Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ports Best Practices: Remaining Competitive

In order to compete with local as well as international neighbors, West Coast ports are continuing to invest in infrastructure. At the same time, new ways of doing business within the ports are streamlining the supply chain and offering customers increased access to information about their cargo.
Remaining Competitive at the Port of Everett
With competitive pressures from neighboring countries, it is imperative that significant investments are made in maintaining an efficient, effective and competitive U.S. marine transportation system.

In recognition of the intrinsic link between cargo and infrastructure, the Port of Everett, Washington has embarked on a deliberate re-capitalization effort for its naturally deep water shipping terminals. Over the last five years, the Port has invested more than $50 million in terminal infrastructure. Some projects include building a new shipping facility to support the aerospace industry, upgrading its cargo handling capabilities (reachstackers, cranes, cargo ramps), and focusing on facility maintenance and repair. These investments have increased the Port’s cargo capacity.

In 2011, the Port will continue its infrastructure investment by constructing a 2,500-lineal-foot rail line on its terminals, install permanent lighting to accommodate various cargoes and increase safety, and continue to focus on customer service.

Rail and Lighting Improvements
In May, the Port went out to bid for the construction of the new 2,500-foot rail line. This new rail line provides operational improvements for the Port for its regular business as well. The Port actively uses rail to serve the aerospace industry, mining and oil drilling operations, transport machinery, power transformers and cement.

Increased lighting is planned for both South Terminal and Hewitt Terminal. The new lighting will increase safety and assist in security. The design of the lighting improvements takes into account the Port’s sensitivity to the adjacent residential neighborhoods.

Customer Service& Skilled Workforce
The Port of Everett has undertaken customer service initiatives to better serve its growing customer base, including personalized and proactive interfaces with customers and service providers using the Port’s marine terminals.

The Port of Everett prides itself on its skilled workforce, including the longshoremen and Port terminal operation staff. As ports continue to vie for the same cargo shipments, Everett’s good working relationship with its workforce facilitates quick, safe and efficient cargo handling.

Business Exchange Improves Rail Efficiency at the Port of Tacoma
Along with modern facilities, it takes coordination, communication, and a skilled workforce and equipment to make a port’s rail system run smoothly and efficiently. To meet the challenge, the Port of Tacoma has worked with a variety of partners to develop an additional tool called the Business Exchange.

The Business Exchange is a web-based software application that offers shared data on arrival and departure of trains and vessels to and from the Port of Tacoma. It increases the visibility within the supply chain, and provides better access to key information.

The Business Exchange was first developed in 2005 by the Port of Tacoma, BNSF Railway, Tacoma Rail, and terminal operators, and plays a key role in maximizing the efficiency, reliability, and flexibility of the Port’s rail system.

According to Mike Reilly, director, intermodal services at the Port of Tacoma, “The Business Exchange is an excellent example of how the Port works cooperatively with its customers – shipping lines, shippers and terminal operators – and railroads – BNSF, UP, and Tacoma Rail – to address issues and improve service.”

The Business Exchange also provides customers with increased visibility to the rail element of the supply chain at the Port, and is an excellent example of how technology is being used to improve the speed and flow of information.

Prior to the implementation of the system, everyone involved in planning and scheduling train moves through the Port was spending hours a day on the telephone, creating and updating spreadsheets with key cargo information, and faxing them to key customers, railroad workers, and Port personnel. The Business Exchange provides improved, timely communications that leverages available computer technology.

With the Business Exchange, the information is available to anyone who is a transportation provider or shipper. The password-protected system also enables users to track rail movements at and through the Port of Tacoma from any internet access point in the world, on a 24/7 basis.

A variety of information is available through the Business Exchange. For example, a customer can see how traffic moves between parties at the Port of Tacoma to the point of mainline departure. It also provides visibility to the supply of westbound trains moving to a specific terminal.

Following its successful implementation at the Port of Tacoma, BNSF later introduced similar systems at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and at other rail interchange points including Chicago.

Strategic Investments at Port of Vancouver USA
With more and more wind cargo coming into the US for destinations across the continent, a growing number of West Coast ports are competing to handle this unique and often challenging project cargo. Recognizing the trend early, the Port of Vancouver USA put strategies in place that are attracting an ever-increasing list of global wind energy sector customers.

Located 106 nautical miles up the Columbia River from the Pacific Ocean and the furthest port inland on the deep-draft shipping channel, the Port of Vancouver offers a shorter, more cost-effective route for shipments coming from Asia and bound for destinations in the US Midwest and parts of Canada. Capitalizing on this geographical advantage, the port refined its niche as a heavy-lift cargo port by making significant strategic investments in equipment and land.

Vessels calling at the Port of Vancouver can be handled at multiple berths designed for heavy, oversized project cargo such as wind energy components that currently weigh 90 metric tons or more, but which are expected to top 130 metric tons in the near future. The port’s multiple berths and a terminal dedicated solely to project cargo also greatly reduce vessel congestion and the associated delay to customers.

Making the heavy lifts possible, the port purchased two 140-metric ton Liebherr mobile harbor cranes in the mid 2000s, making it the only port in North America to have two such cranes in operation. Easily moved into position on the dock, the cranes can reach the offside of a vessel and unload cargo without having to turn the ship around, further saving shippers time and labor costs. In addition, the two cranes can be used in tandem to pick up and offload cargo weighing as much as 210 metric tons. A frequent occurrence at the Port of Vancouver is the tandem pick of large wind tower sections from both ends, a practice that has become mandatory by most equipment manufacturers.

Available land is another key component to the port’s success in handling wind energy imports. Unlike containers, components are not easily stacked and require large parcels of property for staging and storage. While other ports may face space restrictions, the Port of Vancouver has invested wisely and has expanded its land base over the past several years by 218 acres, with more than half dedicated to wind storage alone. The expansion enables the port to not only provide, but guarantee sufficient land to its customers for storing and staging their cargoes.

By strategically focusing on core businesses and making strategic investments in equipment and land, the Port of Vancouver USA has been able to remain highly competitive, and continues to attract companies looking to partner with an experienced port that can offer the best and most cost-effective options for getting their goods to market.

À La Carte Cargo Handling Services at Longview
For its third straight year the Port of Longview has defied the economic slowdown, setting another record revenue year in 2010.

The combination of location, performance and value-added services continues to attract new and repeat business to the Port. Customers find the Port’s à la carte menu of services to be quite appealing. Whether it is long-term storage, cargo cleaning or painting, the Port understands that not all cargoes require the same services and is prepared to create new services if the demand arises.

With the demands for raw materials booming in Asia, the Port’s marketing department is focused on new growth markets, such as agricultural products, feed stocks and wood products. Demand for log handling, primarily to Asia, continues to surge with no end in sight. Nearly 40,000 log trucks moved through the Port of Longview last year with log cargo growing more than 150 percent from 2009 to 2010.

Bulk materials are also on the rise at the Port. Earlier this spring the Port was awarded a county grant to begin construction on a new bulk storage facility, which comes just in time to meet the growth in iron oxide fines, ammonium sulfate and green coke at the Port.

In addition to cargo growth, tenants are also flocking to the Port. This summer the Port will celebrate the grand opening of new tenants Skyline Steel and EGT, LLC, both of which were attracted to the Port for its available land and dedicated rail corridor to serve the facilities. In anticipation of future development, the Port recently purchased 275 acres of waterfront property to meet future customer needs.

Building Infrastructure at San Francisco
The Port of San Francisco offers a broad spectrum of maritime businesses that are a large part of the city’s heritage and future. Maritime operations including cruises, cargo, harbor services such as tugboats and barges, fishing, excursion boats and ship repair. The Port has embarked on projects to expand and improve its maritime facilities during the recent economic downturn in an effort to remain competitive with other ports.

The Port of San Francisco has long been one of the major travel destinations in the world, and the Port’s cruise terminal delivers passengers into the heart of the city. San Francisco’s Passenger Cruise Terminal at Pier 35 is centrally located on the port’s northeast waterfront, adjacent to popular tourist attractions such as Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf and within easy walking distance of North Beach and Chinatown.

To remain competitive in the cruise business, the Port of San Francisco is currently in the planning stages to develop Pier 27 into a new state-of-the-art cruise terminal that will serve the needs of the cruise industry for years to come. The America’s Cup race, which San Francisco has been selected to host in 2013, will use Pier 27 and the cruise terminal as its race spectator headquarters, and the facility will be completed and opened for cruise passengers subsequent to the completion of the race.

On the cargo side, the port has continued to market its Pier 80 facility as the only breakbulk facility in San Francisco Bay, and has seen tonnages steadily improve over the past year. The Port has improved rail links to the facility with the opening of the Illinois Street Intermodal Bridge over Islais Creek, providing direct rail access to the facility.

The Port is also working to take advantage of new cargo opportunities. Demand for bulk export facilities has grown during the past year, particularly for iron ore. The Port has embarked on an initiative to attract a terminal operator to invest in developing a bulk shipping facility at the vacant former container terminal at Pier 96, issuing a Request for Interest in March that resulted in multiple expressions of interest that are currently being evaluated. The plans are for improving and expanding Port rail infrastructure for receiving the product from western mines, then loading the ore onto ships from purpose-built covered storage facilities and shiploading conveyor systems for shipment to destinations in Asia.

The Port’s recent expansion of its ship repair yard at Pier 70, in partnership with operator BAE Systems and Princess Cruises, has resulted in a 28 percent increase in ship repair business from post-Panamax cruise vessels that had been too large for the shipyard to handle prior to these improvements. The shipyard successfully completed repairs on the Carnival Splendor earlier this year that resulted in more than 800 job placements and $12 million in economic benefit to the Bay Area in terms of wages, benefits, goods, services, and state and local taxes. The vessel became disabled on a cruise to Mexico in late 2010 and would have been too large for the Port’s drydock to accommodate prior to its expansion.

Upgrading Terminals, Rail at Los Angeles
The Port of Los Angeles, America’s busiest container port and major trade gateway, continues to improve its infrastructure and assets to retain its competitive advantage.

The Port is completing the final phase of its 13-year, $370 million Main Channel Deepening Project, which is critical to future trade growth. The project, which ensures 53-foot-deep access to the Port’s container terminals, is expected to be completed in 2013.

There are several major container terminal expansions at the Port of Los Angeles. China Shipping, which operates the West Basin Container Terminal, recently added a new 925-foot section of wharf, 18 additional acres of backland and four container cranes in a $47 million expansion project that will increase cargo throughput and reduce emissions. The terminal now has 2,125 feet of wharf space and eight super post-Panamax cranes. Over the next three years, 375 feet of additional wharf space will be added, along with more backland space that will eventually double the size of China Shipping to 142 acres.

Meanwhile, the TraPac container terminal is expanding through a five-year, $274 million program that will extend TraPac’s wharves to 4,600 linear feet, deepen water depth, install new cranes, upgrade 50 acres of backlands, make road and gate improvements and build a new on-dock rail facility.

Already underway is yet another terminal expansion project, as the APL Ltd. terminal operated by Eagle Marine Services is adding 40 acres and 1,250 linear feet of new wharf space to a facility already encompassing 292 acres and 4,000 linear feet of wharf space.

The Port is also developing its first new liquid bulk terminal in decades with the building of a deep draft super tanker berthing and tank farm facility at Berth 408 in the outer harbor. The facility, which is slated to have a total capacity of 4 million barrels, will be operated by Pacific Los Angeles Marine Terminal LLC, a subsidiary of Houston-based Plains All American Pipeline L.P.

The Port recently added a new terminal operator – California United Terminals, Inc., a subsidiary of South Korea-based Hyundai Merchant Marine Co. Ltd. The new operator, known as CUT, is subleasing 98 acres of the 484-acre APM Terminals facility in the Pier 400 area of Terminal Island and has the right to further expand its operations in future years.

Augmenting terminal development are major rail improvements aimed to ensure swift, efficient links between Port of Los Angeles berths and inland destinations. The Port is moving ahead with its West Basin Railyard, a $125 million on-dock intermodal facility project. When completed, all container terminals in the Port will have on-dock rail. In addition, a new near-dock rail facility proposed by BNSF Railway Co. and the proposed expansion of an existing near-dock railyard operated by Union Pacific Railroad should further guarantee smooth connections between terminals and transcontinental rail services. Environmental impact reports for both rail projects are expected to be completed in the months ahead.

Capital Improvements at Long Beach
The Port of Long Beach for many years has enjoyed a well-earned reputation as being a premier gateway for trade with other Pacific Rim countries, and it’s working hard to maintain that competitiveness.

There’s no question that all West Coast ports need to modernize their facilities and make other preparations to plan for the 2014 opening of the wider Panama Canal and the new competition that will create with East Coast seaports.

So the Port of Long Beach is moving full steam ahead with a wide array of capital improvement projects that when coupled with Long Beach’s penchant for service to its customers, will continue to make this Port a top choice for shippers.

Recently, the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners approved an $828 million budget for fiscal year 2012 that includes significant investments in development to expand trade – namely $630 million in capital improvement projects. The expenditures are part of a 10-year, $4 billion program to reinvest in Port facilities.

With terminal modernization projects, a major bridge replacement and more, the Port is aiming to be well positioned when the economy reaches full recovery. The fiscal year 2012 budget represents a 26 percent increase from the previous year, mainly as a result of the increase in capital spending.

“We are seeing some signs that the global recession is easing and our revenues are beginning to recover,” said Port Executive Director Richard D. Steinke. ”We are investing in our future, while living within our means today. Our prudent fiscal management is what gives us the ability to invest and to stay competitive in our industry. We must continue to modernize and ‘green’ our operations.”

In addition to staying ahead of the competition, the Port of Long Beach is also “staying below.” Recently, the Port reached a milestone in an ongoing dredging project being conducted in conjunction with the US Army Corps of Engineers.

The Main Channel Deepening project has improved navigation and the environment in the harbor, providing a uniform depth of 76 feet from two miles outside the harbor entrance all the way into the middle harbor, improving access for oil tankers and creating one of the deepest harbors among U.S. seaports. The deeper, wider channel and basin also provides additional, safer access for the world’s largest container ships to call in Long Beach.

“This is a critical project for the Port of Long Beach. It greatly enhances the Port’s capabilities and navigational safety,” said Doug Thiessen, Port of Long Beach Managing Director of Engineering.

The Port of Long Beach is also maintaining its strong business links with its international trading partners and has been active in finding more ways to take part in trade with Latin America, for example.

A recent trade mission to the Latin American Congress of Ports was the Port of Long Beach’s latest effort to build and maintain ties with that region.