Thursday, February 10, 2011

Natural Resource Economist Hans Radtke to address Wild Seafood Exchange Attendees

Former Pacific Fishery Management Council Chairman Hans Radtke, Ph.D. will discuss the economic impact of Washington State commercial fisheries at the 8th annual Wild Seafood Exchange to be presented March 9th at the Embassy Suites in Lynnwood, Washington.

Dr. Radtke will discuss the findings of his just-released study, entitled Washington State Commercial Fishing Industry Total Economic Contribution, at the annual commercial fishing industry conference aimed at the independent commercial fishing industry.

Wild Seafood Exchange is produced every spring by Fishermen’s News, in partnership with Washington Sea Grant. The conference assembles independent commercial fishermen to explore harvesting, marketing and delivery of sustainably harvested wild seafood to retailers and restaurants. In recent years Wild Seafood Exchange has grown to also cover small business issues, and this year new vessel construction financing.

“We are delighted that Dr. Radtke has chosen Wild Seafood Exchange as the forum through which to formally introduce this important new study,” says Fishermen’s News publisher Peter Philips. “As advocates for the independent commercial fishing industry, Fishermen’s News is strongly supportive of the efforts of the local Washington State fishing community to educate the legislators, policymakers and community leaders about the economic vitality of our industry. Dr. Radtke’s participation in Wild Seafood Exchange is an important part of that effort.”

More information about Wild Seafood Exchange can be found on the Wild Seafood Exchange website, or by calling the offices of Fishermen’s News at (206) 284-8285.

Mariner Training: Navigating Into Technology

By Captain Ronald Burchett

With a whole new generation of ship-assist tugs of 80 metric tons bollard pull and high performance escort tugs with bollard pulls exceeding 100 metric tons, it is clear that new levels of crew training will be required. The increased power and extraordinary maneuverability inherent in these new vessels bring a responsibility to ensure that Tug Masters and crew are able to exploit that performance effectively and safely. This is particularly important in high performance stern-drive tugs with control systems needing a high level of awareness and dexterity.
The skills required are approaching ‘arcade game’ level and the training required is becoming similar to that of an aircraft pilot. In order to derive maximum benefit from the modern technology available, the industry must acknowledge the need for specialist training and new levels of certification. This pilot training analogy may seem extreme, but disorientation can be a serious problem in a highly agile tugboat. The need for good spatial awareness and reactions is becoming of paramount importance. Recent reported incidents that have attracted the attention of regulatory authorities include tugs being involved in interaction collisions where damage has been caused to the tugs and/or ship and in one extreme case the tug suffering a complete inadvertent rotation and the towline wrapped completely around the superstructure. Many cases of minor damage, often involving damage to the aft quarters of the tug, go unreported.

To complicate matters further, in this high-tech sector of the towage industry, a shortage of suitable personnel is becoming a serious issue. As tug crews become smaller, with two and three persons becoming the norm, the opportunities to train additional staff at basic deckhand level in the traditional manner are considerably reduced.

These issues necessitate the need for the introduction of a new system of certification and new levels of qualification, for Harbor Tug Master and Escort Tug Master (Home Trade). Any new certification structure will need to be backed up by formal Marine college training.
• To be fully effective and to make the best possible use of the high performance tugs currently entering service, Tug Masters and Pilots must be trained together as a team and implement a new standard of universal commands.
• The tug industry is changing at a remarkable pace and the industry must adjust to prosper.
• To achieve that aim the following must be considered:

Training and Certification of Crews
The introduction of new tug technology must be fully supported by the preparation of essential procedures and training to ensure safe, effective operation. Every tug has particular handling characteristics that must be identified and studied to enable meaningful procedures and training packages to be constructed. Only when the tug crew, from Tug Master downward, is fully conversant and trained in the operation of their vessel can optimum levels of safety be achieved.

Vessel manning will be a challenge for operators in the future. This is a particularly sensitive issue for operators of the increasingly popular “compact” Z-drive tugs, intended to operate with a crew of two. In most instances the crew will comprise a Tug Master and deckhand but national rules may insist on a Tug Master and qualified first officer or engineer. Whatever local manning scales dictate, recruiting suitably experienced personnel to fulfill the role of that second crewmember will prove difficult in the long term. On the job training will not be possible without employing supernumerary staff while under training. In some fleets anomalies already exist (eg: two tug masters in one vessel or deck qualified engineers serving as first officers) and will have to be addressed at some stage.

Training for tug crews must be addressed and implemented as soon as possible. As previously mentioned a formal crew training program may prove to be the only way to provide to generate a suitable workforce with a recognizable career structure. Once that has been attained recruitment and staff retention will be much easier to achieve.

Such training would start for Masters at 21-30 years old, followed by simulator and manned model training. The age range is quoted for good reason. It is becoming obvious that the traditional career structure, where personnel are considered for Mate and Master after many years of experience, is failing to produce people with the right “mind-set” to use the new technologies available most effectively. There is now some recognition, albeit reluctantly in some areas, that initial training for tug masters must be undertaken at a lower age. In this modern age young people can assimilate and use high-tech systems more readily and effectively.

Retaining older tug masters will not lead to a 100-percent return rate. It is suggested that training should be based on a new certification system for Tug Masters involving two basic levels – harbor tug captain (restricted) and home trade escort (restricted).

Fast track training for new masters should start with:

• Marine college –1.5 years
To include normal nautical, seamanship, navigational, communications and marine safety skills in addition to theoretical training in tug technology and the dynamics of tug operation.

• Simulator and manned training tug – 6 months

Simulator training is now highly developed and provides an ideal opportunity to demonstrate the effects of a ship assist tug on ships in various scenarios. It can also introduce and develop an essential understanding of the ship’s master relationship. Manned models will soon be available to enable the developing tug master to experience the handling and dynamics of a Z-drive tug in a safe environment and at much reduced cost.

Tugs with a very high bollard pull performance are being used and any training undertaken must reflect the greater skills required in handling those vessels. Understanding the dynamics involved in shiphandling with high-performance tugs and the interaction between tug and ship is essential. Although many older tug masters have learned those skills, instinctively in many cases, over a long period of on-job experience, few have had access to the theory or training that could now be made available to their successors.

Training for deck crew also needs to be formalized. The responsibilities of a deckhand in a two-man crew must be clearly defined. In the case of a Mate/Engineer, training must cross the boundaries of deck and engineroom in a structured manner to ensure that the crewmember is completely familiar with the machinery and procedures on deck and in the engineroom.

Training for Work with LNG
Perhaps the most safety conscious towage operations currently undertaken are those concerned with the escort and assistance of ships carrying Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). Safety is paramount at LNG terminals. Tug crews are as a matter of course required to attend specialist induction courses at most terminals.

The duties of a terminal tug at a gas facility will include not only escort and ship assistance. Virtually all tugs employed are required to carry a high level of firefighting equipment, and regular audits and training are part of the client’s mandatory procedures. One or more tugs are also likely to be fully manned and on station throughout the period a gas tanker is on its berth at the terminal – keeping suitable watches. The tugs may also be required to enforce a prescribed exclusion zone to keep away unwanted and unauthorized vessels.

All of this activity requires high levels of training and properly written and audited procedures.

Standard Commands
While considering the training needs for the next generation of crews in ship-assist tugs it would be advantageous to design and implement a new set of commands to be used between pilot and tug during escort operations. Commands used between tug master and pilot vary widely throughout the world, and to introduce a formalized structure would be difficult, but in the case of tug escort operation a form of universal command language would be advantageous. In an escort situation, when the tug is actually needed to fulfill its role as an effective safety device, the ship and tug are immediately involved in a state of emergency. Under those circumstances there is no room for error or misunderstanding in communications between the tug and the ship’s pilot. Standardized commands would help to reduce the possibility of errors in a highly tense situation.

Tug Master/Pilot Relationship
To achieve the very highest levels of safety, the tug masters and pilots must train together. This is already happening in many locations. It is becoming common for tug masters and pilots to be brought together when new oil or gas terminals, new container berths, or port facilities in difficult areas are being planned. Berthing scenarios are tested, types of tug evaluated, and decisions made on the numbers of tugs and their bollard pull. During these exercises the port authority, pilots and tug masters are commonly brought together during simulations, as part of the decision making process. This kind of activity should be applied in a wider context, to cover more general ship assist operations and used as a training tool.

Safety and Training Reviews Must Become the Norm
Under most quality driven business accreditation schemes reviews of safety and training matters are an inherent feature of the mandatory procedures. The same type of review or audit should become a normal part of any towage related activity. In that way the level of training required can be regularly reviewed and checks can readily be made on the level of expertise of all individual crewmembers.

Real Time Monitoring by Management
The technology currently exists to enable the management of tug operators to monitor in real time all systems aboard each individual tug. This monitoring can include navigation, safety, tank contents, and most parameters affecting the engines and propulsion systems. Monitoring systems in this manner can be used to detect developing faults in machinery and improve the management of fuel and other consumables. Along with “bridge voice recorders” such systems can be used to develop and perfect ship assist procedures and identify the causes of accidents and/or damage.

Make the Best Use of the Technology Available
There is a wealth of modern technology readily available that could be used to improve safety and reduce crew workloads. The current generation of “compact” tugs already incorporates the control and monitoring of all main engine, propulsion system and auxiliaries from the bridge. In most cases the main and auxiliary engines can be started and stopped without leaving the bridge.

Communications systems, for normal operational use, can be foot operated and ergonomic principles are used to determine the layout of control consoles.

Winches aboard modern escort tugs are frequently computer controlled and operated by touch screens. In smaller vessels there is in the future the possibility of voice activation systems for towing winches.

The Green Tug
Tug masters should be encouraged to conduct towage operations with fuel economy in mind. Operators generally are becoming increasingly aware of developing technology that will enable stringent emission regulations to be met and reductions in the use of fossil fuels. In years to come both designers, builders and tug operators will be under greater pressure to take into account the carbon footprint of vessels and the need to consider greater efficiency in both operation, construction and disposal.

Ron Burchett has worked in the maritime industry for more than 35 years and has seen many changes in the business. He has been working on the technology side of the industry to bring forward improvements in tug design, scale model testing and training, to provide a test bed for new ideas and methods of tug operation, working with well known members of the tugboat industry world wide including Foss and Crowley of Seattle, Adsteam of Australia, Seaspan of Vancouver, and The Port Revel training center of France. Ron also works with naval architects to create new tug designs and refine existing ones resulting in technical advancement for the tugs of tomorrow.

Nadler Reintroduces Bill Seeking Changes to Interstate Commerce Laws

A House Democrat from New York has for the second time introduced legislation that would change federal commerce law language and allow local government entities like port authorities to regulate interstate trucking.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler on Wednesday introduced the Clean Ports Act of 2011, which seeks to allow ports nationwide to set their own local standards for truck emissions, business practices, and employee status. The goal is to curb emissions from port trucks.

“The Clean Ports Act represents a crucial modernization of federal law that would dramatically improve the quality of air for the estimated 87 millions Americans who live and work near major container ports,” Nadler said. “It is indefensible that ports are being challenged [sic] from enforcing clean truck programs to replace highly polluting and outmoded diesel trucks."

Nadler is referring to litigation brought by the American Trucking Associations in 2008 against the Port of Los Angeles Clean Truck Program's access license scheme. Trucking firms wishing to obtain an access license and continue working at the port were required to agree to a laundry list of port-developed criteria, including a mandate that trucking firms use only per-hour employees instead of the more prevalent per-load drivers.

The ATA argued in federal District Court that while the group did not oppose the purely environmental portions of the truck plans such as the incremental model year bans on older trucks, the access license portions violated federal law.

Specifically, the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution and the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994.

The Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution provides that federal laws “shall be the supreme law of the land.” Thus, when state and federal law conflicts, federal law trumps – or preempts – the state law.

The FAAAA, also known as F4A, includes a federal statue regarding preemption that states, “A State, political subdivision of a State, or political authority of two or more States may not enact or enforce a law, regulation, or other provision having the force and effect of law related to a price, route, or service of any motor carrier.”

While agreeing with the ATA that portions of the access license scheme violates federal law, a federal district judge ruled in September 2010 that the port is exempt from application of the laws.

A federal appellate court is currently considering whether the lower court ruling in favor of the port was proper. A decision is expected before summer.

Nadler's Clean Ports Act, which is nearly identical to a bill he introduced last year, would essentially codify the lower court decision that the ports are exempt. It seeks to change the F4A language, thereby reversing trucking deregulation that was put into effect in the 1980s and 1990s.

Ironically, the truck program in Los Angeles, despite having portions of the access license scheme enjoined almost since the truck program's implementation, has still by all accounts been highly successful in its original goal to reduce truck emissions. The program, along with a similar program at the Port of Long Beach and a more than $650 million fleet modernization investment by the private trucking industry, are credited with eliminating more than 80 percent of the primary diesel pollutants generated by port drayage in Southern California.

Crowley Logistics Office Now Neighbor to SoCal Ports

Crowley Maritime has completed the move of its Inglewood, California logistics office to a larger facility about 20 miles south near the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in San Pedro. The new office is strategically located near the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and will continue to provide ocean, airfreight and Customs brokerage services.

The relocation, according to Crowley, is part of a larger company expansion along the US West Coast to supply customers in the Far East and in Central and South America with the firm's logistics services. The move also supports Crowley's expanding trucking, intermodal and logistics capabilities on the West Coast.

"The relocation of this office was an ideal move for the company," Crowley's director of North America transportation Kip Douglass said. "In addition to having a strong team, we now have a larger and more strategic presence on the West Coast to better serve our clients."

David O'Connor, also a Crowley director of North America transportation, called it a "win-win for everyone," that would also allow the firm to grow its trucking, intermodal, and logistics services.

Alameda Corridor Receives Fed Loan to Bolster Revenue Shortfalls

The Southern California ports may be temporarily off the hook when it comes to using port reserves to cover the Alameda Corridor's debt service.

The Federal Rail Administration has approved an $83.7 million loan to the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority that should forestall the need for the ports to cover ACTA's debt service until at least October 2012.

Opened in April 2002 at a cost of $2.4 billion, the Alameda Corridor is a 20-mile-long freight rail expressway that currently shuttles approximately 35 percent of the cargo containers moving through the Southern California ports to a transcontinental railroad yard near downtown Los Angeles.

The construction cost of the corridor was financed by the issuance of just over $1.7 billion in corridor revenue-backed bonds, $400 million from the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, and funding from various other government sources. Corridor revenues are generated by fees charged on containers using the corridor.

Until the global economic meltdown that sent cargo volumes at the two ports into a nearly 30 percent tailspin starting in 2007, ACTA had been generating enough revenue to cover its healthy debt service. However, the drop in cargo volumes dramatically reduced ACTA's revenues.

Last year, ACTA sought relief by applying for a $533 million loan from a Department of Transportation railroad loan program. In December, 2010, the three major bond rating agencies all took action on ACTA's outstanding bonds, either downgrading ACTA's bond ratings or issuing a negative outlook regarding the financial future of the corridor. In January, ACTA revised their request to $83.7 million after the DOT pointed out that the original loan request was more than double the amount ever requested of the federal agency.

Under the corridor operating agreement, the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles are responsible for up to 40 percent of ACTA debt service in the event of corridor revenue shortfalls. Concerns have been raised in the industry that a long-term reliance on the two ports for corridor debt service could drain the ports of much-needed cash reserves.

Credit ratings agency Fitch estimated the two ports' total gross liability for corridor debt service "at $60 million to $150 million spread over the years 2012-2020 [and] depending on the severity of the stress assumptions."

All three ratings agencies have pointed out that while both ports have an adequate amount of unrestricted cash to meet any near-term shortfall payments without having to adjust their rates or tariffs, any sizable draw down of port cash reserves could reflect on the ports' own ratings.

According to Fitch, as of Sept. 30, 2010, the Port of Los Angeles had $311 million in unrestricted cash and the Port of Long Beach had $403 million in unrestricted cash.

DOT: For-Hire Freight Output Up in 2010, Remains Weak

The Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI), which measures month-to-month changes in freight shipments in ton-miles, rose 1.5 percent in December from its November level, according to a US Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) report issue released Wednesday.

The Freight TSI computes the output of the for-hire freight transportation industry and consists of data from for-hire trucking, rail, inland waterways, pipelines and air freight.

BTS reports that the Freight TSI rose 0.4 percent in 2010.

The index is also up 6.9 percent over the last 19 months, starting in June 2009, when a 10 month 15.3 percent decline in the index ended. The index has increased in 14 of the last 19 months.

The December, 2010 Freight TSI was a 6.9 percent increase from the recent low reached in May 2009--the index's lowest level since June 1997. However, the December, 2010 Freight TSI was down 11.4 percent from the index's historic peak reached in May 2006.

Although the index rose 0.4 percent in the month of December, 2010 compared to same month in 2009, it remains below the level of every other December since 2001. January 2010 was the first month since July 2008 in which the Freight TSI exceeded the level of the same month of the previous year. Since January, 2010, the index has exceeded the year-ago period every month but still remains below levels seen in years prior.

During the fourth quarter of 2010, the Freight TSI rose 1.3 percent, the fifth quarterly increase in the past six quarters.

Over the past five years, the freight index is down 10.1 percent, but up 2.1 percent over the past ten years.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Los Angeles Port Police Shutter Alleged Counterfeit Ring

Los Angeles Port Police on Monday announced the recovery of more than $10 million in counterfeit electronics, stolen merchandise and bank receipts as part of cargo theft investigation.

The investigation resulted in the closure of a downtown Los Angeles counterfeiting operation and felony charges filed against two suspects.

The recovered goods included fake Apple products resembling iPods and IPhones, which authorities allege were shipped from Asia and falsely labeled and packaged in Los Angeles. Part of the haul included $2.5 million in stolen goods such as electronics, toys and blankets taken from various locations in Los Angeles County and the Inland Empire.

“Our standing as the largest shipping container port in the country is in no small part predicated on the security we can offer our clients,” Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said. “Counterfeiting takes jobs and revenue away from our city’s coveted creative industries and other legitimate businesses and it will not be tolerated.”

The investigation was part of a multi-agency Cargo Theft Interdiction Program (CTIP), a California Highway Patrol initiative that includes participation from Los Angeles Port Police and the City of Vernon Police Department. Also participating in the investigation were members of Homeland Security Investigations and the Border Enforcement Security Taskforce.

Los Angeles Port Police Chief Ronald Boyd praised the layered, multi-agency approach for the success of the investigation.

The investigation led Los Angeles Port Police to several downtown Los Angeles locations in December and January. During searches of the locations, Port Police uncovered counterfeit goods worth more than $1.4 million on the street, the $2.5 million worth of stolen goods and bank receipts indicating profits from the sale of more than $7 million worth of counterfeit goods.

Two brothers, both from Los Angeles, have been charged in the case. Edward Zahab, 40, was charged with three felony counts of sale of counterfeit goods and Bahram Zahab, 45, was charged with one felony count of sale of counterfeit goods.

Seattle Port Attracts New Carrier

The Port of Seattle has added another ocean carrier to its list of lines calling at the Puget Sound port.

Starting with the Dec. 29, 2010 sailing of the MSC Vienna from Gioia Tauro, Mediterranean Shipping Company added the ports of Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia to the carrier's California Express service.

The MSC Vienna made its first call at Vancouver on Jan. 29 and in Seattle on Jan. 30. The ship, a 3,600-TEU vessel built in 2003, is now in Balboa, Panama nearing the end of its first run on the service.

The new rotation for the California Express service is: Gioia Tauro, Napoli, Civitavecchia, La Spezia, Valencia, Cristobal, Balboa, Long Beach, Oakland, Vancouver, Seattle, Oakland, Long Beach, Balboa, Cristobal, Gioia Tauro.

Canadian Dockers' Contract Talks Causing Cargo Diversions to US Says Employers Group

As mediated talks continue between Canadian West Coast dockers and their industry employers, merely the potential of a strike at the ports of Vancouver, Deltaport, Frazierport and Prince Rupert is already beginning to impact import shipping volumes at the Canadian West Coast ports.

Greg Vurdela, spokesman for the BC Maritime Employers Association, which represents the dockworker employers, told The Province newspaper last week that a "significant percentage" of cargo is already being diverted to American West Coast ports.

"The heightened uncertainty in [Canada's] Asia-Pacific Gateway has left customers with no choice," Vurdela told the paper. "Unfortunately, cargo is now being off-loaded at US ports. The diversions started several weeks ago."

The contract between the BC Maritime Employers Association and two ILWU units representing about 4,800 Canadian dockers expired March 31, 2010. A 21-day cooling off period is scheduled to expire on Feb. 6 with new negotiations set to start on Feb. 7. The mediated talks are set to last until Feb. 12.

Shippers, however, have a long memory. It is hard to forget the more than a dozen labor-related disruption at the Port of Vancouver, BC, alone over the past 50 years, including strikes in 1995 and 1998, a lockout in 1999, and a truckers strike in 2005 that saw unionized truck drivers walk off the job for six weeks.

Vurdela said that cargo imports into Canadian West Coast ports is down 30 to 40 percent due to the industry's anxiety.

And this anxiety may be well placed. While the union has remained mum on the status of the contract talks, the BC Maritime Employers Association reports that the two sides are not close.

Farwest Steel Opts for Extension on Port of Vancouver USA Land Purchase

The Eugene, Oregon-based firm seeking to build a steel fabrication on a 20-acre parcel at the Washington State Port of Vancouver is now asking port officials for more time to finalize the purchase of the property.

Under the terms of an agreement with the port signed back in June 2010, Farwest Steel Corp. agreed to close on the property by Feb. 6. The agreement allowed for an additional 98-day window to complete the $5 million transaction, albeit at an added cost of $500 per day in non-refundable penalties. The added fees, however, will be applied to the sale price of the property. If Farwest fails to close on the deal, the port would keep any penalties accrued.

Port officials said they were not surprised by the request and they still expect Farwest to complete the transaction no later than early April.

The sale of surplus port property to Farwest ran counter to normal port policy to lease port parcels, but commissioners said at the time that the economy outweighed such concerns. Farwest has said that the proposed plant would initially employ 100 workers with the potential to employ as many as 228 workers with an average salary of just over $40,000, plus benefits.

Farwest plans to spend between $20 million and $30 million to develop the plant. Farwest officials said the firm plans to take advantage of the port's rail access and the new facility, when completed, is expected to receive 200 to 300 rail cars a year. The proposed 300,000 square foot facility, which in addition to manufacturing would also include distribution and office space, could be built and operational by late 2011 or early 2012.

Under the terms of the deal, the port can purchase back the 20-acre parcel is Farwest does not begin construction of the plant within 12 months, maintain 100 workers at the facility, keep the property in industrial use, or halts activity on the site.