of the action. But everything happens on a computer monitor or TV screen and control of the simulated vessel is largely a function of agile fingers and thumbs.

At the other extreme are the elaborate simulators that cost millions. Extremely realistic, some simulators have well-equipped “bridges” with 360° views and may even replicate the pitch and roll of a ship well enough to make some people seasick. Again, simulators can provide a useful introduction to ship handling and can be excellent for developing strategies for handling large ships in confined harbours, but can a simulation duplicate the thump and vibration of a tug coming alongside another vessel in the wash from its bow?

A real tug is undoubtedly the ideal training tool. Training will be utterly realistic but it will also be costly in operating and personnel costs and lost opportunities for revenue-creating work. The consequences of operating errors in full scale can also be huge. On the other hand, a BRAtt is a real tug with much of the heft and feel of a much-larger brother (dimensions are 25’ 7” length overall, 11’ 10”beam and 4’ 9” draft) and it is far cheaper to acquire (about US$750,000 with a full training suite to record operator actions and tug reactions for operator training feedback) and relatively inexpensive to operate.

Best of all, a BRAtt is thoroughly equipped and performs realistically in all ASD modes including indirect towing and escort operations. On the bow are a staple and a hydraulic hawser winch with 165 feet of braided polyester line and hydraulic braking, and there is a cruciform towing post aft. The wheelhouse has a full suite of electronics including AIS and radar and below deck is a pair of John Deere or Cummins engines providing up to a total of 400 hp to time-tested, British Columbia-built Olympic azimuthing drives under the tug’s stern. (Schottel also makes azimuthing drives in this lower-horsepower range.) And, as mentioned above, the bollard pull is a very useful 8,000+ pounds.

Can you see and try a BRAtt right now? No, it is still in the concept stage but the design is essentially finalized and production engineering is underway. Perhaps surprisingly to some, construction will be all-aluminum (as has become the custom for most workboats built in British Columbia) and BRAtts will be built by Adrenalin Marine Ltd. , which (conveniently for international customers) has plants in both Vancouver, BC and in Ferndale, WA. Burchett and Allan have active enquiries from several fleet owners who will have to find sizable numbers of trained ASD operators in the near future. International operator training facilities have expressed interest in using the BRAtt as a step between the simulator and full size tug training as they pursue this growing market for operator training.

The basic BRAtt, of course, lends itself to further design variations or to the exploration of environment-friendly power sources at lower costs than with a full-scale tug. A hybrid BRAtt using lithium-ion batteries and hydrogen-fuel cells are being actively developed. The presently available 150 kW Ballard fuel cells are an excellent fit for the BRAtt .

The time may come when many tug fleets will have to have a BRAtt at the end of the company dock, ready to do what it does best—teaching ASD operators.