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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sector Seattle Commander Temporarily Relieved of Command

Rear Adm. Gary T. Blore, Commander, Thirteenth Coast Guard District, has temporarily relieved Capt. Suzanne E. Englebert of her duties as commander of Coast Guard Sector Seattle, citing a loss of confidence in the officer’s ability to command.

“The decision to relieve a commanding officer is never easy and is taken very seriously," said Blore. "Due to an unacceptable command climate this commander no longer had my confidence to command an effective unit. I firmly believe this decision was made in the best interest of the unit and the Service.”

Pending a final determination by the Commandant of the Coast Guard in Washington, D.C., Capt. Scott Bornemann has been temporarily assigned to command Sector Seattle. The Sector is conducting normal operations.

Sector Seattle oversees the comprehensive maritime safety, security and marine environmental response operations throughout the Sector’s vast 3,500 square mile area of responsibility. Sector Seattle faces many challenges posed by the complexity of the Puget Sound area including numerous high risk, as well as economically and nationally significant maritime operations, including the nation’s largest ferry system, the third largest container port, 1.3 million recreational boaters, over 200 cruise ship arrivals annually, over 5,000 deep draft vessel transits annually, home to the Alaskan fishing fleet, the third largest strategic naval port and 15 billion gallons of oil products moved annually.

Start-Up Transpac Carrier Readies for Debut

Ocean carrier start-up The Containership Company continues to dot its ‘I’s and cross its ‘t’s as it prepares to begin express transpacific service next month between China and the Port of Los Angeles.

The firm said Tuesday it has chartered the fifth and final vessel required to begin its new weekly Great Dragon Service, set to run between the Taicang International Gateway in China and the Los Angeles port's TraPac terminal. The latest vessel, the 2,800 TEU container vessel E.R. Darwin, will be renamed the Suzhou Dragon for service under the TCC banner.

The Great Dragon service is schedule to start April 17, with an eastbound rotation starting in Taicang and arriving at Los Angeles on May 3.

TCC has promoted the port-to-port service as a new shipping industry model akin to that used by budget airlines like JetBlue.

The Taicang complex, owned by Modern Terminals Ltd., is located in the major Chinese manufacturing province of Jiangsu.

Redwood City Port Development Snagged by Possible Air Emissions

Plans to replace two aging World War II-era wharves at the Port of Redwood City have run afoul of state environmental rules and left port officials looking for solutions.

An environmental review of the port plan to replace the more than 70-year old wood-pile and wood-decked wharves found that vessels calling at the new wharves, and the dockside equipment needed to work them, would generate higher levels of the air pollutant nitrogen oxide than permitted under state regulations. This is mainly because the old wharves, which comprise of a 520-foot long by 128-foot wide wood deck with three access ramps/trestles connecting the wharf to the shore, were configured during the 1940s and only one modern vessel at a time can now use them. The new wharves would allow for faster turnaround of vessels, thus allowing more calls and a concomitant increase in the amount of vessel-generated pollution.

The wharves, while dilapidated and obsolete, still accounted for nearly 800,000 tons, or 48 percent, of the port's total cargo handled last year – mostly in the form of imported cement, sand and gravel for a dockside CEMEX facility.

The $15 million replacement plan calls for the construction of two new concrete piers and new connector ramps to the shore. The replacement project, according to the port, could theoretically boost the throughput of the two wharves by 118 percent. A proposed second phase of the project, focusing on the material handling equipment at the facility, could boost the throughput by another 73 percent to nearly 3 million tons per year.

One possible mitigation measure being looked at is providing the new wharves with "ship-to-shore" hook-ups, allowing docked vessels to plug into the landside power grid and shut off their auxiliary engines used to provide internal hoteling power. Studies have shown that most of the air pollution generated by vessel calls is created by the idling of vessel auxiliary engines.

However, while "ship-to-shore" power systems eliminate the emissions from the idling auxiliary engines, the infrastructure costs for such systems can be prohibitive. The systems are also not compatible with all vessels and may require expensive vessel retrofitting.

In addition, according to the port environmental documents, the vessels may not be the most cost-effective means to achieve the required reduction in pollution required under state law. Air pollution from trucks and off-road terminal equipment, which generate far more nitrogen oxide than vessels at dock, have been regulated successfully at other ports and produced far greater cost effectiveness.

The port is currently accepting public comment on the project's environmental documents through the end of April.

Tacoma Port Looking for New CEO

The Port of Tacoma is looking for a smart, effective, inspiring person with good communication, leadership, and team-building skills to take the port reigns as chief executive officer.

In the nearly four months since previous port CEO Time Farrell resigned, the port commission has been carefully crafting a wish list of attributes for the perfect CEO. During the process the board sought input from the community, from customers and from port staff before working with search firm Shey-Harding to put together a job posting.

Those interested in applying should keep in mind the long list of attributes sought by the port board.

Their dream candidate's resume should include, among other things: a master's degree; 15 years of senior maritime management experience; in-depth experience in international trade; political acuity; achievements in public policy; a strong commitment to developing major capital projects; exceptional communications, inter-personal, presentation, marketing, motivational and inspirational skills; and, no hesitancy about traveling both domestically and internationally.

Closing date for applications is May 19 and the commission hopes to begin interviews of finalists by June.

COSCO to Add Transpac Capacity

Chinese ocean carrier COSCO Container Lines announced Tuesday that it plans to restore a total of 12,000 TEUs of capacity to its CEN transpacific service.

COSCO said the CEN service, which rotates between Northern China and the North American West Coast, will see its current six 5,500 TEU vessels swapped for six 7,500 TEU vessels. The expanded service, which will also add Ningbo as the last westbound Asia call, will begin phasing in the larger vessel on April 24 with all six expected to be in service by the end of May. COSCO operates the service as part of the CKYH Alliance, which also includes ocean carriers “K” Line, Yang Ming and Hanjin.

"Although we are still in a very challenging market financially, we have had many requests from both importers and exporters to restore capacity on this popular trade route and to consider adding a Ningbo call and we have heeded their advice," said a spokesman for COSCO Americas.

"It should be noted however, that we are still in a precarious position as far as current freight levels and the rising cost of moving cargo. We are cautiously optimistic that we will see some freight growth this year and hope that freight levels can increase to the point that further capacity can return to our transpacific services," he said.

The expanded CEN westbound rotation will be: Dalian, Xingang/Tianjin, Qingdao, Shanghai, Ningbo, Prince Rupert, and Long Beach.

The eastbound rotation will be: Long Beach, Oakland, Yokohama and Dalian.

Dutch Treat

April 2010 Issue - Pacific Maritime Magazine

The following article was written by a group of engineers at Kvichak Marine Industries.

The Netherlands has historically been one of busiest port countries in the world. Loodswezen (Pilotage) is the Dutch pilot organization responsible for coordinating large ship arrivals and departures in the Netherlands, and the organization operates a large fleet of pilot boats to transfer pilots to and from large vessels at sea before entering or after leaving port. As the large Port of Rotterdam expands through various land reclamation projects, more attention is being paid to its overall environmental impact. To address the environmental challenges, all fleets operating within the port, including Loodswezen, have agreed to do everything possible to reduce their environmental impact.

In a continual effort to renew their fleet, Loodswezen went in search of a new high-speed pilot boat class. Under their agreement with the port it would need to have the lowest exhaust emissions possible. The pilots awarded the contract to build three new boats to Seattle, Washington’s Kvichak Marine Industries, to a design by a UK naval architecture firm, Camarc Design, which had designed Loodswezen’s current high-speed pilot boats. Two Tier II-compliant Caterpillar ACERT C32 engines were chosen to power the boats, and diesel engine emissions reduction technology came from Hug Engineering in Switzerland, supplied and serviced through Soottech in the Netherlands.

Today’s state of the art for Diesel engine emission reduction combines Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) with a Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF). The SCR system injects a urea-based mixture downstream of the engine exhaust outlets into the dry exhaust piping. With the aid of a catalyst the urea combines with nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions and reduces them into nitrogen gas (N2) and water (H20). The DPF collects the unburnt soot and with the addition of another catalyst takes the carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons (HC), and particulate soot and converts these into carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H20). Normal running exhaust temperatures are high enough to achieve an almost complete burn of these captured soot particles. However in case of long periods of idling, a separate afterburner has been installed to periodically increase exhaust temperatures.

Hug Engineering has been designing and building SCR & DPF systems for more than a decade. Beginning in greenhouses, Hug Engineering has since expanded into mobile systems for trains and larger ships. Kvichak’s experience building aluminum high-speed boats is well known in the workboat industry, and Camarc Design and Kvichak have built several successful high-speed aluminum pilot boats, with still more in production. The integration of a SCR & DPF system present many design challenges for a shipyard, and Kvichak worked closely with Camarc Design to modify their pilot boat to accommodate the additional components that make up an SCR & DPF system. This effort to put a mobile SCR & DPF system in a high-speed aluminum pilot boat is the first of its kind and has been a welcome challenge for all companies. For Loodswezen to maintain the same operational effectiveness a pilot boat was required that would match their existing pilot boat speed of 28 knots. The first new pilot boat, Aquila, has already shown the capability to exceed 28 knots during initial sea trials in January 2010.

To test the system prior to final construction, a full-scale mock-up was built near Kvichak’s production facilities. The exact components that would go into the first production boat were used for the test: the engine, SCR & DPF components, and exhaust piping. Even the detail of simulating seawater cooling was used to be sure the final product would operate as promised. Compared to the already low emissions of the base engine, particulate soot will be reduced more than 99%, NOx reduced 76%, CO reduced 73%, and hydrocarbons reduced 94%. These excellent results were also confirmed during the commissioning of the first production boat.

This boat, built by Kvichak Marine, will give Loodswezen a head start on future emissions requirements. Most importantly it will allow Loodswezen to renew their fleet while still greatly reducing overall fleet emissions. This kind of successful new boat program benefits all parties, protects the environment, and sets the standard for future marine projects.

The first Loodswezen pilot boat is receiving finishing touches and will be transported to the Netherlands by way of a larger cargo ship. It is set to go into service in the spring of 2010. The second and third boats of the class, already under construction, will soon follow in subsequent months.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Evergreen to Negotiate up to 100 New Box Ship Orders

Taiwan-based transportation conglomerate Evergreen Group, the parent of the only major container line without new vessels on order, plans to begin negotiations with shipbuilders next month for up to 100 new container vessels.

The talks, according to statements by Evergreen chairman Chang Yung-fa to Japanese media last week, said the negotiations with interested shipyards in China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are expected to begin in May.

Evergreen Marine, currently ranked the fifth largest container line in the world and the sole carrier in the world's top 20 lines with no ships on order, said the $5.4 billion plan would more than double the carrier's current fleet of 81 owned vessels. The carrier also currently charters an additional 69 vessels.

The purchase plan consists of vessel orders including just over 30 vessels with 8,000 TEU capacity, 20 vessels each of 7,024 TEU and 5,364 TEU capacities, and 20 or more 2,000 TEU vessels for feeder service. The ships are mostly planned to replace older vessels now in the Evergreen fleet. Expected delivery dates were not mentioned.

It is expected that the carrier will be able to negotiate lower prices for the vessels compared to just a few years ago. According to some experts, including British shipbroker Clarkson, worldwide vessel values have dropped between 30 and 40 percent since Evergreen last took delivery of a vessel in early 2008.

Evergreen's various transpacific services call at the ports of Los Angeles, Oakland, Seattle, Tacoma and Vancouver, Canada.

SoCal Rail Crossing Project Faces Funding Deadline

The next 24 days could be the last stand for plans to correct one of the worst rail bottlenecks in the movement of discretionary cargo from the Southern California ports to points east of the Rockies.

The proposed Colton Crossing project – estimated to cost a total of $202 million – seeks to separate an at-grade Inland Empire intersection of an east-west Union Pacific track and a north-south Burlington Northern Santa Fe track. While mainly a freight route, public transit trains also utilize the BNSF track and Amtrak trains use the UP track.

Several regional and local Southern California transportation agencies, after spending nearly a year trying to come to consensus on how to spend $97 million in state bond money allocated for the Colton Crossing project, face a looming deadline that could see the state funds return to the state capitol.

In what some are calling a potential setback to the project, the California Transportation Commission – the managers of the state transportation bond money – agreed on Thursday to give the various transportation groups involved in the project additional time to come to agreement on whether to support the public investment. The May 7 deadline for using the public funds, however, remains in place.

Concerns have been raised by members of the Southern California Consensus Group – the decision making body for the project comprised of the various transportation groups and the Southern California ports – that the CTC vote could allow the SCCG members to simply argue away their time until the deadline passes.

Members of the SCCG have remained tight-lipped about what stumbling blocks remain to reach a consensus on the project, although at least some members of the group are in agreement. If the various members of the SCCG cannot reach agreement before the deadline, they risk losing not only the $97 million in state bond money approved in April 2008 but also an additional $34 million in federal stimulus money that was approved by Washington, DC, in February of this year. The remaining cost of the project is expected to be covered by the railroads.

More than 100 trains a day cross through the Colton Crossing four-way intersection and trains waiting to cross can sometimes sit idling for hours. Freight and transit rail officials have identified the crossing as one of the most serious rail congestion points in the region – one with national impacts due to the resultant slowing of east-bound freight from the Southern California ports 65 miles to the west.

The Colton Crossing project has generated several controversies since its inception several years ago. Local residents and the railroads have differed on the final configuration of the crossing. Local residents have been urging local officials to design the crossing so that at least one of the tracks is sunk into a below-grade trench, thus minimizing impacts on surrounding areas. The railroads are pushing for the cheaper option that would see a bridge built to carry one track over the other.

In addition, some Inland Empire transportation officials, with their own ideas of where scarce state funds should be spent, have expressed reticence over using taxpayer funds to support what they say is essentially a private infrastructure project.

Supporters of the plan were told by the CTC in March that more public benefit components needed to be included in the project to justify the public money investment. The railroads countered by offering to allow more commuter trains to travel across their tracks and project-supporting SCCG members detailed how have the project could represent up to $700 million over 30 years in potential public benefits to the region.

If the SCCG can come to consensus and submit a memorandum of understanding by May 7, the CTC is expected to vote on the agreement in mid-May.

Obama Seeks $50 Million for Guam Port Infrastructure

President Barack Obama, in a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, requested a shift of $50 million in the next federal fiscal year budget to fund infrastructure improvements at the Port Authority of Guam facilities.

In the April 5 letter, President Obama said, "Modernization of the [Guam] port is a critical prerequisite for the military construction program supporting the realignment of US Marine Corps forces from Japan to Guam, a part of the overall United States strategy for military forces in the Pacific region."

If approved, the $50 million in US Department of Defense funds would be transferred to the US Department of Transportation to directly finance the $200 million modernization program at the Guam commercial port.

The Port Modernization Master Plan includes expansion and improvement projects considered critical to allow the port to handle a projected influx of goods when the US military begins a four-year program to transfer more than 8,000 military personnel from Okinawa to Guam by 2014. The transfer, set to begin sometime this summer, could nearly double the amount of cargo moving through the small port.

Obama's letter comes following the federal government denial of $50 million in stimulus funding to support the Guam port modernization plan and following questions from Guam officials to the President regarding the federal government's level of commitment to assist the Guam government in dealing with the military build-up impacts on the island nation.

Supporters of the modernization plan believe that without the proposed improvements, the Guam commercial port could become a serious bottleneck in the military transfer and possibly create serious delays in the both the overall military build-up plan and the delivery of commercial goods to the island nation's citizens.

Portland Port to Begin FY2010-11 Budget Approval Process

The Oregon state Port of Portland will present its proposed budget for fiscal year 2010-11 for public review on Wednesday.

According to port officials, the $889.3 million budget "reflects a projected slow economic recovery, flat revenues and a transition from an unprecedented high capital project activity level."

The budget forecasts operating revenue of $241.7 million for fiscal year 2010-11, down $2 million from the 2009-10 operating revenues of $239.7 million. Port officials also project 2010-11 operating expenditures of $172.8 million, down $1 million from the 2009-10 fiscal year expenditures of $173.8 million.

The budget, according to port officials, also includes $161.5 million in capital costs (minus labor), and $78.6 million in debt service.

“This year’s budget represents prudent fiscal planning as well as the fact that we still have challenges ahead,” said Port of Portland Executive Director Bill Wyatt. “But I am optimistic about the future. Our recent investments in infrastructure position the port well to meet the region’s transportation needs in an improving economy and will help local shippers and businesses remain competitive in the global marketplace.”

As part of cost cutting efforts in 2009-10, the port cut 49 full-time employees, began a furlough program, and implemented some salary reductions to save money. The furlough program is set to be discontinued on June 30.

Despite the cost cutting, the port has recently completed or will complete in the next year about $750 million in major multi-year projects including a new parking structure, the port’s new headquarters building, the extension of the airport north runway, the baggage screening improvement project, and airfield deicing system enhancements. In addition, several completed or planned to be completed general fund projects include rail improvements in South Rivergate and the Ramsey Rail Yard, marine terminal and berth improvements, and several taxiway and runway improvement projects at the port’s general aviation airports.

The more than 800 employees of the Port of Portland, in addition to operating the Portland maritime operations, oversees Portland International Airport, three general aviation airports, and various real estate holdings.

The governing board of the port is scheduled to vote on preliminary approval of the 2010-11 fiscal year budget on May 12. Because about 3 percent of the port's revenue comes from taxpayer monies, the budget must be reviewed and approved by the Multnomah County Tax Supervising and Conservation Commission, or TSCC, following the port board's preliminary approval. Following TSCC review, another public hearing will be held on June 9. The port board will considering final approval of the budget in late June.

American Shipping Group Promotes Two Execs

Saltchuk subsidiary American Shipping Group, the parent of ocean carriers Sea Star Line and Totem Ocean Trailer Express, has announced two executive management promotions.

Frank Peake has been named as vice president of the Federal Way, Wash.-based ASG and Steve Hastings has been named as president of Sea Star Line.

In his new role, Peake – who has served the past six year as Sea Star president – will be charged with strategic planning for the three ASG subsidiaries, including Sea Star, Totem, and Interocean American Shipping.

American Shipping Group Chairman Tim Engle said Peake will also assist in shaping ASG’s strategic vision.

Hastings, a 14-year veteran of Sea Star, has served in a number of key leadership roles at the carrier, most recently serving two years as Vice President, Operations.

The Jacksonville, Fla.-based Sea Star offers Jones Act carrier service between ports in Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico.

Totem, also based in Federal Way, Wash., offers Jones Act ro/ro service between the Washington state Port of Tacoma and the Port of Anchorage in Alaska. Totem also offers trucking and rail service throughout the Lower 48 to and from its Tacoma terminal, as well as rail and trucking connecting service throughout Alaska.

Interocean is a technical ship management and ship crewing firm based in Moorestown, New Jersey.