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Thursday, January 28, 2010

AAPA to Oppose Labor Lobby Plans

The American Association of Port Authorities, which represents more than 140 of the nation's major ports, has decided to oppose efforts by a handful of members to lobby federal officials to do away with portions of federal trucking deregulation laws.

The decision, approved by the AAPA's government policy committee, goes against current lobbying efforts by AAPA member ports in Los Angeles, New Jersey-New York and Oakland that seek to change portions of the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994. The FAAAA prohibited state and local entities from passing laws or regulations that affect rates, routes and services of interstate trucking.

Officials in Los Angeles have already allocated $265,000 to lobby Congress to change the FAAAA to allow local authorities to regulate trucking firms when it comes to truck security, safety and environmental impact.

The move by Los Angeles, Oakland and NJ/NY is to one degree an effort to circumvent successful legal challenges by the American Trucking Associations to the Los Angeles port's trucking re-regulation program. A federal court found that portions of the Los Angeles port's truck plan violated the FAAAA restriction on local regulation.

The Los Angeles port's truck plan, which was initially developed in tandem with the neighboring Port of Long Beach, seeks to force motor carriers to hire only per-hour employees instead of the current norm of per-load independent owner-operators. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters is also supporting the efforts to change the FAAAA.
The Port of Long Beach, which is no longer involved in the litigation with the ATA, instead chose to regulate trucks, not the carriers, and included no labor requirement in its version of the truck plan. Under current law, the ports can set certain criteria on trucks seeking access to port facilities. Long Beach's version of the truck plan has relied on these criteria to move forward with its version of the truck plan, claiming an 80 percent drop in diesel emissions from port truck-generated pollution without conflicting with the FAAAA language.

Long Beach port officials have also publicly opposed the lobbying efforts to change FAAAA.
In the Pacific Northwest, the Port of Seattle had also approved $60,000 to lobby against changing the FAAAA and supporting the AAPA position of maintaining current federal laws.
The Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports, which include a long list of civic, labor and environmental groups, is supporting the efforts by the Los Angeles, NJ/NY, and Oakland ports to lobby for changes to the FAAAA.

In a statement, the Coalition slammed Seattle port chief executive Tay Yoshitani for seeking the AAPA policy statement against changing the FAAAA.

"This is unconscionable," said Brady Montz, Chair of the Seattle Group of the Sierra Club, which is a member of the Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports.

"For years, the Port of Seattle has claimed that our outdated federal laws limit their ability to protect Seattle's neighborhoods from polluting trucks; and now it turns out that Tay Yoshitani is working behind the scenes to prevent the Port from even having the option to enforce environmental standards for trucking companies," said Montz.

The Coalition also dismissed the importance of the AAPA, telling the Journal of Commerce that the association's position should not be considered representative of the top 10 container ports in the United States.

A spokesperson for the Coalition told the Journal that the AAPA represents many smaller ports that do not have significant truck traffic and are in regions that do not see build-ups of pollution.

According to the AAPA membership list, each of the top 25 busiest container ports in the United States are represented and the top executives at the nation's two largest, Long Beach and Los Angeles, have both served year-long tenures as president of the AAPA in recent years.

CA Assembly: Resolution Calls for 200-Mile Strict Emission Control Zone for Ships

The California Assembly on Wednesday passed a resolution to support the creation of a new standard for oceangoing vessel emissions within 200 miles of the California coast.

The resolution, introduced by Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) with more than 50 Assembly co-authors and approved 62-6, supports the establishment of a geographic zone along North America's coastlines where mandatory measures regarding emissions from ships would prevent, reduce, and control air pollution from nitrogen oxide, sulfur oxide and particulate matter emissions.

“In addition to environmental and air quality benefits, the creation of a North American [Emissions Control Area] is a positive step for California’s economy, as it will improve the competitive standing of California’s ports by applying the same environmental standards to other ports in the United States and Canada that are currently only in place in California,” said John McLaurin, president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association which represents more than 90 percent of the shipping lines and terminal operators servicing the United States West Coast.

Early last year, US and Canadian officials submitted a proposal to the International Maritime Organization, which sets international maritime law, for the designation of an Emission Control Area around their coastlines in which stringent international emission controls would apply to ocean-going ships.

The proposed ECA would include waters adjacent to the Pacific coast, the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and the eight main Hawaiian Islands. The proposed ECA would extend 200 nautical miles from the coastal baseline. The ECA, however, would not extend into any waters or land claimed by countries other than the US and Canada.

ECAs also feature more stringent emissions requirements for oceangoing vessels. According to the federal government, ECA standards could cut sulfur in vessel fuel by 98%, and achieve reductions of nitrogen oxides by 80 percent, particulate matter by 85 percent, and sulfur oxides by 95 percent, relative to current vessel emission levels

Cemex Sales Off 28% in 2009, Earnings Down 35%

Mexican cement giant Cemex, which has facilities in 34 US states including a marine terminal in Southern California, has reported that net sales in 2009 were down 28 percent to $14.5 billion compared to the previous year. Earnings for the Monterrey, Mexico-based firm also fell 35 percent in 2009 to $2.7 billion.

The losses were smaller than predicted, however analysts still see the need for overall improvement in the firm's operational performance.

"A few months ago, Cemex's main problem was debt. Now, I think that issue has been resolved and the main problem will be the company's operations, which have continued to slump," analyst Patricio Rivera of Mexico City-based financial group IXE told BNamericas.

In its Q4 report, the publicly traded Cemex announced net income of $265 million, excluding a one-time loss from the sale of Cemex operations in Australia last year.

Net sales for Q4 were down 17 percent compared to the year-ago period to $3.44 billion and earnings fell in Q4 by 37 percent to $474 million.

President Sets Goal to Double Exports by 2015

President Barack Obama has set a national goal of doubling United States exports within the next five years in an effort to shore up the economy and create two million jobs.

"To help meet this goal," the President said Wednesday during his first State of the Union speech, "we're launching a national export initiative that will help farmers and small businesses increase their exports, and reform export controls consistent with national security. "

The value of US exports totaled $1.4 trillion in the first 11 months of 2009, according to the latest federal government numbers.

The President also said that the US needs to seek out new markets aggressively, just as our international competitors do.

"If America sits on the sidelines while other nations sign trade deals, we will lose the chance to create jobs on our shores," Obama said. "But realizing those benefits also means enforcing those agreements so our trading partners play by the rules. And that's why we'll continue to shape a Doha trade agreement that opens global markets, and why we will strengthen our trade relations in Asia and with key partners like South Korea and Panama and Colombia."

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

BNSF: $2.4 Billion for Capital Expenditure in 2010

Class I railroad BNSF Railway Inc. plans to spend $2.4 billion on infrastructure and equipment in 2010, a 10 percent drop in expenditures compared to last year.

Despite 2009 revenues dropping nearly $600 million to $3.3 billion, the Fort Worth, Texas-based railroad said it remains committed to a high level of capital expenditure.

During 2010, BNSF plans to spend about $320 million to purchase 170 locomotives with the remaining $2.1 billion set for infrastructure projects, including freight car upgrades, signal systems, technology systems such as the federal government mandated positive train control, and track development and upgrades.

“We remain committed to making the necessary investments to protect and grow the value of our franchise despite an uncertain economic environment,” said Matthew K. Rose, chairman and chief executive officer, in a statement.

CMA CGM Takes $60M Loss on Canceled Vessel Order

European trade publications are reporting that the financially troubled French ocean carrier CMA CGM has reportedly lost a $60 million advance payment made to Hanjin Heavy Industries for a 6,500-TEU vessel the carrier ordered nearly four years ago.

According to the trade publication Tradewinds, the CMA CGM-ordered vessel was recently sold to a Greek shipping firm. The sale price was reportedly in the $40 million to $45 million range, a huge discount on the original $100 million price tag at the time CMA CGM ordered the vessel. The discount amounts to essentially the forfeited advance payment lost by CMA CGM.

The French carrier has been struggling to reorganize billions of dollars in outstanding debt and had been attempting negotiating with HHI to cancel an order of four vessel made with the South Korean shipbuilder in 2006. The carrier has said that it plans to continue taking delivery on larger vessels but has been trying to cancel orders on smaller-sized builds.

Lloyd's List has reported that HHI is using the forfeiture of the $60 million advance to send a message to CMA CGM about honoring its orders. If HHI refuses to negotiate terms on the cancellations, the total loss to the French carrier of advance payments for the four vessels could rise to $240 million.

Seattle Port Volumes Trend Up, While Tacoma Continues Slide

Cargo traffic at the two main Puget Sound container ports continued to move on different tangents during 2009, with Seattle continuing to report monthly increases in container volumes in the last half of the year and Tacoma continuing to slide.

The Port of Seattle reported total container volumes for 2009 of 1,584,596 TEUs, down 7 percent for the entire year compared to 2008. However, the overall trend at Seattle continued to move into the positive, with increases in month-to-month numbers reported during the last five months of 2009.

In addition, Seattle handled 612,236 TEUs of loaded inbound boxes during 2009, down 7.9 percent compared to 2008. The port also handled 459,557 TEUs of loaded outbound boxes during 2009, a 5.8 percent increase over the year-ago period.

Perhaps more noteworthy is that for the month of December 2009, the Seattle port reported total box volumes of 145,086 TEUs, up 29.4 percent compared to the last month of 2008 and the fifth straight month of total box increases in 2009. Loaded inbound boxes for December were also up an 32.6 percent and loaded outbound box volumes were up a whopping 103.8 percent compared to the last month of 2008.

The end-of-the-year picture at Seattle sharply differed from that at the nearby Port of Tacoma.

Tacoma port officials reported total container volumes for 2009 fell 16.9 percent to 1,545,855 TEUs, compared to 2008 numbers. Loaded inbound box volumes for 2009 also dipped 27.2 percent to 472,533 TEUs during 2009 and loaded outbound container volumes fell 13 percent to 420,791 TEUs for the year compared to 2008.

The month of December also capped twelve months of consecutive monthly declines in total container volumes for Tacoma. The port reported total box volumes of 116,560 TEUs for the month of December, down 20.3 percent compared to December 2008. Monthly loaded inbound volumes for December dipped 29.9 percent and total loaded outbound volumes fell 3.7 percent compared to December 2008.

Bay Area Truck Ban Extension Coming to an End

Bay Area drayage truck owners that received an extension to meet new Bay Area air emission regulations under Proposition 1B funding criteria must have proof of financing and a retrofit vendor by Feb. 5 or face being barred from Port of Oakland access and removal from the California Air Resources Board truck registry.

CARB is warning that trucks not on the registry and found performing drayage work after the Feb. 5 deadline could face penalties of up to $10,000 per day.
Documentation includes one of the following:
• Bank statement or credit card statement showing balance available sufficient to cover additional costs.
• Letter of credit, pre-approval form or similar loan approval document showing qualification for funding.
• Loan documents or financing plan showing how payments will be made, or
• A lease-to-own or micro lease agreement sufficient to cover added costs.

All correspondence with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District regarding the proof of financing/vendor and required documents must be postmarked and mailed by Feb. 5 to:
Bay Area Air Quality Management District,
Attn: Port Truck Retrofit Program
939 Ellis Street
San Francisco, CA 94109

They can also be hand delivered to OT411 Truck Information Center at 11 Burma Road, Oakland, CA 94607 between 2:30 and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Guam Port Top Exec to Step Down

After just over 18 months as head of the Port Authority of Guam, General Manager Glenn Leon Guerrero confirmed Monday that he is looking for employment outside the port.
His decision comes as the second and final term of Guam Gov. Felix Camacho's administration enters the last 10 months in office before the November election.
Guerrero notified the Governor Monday that he is looking at other job options, but has yet to submit a letter of resignation or name a date for his departure.

"Like many of my colleagues in the Camacho-Cruz Administration, I am weighing my options for what the future holds for me when the current term comes to an end," Guerrero said in statement. "However, I have not stepped down from my position and I continue to serve Gov. Felix Camacho, who has been the true driving force behind all of our accomplishments here at the commercial port."

The PAG board appointed Guerrero as the port authority General Manager in July 2008.