Friday, November 19, 2010

Cargo Volumes Up at Seattle, Tacoma Ports in October

The two major Puget Sound ports reported increased cargo volume during October, with Seattle posting its tenth month of double-digit traffic growth this year and Tacoma posting its second positive month of the year. However, loaded import containers moving through both ports continued to slide compared to previous months, indicating that both ports' peak import season for the year ended during the summer months.

The Port of Seattle handled a total of 190,666 TEUs in October, an 18.5 percent gain over October 2009. Port officials also reported that total loaded imports for October climbed 33.4 percent to 83,054 TEUs and total loaded exports climbed 9 percent to 55,552 TEUs, both compared to the year-ago period.

October import volumes, while higher than September, remained lower than August and July, indicating that the port's peak import period for the year was July with 92,099 import TEUs handled.

For the first ten months of the year, Seattle has handled a total of 1,805,132 TEUs, a sizable 40.3 percent increase over the January to October period in 2009.

Across the sound, the Port of Tacoma, which has struggled all year to climb into positive growth territory, managed to do just that in October. The port handled a total of 119,638 TEUs in October, a 1.5 percent increase over the same month last year.

Imports and exports were a mixed bag for Tacoma during October, with imports declining slightly and exports advancing into positive territory over October 2009. Total loaded import containers for October dipped 3.7 percent to 39,049 TEUs while total loaded export containers increased 4.7 percent to 29,668 TEUs, both compared to the same period last year.

Tacoma import volumes in October were lower than the previous three months, indicating that the port's peak import period or the year was June with 52,240 import TEUs handled.

For the year-to-date, Tacoma has moved 1,205,040 TEUs, an 8.1 percent drop from the first ten months of 2009.

SoCal Ports' Rail Service to Upgrade 16 Locomotives to Tier 3

Pacific Harbor Line, the railroad that provides service within the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, has signed a $12 million deal with a Caterpillar Inc. subsidiary to repower 16 older Tier 2 locomotives with newer, less emissive Tier 3 Caterpillar engines.

Under the terms of the deal, the 16 locomotives will be sent to Caterpillar-subsidiary Progress Rail Services Corporation's Tacoma, Wash facility in 2011 for fitting with Cat 3512C HD engines, including diesel particulate filters. Once certified by the United States Environmental Protection Agency for service, the repowered engines will boost PHL's existing fleet of six Tier 3 compliant locomotives to 22.

The EPA's Tier 3 engine standards for locomotives took effect this year. Tier 0, 1 or 2 engine standards apply only to engines made before 2005, and these locomotives can still operate as long as the engine is not replaced. Locomotives that are being repowered must be brought up to the latest engine standards. Even more stringent Tier 4 standards go into effect in 2015.

"This will be the cleanest locomotive fleet in North America," said PHL Managing Director Andrew Fox. "Particulate matter (PM) will be reduced by more than 90 percent from the current engines, which were already among the cleanest in the country."
The repowering project is being funded in large part by a grant from the Carl Moyer Program administered by the South Coast Air Quality Management District and California Air Resources Board, and with funds from Pacific Harbor Line.

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach facilitated this project by entering into agreements with PHL, making it possible for the railroad to commit to long-term use of Progress Rail's sustainable locomotives as a part of the ports' Clean Air Action Plan.

"Being selected by PHL, which has been a leader in many ways, including being named Short Line of the Year by Railway Age in 2009, is truly an honor. It was the first railroad in the country to field an all Tier 2 and Tier 3 fleet in 2008," said Billy Ainsworth, president and CEO of Progress Rail. "We are pleased that PHL has selected Progress Rail and low-emission Caterpillar engines as the solution that creates the most value and takes PHL to the next level."

PHL, an affiliate of Anacostia & Pacific Company, Inc., provides rail service on 75 miles of track located within and owned by the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. Customers include nine on-dock intermodal terminals generating more than one million intermodal carloads per year, along with numerous other customers accounting for more than 36,000 units of carload freight annually.

ATA Asks Ninth Circuit to Reconsider Fast-Tracking Port Trucking Appeal

Just over two weeks after the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request to expedite an appeal regarding litigation over the Port of Los Angeles clean truck program, the trucking industry defendant in the case is asking the appellate court to reconsider the request.

The American Trucking Associations, which sued the port over key components of the truck program in 2008, is asking the Ninth Circuit to speed up the appeals process by two months.

In a one-page denial issued on Nov. 2, the Ninth Circuit pointed to the ATA's lack of presenting evidence of "irreparable harm or possibility of mootness" to the trucking industry.

In the second request for expedited status, filed Nov. 17, the ATA reminds the Ninth Circuit that in an earlier review of the case during the injunction phase the appellate court clearly stated that there was a likelihood of irreparable harm being caused by the Los Angeles truck program.

"With due respect, ATA believes that on consideration of the original motion the Deputy Clerk may not have fully considered the prior history of this case or fully understood the facts that show irreparable harm will be suffered by ATA’s members and other impacted motor carriers if the appeal is not expedited," said the ATA filing for a reconsideration. "The harms that will befall the motor carriers are no different now than they were when this Court issued its first opinion in the case."

If the appellate court grants the ATA request to expedite the appeal, written arguments would be concluded in mid-February 2011 with oral arguments taking place in May 2011.

If the appellate court denies the ATA request, the oral arguments may not begin until July 2011.

In the meantime, at least one portion of the port's truck program, a mandate requiring port-serving trucking firms to hire only per-hour employees instead of per-load independent owner-operators, remains enjoined by the lower court.

District Court Judge Christina Snyder, who ruled against the ATA in the suit in September, reinstated an injunction against the most contentious portion of the truck program until the appeals court can hear the case.

The injunction, originally issued by Judge Snyder in 2009, blocked certain portions of the truck plan, including a mandate that all port-servicing truck drivers be per-hour employees instead of independent owner-operators. After her ruling against the ATA, Judge Snyder dissolved the original injunction.

However, she subsequently agreed with an ATA motion to reinstate the injunction while the ruling is under appeal. In her reinstatement ruling she said that while confident of her earlier ruling in favor of the truck program, she recognized that "the interpretation and the application of the market participant doctrine in this case presents substantial and novel legal questions."

She also determined that the trucking industry was likely to suffer "irreparable harm" if the employee-only mandate was allowed to be implemented by the port and was later overturned.

The original ATA suit centers around a Los Angeles port truck program that took effect in October 2008 requiring port-servicing drayage firms to sign so-called concession agreements to gain access to port terminals. Firms without such an access license are barred from entering port facilities. The truck plan was originally conceived by the port (at the time including the Port of Long Beach) as a means to bar older polluting trucks and force port-servicing trucking firms to use newer and cleaner burning vehicles, thereby cutting port-generated diesel emissions.

However, Los Angeles port officials included non-environmental criteria in the concession agreements, such as financial, maintenance, insurance, safety, parking and labor criteria. The ATA, which has never opposed the environmental portions of the truck program, contends these local port rules are preempted by federal interstate commerce law.

The Port of Long Beach, which was also a defendant in the original lawsuit, reached a court-approved settlement with the ATA in 2009 that allowed the Long Beach port to implement all of the environmental aspects of the truck plan, as well as most of the non-environmental aspects. The Long Beach version of the truck plan never called for an employee-only mandate.

Los Angeles Port Approves Plan to Acquire USS Iowa

The Port of Los Angeles may be getting a new tenant – one that boasts quite a war record.

The governing board for the Port of Los Angeles on Thursday approved supporting a non-profit group's plan to acquire the famed World War II-era battleship USS Iowa from the US Navy and ensconce the warship at the port as a floating museum.

Voting unanimously to support the acquisition efforts of the non-profit Pacific Battleship Center, the port commission also approved the use of Berth 87 near the port's main cruise terminal as the future home for the battleship. The Los Angeles City Council backed the PBC plan in September.

The port commission approval of the plan was a critical and required step before PBC could officially submit an application to the Navy to receive the USS Iowa. The Navy deadline for applications is November 24.

“Los Angeles is the perfect place for this majestic battleship,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “Docking the USS Iowa at the Port of Los Angeles would be a reminder to visitors of the vital role that the port has played for the United States Navy during the 20th Century and would serve as a poignant monument to the sacrifices of the brave Navy men and women who have served our country.”

The battleship, which remains in the Navy inventory in "on hold" status as part of a government program that donates vessels to museum groups, saw service in World War II, Korea, and served again as part of the US Navy's "big stick" policy from 1984 to 1989. It is the last remaining battleship in the world that has not been permanently placed as a floating museum.

"We’re glad to be a part of this historic effort to find a permanent and appropriate home for the USS Iowa,” said Harbor Commission President Cindy Miscikowski. “While there are still issues that need to be addressed, the Harbor Commission’s action today makes it clear that we are committed to assisting the Pacific Battleship Center make this vision a reality.”

An economic feasibility study conducted by outside consultant AECOM estimated that attendance to the USS Iowa at the Port of Los Angeles would range between a low of 137,000 visitors a year to a high of 236,000 visitors a year, with a median of roughly 190,000 visitors a year from 2014 on. The analysis estimated that Southern California residents would make up roughly two-thirds of all visitors and the remaining third would be outside visitors.

However, the AECOM analysis estimated that even with these attendance numbers, the USS Iowa as an attraction would run a projected deficit of about $2.7 million a year. AECOM staff said this deficit would have to be addressed by other outside revenue such as fund raising, government support or philanthropic donations.

AECOM staff pointed out that the USS Iowa, as an attraction at the port, would have an earned income of just under 50 percent of its annual budget – a figure AECOM staff called "in line with other cultural attractions."

If the warship does come to Los Angeles, the port – while incurring some costs due to required shifting of cruise vessels – will not be providing money for the setup, operation and maintenance of the USS Iowa. These costs will be borne by the PBC.

Monday, November 15, 2010

eNavigation - Where Do We Go From Here

By R. G. Moore

Significant progress has been made in the implementation of eNavigation, particularly with respect to the “Shipboard Core”. We should also keep in mind the increasing number of more general applications, as represented by the EU-developed River Information System (RIS), Maritime Navigation Information Services (MarNIS), EfficenSEA and – better known to those in the US – Maritime Domain Awareness.

Progress to date has revealed things that need correction and/or improvement as eNavigation develops, and raised questions about where things should go in the future. Perhaps it’s time to take a systematic look at both issues. In doing that, it may be useful to review the principles used by the IMO and others to guide eNavigation’s implementation. A review may also help to reinforce several key truths; that eNavigation is not in and of itself a technology, and that it is being designed to serve information needs across the entire maritime community, not just the portion afloat.

To recap, the IMO’s Safety of Navigation Sub-Committee enumerated nine principles to guide eNavigation’s development.

• Holistic integration of all existing and emerging tools
• Clear ownership and control
• Voyage characteristics
• Attractive to all stakeholders
• Pragmatic solutions
• Modular and scalable
• Application software and data
• Information security
• Phased implementation

The two Principles highlighted in the list strike me as those which are particularly significant to the review process, since they imply more than may be readily apparent. They also have two things in common. Achievement will be difficult, and successful implementation of eNavigation depends upon their realization.

Principle No. 1, Holistic integration of all existing and emerging tools, has a simple meaning only if one limits the definition of “tools” and fails to include humans – the users – among them. It suggests a series of questions, starting with several about the “Shipboard Core”.

What remains to be done to fully integrate existing shipboard components?
GPS, AIS, ECDIS and radar are key components of the “Core”, and their integration remains in development. A useful analogy might be drawn between these devices and the evolution of computers. Before operating systems and programs evolved to their current state it sometimes felt as if we devoted more time to the care, feeding of and learning about the computer than we did in producing useful work. It can be argued that mariners are now at the same stage as the 1980’s computer user, spending far too much time and effort getting the tools operating correctly. There needs to be a concerted effort to integrate, translate and display the data these tools generate in order to provide unambiguous information immediately useful to support decision-making.

Considering just the shipboard element of eNavigation, what remains to be integrated?
Assuming these key components are integrated, what others of the current tools need to be added to the mix? A starting point in thinking about “what else” could be Marine Safety Information (MSI), a category which I believe must be integrated with other material if the IMO’s goal of the “...harmonized collection, integration, exchange and presentation of maritime information onboard and ashore by electronic means to enhance berth to berth navigation and related services, for safety and security at sea and protection of the marine environment” is to be achieved. As an example, NAVTEX in its present form is hardly an example of seamless presentation.

Then too, the very definition of MSI has been expanding, particularly by the ISM Code. Consider the language of but two sections of the Code’s recent revisions:

“The company should establish procedures, plans and instructions, including checklists as appropriate, for key shipboard operations concerning the safety of the personnel, ship and protection of the environment.”

“The company should identify potential emergency shipboard situations, and establish procedures to respond to them.”

One of the things this points out is that both shipboard and shoreside management need to be on the same page, suggesting that mariners should have easily accessible “crib sheets” to refer to during that critically short period before things go to hell. Given the trend to criminalize mistakes in judgment or departure from published procedures “seamless integration” of this sort of information may be of critical importance. Other changes may also be required. Those to consider include an increasing standardization of procedures and practices, and extending vetting procedures and surveys to include how well ships are prepared and capable of dealing with the growing mass of such data.

How much is enough?
The pressure to reduce crew sizes, coupled with technological developments, has resulted in bridge watchstanders being tasked with functions not directly related to the safety of navigation. During open ocean passage such duties may not impose risk, but in congested waters and on soundings they can become dangerous distractions. The same can be said of adding unnecessarily to the other data and information burden that watchstanders deal with. This suggests that the tasks, decision support needs and manning levels should be carefully examined and, if warranted, limits imposed to insure that safety of navigation remains paramount.

Moving on to Principle No. 4, one might think it self-evident that eNavigation has to be attractive to all stakeholders. The language used by the IMO in describing this principle struck me as particularly telling and far-reaching, and some is worth repeating here because of the thoughts it triggers.

It is critical that eNavigation must meet the needs and expectations and overcome the concerns of users both afloat and ashore as well as other stakeholders.

The paper goes on to define stakeholders as “…everyone that has an interest or stake, including governments, international organizations, etc.” A preliminary listing of these includes twenty categories of shipborne users and thirty-four categories ashore. That listing, while not repeated here, underscores the breadth of eNavigation applications being planned and the degree to which it will affect our world.

The IMO’s articulation of this principle also provides a vehicle for restating several points fundamental to the eNavigation concept. First, the goals of eNavigation are to deliver improvements in safety, security and protection of the marine environment and at the same time, of at least equal importance to universal acceptance, address efficiency and commercial considerations. Second, eNavigation must not reduce existing levels of safety while delivering tangible benefits to all stakeholders without imposing undue burdens; and third, eNavigation should be adopted on a voluntary, benefit-driven basis rather than as a mandatory requirement (emphasis supplied).

Lurking within this principle is the issue of costs and benefits, the ultimate distribution of those among the various stakeholders, and the role of governments in developing and promoting eNavigation. Cost is a major issue for both private and public entities and I suspect that without strong national-level leadership it will be the major challenge for the immediate future. Aggravating the problem is the reality that many costs become due up front while benefits at all levels seem to be deferred to some future date. The problems this represents are illustrated by even a superficial examination of the shipboard issues involved, ignoring for a moment the greater ones of infrastructure, etc. For the ships, investments must be made in the equipment forming eNavigation’s shipboard core. To those are added manning costs associated with that core, given the impact upon competency and training requirements, and finally the modification of procedures and/or practices to fully incorporate eNavigation into day-to-day operations (think again about ISM requirements). Exacerbating this issue is the fact that many of the costs will remain unquantifiable until greater experience is gained. And then, too, many benefits may well depend upon achieving full implementation of eNavigation not just afloat but throughout the maritime community.

I’m concerned that in the United States there has been an absence of the essential leadership role on the part of government, coupled with a desire to reap benefits while avoiding research and infrastructure costs. The enduring downward pressure on the Coast Guard’s aids to navigation budget may represent a case in point. That example begs the real question, however. The government’s role in eNavigation needs to be clearly defined, responsibilities and funding allocated, and vigorously pursued in concert with the private sector if marine transportation in the United States is to fully benefit from eNavigation.

This is a very superficial treatment of future needs, but I hope that even though limited in scope it may help encourage an examination and discussion of eNavigation and its future. Too little attention is being paid to these aspects and now’s the time to get going.

R.G. Moore can be contacted at

Seattle Port Ramps Up Low Sulfur Fuel Program for Calling Vessels

The governing board for the Port of Seattle has approved an additional $110,000 for an emission reduction program that encourages shipping and cruise lines to burn cleaner fuel while at berth.

The additional funding brings the port's total funding for the At-Berth Clean, or ABC, Fuel program to more than $950,000 for the year.

The ABC Fuel program began in 2009 as a direct outgrowth of the 2007 Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy which was adopted in 2007 by the ports of Seattle, Tacoma and Vancouver, British Columbia in partnership with local, state and federal environmental entities in the United States and Canada.

The program offers a $2,250 incentive to each vessel calling at the port, which chooses to use low sulfur fuel in its auxiliary engines while at dock. Emissions from docked vessels' auxiliary engines, according to some estimates, can account for more than 50 percent of a calling vessel's total diesel emissions while in the port. Using low sulfur fuel is estimated to reduce emitted sulfur oxides by up to 80 percent over higher sulfur fuel.

The Seattle port has already paid out the incentive to over 350 vessels this year, and port estimates indicate that another 50 qualifying vessels could claim the incentive by the end of the year.

According to the port, the ABC Fuel program has eliminated more than 340 metric tons of sulfur dioxide emissions since being implemented in 2009.

ABC Fuels is a partnership that includes some of the Port's ocean carriers and the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency. More than 75 vessels from nine carriers have participated in the program. Participating carriers have included Hapag Lloyd, APL, China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO), Evergreen Line, Hamburg Süd, Maersk Line, Matson Navigation, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Princess Cruises.

Horizon to Kick Off New China Inland US Express Service

Charlotte, NC-based ocean carrier Horizon Lines Inc. announced Monday that it will launch an express trans-Pacific container service to key inland US cities in December.

Named the Five Star Express, or FSX, the service will operate between the Chinese ports of Ningbo and Shanghai, and the Port of Los Angeles.

The service will rely on scheduled intermodal rail service at Los Angeles each week to reach key inland US cities. Horizon claims the service will offer some of the fastest inland transit times in the industry, including 15-day availability in Kansas City from Shanghai and 16-day availability in Dallas. The service will also take advantage of on-dock rail at the Los Angeles port, which reduces drayage fees, to offer express inland service to Charlotte, Atlanta, Memphis and Chicago.

The maiden FSX voyage is scheduled to depart Ningbo, China, on December 14, 2010, Shanghai on December 15, with a scheduled arrival in Los Angeles on December 26. According to Horizon, approximately 60 percent of the initial voyage is already subscribed, and the carrier continues to make steady progress toward a goal of 75 percent bookings for the first sailing.

"As other carriers reduce service locations and slow service speeds, US shippers continue to tell us they want fast and reliable service alternatives not only port-to-port, but inland to final destinations as well," said Brian Taylor, Senior Vice President of International Services at Horizon Lines. "At a time when US retailers are maintaining lower inventory levels and placing more logistics responsibilities on their manufacturing partners here in China, our Five Star Express service offers a fast and reliable transit schedule to keep supply chains running smoothly."

Horizon envisions expanding the inland express network to other US locations next year.

In addition to offering customers a trans-Pacific import alternative, Horizon believes the new Five Star Express service will allow the carrier to better accommodate an expanding military presence in Guam, where trade is expected to grow significantly in coming years.

Horizon is the nation's largest Jones Act carrier, operating a fleet of 20 leased or owned US-flag containerships and five port terminals which link the continental United States with Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, Micronesia and Puerto Rico.

Portland Port Will Pay to Retain Inland Cargo During Shutdown of Rivers

The governing board for the Oregon-state Port of Portland has approved a plan to subsidize truck and rail shipments from inland Columbia and Snake River ports while key locks on the river are closed for 16 weeks starting in December.

Currently the cheapest route for upland exporters to reach Portland is via barge along the two rivers, each which feature lock systems set to be closed during the four-month period. The locks at The Dalles, John Day and Lower Monument dams are set to be replaced by the US Army Corps of Engineers during the closure.

To prevent the affected exporters from bypassing Portland and shipping straight to the ports of Tacoma or Seattle, Portland officials plan to pay upland exporters $400 per container to ship to Portland via rail and $250 per container to ship via truck during the locks closure. More than 2,000 containers a year are barged from inland ports through the two rivers lock systems to Portland.

"We'd like to minimize that and retain as much cargo as possible during the closure," the port's public affairs director Tom Imeson told The Columbian.

The Portland port commission agreed to allocate $800,000 to subsidize the truck and rail payments. While the payments will not cover the full cost of shipping, they would cover the savings exporters might experience by shipping to Tacoma or Seattle during the closure.

While the subsidies will help inland exporters, barge companies will see no such support. Earlier this month, one of the barge firms ann9ounced it would have to temporarily lay off 200 workers during the locks closure.

Long Beach Port Posts Impressive October Growth, Los Angeles Also Up Slightly

The major Southern California ports continued to report increased cargo traffic volumes in October compared to the same period last year, with Long Beach posting impressive across-the-board double-digit growth and Los Angeles posting more modest but solid single-digit increases.

In addition, with only two months left in the year, both ports' cumulative year-to-date volume numbers seem poised to shatter expert predictions that 2010 would see growth in the 5 percent to 10 percent range over 2009.

In October, the Port of Long Beach posted the highest single month total container volume in three years with 513,621 TEUs handled, a 35.6 percent increase over October 2009. Total loaded imports for the month increased 33.5 percent over the year-ago period to 303,168 TEUs, only the second time since November 2007 the port has seen imports rise above the 300,000 TEU level. Total loaded exports also registered impressive gains, climbing 26.3 percent over the year-ago period to 150,581 TEUs for the month.

For the first ten months of 2010, the port has handled 5,181,881 TEUs, a 24.8 percent increase over the first ten months of 2009.

Across San Pedro Bay, the Port of Los Angeles reported more modest gains in October, with a total of 682,384 TEUs moved during the month for a 5.4 percent gain compared to October 2009.

These numbers were somewhat moderated due to the fact that October 2009 was the highest single month of traffic for the port in all of 2009, even outstripping total volume numbers for some of the early months of this year.

The port also handled 349,545 in total loaded import TEUs during October, a 3.2 percent increase over the same period last year. Port officials reported that total loaded export TEUs were essentially flat in October, with 151,049 TEUs handled for a 0.3 percent increase over October 2009.

For the January to October period, Los Angeles has handled a total of 6,552,280 TEUs, a 16.9 percent increase over the first ten months of 2009.