Thursday, May 13, 2010

Seattle Maritime Awards

Todd Pacific Shipyard’s CEO Steve Welch was awarded the Seattle Propeller Club’s 2010 Puget Sound Maritime Achievement Award, at the annual Seattle maritime festival luncheon on May 11, 2010 aboard the Carnival Cruise Lines’ Spirit during its inaugural homeport at the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 91.

The award, which was known as the Puget Sound Maritime Man of the Year award from 1951 through 1992, is presented annually to an individual who has shown outstanding leadership and brought great credit or economic benefit to the maritime interests of the region. In a difficult economy, Mr. Welch is noted for his inclusive, team-oriented management style, which has allowed Todd Shipyard to provide timely and quality workmanship, despite a backlog of business.

The award recognizes either a long and distinguished career or a specific achievement. Industry segments represented by past winners include steamship lines and agents, tug and barge operators, passenger vessel operators, ports, stevedores, shipyards, labor and government.

At the same luncheon Seattle Port Commission President Bill Bryant was awarded the 2010 Puget Sound Maritime Industry Public Official of the Year award. Commission President Bryant was recognized for his leadership in making the key role the port plays in Seattle’s regional economy known to elected officials and Puget Sound civic leadership.

–PMM Staff

Longview Looking for Crane Operators

The Port of Longview, Washington is looking for a few good men or women – longshore men or women, that is.

The port has seen a 35 percent increase in ship calls during the first quarter and the additional cargo, which, along with attrition in the 190-member International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 21 that covers Longview, has created the need for about 10 new union crane operator positions. With cargo volumes throughout the West Coast still down, and ILWU ranks full just about everywhere, Longview's need for additional union workers is something of a rarity.

However, before Local 21 can seek applications for the positions from the public, last done about five years ago, they must seek ILWU members at other locals who may be willing to fill the positions. An open public call for union employment would also have to be approved by the Pacific Maritime Association, the organization that negotiates labor contracts with the ILWU on behalf of the shipping and terminal operator companies.

Crane positions, considered as skilled wage positions within the union, are some of the most sought after and highest paid in the ILWU depending on the type of crane. According to the PMA, the average annual salary for a Longview longshore worker in 2009 was $83,270.

Local 21 currently has about 25 crane operators of various classifications, but this number is down sharply from last year, which saw the retirement of 13 members that were classified as crane operators.

Portland Port Approves $68 Million Terminal Lease

The Port of Portland governing board voted unanimously Wednesday to approve a nearly $70 million 25-year terminal lease with Manila-based International Container Terminal Services, Inc.

Under the terms of the deal, ICTS will lease the port's T6 container terminal for a first year rent of $8 million and subsequent annual rent of $4.5 million.

In approving the deal, the Portland port board sidelined complaints from New Jersey-based Ports America, the firm currently operating the terminal, that there was no competitive bidding process for the contract.

In 2008, ICTS, Ports America, and others entered bids for a 50-year T6 terminal contract, however as the global economic meltdown accelerated, the port canceled the bidding process.

In 2009, ICTS approached port officials and entered into confidential negotiations on the contract that was approved Wednesday.

The port board said in making their decision that they were confident the port operated legally in the process.

ICTS officials told the Oregonian newspaper that the firm has a five-year plan to double the volume of the T6 terminal, which includes steps such as recruiting smaller niche cargo carriers from Central and South America. The 192-acre T6 terminal handled 210,000 TEUs in 2009 and port estimates suggest the terminal could handle a maximum of 700,000 TEUs a year.

This is the first United States venture for ICTS and it has formed an Oregon-based local subsidiary, ICTSI Oregon Inc., to manage the T6 terminal.

The deal must now receive approval from both the Federal Maritime Commission and clear a national security review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

LA City Bars Biz With Arizona, But Port Not Included

While the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday approved an economic boycott of Arizona over controversial immigration legislation recently passed in that state, the move is unlikely to have any impact on multi-million dollar contracts between the city-operated Port of Los Angeles and three Arizona trucking firms.

In response to the new Arizona immigration law, which takes effect July 23, the Los Angeles City Council voted 13-1 to ban most city government travel to Arizona and future contracts with Arizona-based firms.

However, the council left it up to the non-elected port harbor commission to determine the future of Arizona contracts with the port, including the three trucking firm contracts worth a collective $18 million.

The trucking firm contracts, with Arizona-based Swift Transportation, Knight Transportation, and Duncan and Son Lines, were part of the port's $60 million incentive effort to lure big name trucking firms into the Los Angeles drayage fleet. As part of the port's Clean Truck program, port officials offered $10,000 and $20,000 bounties for each clean truck the trucking firms would pledge to a certain rate of annual service at the port. The $20,000 incentive required 300 moves a year at Los Angeles for five years and the $10,000 incentive required a total of 600 trips per year at Long Beach and/or Los Angeles for one year.

The three firms have brought more than 420 trucks in to the Clean Truck program, roughly 5 percent of the total number of clean trucks now operating in the neighboring Long Beach and Los Angeles ports' drayage service.

All told, the three firms have already received more than $16 million from the city in truck incentives and could reap an additional $9 million if they meet the 600 per-annum trip threshold.

The three firms' contracts represent nearly a third of all the business the City of Los Angeles does with Arizona.

Earlier this month, John Holmes, deputy executive director of the Los Angeles port, offered a status report on the number of incentivized trucks that are meeting the program trip goals. These numbers include the trucks from the three Arizona firms as well as trucks from numerous other trucking firms that applied for the incentives.

Holmes said that as of February, port data indicated that 30 percent of the 1,860 incentivized trucks in the five-year incentive program had made at least 200 trips and were on track to reach the 300-trip minimum to meet the $10,000 incentive threshold level. Another 971 trucks in this group, said Holmes, or 52 percent, had made fewer than 100 trips to date. Within this group 393 incentivized trucks were found to have made no trips at all.

In addition, Holmes said only 22 percent of about 2,080 trucks eligible for the 600 trip incentive option (which includes some trucks from the 300 trip group) were on track to meet the $20,000 incentive threshold. Of this group, Holmes indicated that more than 1,300, or about 63 percent, of the incentivized trucks had made 300 or less trips to date.

The port is considering making adjustments to the incentive thresholds to allow more trucks to meet the goals and keep the incentives.

SoCal Ports Box Volumes Up Across Board

The Southern California ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles both reported export, import and total monthly container volumes up substantially in April, the first across-the-board increase at the port complex this year.

The Port of Long Beach reported total container volume increased 18.7 percent compared to April 2009, climbing to 485,059 TEUs. Loaded inbound container volume also increased 21.2 percent to 241,245 TEUs for April, and loaded outbound box volume climbed 15.2 percent to 130,155 TEUs, each compared to the year-ago period.

Despite the increases, the port still remains down 1.1 percent compared to the first four months of 2009.

Across the harbor, the Port of Los Angeles reported 595,283 TEUs moved over its docks during the month of April, up 11.9 percent compared to the same period last year. The port also reported handling 302,224 loaded inbound TEUs for the month, an 8.3 percent increase, and 158,338 loaded outbound TEUs, a 12.4 percent increase.

For the calendar year, Los Angeles is now up 9.0 percent compared to the January-to-April period last year.

Both ports also reported double-digit increases in empty containers handled in April, a signal that Asian manufacturers are looking for more boxes to fill for the return to North America.

The volume of empties handled in Long Beach during April climbed 17.6 percent and Los Angeles saw an even larger 20.2 percent increase, both compared to April 2009.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Congress Panels Calls for Deeper Look Into LA Port Truck Plan

Members of a Congressional panel looking into the impacts of the Southern California ports' Clean Truck programs said last week that calls by the Port of Los Angeles and other allies to change federal interstate commerce laws trucking deregulation laws require further investigation.

John Holmes, the deputy executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, told members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that the port's truck program – originally designed to replace thousands of older trucks with less polluting newer models – would not be able to function into the future without changes to federal law allowing the port to set regulations over trucks. These powers are now reserved solely to federal government under the Federal Aviation Administration Act of 1994, or F4A.

Holmes’ position – that the port's clean truck program requires a labor requirement that trucking firms only use employees – did not sit well with members of the committee on either side of the aisle.

Ranking minority member of the subcommittee, Rep. John Duncan Jr. called the port's attempt to regulate trucking companies a "solution in search of a problem."

Subcommittee chairman Rep. Peter DeFazio called the current trucking system "incredibly inefficient,” and said whether one disagrees "with the way the Port of Los Angeles wants to make it more rational...the point is the system has to get better."

House Transportation and Infrastructure chairman Rep. James Oberstar also questioned the port's logic, saying he did not understand how a "labor structure is essential to a clean truck program."

Pointing to what he called numerous "troubling contradictions" in the testimonies, DeFazio recommended that congressional staffers investigate the labor and F4A issue more in depth.

"I really believe this is not the last time this committee is going to be dealing with this issue," he added.

Zim Parent Looks to Sell Interest in Two Foreign Companies

Israel Corp., the controlling shareholder of Israeli-based ocean carrier Zim Integrated Shipping is in "advanced negotiations" to sell its stake in "two different foreign companies engaged in activities ancillary to shipping, which do not own ships."

Israel Corp., which made the announcement in a letter to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, did not name the two companies, but said the total amount of the combined transactions, if successful, would be in the range of $150 million to $190 million.

The deal, according to Israel Corp., could be finalized in the near future with due diligence beginning shortly thereafter.

The sales are understood to be part of the Israel Corp. debt-restructuring plan for Zim, approved in November 2009. The next month, Zim shareholders also approved a debt arrangement in which called for certain steps by the carrier to improve cash flow over the next several years.

Zim currently calls at five ports on the West Coast: Los Angeles, Oakland, Portland, Seattle and Vancouver BC.

New Japan Service for Portland Port

The Oregon-state Port of Portland announced Tuesday that Westwood Shipping Lines is preparing to kick off a new transpacific service between Portland and four ports in Japan.

The service, which will start July 11 and operate under the terms of an initial six-month agreement, will provide monthly service for more than 200 containers and the first Japan service for Portland customers since Tokyo-based "K" Line picked up anchor in early 2009.

The new Westwood service will carry non-reefer containerized agricultural products, as well as paper goods, between Portland and Shimizu, Tokyo, Yokohama and Nagoya in Japan.

If successful, Westwood hopes to add an additional ship to the rotation and expand the service to a bi-weekly schedule.

Westwood is owned by Weyerhauser Co.

Coast Guard Flyers Train with San Francisco Mariners

Coast Guard pilots typically conduct rescue hoist training with Coast Guard boat crews, but Maritime Industry Rescue Training (MIRT) allows for a more true-to-life experience. Jonathan Mendes, the general manager of Starlight Marine Service, says the MIRT is especially important to crews that work offshore, where medical treatment isn’t readily available. Photo by Pamela Manns.

May 2010

By Petty Officer 3rd Class Pamela Manns

On a calm spring day in the San Francisco Bay, the Starlight Tug Millennium Falcon welcomes a Coast Guard rescue swimmer onto its aft deck. The swimmer is lowered from an orange Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter, which hovers noisily overhead. The swimmer provides instructions to the tug crew while the helicopter’s flight mechanic hangs out the open chopper door. When ready, the mechanic lowers an empty stokes litter, a long stretcher used for evacuating patients, with 105- foot trail line weighted with a small beanbag to a tug crewmember on deck. The crewmember grabs the beanbag, handles the line, and pulls the litter toward the tug. Once on deck, the litter sits for a moment and then is hoisted back to the helicopter above, and they repeat the drill.

The tug and helicopter crew and swimmer are participating in Maritime Industry Rescue Training (MIRT), an ongoing training program that partners Coast Guard aviators with the maritime industry.

MIRT was initiated by the commanding officer of Coast Guard Air Station San Francisco, Cmdr. Samuel Creech, in November 2009, and is the first training program that brings together Coast Guard aircrews and professional mariners. The goal is to simulate an emergency situation and prepare mariners in the event they have to hoist an injured patient from deck to chopper.

The Coast Guard has had a long history with the maritime industry, as a regulatory and rescue agency. Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles, Washington, for example, has conducted periodic hoist training with tugs in the past. However, this is the first ongoing training program in which Coast Guard aviators work with the mariners to prepare them for a helicopter medical evacuation scenario.

Capt. Patrick Maguire, chief of prevention for the Eleventh Coast Guard District in Alameda, California, reached out to maritime industry representatives with the idea of conducting hoist training and received an overwhelming response.

“We put the idea out to the maritime industry and everybody has come back to us wanting to participate,” says Maguire.

The first MIRT evolution got off the ground with a Starlight tug in January 2010, but April, 1, 2010, was the first training exercise that involved two helicopters from the air station. Together the crews put in more than two hours of training and practiced 14 hoists. Crews got an opportunity to handle a stokes litter and rescue basket and worked with the deployed rescue swimmer.

“It was great. The highlight of my year,” says Capt. Dan Morrison, a tugboat captain and the safety observer for the evolution.

“I have never been that close to a running helicopter,” Morrison says. “Seeing that rescue swimmer come down… oh man, it was great.”

Morrison, a seasoned 30-year veteran in the industry, says the training exercise was invaluable and hopes that the entire Starlight tug crew has an opportunity to receive the hands on experience.

Starlight Marine Service is the Alameda-based subsidiary of Harley Marine Services, which has tugs and barges on both coasts. Jonathan Mendes, the general manager of Starlight, said that he wants to keep the training going.

The MIRT is especially important to crews that work offshore, where medical treatment isn’t readily available, says Mendes.

“We want our crew to be ready if a medevac is necessary,” he says.

Mendes is specifically thinking of crewmembers that work in the dangerous waters of the Pacific Northwest, and he says he hopes to bring crews from Alaska and Southern California to participate in MIRT.

“The relationship with mariners is an important one,” says Maguire, “MIRT is an opportunity to connect mariners with aviators, and allow them to work together in a controlled environment. It reduces risk in the event of a real emergency.”

Air station commander Creech emphasizes the importance of working together and says, “The first time a professional mariner sees the Coast Guard shouldn’t be when they need us.”

Creech received his inspiration for the training program from senior Coast Guard leadership that challenged the aviation community to engage with the maritime industry more. Creech designated pilot Lt. David Chapman as Air Station San Francisco’s MIRT coordinator.

Chapman says about the training, “It is beneficial to the pilots as well. It gives us a new platform to practice hoists.”

Coast Guard pilots typically conduct their hoist training with Coast Guard boat crews, and Chapman says the training can get redundant. MIRT allows for a more true-to-life experience.

“We do a lot of medevacs from tankers and container ships, and those situations are always high stress because of the live person in the rescue basket. Most of the professional mariners have not been trained in hoist operations, and we have to explain the procedure over the radio. However, with MIRT we can practice in a controlled environment and lower a swimmer to help provide some one-on-one training. It is really a win-win program.”

Chapman says, “We are willing to work with maritime companies. Just yesterday we conducted 5 training hoists with a container ship 30 miles offshore, and they had to call us up on a satellite phone and change the meeting place. We are willing to work around schedules because the training is that important.”

Maguire, Creech, and Chapman all hope to the see the program grow, and mariners such as Capt. Morrison have been equally as eager to continue the training.

“I want to keep doing it, and I want all of our crews to keep doing it. It is better to see the helicopter on this end than when we are doing a rescue,” said Morrison.

Air Station San Francisco has become the test bed for the program, and the early success has lead to an opportunist outlook from both mariners and Coast Guardsmen.

Petty Officer 3rd Pamela Manns has been serving as a Coast Guard public affairs specialist in San Francisco, for two years and has been in the Coast Guard for four years. Her service has taken her throughout the country including the outer banks of North Carolina, Northern California, Seattle, Haiti and the Arctic.