Thursday, December 29, 2011

Port Metro Vancouver Completes First of Nine Infrastructure Projects

Canada’s Port Metro Vancouver has completed the first of nine construction projects that it says will both ease traffic congestion in the area and help the port build up its infrastructure to support increased trade with Asia.

The $24 million 41B Street overpass, which gives truckers and local commuters a crossing route to cross Deltaport Way without being delayed by long trains and truck traffic, is the first of nine projects to be completed as part of the port’s $307 million Roberts Bank Rail Corridor Program.

The RBRCP is funded by the port along with 11 other public and private partners, including the federal Transportation and Infrastructure Ministry, BNSF Railway and a number of local and regional governments.

It’s comprised of eight new overpasses and one railway siding; all nine projects are currently in various stages of development, with each expected to be finished by March 2014.

“With the completion of the 41B overpass and eventually the Roberts Bank Rail Corridor overall, we are strengthening Canada’s Asia-Pacific Gateway, while positioning the West Coast as the corridor of choice between Canada and the high-growth Asia-Pacific markets,” Ed Fast, Canada’s Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, said in a Dec. 21 statement announcing the overpass’ completion.

Port of Hueneme Hires New Director

The Oxnard Harbor District, which owns and operates the Port of Hueneme, has found a new director to replace Anthony Taormina, who stepped down in October.

His successor is Kristin Decas, 42, the director and CEO for the New Bedford Harbor Development Commission, which governs the Port of New Bedford in southeastern Massachusetts.

She was officially confirmed on a unanimous vote by the five-member Oxnard Board of Harbor Commissioners Dec. 22.

Decas, who became the HDC’s executive director in 2007, is expected to stay in her current position through January before relocating to Ventura County, California with her family.

She was the first woman to hold the Harbor Development Commission post and will break similar ground with the Oxnard district, according to an article in the Massachusetts newspaper South Coast Today.

Decas’ pay is expected to double once she starts her new job; she made $91,000 annually with the HDC, but with Oxnard is expected to earn about $180,000 annually, according to harbor board president Jess Herrera.

Taormina, who is in his late 60s, announced his resignation in April; he’d been the district’s executive director since 2006. This was his second stint in the job; he previously filled the same role for a decade, from 1985 to 1995.

About $7 billion in cargo passes annually through the Port of Hueneme, which is the sole deepwater port between Oakland and LA/Long Beach.

Environmentalists Fight Portland Dredging Plan

A Port of Portland plan to dump roughly 30,000 cubic yards of Columbia River sediment from Terminal 6 at a nearby island is up in the air due to a legal challenge this week by environmentalists and other stakeholders.

It’s the chapter latest in years-long battle over the future of underdeveloped West Hayden Island.

The port says the dredging is needed to maintain safe navigation by waterborne vessels on the Columbia River. The plan is to place the dredged sediment at an existing fill at West Hayden Island, and periodically draw upon the fill for future development.

Earlier this year, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued a ruling stating that the contaminants found in the sediment – including lead, zinc and pesticides – are below the levels of concern for both people and animals, and the DEQ authorized the fill in November.

But on Dec. 27, the Portland Audubon Society, as well as a homeowners association on West Hayden Island, filed a motion asking Multnomah County Court to intervene.

They contend that contaminants in the dredged material, even in low levels, can cause harm to wildlife, particularly birds.

The Audubon Society and others support turning the island into a nature preserve, while the port has expressed an interest in building marine terminals on 300 acres of the 826-acre island.

The court has not yet indicated whether it would issue a stay regarding the dredging.

Trucking Industry Slams New Federal Regulations

The American Trucking Associations and other industry advocates are slamming newly announced federal regulations that govern the hours long-haul drivers can be on the road, and how long they’re allowed to drive each week.

The regulations, once enforced, are expected to have at least a small effect on the work schedules of drayage truckers who haul goods between West Coast ports and other regions of the US and Canada.

Under the new rules, which were announced Dec. 22 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, truckers can’t drive more than 11 hours in a single day, nor be on the road more than 70 hours a week. Under the current rules, drivers can work up to 82 hours within a seven-day period.

The new rules also decree that two days a week, drivers cannot start their shifts between 1 am and 5 am. It’s this particular provision that has raised the ire of trucking industry advocates, particularly since a number of drivers prefer to work early to beat traffic, particularly in California, where traffic snarls are frequent on freeways that service the ports.

“It makes no sense to impose rules that will force more trucks onto the roads at peak drive times thus raising the risk of crashes and increasing congestion and emissions from all vehicles,” Michael Campbell, executive vice president and CEO of the California Trucking Association, said in a statement.

Commercial truck drivers and companies have to comply with the final rule by July 1, 2013, according to the FMCSA. Companies that break the 11-hour driving limit rule by three or more hours could be fined $11,000 per offense. Drivers themselves could face civil penalties of up to $2,750 per offense.

The American Trucking Associations has also slammed the regulations, saying they would likely increase the risk of accidents. According to the ATA, the largest percentage of truck-involved crashes takes place between 6 am and noon.
This, according to the organizations, means the new rules would put more trucks on the road during the statistically riskiest time of the day.

“This rule will put more truck traffic onto the roadways during morning rush hour, frustrate other motorists and increase the risk of crashes,” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said in a statement.

“By mandating drivers include two periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. as part of a ‘restart’ period, FMCSA is assuring that every day as America is commuting to work, thousands of truck drivers will be joining them, creating additional and unnecessary congestion and putting motorists and those professional drivers at greater risk,” Graves said.

But US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement that the new rules will help protect drivers.

“Trucking is a difficult job, and a big rig can be deadly when a driver is tired and overworked,” he said. “This final rule will help prevent fatigue-related truck crashes and save lives.”

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Asian Shipping Lines Form Strategic Alliances

Five shipping lines, including Asia’s largest, announced Dec. 27 that they’ve formed an alliance to provide new weekly shipping routes around the world.

Evergreen Line, Hanjin Shipping, Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha and Yang Ming Line say they’re joining forces with Asia’s biggest shipping company, China Cosco, to offer 12 routes between Europe and the Mediterranean.

The cost and resource-sharing pact is expected to go forward during the second quarter of 2012. No West Coast lines are currently expected to be affected.
Last week, six Asia-based shipping lines revealed they’ve formed a pact to deploy new routes from the Far East; however, like this week’s newly-announced alliance, none of the routes is expected to involve the North American West Coast.

The so-called G6 Alliance, which would be among the largest such arrangements in the world, consists of APL, Hapag-Lloyd AG, Hyundai Merchant Marine, Mitsui OSK Lines, Nippon Yusen Kaisha and Orient Overseas Container Line.

The G6 says it expects to jointly deploy nine services from the Far East to northern Europe and the Mediterranean as a way to increase efficiency and become more competitive against industry giants like the world’s largest shipping company, Maersk Line.

“The nine joint services will offer more frequent departures with daily sailings and fast transit times,” the companies said in a Dec. 20 joint statement. “The schedule includes multiple weekly calls at Singapore, South China, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Rotterdam, Hamburg and Southampton.”

More than 90 ships are expected to cover over 40 ports starting in March or April of 2012, according to G6 member Hapag-Lloyd, and include deployment of the latest vessels with capacities of up to 14,000 TEU.

The new alliances come on the heels of another agreement forged earlier this month, when world’s second and third-largest shipping lines, Mediterranean Shipping and CMA-CGM, respectively, agreed to join forces on key global trade routes.

However, according to OOCL head of corporate planning Steven Ng, the G6 lines had been planning their alliance for some time, and its formation was not in response to the Mediterranean/CMA-CGM arrangement.

Longview ILWU Member Beats Assault Charge

An International Longshore and Warehouse Union member has been found not guilty of assaulting the manager of a grain terminal during a July 22 protest at the Port of Longview.

A jury last week found that Shelly Ann Porter, 39, of Longview, was lawful in her use of force in slapping the hand of EGT grain terminal manager Gerry Gibson. During the trial, which ended Dec. 19, Porter had defended her action by saying she committed it to prevent Gibson from taking her picture against her will.

The trial was the first in series that’s expected to take place in the aftermath of multiple labor actions conducted in July and September at the EGT terminal. The protests were part of a long struggle between the terminal operator and union over labor issues.

The union says its contract with the port requires that the 25 to 35 jobs inside the terminal must go to unionized labor. The company, however, says its lease agreement with the port does not specify ILWU labor. It employs members of a different union.

Over 200 longshore workers and supporters have been arrested or received summonses to appear on misdemeanor charges related to the various protests, including malicious mischief and disorderly conduct.

On Dec. 12, Judge Ron Marshall issued a written ruling declaring that there’s enough evidence to move forward with the trespassing trials of 45 longshore workers and supporters for incidents that occurred when protesters blocked incoming trains during the Sept. 7 and 21 demonstrations.

Most cases in the July protests are set for trial in Cowlitz County District Court in early 2012.

In addition to the dozens of arrests, the union was fined over $300,000 by the federal government for blocking of trains and alleged property damaged caused during three September protests.

The union is appealing the fines.

Port of Seattle Monthly Traffic Still Falling

Containerized traffic at the Port of Seattle fell 0.8 percent last month compared with November 2010, according to newly released data. This makes the seventh straight month that traffic was down compared to the same month the year prior.

From May through September of this year, total traffic dropped by double digits each month compared with the same month the year before, before a dip of just 6.6 percent in October.

Relatively speaking, a 0.8 percent drop last month at the port could be seen as good news compared with most of the year. A total of 170,104 TEUs moved through the port in November, compared to 171,546 in 2010.

Imports rose 2.1 percent year-to-year last month, but it wasn’t enough to offset a downward trend for the year, as for the year-to-date, imports are down 8.8 percent compared with the same 11 months in 2010.

For the year to date, Seattle has seen 1.87 million containers so far; in 2010, 1.98 million containers traveled through the port during the first 11 months of the year.

The 1.8 percent year-to-year decrease is mainly due to a drop in exports, which fell 6.1 percent compared to November 2010 and have fallen 5.5 percent overall compared with the same 11 months last year.

By comparison, a total of 1.36 million cargo containers moved through Washington state’s second largest seaport, the Port of Tacoma, through the first 11 months of 2011. The number represented a 3.2 percent increase over the 1.32 million that passed through Tacoma docks during the same period last year.

Bomb Scare Temporarily Halts Port of LA Traffic

An investigation has been launched into an incident where a suspicious cargo container caused traffic at a Port of Los Angeles cargo terminal to be halted for about five hours last week.

Authorities were called around 3:30 pm on Dec. 21 after a container with the word “bomb” spray painted on it in two places was found aboard the Singapore-flagged APL Belgium cargo vessel while docked at Pier 300.
Port police, U.S. Customs officials and the Los Angeles police and fire departments all responded to the incident, and all loading and unloading at the terminal was temporarily suspended while the ship’s 20-person crew was evacuated.

The suspect container was eventually removed from the ship and inspected. No explosives or other suspicious materials were found. Normal operations resumed at the terminal sometime after 9 pm.

Port spokesman Philip Sanfield said the vessel had originated in Vietnam and stopped at the Port of Oakland before arriving at the APL terminal in Los Angeles last week.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Clean Ports Act Introduced in US Congress

Legislation that would give local and regional ports across the US the autonomy to implement programs that go beyond current federal mandates to reduce diesel emissions has been introduced for consideration in the US Senate.
The Clean Ports Act of 2011, which was submitted Dec. 16 by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), was inspired in part by the respective clean trucks programs at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

“It’s time to update federal laws and allow our nation's ports to help reduce diesel emissions and improve air quality,” Gillibrand said in a statement announcing the proposed legislation.

The Clean Ports Act, which is co-sponsored by five other senators – Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) – would allow ports to impose more stringent terms and conditions of operations on drayage trucks and other diesel-powered equipment that contribute to air pollution.

Similar legislation was first proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010 by Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), but failed to pass. Earlier this year, Nadler introduced a modified version of the bill, which mirrors the Senate version and is still pending.

More than 150 business, environmental and labor groups have already lined up to support the House or Senate versions of the Clean Ports Act, including American Stevedoring Inc., the Teamsters union and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

But the legislation has been opposed by the American Trucking Associations and US Chamber of Commerce, among others. They say the bill would lead to increased costs, as trucking companies would be forced to buy newer, less-polluting vehicles and then pass the cost on to consumers.

The measure has not yet been scheduled for a vote in either the House or Senate.

Oakland City Council Rejects Port Protection Law

A resolution that would have required the city of Oakland to use stronger measures to protect the port in the future in the event of disruptions like the recent Occupy movement demonstrations, was rejected by the Oakland City Council this week.

The proposed legislation, which would have mandated that the city use any and all lawful tools at the city’s disposal to keep protesters from shutting down the port failed to move forward after half of the eight Council members – Jane Brunner, Rebecca Kaplan, Pat Kernighan and Nancy Nadal – voted not to hear it during the Dec. 20 Council meeting.

Brunner indicated during the meeting that her opposition was due to the potential cost the city would incur. She said she’d been told by Oakland police chief Howard Jordan that protecting the port during a two-day protest would cost the city about $1.5 million.

“Police really help us in this city, but they’re not the answer for a social movement,” she said.

The item needed at least six votes to move forward for full consideration by the Council because it had been placed on the agenda less than 10 days before the meeting.

Despite the failure of the proposal, Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente – who wrote the proposal with Councilwoman Libby Schaaf, a former Port of Oakland public affairs director – has said he will reintroduce the legislation at some point in the future.

The proposal was created in response to two recent protests at the port. During the Dec. 12 “Occupy the Ports” movement, where major ports along the West Coast were targeted, four of the Port of Oakland’s seven shipping terminals were blocked by protesters throughout the day.

Port officials said the disruption cost the port and its companies between $4 million and $8 million in lost productivity.

Port of Long Beach Container Volume Dips Again

A troubling trend continued for the Port of Long Beach last month as it saw double-digit decreases in both the number of loaded and empty TEUs in November compared with the same time last year.

The biggest drop was in loaded outbound containers, which fell 22 percent compared with November 2010. According to port data, about 142,600 TEUS were moved in November of last year, but the number dropped to roughly 111,000 in November 2011.

Additionally, the number of loaded inbound containers fell 15 percent year-to-year, going from 274,400 in 2010 to 231,700. The number of empty TEUs transported fell by more than 17 percent, to 459,800 from 558,300.
For the year-to-date, loaded outbound containers have dropped just under 22 percent at the POLB, and the number of loaded outbound and empty TEUS moving through the port have dipped about 18 percent each.

Long Beach has moved a total of 5.5 million containers during the first 11 months of 2011, a drop of 3.3 percent compared with last year. By comparison, the adjoining Port of Los Angeles reported moving 7.2 million containers so far during the calendar year, an increase of about one percent compared with 2010.

Long Beach’s dip in cargo movement is partially due to the loss of tenant Hyundai Merchant Marine, which moved to the Port of LA in 2010.

Year-to-Date Cargo Stats Rise at Port of Tacoma

A total of 1.36 million cargo containers moved through the Port of Tacoma through the first 11 months of 2011, a 3.2 percent increase over the 1.32 million that passed through the docks during the same period last year.

Represented in that 1.36 million is a six percent increase in the number of foreign containers moved. There were more than 934,800 during the time period, compared to about 881,400 through the first 11 months of 2010, according to port data.

Full import containers were up just one percent during the time period, however, and the number of domestic containers took a dip, falling to 432, 200 this year from 443,700 during the same period last year.

Also according to port data, Tacoma handled nearly 16 million tons of cargo from January through November of this year, a six percent increase over January through November of 2010.

The port’s leading export commodity, based on tonnage, is grain. And for the 11-month period that ended in November, more than five million tons were exported through Tacoma, according to the data.

Other year-to-date cargo highlights include a 36 percent increase of auto imports, reflecting strong new auto sales in the US; a 71 percent increase in break bulk tonnage, which the port says is driven by agricultural, industrial and construction machinery exports; and a 69 percent jump in log exports.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Port of Vancouver USA Launching Rail Expansion Project

Construction is scheduled to begin Dec. 22 on an $11.28 million rail expansion project that aims to eliminate a transportation chokepoint at the Port of Vancouver USA by separating train and vehicle traffic.

The Gateway Avenue cargo overpass would be on the east side of the port’s Terminal 5 and have six train tracks running beneath it. The overpass is the latest component of the port’s $150 million, 21-phase West Vancouver Freight Access project, which has been built in phases since its 2007 launch.

The freight access project is planned to improve the ability to move freight not only through the port but also along the BNSF Railway and Union Pacific Railroad mainlines. Portions of the WVFA project include construction of a new dual carrier rail access into the port, enhancement of the port’s internal rail system, relocation of port facilities to accommodate track realignment and roadway improvements.

Among the elements of the project that have already been completed are, a $14 million Terminal 5 loop track, which was completed in June 2010; and $16 million in rail improvements completed in 2008.
Construction of the overpass, which should be finished by May 2013, is funded primarily by an $8.8 million federal grant, with the port picking up the remaining $2.48 million.

Port officials say the WVFA project is about 40 percent complete and should be finished by 2017. It’s expected to help the port generate up to 2,000 new, permanent jobs over the next five to 10 years as it increases rail capacity and current tenants expand their operations.

The port is also in negotiations to lease 218 acres of Terminal 5 land to Australia-based mining company BHP Billiton for the purpose of exporting potash to Asian countries. If an agreement can be arrived at, the new tenant could bring even more jobs to the port.

Port of Oakland Exports Continue Slide

Although imports of full and empty cargo containers both rose in November compared with the same month in 2010, it still wasn’t enough to counteract a months-long downward trend in overall TEU movement at the Port of Oakland.

The port moved a grand total of 199,775 TEUs last month, a 0.9 percent decrease from the same period last year. The largest reason, however, was a 19.4 percent drop in empty cargo container exports compared with November 2010. In all other categories – full exports, full imports and empty imports – the port saw increases of 0.1, 2.0 and 6.6 percent, respectively.

November was the fifth consecutive month and eighth out of 11 months so far this year that the export of empty containers was down at Oakland. Last month, however, was the least steep drop from the same month last year, however. In four of the eight months with negative growth – April, May, July and September – the percentage drop was more than 30 percent compared to the equivalent month in 2010.

For the calendar year to date, exports of empties are down 22.5 percent from 2010. This has resulted in a grand total of only 0.5 percent growth overall year-to-year at the port, despite full exports reaching 909,231 for the year – a 4.3 percent increase – and imports rising to 264,519 during the 11-month period, a 27.4 percent increase.

For the year so far, imports of full containers have dropped to 734,814 containers, a relatively modest 0.3 percent decrease from the first 11 months of 2010.

Port of LA Releases APL Terminal Expansion Study

The Port of Los Angeles and US Army Corps of Engineers on Dec. 16 released a draft environmental impact study regarding potential expansion of the port’s second-largest container terminal.

The proposed project at Pier 300’s APL container terminal would involve renovation and expansion of the current 291-acre facility to 347 acres. It calls for the development of 1,250 feet of new wharf and 41 acres of backland at berths 302-306. Among the proposed features are 12 new cranes and shore-side electrical power facilities.

The draft report assesses the proposed improvements and projected container throughput under the current lease term with APL that expires in 2027, as well as the environmental impacts and identifies mitigation measures that meet state and federal regulations.

The public review period for the document is from Dec. 16, 2011 to Feb. 17, 2012. During this time the port accepts written comments and will conduct a public meeting at 6 pm Jan. 19 at the Port of Los Angeles Administration Building to present its findings.

After the public review period, a final version of the environmental report that includes the additional comments from the various agencies and individuals is prepared, and then the document is submitted to state and federal agencies for review and a final decision on whether or not to approve the recommendations within.

Port of Long Beach Receives $17 Million Rail Project Grant

The US Department of Transportation has awarded a $17 million grant to the Port of Long Beach to help fund a rail track improvement project that’s expected to allow for a shift of cargo carriage to trains from trucks.

As part of the $66 million Green Port Gateway, which is slated to begin construction in 2012, 16,400 new feet of track would be laid to relieve a rail chokepoint at the Ocean Boulevard overcrossing near the 710 Freeway, according to the port.

“This project will not only bring jobs, which are critical during these tough economic times, but also enhance both our region’s and the nation’s long-term economic competitiveness by improving the port’s rail system,” POLB Executive Director Chris Lytle said.

The gateway’s expected to eliminate about 2.3 million truck trips by 2035 from local roadways by improving rail transportation in and out of the port complex. The reduced truck trips would theoretically help alleviate traffic congestion and cut air pollution.

The project’s part of the larger San Pedro Bay Ports Rail Enhancement Program, which involves several inter-related projects by the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles and the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Judge Denies Motions to Dismiss Longview Trespassing Charges

A district court judge in Washington has rejected legal motions to dismiss criminal trespassing charges resulting from two protests in September at the Port of Longview’s EGT grain terminal.

On Dec. 12, Judge Ron Marshall issued a written ruling declaring that there’s enough evidence to move forward with trials the trials of 45 longshore workers and supporters for incidents that occurred when protesters blocked incoming trains during demonstrations on September 7th and September 21st.

Attorneys for union members had argued in Cowlitz County District Court during a November 30th hearing that the dockworkers’ actions were protected under the US constitutional amendment protecting the right to assemble and that the port didn’t clearly identify which areas were off-limits during the protests.

Judge Marshall was not convinced that the charges didn’t have merit, however, and decided a jury would best decide the matter. The defendants have all been charged with trespassing.

Almost two-dozen people were arrested on the misdemeanor charges during the Sept. 7 demonstration alone, which included a four-hour standoff where about 300 dockworkers and supporters stood on the railroad tracks below an overpass and blocked a mile-long train bound for the port’s EGT terminal.

In addition to the arrests, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union was fined more than $300,000 by the federal government for blocking of trains and alleged property damage caused during the protests. The union is appealing the fines.

The protests were part of a long struggle between the terminal operator and union over labor issues. The union says its contract with the port requires that the 25 to 35 jobs inside the terminal must go to unionized labor.

The company, however, says its lease agreement with the port does not require ILWU labor.

Hyundai Merchant Marine to Partner with LA Port on New Mega Terminal

California United Terminals has reached an agreement to help build and occupy Pier 500, a 200-acre terminal planned for the southeastern edge of the Port of Los Angeles. Hyundai Merchant Marine, which owns California United and imports and exports goods to and from South Korea, announced the deal Dec. 13 in conjunction with the City of Los Angeles after Hyundai officials met with LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

“Partnerships like this are what we need to support local businesses, create new jobs, and retain the Port of Los Angeles’ title as the nation's number one shipping container port,” Villaraigosa said. “I am proud of the fact that Hyundai Merchant Marine has confidence in our relationship and our port.”

Pier 500 would cost more than $1 billion to complete and consist of a peninsula atop material along the south side of Pier 400. It would include automated devices to handle containers, as well as an on-dock rail system for trains to be loaded.

Even with a contract in place, however, the Pier 500 project still has to undergo the lengthy permitting and environmental review processes. It’s expected to take up to 10 years before the project is built and operational.

Currently, California United subleases 98 acres from APM Terminals at Pier 400, which is on Terminal Island, the area that connects the LA and Long Beach harbors. Before that, Hyundai was a tenant at the Port of Long Beach, but left in the last year after failing to reach an agreement with another tenant, OOCL, regarding the sharing of the terminal that will result from the under-construction Middle Harbor project.

Port of LA Sees Record Growth in Export Volumes

For the second straight month, loaded exports have set a record at the Port of Los Angeles, according to figures released Dec. 15.

During November, 195,877 TEUs of loaded export containers moved through the port, an increase of 15 percent compared with the same month in 2010. During the first 11 months of 2011, exports have already surpassed 2010 volumes, which had been the previous record year for exports. The port says it’s on pace to export more than two million TEUs during the current calendar year.

Additionally, the number of loaded inbound containers moving through LA rose over six percent last month compared with the same period last year, to 354,313 from 333,710. Total container traffic during the month amounted to a 4.07 percent year-over-year rise, to 694,108 TEUs this November, from the 666,970 that were moved during the same month in 2010.

The news isn’t all great, however. During the first 11 months of the calendar year, TEU traffic rose at the Port of LA by just 71,791 containers from the year before – a total 0.99 percent, according to the port.

LA-Long Beach Ban of Pre-2007 Drayage Trucks Nears

As of Jan. 1, drayage trucks with engines that were built prior to 2007 will be barred from service that the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex. The ban is one of the last steps in the ports’ Clean Trucks Program, which has progressively barred older, more polluting trucks over the past three years.

The first ban was enacted Oct. 1, 2008, barring trucks with 1988 or older engines. On Jan. 1, 2010, the ports banned 1993 and older trucks. The final ban is expected to take about 280 container trucks off port roads.

LA and Long Beach both estimate that 98 percent of trucked container moves at the port complex are currently performed by rigs with 2007 or newer engines.

As of the start of the 2012, all 11,000 drayage trucks servicing the two ports will be 2007 or newer models. Also, an additional 800 older non-container trucks will be purged from the ports’ drayage registries and barred from doing business at the ports, according to the Port of Long Beach.

“We helped replace more than 10,000 pollution spewing trucks with newer, less polluting ones and the bottom line is that our communities can breathe better,” Long Beach Harbor Commission President Susan E. Andersen Wise said in a statement. “Everyone at the port can be proud of this accomplishment and we are grateful to all our partners in the trucking industry and the environmental community who helped us get here.”

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Best Practices: Diving and Salvage

Diving Risk Management and Technology
Working on around or under water is inherently risky, to the personnel performing the work as well as the environment, but with the proper preparation, the right equipment and an attention to safety, those risks can be minimized.

Avoiding Contaminant Risk
Though contaminated water diving is not new to commercial divers, it is probably reasonable to say there is increasing awareness of the potential risks it represents. While advancing technologies such as ROV’s have played a major role in reducing the risks to divers by decreasing the time of exposure to contaminates, many operations still require diving. Though diving continues to be dangerous, steps can be taken to reduce exposure risks to the diver.

In theory, it would be ideal to test the water before an operation and then tailor the equipment to the specific contaminants in the water. Besides the obvious impracticality of that endeavor, we are still faced with the inherent limitations of chemical testing.

Chemical testing of the personal protective equipment of the diver has always been done on new suits, at 1 atmospheric pressure and only one chemical at a time. It is reasonable to assume that the age and condition of the suits, the pressure at which the diver is working and/or the effects of multiple chemical contaminants will affect the drysuit’s resistance to contamination. And of course, the entire system is rarely tested. Quite often, the only information available to the diving supervisors is the resistance of the drysuit material to chemical permeation. Even then the tests are run on pristine (new) fabric.

It is important to note that no one system that can protect the diver from all types of contaminants. However, by always diving a completely encapsulated system, divers can minimize their exposure to contamination. It is critical to remember that the system is only as effective as its weakest link. For example, if the diver is wearing a drysuit yet wet gloves, the potential for exposure is high. The weak link can even be in the equipment itself, including the valves, zipper and breathing system. How can those be addressed?

Diving Unlimited International, Inc. (DUI) has developed a drysuit designed for contaminated water applications in which the company addresses some of these weaknesses. The CXO (Contaminated eXtreme Operations) drysuit is made with polyurethane material, double taped seams, polyurethane waterproof zipper, contaminated water valves and field replaceable gloves, seals and attached hood. DUI is also partnering with other companies to develop innovative technologies to mechanically attach full-face masks to the suit as well as easy-to-use decontamination products and procedures for easy on-site and definitive decontamination. Minimizing cross contamination after the dive operation can be just as critical as minimizing exposure during the dive.

Safer equipment cannot replace the training and education required to dive in hazardous environments. Common sense and knowledge are necessary to evaluate the mission requirements, the environmental conditions and various risk factors including contaminated water. Thorough training combined with a fully encapsulated system is the best way to minimize risks to commercial and public safety divers.

Oil and Wreck Containment and Removal
The removal from the Columbia River of the final section of a WWII Liberty Ship Davy Crockett marks the conclusion of a carefully engineered effort to prevent more than 32,000 gallons of bunker oil from escaping into the river from the various double-bottom tanks and other holds. The vessel was believed to have been weakened by scrapping activities that likely caused it to buckle and partially sink, releasing an estimated 70 gallons of oil.

The operation involved stabilizing the vessel and containment of the pollution threat. When local facilities were unavailable for deconstruction, a sheet pile cofferdam containment was erected, allowing the vessel to be deconstructed in the water. Internally it was lined with an impermeable silt barrier and additional sorbent materials to collect any oil that escaped during the response. The project obtained all necessary environmental permits. Throughout the project, water and sediment samples have been taken to monitor the site.

During the 211-day operation, under the direction of the United States Coast Guard and unified command consisting of both Washington and Oregon Department of Ecologies, crews from the prime contractor Ballard Diving & Salvage removed 4.45 million pounds of steel and another 824,822 pounds of debris, including wire, bricks and oiled sorbent materials and 1.6 million gallons of water contaminated with oil or other hazardous waste. All recovered materials were taken off-site for proper disposal.

While demolition has been completed, crews from Ballard Diving and Salvage will continue to collect steel chunks and operate the water filtration system inside the cofferdam. Sediment cleanup inside the cofferdam will follow before the sheet pile walls are removed.

Near record river levels, high river currents due to abnormally heavy spring runoff, heavy snow and often zero visibility all created a challenging environment for the many commercial divers involved in the operation, which is estimated to cost approximately $20 million. The response is funded by monies from the National Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

Risk Management
Risk is commonly defined as exposing someone or something to danger, harm, or loss. Commercial diving is perceived to be an inherently risky profession; however, those knowledgeable within the marine industry know otherwise. The professionalism and competency of a qualified commercial diving contractor can be the difference on whether diving should be considered “risky”. The combination of safety measures created by governing agencies, internal company policies and safety programs, the development of state of the art diving equipment, and the many redundancies that have been developed elevate the standard for working underwater and further mitigate the risk factor.

The evolution of the safety standards over the last few decades has had a profound impact on the expectation of protection for all those working underwater. During operations, divers must carry a ‘bail-out’ air bottle, their umbilical cord enables physical retrieval, a separate standby air supply on the surface is kept in case of mechanical failure or contamination of a diver’s air supply – and these are just a few of the industry standard safety measures. Seattle’s Global Diving & Salvage furthers their commitment to safety through the company’s Health, Safety, Environmental, and Compliance Group, a four person team explicitly tasked with providing the company the guidance and support necessary to continually employ the safest working conditions possible.

Prior to any diving operation being undertaken a detailed Site-Specific Dive Plan is developed, which summarizes the tasks of the particular job. Tasks for a salvage job could include items such as preparing the vessel, including removing loose materials, contaminates and potential pollutants. Other tasks could include identifying how to stabilize the vessel, installing the lift bags or lifting slings and preparation of the lift. Also included in a Dive Plan are the important contact information for the specific job-site, location and directions to the closest hospital, contact information for local emergency agencies and the parties involved in the operation.

Another component in the Dive Plan is the relevant “Job Safety Analysis,” commonly referred to as the JSA, which identifies the potential exposure of specific tasks and micro-activities and outlines the appropriate preventative action. In a marine construction project, if a high-pressure water jet is being used to move material from the base of a pile or wall, a JSA would consequently identify safe operation of a high pressure pump. Global Diving has developed and continues to expand a library of hundreds of JSAs, covering topics such as high-pressure water blasting, suction dredging, and concrete removal operations.

Global has an established safety culture, and over the last thirty plus years has identified that the key to risk management and personnel exposure begins with proper planning.

Alternative Risk Management
Diving as a means of getting to work has always carried a higher level of risk than any other construction activity according to the various government agencies who track the statistics. A Coastguard document, recently acquired through the Freedom of Information act, indicates total commercial diver fatalities in America from 1990 to 2010 as 428. That’s an average of more than 20 per year.

One way to minimize physical risks in a diving operation is to remove as many of those risks as possible while maintaining the required operational capability. Depending on environmental factors such as depth, visibility, current and access to the work site, a method to minimize diving risk is to use Atmospheric Diving Suits (ADS) in place of traditional soft suit diving. The Hardsuit has been in operation commercially and with several Navies (primarily for submarine rescue) since its introduction in 1986 with NO fatalities or injuries.

Phoenix International Inc. operates Hardsuit atmospheric diving systems. Used mainly in the offshore oil fields they have also performed well in dams where the system eliminates the uncertainties of using dive tables at high altitudes while minimizing the dive spread footprint. With no need of chambers and compressors they can be trucked easily to remote sites.

A cast aluminum suit, adjustable for diver height, that maintains the diver at 1 atmosphere, the Hardsuit allows the diver to travel from the surface to -1200 feet, or anywhere in between, without any of the pressure related hazards faced by an air or mixed gas diver. A combination of thrusters mounted behind the arms, controlled by footpads in the boots, and a neutral tether allows the Hardsuit diver to travel easily in the water column or on bottom while patented joint technology ensures agility and flexibility unrivalled by any previous ADS system. Life support is carried onboard with sufficient redundancy to last for 48 hours with the tether only supplying power and communications. All life support functions in the suit have onboard battery backup, and an Orcatron through-water communication system ensures contact with the surface even in the unlikely event of a tether being severed.

Not only does the ADS eliminate decompression issues, bottom time restraints, ascent rates, pneumothorax, ear squeeze, sinus problems and other pressure related concerns, but it also insulates the diver from the environment. This eliminates or minimizes risks due to marine organisms, chemical and biological contamination, infections, heat, cold and cuts or abrasions.

The combination of reduced diver risk with Hardsuit system portability make this Atmospheric Diving System a viable tool for diving risk management.

High Current Environments
Throughout the summer of 2011 divers from Associated Underwater Services (AUS) assisted in the installation of a temporary cofferdam dam in the Snoqualmie River located in North Bend, Washington, just outside of Seattle. The project was performed for Barnard Construction of Bozeman, Montana who is the prime contractor for the rehabilitation of the 100 years old Snoqualmie Falls hydroelectric facility.

The cofferdam consisted of one-cubic-yard “super sack” bags which were place individually within 100 feet of the Snoqualmie Falls, a 270 foot waterfall on the Snoqualmie River in Washington State. The proximity of the waterfall drop off, and the high and/or fluctuating current, necessitated numerous safety measures in addition to safety redundancies normally present in surface supplied diving operations.

In addition to the snap shackle that normally secures the diver’s umbilical to the diver’s harness, each diver used a man-rated carabineer from umbilical to harness. Depending on the river flow, one or two tenders per diver were used to tend the divers umbilical. Once several bags were in the river the bags themselves provided a “lee” from the current and the divers were able to secure themselves to the dam itself by holding onto the handles of the super sack bags.

Any personnel walking on the installed dam wore fall protection harness with retractable “yo-yo” safety lanyards. This included the all tenders and the diving supervisor inside the diver control station.

With the implementation of these additional safety procedures Barnard construction and AUS were able to install and remove more than 2,300 super sack bags during the summer season of 2011, despite challenging rivers conditions.

Occupy Movement Temporarily Curtails West Coast Port Traffic

The Occupy movement’s one-day action to disrupt the flow of container traffic at seaports on the West Coast of North America led to slowed, although not completely halted, cargo movement at multiple locations.

One of the most visibly affected was the Port of Oakland, North America’s third-largest seaport, where more than 1,000 marchers blocked multiple terminals at various points during the day, including two APL-run locations and a Hanjin terminal.

The Oakland protest even spilled over into the following day, as more than 100 Occupy demonstrators continued to march and attempt to block drayage truck drivers from entering and exiting terminals. No incidents of violence were reported.

Port operations in Oakland continued Tuesday “with minimal disruptions” due to still-ongoing protests, according to communications manager Robert Bernardo.

In Portland, the port shut down two terminals and police arrested two people who were found with a gun and sword.

After the early morning incident, terminals 5 and 6 were closed, and more than 300 workers were told not to report to work for the day.

Occupy Portland spokesperson Kari Koch said the two who were arrested were not part of the movement’s protest.

During the demonstration, terminals 4, 5 and 6 were targeted as part of a campaign against grain exporter EGT and SSA Marine, which is partially owned by Goldman Sachs, one of the Occupy movement’s targets.

At the Port of Seattle, 11 demonstrators were arrested on Harbor Island during a sometimes-violent mid-afternoon protest that included people throwing items at police and law enforcement pepper spraying unruly crowd members.

The total number of participants was estimated by local media at more than 500, many of whom demonstrated at terminals 5 and 18.

Although there were reports that the evening shifts at the two terminals were disrupted, the port said in a statement that the impact to cargo movement was “minimal.”

At the Port of Long Beach, heavy rain throughout the morning may have curtailed the number of demonstrators, as only an estimated 300 people showed up for a 6 am protest at Pier J, where they were met by a police blockade.

About an hour after gathering at a dock facility owned by SSA Marine, police ordered the protesters to disperse and began a long, slow process of marching in column formation toward the crowd in order to move it away from the terminal.

At least one arrest was made, but no violent incidents were reported. The protesters managed to block employee parking areas, but did not block trucks according to police. According to the port, all terminals remained open during the day and the protest had concluded by 10 am.

Occupy the Ports protests were also conducted at ports in Hueneme, California; Longview, Washington; Anchorage, Alaska; and San Diego, among other places.

US, Canada Seal Border Trade Agreement

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and US President Barack Obama have signed a series of new trade agreements – collectively called the Beyond the Border plan – that are intended to expedite the inspection and clearance of cargo arriving via ship, truck or train.

“These agreements represent the most significant step forward in Canada-US cooperation since the North American Free Trade Agreement,” Prime Minister Harper said in a statement upon the Dec. 7 announcement of the deal.

The plan allows for the two countries to more closely complement customs and security operations along the US-Canada border to expedite the crossing of goods. It reduces redundant checks performed by both customs agencies at the border and expands programs that accelerate border crossing for trusted traders and their cargo.

One of the key elements of the Beyond the Border plan is implementation of new pre-clearance policies for goods being imported from abroad to the US or Canada, meaning that goods being imported at designated ports will be cleared for customs there and won’t have to go through a second clearing at a land crossing.

The plan also includes creation of a system to electronically submit required cargo documentation to both countries; increased transparency in border fees and tariffs; and the establishment of a new strategy to expedite truck traffic between the two countries by 2014.

Under the Integrated Cargo Security Strategy, all cargo to be transported by truck would be inspected at the port where it enters the US or Canada and wouldn’t have to be checked a second time when crossing the Canada-US border.

In a statement, the Canadian Trucking Alliance, which represents about 4,500 drivers, hailed the agreement as an “historic achievement that takes meaningful steps to bring the Canada-US border into the 21st century.”

Port of Long Beach Releases Grain Export Study

The Port of Long Beach on Dec. 9 released a draft environmental impact report on a proposal to build a grain export facility at Terminal Island’s Pier T.

The proposed Total Terminals International facility would transfer grain from railcars into ocean shipping containers and export from 750,000 to 1.5 million tons of grain per year utilizing existing rail and container shipping facilities.

The proposal includes installation of a grain transloading facility on a vacant 10-acre parcel on Pier T adjacent to the existing 385-acre TTI container terminal. The proposed project would be located on the former Navy Mole, a 2-mile-long, 500-foot-wide peninsula that wraps around Long Beach Harbor’s west basin.

Existing rail lines follow the southern edge of the site and connect to other rail lines including the BNSF and the Union Pacific networks.

TTI says the project would enable the transfer of a high quality feed for cattle utilizing the existing rail and shipping infrastructure. Under the proposal, the same frequency of shipping vessels would occur, but the containers would instead transport grain to China.

Shipping vessels currently transport empty containers from Pier T.

Construction of the facility would last about 14 months, from June 2012 through July 2013.

The port hosts a public hearing to solicit comments on the document at 7 p.m. Jan. 11 at Long Beach City Hall Council Chambers, and written comments are being accepted by the port through Jan. 23. The draft document is available at

Turnover Rate for Truckload Drivers Again Rises

The turnover rate for truckload drivers at large fleets rose to 89 percent in the third quarter of 2011, the fourth consecutive quarterly increase, according to the American Trucking Associations.

The third quarter increase follows a previously reported turnover rate of 79 percent in the second quarter of the year and sets the benchmark as the highest level since the first quarter of 2008.

The ATA says large fleet truckload turnover rate is an indication of increased demand and competition for drivers.

“Due to the economic recovery, as well as regulatory factors… we are seeing the market for good, quality drivers tighten,” ATA chief economist Bob Costello said.

“As our tonnage index has shown recently, demand for freight continues to rise, so we expect the need for quality drivers to become more acute going forward,” he said. “Particularly if regulations either force current drivers out of the industry or force fleets to put more trucks on the road.”

Since bottoming out in the first quarter of 2010, the turnover rate has risen 50 percentage points and has averaged 81 percent so far this year.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Railroads, Unions Reach Contract Agreement

Two unions representing railroad engineers and dispatchers have approved new labor agreements, just days before a deadline for contract negotiations that could have resulted in a national strike against freight railroads.

The American Train Dispatchers Association and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen, which represent a combined 26,500 workers, have agreed to new contracts with the National Labor Railway Conference, which bargains on behalf of railroad companies.

The agreements were announced Dec. 2, four days before the unions’ Dec. 6 deadline for talks.

Neither side has revealed details of the arrangements, but in a statement, railroad bargaining committee chair A. Kenneth Gradia said the accords give the workers wage hikes of more than 20 percent over six years.

The unions’ membership rolls include thousands of Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Union Pacific workers who are involved in moving goods through ports in Los Angeles, Long Beach and elsewhere on the West Coast.

The NLRC had estimated that a strike could have cost the US economy about $2 billion a day. Trains carry 43 percent of the freight volume moved between US cities and a third of all US exports, according to the railroad association.

There was so much concern over the possibility of a work stoppage that the federal government had gotten involved. In October, President Obama appointed a board to try resolving the labor dispute; and in November, members of the House of Representatives were preparing to push legislation to prevent the unions from striking.

Despite the new accords, however, there is still not complete labor peace on the railways. Another union, the Brotherhood of Maintenance Way Employees, is still in negotiations with the NLRC, but has agreed to extend a so-called “cooling-off period” for negotiations from Dec. 6 to Feb. 8, after which bargaining is expected to resume.

Occupy Movement Factions Reveal Port Shutdown Plan Details

Flyers and other forms of information being distributed by members of the Occupy movement have given insight into what the loosely-knit group’s plans are for staging demonstrations at ports along the West Coast on Dec. 12.

According to Occupy LA, demonstrators will gather in Long Beach at 5 am at Harry Bridges Park on the day of the protest and then march to the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. A second march is planned for 5 pm.

Occupy Oakland members are planning to converge at the West Oakland BART station at 5:30 am, and then march to the Port of Oakland. A second march and rally is planned for the start of the port’s 5 pm swing shift.

In the Pacific Northwest, Seattle Occupiers are planning to meet at Westlake Park in downtown at 1 pm and then march to the port for a picket and blockade. Portland protesters are planning to meet at 6 am at Kelly Point Park to organize and march, then converge at the same park again at 4 pm to prepare for a “shift blockade.”

In Vancouver, British Columbia, organizers say a 12-hour shutdown is planned, starting with a noon meeting at Callister Park.

San Diego’s Occupiers plant to meet at Chicano Park in the city’s Barrio Logan area at 6 am, and then march to the port for a daylong blockade.

Occupiers in the port cities of Anchorage, Alaska and Tacoma, Washington are also planning rallies and demonstrations for Dec. 12.

All the actions are being planned without official support from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, whose leadership has said it does not condone the possible work stoppage.

However, members of the Doro-Chiba railway workers union in Japan will demonstrate on Dec. 12, according to Occupy, as a show of solidarity with the West Coast port shutdown.

They’re expected to picket a facility of Japanese grain products marketer Itochu, which is a partner in EGT, the joint venture that operates a grain export terminal at the Port of Longview.

Port of Stockton to Launch Barge Service

The Port of Stockton is starting a barge service to move containers along the Sacramento River that are too heavy for highway transit. The project is due to launch in in February 2012.

The M-580 Marine Highway, as the port is calling it, would travel between the port and Oakland. It is so named because it would be parallel to Interstate 580, the corridor that many truckers use to transport goods to and from the ports.

The barge service could potentially save shippers money in transport costs, since it would allow containers to be loaded in excess of California’s highway weight limit of 22 metric tons.

Funding for the project comes partially from the U.S. Department of Transportation. In February 2010, the port received a $13 million federal grant to buy two 140-ton mobile harbor cranes and to make needed infrastructure improvements to support the container-on-barge project.

The port has already purchased two cranes and two barges for the project; the cranes are scheduled for January delivery and the barges are scheduled to undergo modifications in early 2012 to enable them to handle cargo containers.

The port has hired Savage Companies, a Salt Lake City-based supply chain solutions business, to provide various support functions, including management, logistics, marketing and operating services. Savage says it has already begun marketing the barge service to potential customers.

The port says it also expects the route to reduce freeway traffic and help improve regional air quality. It’s estimated that about 1,600 containers per day move between the Stockton and Oakland ports along I-580, which is one of the state’s most congested freeways.

Vegetable Oil Processing Plant Planned for Stockton Port

A plant that imports and processes coconut and palm oils is in the works at the Port of Stockton. An Omaha, Nebraska-based company, Gavilon LLC, says it plans to build the facility and have it operational by mid-2013.

The port has an agreement in place to lease out nine acres out to Gavilon for up to 50 years. The initial contract is four 10 years initially, and includes four 10-year options.

According to the port, when fully operational the oil import facility would receive about 300,000 metric tons of oil annually and generate about $1 million in annual revenue.

Gavilon says it’s partnering with Singapore-based agribusiness company Wilmar International to import and process the palm, coconut and palm kernel oils to serve markets in California and neighboring areas.

Gavilon strategy and development director Alex Fox said in a statement that the partnership would bring “unique product and logistic offerings to the California market which are not available today.”

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Switching Fuels Safely: A Guide to Preventing Loss of Propulsion after Fuel Switch to Low Sulfur Distillate Fuel Oil

By Jeff Cowan

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) created regulations for vessel emissions reductions for California waters as part of its continued mission to improve air quality around the state. The new requirements came into effect in July 2009, under California Code of Regulations (CCR), Section 2299.2, Fuel Sulfur and Other Operational Requirements for Ocean Going Vessels within California Waters and 24 Nautical Miles of the California Baseline.

The regulations require that vessels burn either marine gas oil (MGO) with maximum 1.5% sulfur, or marine diesel oil (MDO) with maximum 0.5% sulfur, in their main and auxiliary engines. Following the implementation of the regulations, California witnessed a 100 percent increase in loss of propulsion (LOP) incidents within state waters during 2009. In 2010, California saw 54 LOP incidents compared to 24 in 2008 (the last full year before ARB regulations took effect).

The LOPs can be loosely categorized into six groups for ease of discussion.

Group 1
In Group 1, engine failures resulting in the LOP are due to the inability of the main engine, operating with MGO/MDO, to overcome the forces on the propeller from the forward momentum of the ship. The engine may turn over at higher RPM and initiate combustion; however, as the engine reduces speed to come to dead slow or slow astern there are not enough BTUs in the fuel to maintain engine inertia. The engine stalls with the subsequent loss of propulsion.

Similarly, a ship not getting engine starts while anchoring when an astern bell is given, typically initiates a "Failure to Start" scenario. The remedy to the lack of BTUs is to adjust the fuel rack to allow more fuel into the cylinder. This procedure cannot be done from most ship bridges but only from the Engine Control Room or from the Engine Side (manual).

Group 2
In Group 2, failures resulting in the LOP are due to problems with controlling the temperature of the MGO/MDO. Each engine has specifications as to the temperature range required to operate using either heavy fuels or lighter fuels. For example, the optimal temperature range for an engine might be 1,350 °C for a heavy fuel oil (HFO) and 400 °C for the MGO. Because heavy fuels must be heated (for the right viscosity to burn) and lighter fuels may not need to be heated, there are problems associated during the fuel oil switch over in both heating and cooling the different fuel oil systems (since the fuel oil is supplied through the same auxiliary systems). Heating an MGO/MDO may cause ‚"flashing‚" of the lighter fuel oil to vapor. The fuel injectors would not work when the fuel flashes causing a loss of power in that cylinder. Multiple cylinder flashes could result in LOP.

Group 3
In Group 3, failures resulting in a LOP are associated with the loss of fuel oil pressure to either the fuel pumps or fuel injectors. The loss of pressure could be a result of many factors including wrong control set points, use of bypass valves, inoperable equipment, inattention to operating conditions, or excessive leakage through ‚"O" rings and seals.

The problem lies with physics. Metal expands when heated and contracts when cooled. Ships evolved to burn the heaviest and cheapest fuel available, HFO. To utilize the HFO on ships, the fuel is heated to as much as 1,500 °C to get it to flow. In comparison, MGO/MDO fuel is burned at ambient engine room temperature or 400 °C and no heating is required. Once the cooler MGO is introduced into the fuel pumps and injectors, they contract causing a loss of fuel pressure at the pump with marginal spray pattern and leaks at the injector.

One of the other issues using MGO in an engine that has successfully run HFO for some time is viscosity. Typically the engine manufacturer's recommended minimum viscosity is 2 centistokes (cst). Fuel viscosity specifications at 400 °C temperature for MGO/MDO range from 1.5 to 6.5 cst. The MGO loaded in California has a viscosity of 2 to 3 cst at 400 °C. When the temperature of the MGO is increased into an already warm engine that just ran on HFO, the heat lowers the viscosity causing the fuel machinery parts to bind or break. Keep in mind that the cylinder temperature is usually maintained at 800 °C and this heat migrates into the fuel lines as well.

Unsurprisingly, the introduction of distillate fuel into the fuel system causes leaks – sometimes excessive leaks. With MGO/MDO there is a very real risk of external combustion or fire. Replacing "O" rings at the manufacturer's recommended intervals has proven not to be adequate. For example, in the case of injector "O" rings on a particular ship, the manufacturer suggested interval for replacing fuel injector "O" rings is 10,000 hours. The engineers on this ship found an interval of 2,000 hours was more appropriate to change injector "O" rings to prevent potential fire hazards. These fuel leaks tend to disappear when engines are switched back to the heavier fuel oil.

Group 4
In Group 4, failures resulting in LOP are associated with the loss of fuel oil pressure or the loss of flow in sufficient quantities to maintain operation. Strainers and filters, or the lack of a strainer and filter, contribute to clogging or restrictions in the fuel oil supply system.

The MGO/MDO acts as a solvent causing a de-coking effect, clogging fuel filters. This is due to burning a lower grade of HFO that has excessive amounts of asphaltenes. These asphaltenes adhere to the inside of the fuel lines and assorted other fuel components. When MGO is introduced the asphaltenes are released, collecting in the fuel filters/strainers.

Group 5
In Group 5, failures resulting in the Loss of Propulsion appear to be associated with problems in either the starting air system or the control air systems. Problems with starting air systems are not fuel related and only need to be mentioned as a cause of LOPs.

Group 6
In Group 6, failures resulting in the Loss of Propulsion appear to be associated with mechanical failure not associated with other groups.

Having defined the groups of LOPs, the intent of this guide is to reduce the Loss of Propulsion incidents occurring within the state of California boundaries. The time to deal with problems aboard ship is either miles out at sea or alongside the dock. Not in Maneuvering/Pilotage waters!

Many of the LOP incidents that occurred in 2010 involved "First Timers" (ships making first entry into California waters since July 2009). Since California sees one or two first timers per week, based upon my knowledge and experience, the Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) decided to provide suggestions for ships working with low sulfur distillate fuel oil (LSDFO).

Initial Entry
For vessels intending to enter the California ARB Emissions Control area for the first time since July 2009, I recommended and California advises the crew should conduct a “Trial” (actual) fuel switching within 45 days prior to entering California waters. Run main and auxiliary engines no less than four (4) hours on low sulfur distillate fuel (LSDFO). This will help identify any specific change over or operational issues or problems.

If ships perform a trial fuel switch, the operators will be more able to avoid problems that could occur versus learning underway upon entering California waters and not knowing the sundry issues. Forty-five days was chosen based upon an understanding of containership operations, where schedule is everything. Somewhere within that schedule there is always time to perform a trial maneuvering and 45 days should allow the ship's personnel to experience the fuel switchover and document remedial fixes, if any, mitigating Groups 1,2,3,4.

Repeat and Initial Entry
Part One- Training: Within 45 days prior to entering the waters of California it is strongly advised ship engineers should exercise:
A. Operating main engine from the engine control room.
B. Operating main engine from engine side (local).
Crew should become familiar with "Failure to Start" procedures while maneuvering and establish corrective protocols for ‚"Failure to Start" incidents.

Following, the "Perfect practice ensures proper performance" creed, if the bridge and engineering crew is practiced in the event of a "Failure to Start" scenario, they will perform satisfactorily when called upon in the event of a real failure. This is especially important in maneuvering/pilotage waters.

The air and fuel in the start sequence can be adjusted in the engine control room and at engine side. These items cannot be adjusted from the bridge on most ships; hence, the provision of the advisory/guide establishes protocols for dealing with the “Failure to Start” scenario as outlined in LOP Groups 1 and 2.

Too many ships have run out of "start air" because they continue to initiate starts from the bridge where control of the fuel rack and amount of air for starting cannot be adjusted.

Part Two- While Underway after Fuel Switching Completed (HFO to LSDFO): Ships should ensure one of the senior engineering officers is in the engine control room while the ship is in pilotage waters to be able:
1. To operate the ship main engine from the engine control room.
2. To operate the ship main engine from engine Side (Local).
Special Attention should be paid to International Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) Rest Requirements.

While interviewing Chief Engineers (CE), I found they were putting in excessive hours. CE's are not subject to the STCW rest requirements as they are non-watchstanders. However the CE is human and subject to fatigue just as junior officers. It has been proven too many times that fatigue can cause errors in judgment which could contribute to a LOP incident.

Usually the Senior Engineers consist of the CE and Second Engineer on internationally flagged ships while CE and First Assistant Engineer (on US flag ships) have the most experience with the ship engine operation. If the CE is comfortable with anyone substituting on duty, it is usually the other Senior Engineer. Hopefully, a substitution will allow the CE some rest. Some ships have the CE down in the engine room for the fuel switchover, then the CE retires for rest while assigning the other Senior engineer to standby in the Engine Room, mitigating Groups 1 through 6.

Part Three- Engine Guidelines: The following Engine Advisory Guidelines were taken from the US Coast Guard MSA 03-09 with additions and clarifications from industry partners.
  • Consult engine and boiler manufacturers for fuel switching guidance.
  • Consult fuel suppliers for proper fuel selection. Exercise strict control when possible over the quality of the fuel oils received.
  • Consult manufacturers to determine if system modifications or additional safeguards are necessary for intended fuels.
  • Develop detailed fuel switching procedures.
  • Establish a fuel system inspection and maintenance schedule.
  • Ensure system pressure and temperature alarms, flow indicators, filter differential pressure transmitters, etc., are all operational.
  • Ensure system purifiers, filters and strainers are maintained.
  • Ensure system seals, gaskets, flanges, fittings, brackets and supports are maintained.
  • Ensure that the steam isolation valves on fuel lines, filters, heaters etc. are fully tight in closed position while running LSDFO.
  • Ensure that the fuel oil viscosity and temperature control equipment is accurate and operational.
  • Ensure detailed system diagrams are available and engineers are familiar with systems and troubleshooting techniques.
  • Ensure Senior engineers know the location and function of all automation components associated with starting the main engine.

California hopes that ships choosing to use these guidelines will alleviate some of the LOP incidents occurring within the waters of California. I believe that it will only take one LOP incident to change lawful maritime trade internationally. So on behalf of my sea-going brethren, any reduction of a Loss of Propulsion incident is one less chance of catastrophe.

Captain Jeff Cowan sailed aboard various containerships as Master, capping a 35 year seagoing career. He now works for the State of California, Office of Spill Prevention and Response where his experience at sea and onboard vessels helps California make sound recommendations to industry.

Arbitrator Orders Striking ILWU Members Back to Work

Most, but not all, of 700 dockworkers have returned to work at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach after walking off the job last week as part of a strike organized by the clerical unit of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

The members of ILWU Local 63 picketed four terminals at the ports on Dec. 2 in response to an impasse in contract negotiations that has left the union members working without a contract for 17 months.

The strike only lasted one day, however; hours after picket lines went up, an arbitrator ruled against the labor action and ordered that work resume, which it did during the 6 pm evening shift.

The union has appealed the arbitrator’s decision, according to ILWU spokesman Craig Merrilees. In the meantime, some workers continued picketing on Mon., Dec. 5. The ports’ longshoremen are bound under a separate labor agreement and not participating in the clerks’ labor actions.

The union local targeted three facilities at the Port of Los Angeles for the work stoppage: terminals used by NYK Line, Evergreen and China Shipping. At the Port of Long Beach, picketers targeted the Hanjin Shipping terminal.

The contract between the union and Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Employers Association expired July 1, 2010 and the two sides have not been able to come to an agreement on a new one since then.

One of the main sticking points cited by both sides is the implementation of new technology that could potentially result in the elimination of union jobs.
No new negotiations are currently scheduled.

Radioactive Goods Found at 2 Canadian Ports

The Canada Border Services Agency says it has intercepted more than a dozen marine containers from Asia that have tested positive for low levels of man-made radiation at two Canadian ports over the past two months.

The first container contaminated with Cobalt-60 was identified at the Port of Vancouver on Oct. 3 according to the CBSA. Since then, 19 marine containers contaminated with Cobalt-60 have been intercepted and detained at the Port of Vancouver and Port of Prince Rupert.

“Through the use of radiation detection equipment and the efforts of CBSA officers, the presence of goods contaminated with the radioactive isotope Cobalt-60 were identified and detained,” Canadian Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews said in a statement.

Cobalt-60 is a synthetic radioactive isotope used to sterilize medical equipment and also has various uses in laboratories. Cobalt-60 is known to cause cancer in people exposed to it for a lengthy period of time.

Radiation detectors were first installed at the Port of Vancouver by the federal government in 2007, and can scan up to 100 percent of incoming and outgoing containers.
The government increased radiation monitoring at the port in early 2010 over fears that terrorists could try to sneak a nuclear device into the country to detonate during that year’s Winter Olympics.

Port of Coos Bay in Negotiations for Coal Terminal

The Port of Coos Bay is in talks with a shipper regarding the possibility of bringing a coal export terminal onto its property to export anywhere from six to 10 million thermal tons of coal annually to Asian countries.

The port hasn’t publicly revealed the name of the shipping company. Port CEO Jeff Bishop has said that such a terminal could aid in the funding of other regional developments, such as improvements to the Coos Bay Rail Link.

Railroad service was recently restored to the Coos Bay area, but according to a report by Bishop, the Coos Bay Rail Link would need “huge” capital infrastructure improvements before it could accept cargo trains on anything more than a very limited capacity.

“Any projections … regarding railcar volumes are premature, especially due to the traffic capacity constraints on the Coos Bay rail line,” the report reads in part. “The rail line has finite capacity. This differentiates us from other proposed coal terminals located alongside major railroads.”

Currently, the only coal export terminal on the West Coast is in British Columbia.

Environmental group the Sierra Club has already expressed opposition to the possible terminal, saying that the addition of mile-long coal trains would have an adverse affect on vehicular traffic, plus create environmental, safety and health hazards.

The arrival of one coal train per day would create 100 ship calls per year, Bishop said.

Port of Longview Approves Landmark Budget

The Port of Longview on Dec. 2 approved a 2012 operating budget of $32.3 million, which includes a projection of over $30 million in revenue for the first time in the port’s history.

The budget calls for $16.6 million in operations spending next year, a four percent rise from 2011; as well as $2.3 million in capital expenses, including a substantial increase in longshore labor, which the port anticipates will be needed with the launch of grain exports next year.

The port expects to finish 2012 with $4.5 million in net income, which it plans to put in reserves help pay for capital projects like buying new terminal equipment.

About $1.57 million in property taxes is expected to be collected next year; just last month the port commission voted to cut the property tax levy to 22 cents per $100,000 valuation, a decrease from the current 39 cents per $1,000. For a home valued at $150,000, the owner will pay $33 annually in property taxes to the port, as opposed to $59 in property taxes in 2011.

The budget also includes three percent raises for the port’s top three salary-earning employees, executive director Ken O’Hallaren, facilities director Norm Krehbiel, and terminal operations director Doug Averett, who are all slated to make between $110,000 and $135,000 in 2012.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Judge Considers Dropping ILWU Criminal Charges

International Longshore and Warehouse Union lawyers have asked a judge to drop criminal charges against several dozen dockworkers who blocked a train from entering a Port of Longview terminal during a September protest.

Attorneys for union members argued in Cowlitz County District Court on Nov. 30 that the dockworkers’ actions were protected under the US constitutional amendment protecting the right to assemble.

“They were doing something very important to Americans – engaging in First Amendment action,” ILWU attorney Neil Fox told district court judge Ron Marshall during the hearing.

The lawyers also asserted that the port did not clearly identify which areas were off-limits during the protest.

Almost two-dozen people were arrested on misdemeanor charges during the Sept. 7 demonstration, which included a four-hour standoff where about 300 dockworkers and supporters stood on the railroad tracks below an overpass and blocked a mile-long train bound for the port’s EGT terminal.

In addition to the arrests, the union was fined more than $300,000 by the federal government for blocking of trains and alleged property damaged caused during a total of three protests that took place during September. The union is appealing the fines.
The protests were part of a long struggle between the terminal operator and union over labor issues.

The union says its contract with the port requires that the 25 to 35 jobs inside the terminal must go to unionized labor. The company, however, says its lease agreement with the port does not require ILWU workers.

During the Nov. 30 hearing, Marshall didn’t indicate when he might issue a ruling, but said a lack of proof by prosecutors may play a part in his decision.
“We’re still in flux in terms of whether the state has admissible evidence to prove a crime,” he said.

West Coast Ports Bracing for Possible Occupy Shutdown

Ports up and down the West Coast say they are preparing for the possibility of a mass demonstration later this month, even as the union representing longshore workers says it won’t support the protest.

Officials with the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland and elsewhere all say they are mapping out strategies to deal with the expected demonstration, which is planned for Dec. 12 by the Occupy movement.

The movement, which protests wealth inequality, already succeeded in a port protest on Nov. 2, when thousands of demonstrators managed to shut down the Port of Oakland for about four hours.

Now the movement says it will expand its actions to include ports from Vancouver, Canada down to San Diego during a one-day action, starting at 5 am on a Monday. If it transpires, the effect could be temporarily devastating, particularly at LA/Long Beach: the port complex handles an estimated $1 billion in imports and exports daily.

Occupy has specifically said it is targeting terminal operators EGT and SSA, because of perceived mistreatment of workers in South America and of ‘gross exploitation’ of port truckers.

“EGT … is Wall Street on the waterfront,” Barucha Peller of the West Coast Port Blockade Assembly of Occupy Oakland said. “This is our coordinated response against the (top) one percent (of the wealthy). On Dec. 12, we will show our collective power through pinpointed economic blockade.”

But despite previously expressing written and verbal support for the movement, ILWU leadership says it does not authorize dockworkers’ participation in the planned shutdown because it is by a third-party group and has not been vetted by the union.

Port of Grays Harbor Vehicle Exports on Record Pace

The Port of Grays Harbor says it’s on pace to set a new record for the number of vehicles exported this year. The increase, the port says, is due to a growing demand in Asia for US-made vehicles.

Through October, more than 30,000 North American-made vehicles have been shipped through the port, already surpassing the roughly 21,000 that passed through during all of 2010.

The port estimates it’s on pace to see about 37,000 cars shipped out during the year, with the prime destination being China, which has become the world’s largest automobile market. Demand for North American-made cars, particularly Chryslers, has exploded in the country in recent years and is expected to rise 10 percent in 2012.

The port’s export business, which was launched in 2009, is handled by Pasha Automotive Services, which receives the vehicles after they’re delivered to the port via BNSF and Union Pacific railways from Midwest assembly plants.

Port of Seattle Budget to Rise in 2012

The Port of Seattle Commission has formally approved a 2012 budget that includes increases in the amounts of both operating revenue and operating expenses.

The budget, approved by the commission at its Nov. 22 meeting, includes an operating expenses increase to $309.7 million, an 8.4 percent jump over the current year. It also includes an operating revenue rise to $518.1 billion, up 5.1 percent compared to 2011.

Operating revenue for the port’s real estate division is expected to grow by about two percent compared to 2011 budget levels, according to budget data, as third party and lease revenue rises slightly as the hospitality and real estate markets continue to recover.

CEO Tay Yoshitani said that in 2012 the port expects an increase in cruise passengers as well as a new lease at Terminal 106 to increase operating revenues 2.5 percent relative to 2011.

The addition of a Disney Cruise Line homeport ship is anticipated to increase passenger volumes by about 10 percent, he said.

Critical goals for 2012 listed by port include increasing the amount of cargo freight and number of passengers moving through the freight and passenger terminals, as well as developing a stewardship plan for key division assets, such as the SeaTac Airport, which the seaport operates.

The budget also allocates over $390 million for capital projects, including the Alaskan Way viaduct replacement project and South Park Bridge.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fidley Watch: Eastern Drift

From Internet news provider comes an update on the debris washed out to sea by the March Japanese tsunami: It’s headed our way.

After months of floating across the Pacific Ocean, debris from the devastating tsunami that hit Japan on March 11 has turned up exactly where scientists predicted it would, 3,000 miles from Japan. The earthquake and ensuing tsunami washed millions of tons of debris into the Pacific. Scientists at the International Pacific Research Center at the University of Hawaii at Manoa have been trying to track the trajectory of this debris, which ranges from pieces of fishing vessels to TV sets.

For nearly six months, the scientists were relying on a computer model of ocean currents to speculate where the tsunami debris might end up. The new sightings are backing up the model, showing debris in places where the model predicted. In September, a Russian sailing ship, the STS Pallada, found an array of unmistakable tsunami debris on its homeward voyage from Honolulu to Vladivostok.

The tall ship Pallada is a 354-foot, steel-hulled training ship built in 1989 and operated by the Navigation Institute of Dalrybvtuz (the Russian Far Eastern State Fisheries University). Used as a seamanship training ship to train cadets for the Russian merchant fleet, the Pallada carries more than a hundred cadets and is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the fastest sailing ship in the world, capable of reaching speeds in excess of 18 knots.

Pallada was on the last leg of a US West Coast tour and headed back home when she encountered the debris field coming the other way. Soon after passing Midway Islands on September 22nd, crewmembers aboard the Pallada spotted a surprising number of floating items including a TV set, a refrigerator and other home appliances, as well as a 22-foot fiberglass fishing boat from the area of Japan hardest hit by the tsunami.

For the next five days, according to Natalia Borodina, information and education mate of the Pallada, the crew sighted “every day things like wooden boards, plastic bottles, buoys from fishing nets (small and big ones), an object resembling a wash basin, drums, boots, other wastes. All these objects are floating by the ship.”

The exact location of some of the now widely scattered debris allows scientists to make more accurate projections about where the debris might go and when it might arrive. The first landfall on Midway Islands is anticipated this winter. What misses Midway will continue toward the main Hawaiian Islands, where it is expected to hit in two years, and then on to the West Coast of North America in three years.

Good news from Ms. Borodina for future recipients of the tsunami trash: The radioactivity level of the debris is normal. “We’ve measured it with the Geiger counter,” she says.

Chris Philips, Managing Editor

Occupy Movement Plans Port Action

The Occupy movement, which has staged sit-ins at cities across the US, says it is now planning to stage a Dec. 12 shutdown of all West Coast seaports.

“We’re shutting down these ports because of the union busting and attacks on the working class by the one percent: the firing of port truckers organizing at SSA terminals in LA; the attempt to rupture (International Longshore and Warehouse) union jurisdiction in Longview, Washington,” the protesters said in a statement released Nov. 28.

The ILWU, however, says no decision has been made regarding whether to support such an action.

ILWU President Robert McEllrath said although the union shares the Occupiers’ concerns and agrees with its overall message, no vote has been taken by the unions’ membership on whether to support the proposed shutdown, which would begin at 5 a.m. at the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland and other West Coast port cities.

The Occupy movement has accused the union of backing off its previously-expressed support.

“President McEllrath on Oct. 5 publicized his ‘solidarity with Occupy Wall Street’ statement. But now the ILWU International officers are contradicting themselves,” reads a statement that was sent to port workers by the Occupy movement. “ILWU is bottom up, not top down. Occupy’s enemies … are ILWU’s enemies, too.”

On Nov. 2, the Occupy movement was successful in shutting down nighttime operations at the Port of Oakland for a few hours when a crowd estimated at over 4,000 walked from the city’s business district to the port.

Port of Tacoma to Dredge Blair Waterway

The Port of Tacoma says it expects to seek bids in December for a plan to deepen the water around one of its main containership terminals. The action is being taken, according to the port, to counter an increase in sediment from the nearby Puyallup River, which has been collecting along piers 3 and 4.

According to the port’s lease with containership operator “K” Line, there’s a mandated water depth of at least 51 feet at the terminal during low tide so that ships can tie up. But with that stipulation not currently being met, “K” Line has adjusted its containership schedules so that its ships usually call on Husky Terminal during higher tides.

The dredging activities, which are expected to eliminate silt from a half-mile long, 150 foot wide area at a cost of about $1.5 million, are due for completion by mid-February, according to the port.

The dredged sediment and other materials are expected to be placed in either on land or a deep-water disposal area.

Three Super-Sized Cranes Arrive in Seattle

The Port of Seattle has become the new home for three “Super Post-Panamax” container cranes.

The cranes, which are made to handle the largest vessels now in existence, were brought through Elliott Bay on Nov. 28, and are expected to allow the port to expand the reach of unloading container ships to the 24 container width maximum.

They were built in Shanghai, China and transported to the Pacific Northwest aboard a ship specially modified to transport unusually large cargo.

The cranes are the first to come to the port since an August deal with SSA Terminals, under which the company has to buy more of its own cranes in exchange for no longer having to pay the port a fee to maintain and operate port-owned cranes.

Under the agreement, SSA, which operates out of Terminal 18, has to buy more of its own cranes over the next five years. In addition to the three just-arrived cranes, another three are expected to arrive by 2013.

Although the port’s expected lose over $5 million in revenue in the next five years under the deal, it says it will ultimately save at least $232,000, since it won’t have to pay for any of the scheduled crane replacements during that time.