Thursday, March 18, 2010

Evergreen Oakland Terminal Greets Three New Gantry Cranes

Evergreen Marine Corp.'s terminal at the Port of Oakland has taken delivery on three new state-of-the-art container gantry cranes.

The 1,500-ton, 324-foot-tall cranes, each costing upward of $10 million, arrived in the Bay Area Tuesday, sliding under the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges on their way to the port with less than 20 feet of clearance.

Classified as Super Post-Panamax cranes, each features a horizontal boom arm that can reach out more than 200 feet over docked vessels. This will allow the cranes, once operational, to handle 24-container-wide vessels, the widest vessels currently in common use in the world container fleet.

The cranes will be installed at the 58-acre Nutter Marine Container Terminal, where Evergreen currently calls.

Built by Shanghai-based manufacturer ZPMC, the three new cranes bring the total number of Super Post-Panamax cranes at the port to 22.

As is typical with new cranes, it will take several months to install, certify and bring each crane up to operational status.

Entries Being Accepted for Puget Sound Maritime Achievement Award

Seattle’s Puget Sound Maritime Achievement Award Selection Committee is accepting nominations for this year’s award, to be announced at the Seattle Propeller Club’s May Maritime Festival luncheon to be held on May 11th aboard the Carnival Spirit at Terminal 91 at Smith’s Cove, Seattle.

Nominations must be received by March 29, 2010 and may be e-mailed to Nominations should include specific achievements of the candidate, particularly those impacting the Puget Sound maritime community, and a brief biography of the nominee. Industry segments represented by past recipients include steamship lines and agents, tug and barge operators, passenger vessel operators, port authorities, stevedores, labor and government. Several paragraphs about the nominee are sufficient.

Feel free to contact Rich Berkowitz at (206) 443- 1738 with any questions about the award nomination.

Inland City Suit Over Port Impacts Rejected

A California Superior Court judge has rejected a suit by the City of Riverside that sought to stop the expansion of the China Shipping Container Line terminal at the Port of Los Angeles.

The 2009 suit claimed that the port did not adequately consider the impacts of increased intermodal rail traffic from the terminal to Riverside. The desert community sits more than 50 miles inland from the port but serves as a key rail hub for Southern California port rail traffic headed east. Nearly 130 trains a day move through Riverside communities and city officials argued in the suit that proposed terminal expansions at the Los Angeles and neighboring Long Beach port could mean more than 20 additional trains a day.

In the suit, Riverside demanded that the port redo environmental documents related to the Los Angeles terminal expansion. In addition, the city sought payments from the port to build grade separations isolating cargo rail traffic from the city's street traffic.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Ronald L. Bauer ruled that the port environmental documents had considered the potential impacts to Riverside and properly concluded that the terminal expansion would have "an insignificant impact" on the city. The March 10 decision was made public this week.

Concerns had been raised by the shipping industry that a Riverside victory could set a precedent where ports could be held financially liable for increased cargo traffic impacts to dozens of communities that port cargo travels through.

A similar suit by Riverside over a proposed terminal expansion at the Port of Long Beach is still pending.

FMC to Investigate Ocean Carrier Capacity

The Federal Maritime Commission announced Wednesday that it has launched an investigation into ocean vessel capacity and shipping equipment availability for US exports and imports.

The announcement was made by FMC Chairman Richard A. Lidinsky, Jr. during testimony before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.

During his testimony, Lidinsky told the committee that "available shipping space is a key ingredient to the financial recovery of American exporters and importers. I have full confidence that... the commission's fact finding investigation will shed valuable light on the shipping capacity issue and inform further action or policy improvements by the FMC and Congress."

FMC Commissioner Rebecca F. Dye, unanimously appointed by the commission to lead the investigation, told the committee that, "If a US exporter has goods to sell overseas, that exporter must be able to get them delivered. I intend to conduct a full and fair analysis of how we can make that happen."

Under the investigation order, which calls for initial findings to be reported June 15 and a final report on July 31, Dye has the ability to call hearings, order research and/or reports, and subpoena records.

In addition, FMC officials told the committee that while US import/export volumes and carrier revenues have begun to rebound after last year's precipitous declines, reports continue to reach the commission of US exporters and importers having difficulty obtaining liner service and problems with the distribution and availability of shipping containers.

Lidinsky also told the committee that the FMC has been taking additional steps to address the recent vessel capacity and equipment availability issues, including: meeting with groups of US exporters and importers and pressing ocean vessel carriers for responses to shippers' problems; working with USDA, exporters, and the ocean carriers on ways to make shipping container demand, location, and availability more transparent to all parties; and, working with individual shippers and carriers to resolve service, capacity, and other issues.

The FMC, Lindinsky said, continues to encourage carriers, exporters, and importers to take advantage of these services.

"We will continue to explore all options for helping the ocean carriers and their exporter and importer customers cooperate as 'partners in recovery' and put Americans back to work," said Lidinsky.

Sacramento Port Goes Solar

The inland California Port of West Sacramento announced that it has completed construction of a 637 kilowatt DC solar cell system to provide electric power to the port.

The system, approved in early 2008, includes more than 3,500 lead-free Mitsubishi Electric photovoltaic modules covering 90,000 square feet on the rooftops of two rice warehouse buildings at the port.

The solar system will provide about 95 percent of the port's electrical needs and reduce the port's annual energy costs by $20,000. Providing enough electricity to power nearly 90 average homes, the system will also cut the port's carbon dioxide emissions by more the 34 million pounds over the 25 years life expectancy of the system. Only one port customer, which maintains its own connection to the power grid, will not utilize power generated by the solar system. The port will continue to pull from the regular power grid when the solar system is not producing electricity.

The project was completed by a partnership between the port, Cypress, Calif.-based Mitsubishi Electric Wednesday and California commercial bank East West Bancorp, which provided the construction loan and long term financing. Construction and installation was handled by Auburn, California-based contractor Pacific Power Management LLC.

The Port of West Sacramento is located about 80 miles inland from San Francisco Bay.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

SoCal Ports Report Continued Growth in February

The Southern California ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, the nation’s two busiest container ports, reported dramatic cargo volume increases during the month of February, buoying hopes that the past several months of incremental growth are indications of an overall recovery trend.

The Port of Long Beach reported a nearly 30 percent jump in total monthly traffic compared to the year-ago period, ending the month with 413,134 TEUs handled. Total loaded inbound containers handled were up 39.3 percent to 207,920 TEUs and total loaded outbound boxes spiked similarly, up 32.8 percent compared to February 2008 at 123,208 TEUs.

Across the harbor, the Port of Los Angeles saw its first month of simultaneous increases in total, total inbound and total outbound boxes in more than a year. Port officials reported that total box volume traffic for February climbed to 525,459 TEUs, a 27 percent increase compared to last February. The port also saw a sharp uptick in loaded inbound box traffic, with 267,361 TEUs handled, a nearly 30 percent increase compared to the year-ago period. Loaded outbound box traffic was also up sharply at Los Angeles, with 147,926 TEUs handled for the month, a 32.6 percent increase over February 2008.

Cargo volumes at the two ports began to rise in December 2009, after more than two years of flat or decreasing volumes. While most analysts continue to predict small single digit cargo growth rates for 2010 at the ports, some port watchers are now suggesting a possible low double-digit increase at year's end.

NY/NJ Port Chief Joins Calls to Overturn Trucking Deregulation Law

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executive director Chris Ward has joined a handful of port and locally elected officials calling for amendments to a federal law that would allow local authorities to bypass federal trucking deregulation laws and regulate interstate trucking from the local level.

Ward joins the mayors of Los Angeles, New York and Oakland, in conjunction with a coalition of environmental, social justice and labor groups, in calling for changes to the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994, or F4A. Contained within the F4A is language clearly defining that the federal government has sole regulatory control of "rates, routes, and services" regarding interstate commerce, including trucking. Federal court rulings have determined that even port-servicing drayage trucks are engaged in interstate commerce.

The call for changes to the F4A began earlier this year with the Port of Los Angeles, following a federal appellate court determination that the port's truck emission reduction program contained port-proposed local regulations that were preempted by federal interstate commerce law. The court used the F4A federal preemption language as a basis for this determination.

The Los Angeles truck plan (as well as a similar plan at the neighboring Port of Long Beach) seeks to reduce diesel emissions from port-servicing trucks by banning older trucks and forcing drivers and/or trucking firms to purchase 2007 or newer model trucks. The main enforcement of the plan is an access-licensing scheme that requires trucking firms to agree to port-defined criteria if they wish to continue servicing the port. A key component of the Los Angeles access license criteria was a call for all drivers to be trucking firm employees. Long Beach port officials chose not to include such labor criteria.

Ward and other proponents of the Los Angeles truck plan claim that per-load independent truck drivers do not make enough money to pay for the newer $100,000-plus rigs.

Currently, nearly 80 percent of the drivers at the LA/LB port complex are independent owner-operators. Under labor law, independent owner-operators cannot be organized, unlike trucking firm per-hour employees. Attempts over the past decade to organize independent port truckers by various unions have met with little to no interest.

Ward and other proponents of the F4A change have cited a 2009 Rutgers University study that claims that truck drivers in the NY/NJ port make on average $11 an hour, a level they claim is insufficient to purchase the newer and vastly cleaner-burning trucks. The author of the study claims the Rutgers NY/NJ study is consistent with other academic studies of the LA/LB port complex. However, the two most widely cited academic studies of the LA/LB drayage fleet – conducted in 2004 and 2007 by California State University, Long Beach researchers – found that the average LA/LB drayage drivers made $20 per hour and $25 per hour, respectively.

In addition, since the non-injuncted portions of the Los Angeles truck plan were implemented in late-2008, the port claims it has managed to accomplish all of its environmental goals regarding the reduction of port-generated diesel truck emissions – ahead of schedule. The adjacent Port of Long Beach, which abandoned the court injuncted portions of its version of the truck plan, has also reported meeting its truck-related emission reductions ahead of schedule. These successes also include the purchase and deployment of more than 6,000 of the 2007 or newer trucks by drivers or trucking firms – all without the implementation of an employee-only mandate.

Opponents of the change to F4A language include the majority of the trucking, retail and shipping industry. Last month, the American Association of Port Authorities – a trade group representing the management of every major port in the nation – joined a previous move by the port and city of Long Beach in coming out publicly against lobbying for the proposed F4A changes.

Obama Signs Exec Order to Begin Reform of Export Controls

President Barack Obama signed an executive order on Thursday creating an export cabinet, relaunching an export advisory council and calling for the federal government to “use every available federal resource in support” of his National Export Initiative.

“Ninety-five percent of the world’s customers and the world’s fastest-growing markets are outside our borders,” said Obama. “We need to compete for those customers because other nations are competing for them.”

The NEI's two-pronged approach to increase exports calls for increased access to trade financing – with a focus on small to mid-sized businesses – and an expansion of federal promotion of American exports.

Part of the initiative calls for the creation of federal offices nationwide and in 250 US embassies and consulate that will provide US firms with export assistance covering everything from " financing to counseling to promotion" according to the President.

Under the NEI the administration also plans to conduct more than 40 trade missions this year, with the President himself set to depart this week on his second Asia-Pacific trip.

“We can’t be on the sidelines," said Obama. "We have to lead and our engagement has to extend to governments and businesses and peoples across the Pacific."

In addition to setting goals, the President's executive order also created the Export Promotion Cabinet. This new cabinet, set to meet for the first time next month, will comprise of the secretaries of the Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, State and Treasury departments, as well as the US Trade Representative, Small Business Administrator and president of the Export-Import Bank.

Obama's executive order also relaunched the President's Export Council as the national advisory committee on international trade, naming Boeing CEO and president Jim McNerney as council chair. Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox, was named by the President as the committee's vice chair.

The President also reiterated his belief that reform of the nation's export control system is a critical component of any export growth program, including NEI.

“What we want to do is concentrate our efforts on enforcing controls on the export of our most critical technologies," said Obama, "making America safer while enhancing the competitiveness of key American industries."

The President said that his administration has already conducted a "broad review of the export control system" and expects Defense Secretary Gates to outline reform proposals within the next couple of weeks.

Primary points of focus for these proposals, according to the President, are streamlining of export controls on certain highly regulated products and the elimination of unnecessary obstacles for exporting products to firms with dual-national and third-country employees.

Obama said he plans to consult with Congress on his reform proposals, as well as "broader export control reform efforts.”

Shipyards Feel Pinch, But Orders Still Arriving

By Jim Shaw

North American shipyards are beginning to feel the pinch of the recession as commercial orders weaken, with such small firms as Island Boats of New Iberia, Louisiana and Superior Boat Works of Greenville, Mississippi already closed because of lack of business. At the same time, Alabama’s Bender Shipbuilding & Repair is now operating as Signal Ship Repair following a prolonged bankruptcy and a recent sale by auction. Another Mobile-based yard, Atlantic Marine, has been stuck with three partially completed 49,000-dwt product carriers after their shipowning companies, all associated with American Heavy Lift Shipping, filed for bankruptcy.

On the East Coast, the Aker Philadelphia Shipyard has been struggling but was able to strike a last-minute deal with New York’s Overseas Shipholding Group (OSG) in December that will see the latter purchase two Aker-built tankers outright for $115 million each instead of bareboat chartering the ships. The action came after the shipbuilder reported net losses of $18.5 million in last year’s third quarter and indicated that if it could not reach a deal with OSG it would “need to raise additional debt or equity financing in the near term to meet required liquidity needs.”

On the Great Lakes, Erie Shipbuilding at Erie, Pennsylvania has also closed but J. Arnold Witte, owner of Donjon Marine, stepped forward to buy the yard after having 11 barges built there and is now operating it as Donjon Shipbuilding & Repair.

NASSCO Tankers

On the West Coast the NASSCO yard at San Diego is continuing to turn out large ships at a record pace but like Aker at Philadelphia, it may face a drought of commercial orders soon as the last Jones Act tankers are completed. Late last year the 183-meter- by 32.2-meter Sunshine State was turned over to the newly formed American Petroleum Tankers (APT) 11 months ahead of schedule and under budget. The 330,000 barrel capacity ship was one of three product carriers and two Navy dry cargo-ammunition ships that NASSCO delivered over the past year and followed sister ships Golden State and Pelican State into the APT fleet. The final vessel of the series, Evergreen State, is to be delivered by this year’s fourth quarter. NASSCO is also working on several more dry cargo/ammunition ship vessels for the Navy, including Charles Drew, Washington Chambers and William McLean. These represent the tenth, eleventh and twelfth ships in the T-AKE program, with the ninth vessel, USNS Matthew Perry (T-AKE 9), recently delivered. NASSCO also has long-lead material contracts in hand for two more of the ships, for a total class order of 14 vessels.

Todd Ferries

Another Pacific Coast yard with new construction underway is Todd at Seattle, where a 64-car ferry is being completed to serve the Port Townsend-Keystone route operated by Washington State Ferries (WSF). Todd has also won contracts covering the construction of two additional ferries of the same capacity for WSF. These units will be for the Port Townsend-Keystone route or elsewhere in the state-operated ferry system. Eventually, the State of Washington hopes to have four of the “Island Home” class ferries built. The original Island Home vessel, now operating between Nantucket and Cape Cod in Massachusetts, was completed on the Gulf Coast in 2007 for about $32 million. Todd bid $114.1 million for the latest two vessels, some $4.3 million over the state's estimate of $109.8 million. Todd also submitted a bid of just under $51 million to build the fourth boat, which is below the state's estimate of $68.5 million. That bid is good until the middle of 2011, at which time Washington State hopes to have funding in place to order the vessel.

The shipyard is building the first ferry, Chetzemoka, for $65.5 million and hopes to have it ready by this coming summer. Earlier this year the vessel was moved from Todd’s construction building onto a floating drydock, where a 105-ton section of the vessel’s passenger deck, built by Nichols Brothers Boat Builders on Whidbey Island, was lifted off a barge and fitted into place. Nichols is also furnishing the ferry’s twin pilothouses while it continues to build a small 88-foot by 38-foot car ferry for operation across California's Cache Slough.

On the repair front, Todd has won a $3 million contract for overhaul and maintenance work on the Navy tanker USNS Henry J Kaiser, including tank cleaning and main engine overhaul. 

Columbia River Yards

Also gaining government repair work in the Pacific Northwest is Cascade General at Portland, Oregon, which has been awarded a $6.1 million firm fixed-price contract for a regular overhaul and drydocking of the Military Sealift Command's tanker USNS Guadalupe. Work will include preservation of ballast tanks, ultrasonic gauging, overhaul of the ship's diesel generators, underwater hull preservation and propeller maintenance. The contract includes options, which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of the contract to $7.5 million.

Associated company US Barge at Portland plans to deliver the 83,000 bbl barge Sixty Five Roses to Harley Marine Services in March. This ABS classed unit will replace the company’s barge Jovalon in Southern California service. The newbuild measures 422 feet by 76 feet and will be equipped with a full vapor processing unit and redundant tank level warning systems. It is the 8th delivery in a substantial building program for Harley that has seen four smaller 31,500 bbl barges completed by US Barge while three others have been finished at Portland by the Gunderson and Zidell yards. Final in-service outfitting for all the barges was completed at Harley's own Harbor Island facility on Puget Sound. 

Gunderson and Diversified

Also having equipment built at Portland is Crowley Maritime, which has been taking a series of heavy-duty deck barges from the Gunderson yard. These barges, known as the “455” class, measure 400 feet by 105 feet and have 25-foot side shells as well as a deckload capacity of up to 4,200 pounds per square foot. They have been specifically designed to provide both the space and deck strength needed to accommodate large drilling and production units used in the offshore deepwater energy sector. This past year, barges 455 and 455-7 and were completed by Gunderson and additional barges of the series will be finished this year, with 455-8 to be handed over in May followed by 455-9 in July. Crowley has also had two tugboats for its Alaska shallow water barge serve completed on the Columbia, with the Diversified Marine yard at Portland delivering the twins Nachik and Sesok last year. These 76-foot by 32-foot vessels make use of three Caterpillar C-18 Tier II diesels, each rated at 454 BHP, driving triple-screws to allow a working draft of only 3 feet, 6 inches.

Dakota Creek and Halter
Crowley is having a much larger series of tugs built by the Dakota Creek Industries yard at Anacortes, Washington for use in three new Articulated Tug/Barge (ATB) sets. The 148-foot by 60-foot tugs, designed by Naviform in Vancouver, BC, will feature a unique propulsion pod housing that will contain two Wartsila C32 main engines in two separate engine rooms, with both engines capable of running on heavy fuel oil. The first tug is expected to be completed by this November while the second and third units will follow in May and October of next year.
The barges for these sets are being completed on the Gulf Coast by the VT Halter group and will have a 330,000-bbl capacity, similar to the new APT tankers being finished by NASSCO. The new ATBs are to be christened Legacy/750-1, Legend/750-2 and Liberty/750-3. Halter is also completing a smaller series of 185,000-barrel capacity ATBs for Crowley, with the tug Pride and barge 650-7 christened at New Orleans late last year as the seventh of the series,. Following this year and next will be Achievement/650-8, Innovation/650-9 and Vision/650-10. All of the Halter-built 650 ATB sets measure 587 feet by 74 feet, have a deadweight of 27,000 tons, and sail on a fully loaded draft of 30 feet. 

Bay Ship & Yacht

In the ship-assist sector, Crowley has been having its “Harbor” class tugs Leader, Admiral, Scout and Master fitted with new Tier II compliant main engines and generators at the Bay Ship and Yacht yard at Alameda, California. Crowley chose to replace the vessels' existing CAT 3516 main engines with CAT 3512 engines, and the CAT 3304 auxiliary engines with new CAT model C4.4 generators to help reduce emissions as part of Southern California’s air quality initiative. This requires vessel operators to upgrade their engines to be Tier II compliant by 2013.

Repowering each tug costs Crowley more than $1 million and is largely being funded with a portion of a $4 million Port of Los Angeles Air Quality Mitigation Incentive Program (AQMIP) air quality improvement grant. The repowering is expected to reduce particulate matter emissions by 3.24 tons and mono-nitrogen oxides by 109.52 tons per year for all four of the boats combined. In addition, although the new engines are somewhat smaller in cylinder size than the old unitw, they have increased the bollard pull for each of the vessels from 51 tons to 59 tons, further enhancing their effectiveness.

Jensen Maritime

On the design front, Crowley’s Jensen Maritime Consultants, acquired in 2008, has produced the drawings for two new tank barges wanted by Global Marine Transportation, both of 10,000-barrel capacity. The vessels are to be completed by Trinity Marine Products’ yard at Madisonville, Louisiana for chartering to Connecticut’s Maxum Petroleum. The units are being constructed with corrugated cargo tank bulkheads, to ease tank stripping and cleaning, and all cargo tanks will be completely smooth-sided except for the deck stiffeners. Pump engines and main generator will be housed in an aft pump room while there will be a midship control booth for centralized control and observation of bunkering operations. The first barge, to be completed in June, will be used to transport diesel oil and jet fuel at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach while the second barge, scheduled for completion later in the year, will be based in Puget Sound. 

Fairhaven Shipyard

Jensen is also providing naval architecture and marine engineering expertise for a major $5.5 million upgrading and renovation of the Alaska Marine Highway System passenger/vehicle ferry Kennicott, which is being carried out by the Fairhaven Shipyard at Bellingham, Washington. The 382-foot by 85-foot ferry became the first vessel to be lifted by Fairhaven’s new semi-submersible Faithful Servant, which was brought over from China in 2008 at a cost of $12 million.

Work on Kennicott includes modifications to the vessel’s marine growth prevention system and replacement of the marine evacuation system with new inflatable slides with linking life rafts. The evacuation system upgrade requires significant modifications to both the sun and boat deck structures and support systems. Other work includes a new primary saltwater cooling circuit for the ship’s refrigeration condensers and new high pressure, high capacity air compressors and receivers to enhance the main engine air start capability. In addition, upgrades are being made to the ship’s fire sprinkler system, side port doors and exterior ADA ramps while a new satellite antenna is being installed on the upper deck for enhanced communications and Internet services.

Foss-Built Boats

The small Foss Rainier Shipyard at Rainier, Oregon is continuing to make a big name for itself by turning out a steady stream of vessels for both Foss and others. Last year it completed the line-handling boat Lucy Foss for operation at Chevron’s El Segundo Moorings in Southern California. The 65-foot vessel is the first non-tug built at the Rainier facility, although the yard has since completed a new pilot station boat for operation off San Francisco Bay by the San Francisco Bar Pilots. The latter vessel, Drake, is a close sister to two existing station boats that were built by the now-closed Marco shipyard in Seattle and measures 104-feet by 28-feet. Propulsion is provided by twin Caterpillar 3508 marine diesels, with two John Deere 4045 65-kW generators producing electrical power.

The San Francisco boat is the first vessel the Rainier yard has built for a customer outside of the Foss group since the facility was converted to new construction in 2003. Since then, the yard has largely been focused on turning out a number of Dolphin-class harbor tugs for various members of the Foss Group, including the world’s first true hybrid tug, the Robert Allan-designed Carolyn Dorothy, for operation in Southern California.