Friday, February 18, 2011

ATA Files Final Brief With Appeals Court in SoCal Truck Program Suit

The American Trucking Associations has filed the final round of written arguments with a federal appeals panel in its more than two-year-long litigation over portions of the Port of Los Angeles clean truck program.

The ATA filing with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday was a response to Los Angeles port briefs filed with the appeals court late last month. The ATA filed its original request for appeal with the court in early January.

The ATA, which represents more than 37,000 trucking firms nationwide, first filed suit in federal District Court against the port in July 2008, arguing that portions of the port's Clean Truck Program violate the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution and federal laws governing interstate commerce.

The lower court ruled in favor of the port on Sept. 15, 2010, finding that while the portions of the port truck program under argument did violate federal law, the port was exempt from the federal regulations.

District Court Judge Christina Snyder's ruling hinged on the concept of market participation. Judge Snyder found that the port, through its truck program, was operating as a participant in the local port drayage market and not simply as a regulatory agency. As a market participant, Judge Snyder said, the port is exempt from the cited federal regulations under federal preemption guidelines.

In its original appeals filing, the ATA reiterated its original arguments from the lower court suit that the port is not a market participant and asked the appellate panel to overturn Judge Snyder's ruling.

The port's January 31 response filing with the appeals court argued that due to pressure from environmental and community groups, the port was unable to move forward with infrastructure development without addressing the issue of truck pollution. The truck plan, according to the filing, was a necessary action to protect and further the port's business interests. Because the port was acting to the furtherance of its commercial interests, the port was acting as a commercial enterprise, and thus a market participant – not a regulatory agency.

The ATA's Tuesday response to the port rebuttal argues that the port has built their case on two fallacious notions: first, that an overarching “market participant” doctrine overshadows both the federal preemption statute and interstate commerce laws; and, second, that the port was acting like a business when it attempted to regulate which drayage firms can and can not service the port.

The ATA contends that Judge Snyder erroneously relied on the market participation concept and that because the port does not contract any drayage service nor even own any trucks, it is not a participant in the drayage industry and therefore not exempt from federal regulation. The ATA filing also argues that simply by implementing the truck plan – which is regulatory in nature – the port is acting as a regulatory entity, not as a commercial participant in the drayage industry as Judge Snyder ruled.

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

However, Los Angeles port officials included non-environmental criteria in the concession agreements, such as financial, maintenance, insurance, safety, parking and labor criteria. Critics of the truck program's non-environmental components, such as the employee-mandate, have accused the port of engaging in social engineering above and beyond their role as a governmental entity.

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

The litigation has drawn national attention as a potential precedent-setting case that could either reinforce federal supremacy over interstate trucking or set the stage for other ports to set their own local trucking regulations. Numerous ports across the nation are either in the process of implementing or developing trucking programs similar to the Los Angeles program.

With all of the written briefings in hand, the Ninth Circuit will now appoint a three-judge panel to review the case. This panel will then issue a date for oral arguments to be heard.

The Ninth Circuit stated in January that after the briefings were complete, the case "shall be calendared as soon as possible.”

SoCal Ports Post Double Digit Cargo Growth In January

The Southern California ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles roared into 2011, posting double-digit cargo volume increases in January. Though there is some speculation that the early-February Chinese New Year shutdown in Asia may have spurred early cargo shipments in January and lower monthly increases are in the future, both ports have remained on a solid growth track for the past 12 months. Following the global economic meltdown that began in 2008, both ports saw cargo volumes slide until hitting bottom in February 2009 – only to swing into positive growth again in late 2009.

The Port of Long Beach, despite losing a major container terminal tenant at the end of 2010, posted a strong 10.8 percent increase in total container volume for the month compared to January 2010. The port ended the month with a total of 474,960 TEUs handled, its best January since 2008. California United Terminals, which moved in late December 2010 to the Port of Los Angeles, represented about 10 percent of Long Beach's total annual cargo volume.

Imports and exports were both up, with Long Beach port officials reporting an 11.3 percent increase in loaded inbound containers and a 12.7 percent increase in loaded outbound containers for the month, both compared to January 2010. The port ended the month with 242,445 loaded inbound TEUs and 127,546 loaded outbound TEUs. Empty containers made up the remainder of the monthly total.

The Port of Los Angeles, while posting weaker percentage growth than Long Beach, managed to end the month with more total TEUs handled than its neighboring competitor. It was the second best January on record for the Los Angeles, falling just 31,000 TEUs short only the record-holding January in 2007.

Port officials reported handled a total of 660,518 TEUs last month, a 15.3 percent increase over the year ago period.

The port also saw strong growth in imports and exports, with officials reporting a 14.3 percent increase in loaded inbound containers and a 12.6 percent increase in loaded outbound containers for the month. Los Angeles handled 338,606 loaded inbound TEUs in January and 159,051 loaded outbound TEUs. Empties made up the remainder of the port’s monthly total.

Pasha Orders New Ro/Ro from VT Halter

Honolulu-based ocean carrier Pasha Hawaii on Wednesday announced it has awarded shipbuilder VT Halter Marine a $144 million contract to construct a new roll-on/roll-off car truck vessel that will serve the carrier's Hawaii to West Coast service.

VT Halter also signed an option agreement with Pasha for the construction of a second new ro/ro, with some scope variation, for a base price of about $137 million.

According to VT Halter parent Singapore Technologies Engineering, work on the new vessel is expected to begin immediately with delivery scheduled for the second half of 2013.

This will be the second ro/ro vessel constructed by the shipyard for Pasha, with the M/V Jean AnneJean Anne delivered by VT Halter Marine in March 2005. The is now approaching her seventh year and her 150th voyage.

"Building a second ship has always been part of our organization's plan. The level of enthusiasm and customer support we received when we deployed our first vessel was well beyond our expectations," Pasha CEO George Pasha, IV, said. "Our second vessel will both better serve the Hawaii/Mainland market and also provide increased frequency and superior reliability. A weekly sailing will also allow us to present even more tailored transportation solutions to our clients."

The more than 60-year-old Pasha Hawaii services Kauai, Oahu, Maui and Hawaii in the islands and San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco on the West Coast. The carrier specializes in the transportation of cars, motorcycles, boats and oversize loads with a bi-weekly service utilizing the M/V Jean Anne.

Vigor Completes Purchase of Todd Shipyards

Oregon-based Vigor Industries on Tuesday completed the $130 million purchase of Seattle's Todd Pacific Shipyards.

Based on a final tender offer made in January, 88 percent of Todd shares were tendered by shareholders. Vigor was offering $22.27 per share under the tender offer.

The Todd board of directors unanimously approved the Vigor agreement in December 2010.
In January, Vigor obtained antitrust approval from the federal government to move forward with the Todd purchase.

With the completion of the sale, Todd Pacific Shipyards Corporation becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of Vigor Industrial and will become Vigor Shipyards, Inc., with Vigor President Frank Foti as its CEO and Todd CEO Steve Welch as its President.

Aggregate Firm To Sell Long Beach Parcel, Build Facility at Leased Site

British Columbia-based Polaris Minerals Corporation announced Tuesday that it plans to entertain several new offers for the purchase of a 12.4-acre parcel of land it purchased within the Port of Long Beach in 2008, while focusing on the development of an aggregate import facility at a nearby site.

In August 2008, Polaris completed the $15.8 million purchase of the privately held 12.4-acre parcel at the port's Berth 82 on Pier B with the intention of constructing an aggregate import facility on the location. At the time, the firm had hoped to open the B-82 facility by the start of 2011.

In November 2010, Polaris entered into a purchase agreement for the B-82 site with an unnamed party.

"However, the purchaser has subsequently been unable to proceed to completion in accordance with the timetable set out in the agreement," said a Polaris statement released Tuesday. Polaris said it has received a number of additional Letters of Intent in respect of the purchase of the property and elected not to enter into an extension on the first purchase agreement.

The aggregate firm is now working with the prospective purchasers to finalize the offers. Polaris plans to complete this process by the end of February, and select a purchaser shortly thereafter.

Polaris, which produces construction aggregate in British Columbia for marine transport to urban markets on the West Coast, said despite the continuing efforts to sell the B-82 parcel, it will continue with development of a facility at a nearby site in Long Beach.

In a separate July 2010 deal, Polaris signed a lease for an existing 8.3-acre marine aggregate terminal located at the Port of Long Beach's Berth D-44 on Pier D.

The five-year lease, with three additional five-year extension options, was signed with private property owner L.G. Everist. Financial terms of the lease were not released.

The 8.3-acre D-44 site is located on one of the port's deepwater channels and is currently permitted to receive and distribute up to 3 million tons of construction aggregates per year. Polaris has said it plans to use Panamax vessels to deliver sand and gravel to the Long Beach site from Polaris's Orca Quarry situated on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Polaris also exports aggregate material from its Orca Quarry to port facilities in San Francisco, Vancouver and Hawaii.

Permitting and development of the D-44 terminal is expected to take about two years with first deliveries from the Orca Quarry expected to arrive by the end of 2012.

The D-44 parcel, like the larger Pier B site, sits within the Port of Long Beach harbor district but is not controlled by the municipally governed port authority. Both the D-44 site and the B-82 location are rare examples of a handful of privately owned plots within the jurisdiction of the City of Long Beach Harbor Department. The city of Long Beach operates the port as a trustee of the state.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

ABS President/COO to Assume Additional Role of CEO

The Houston-based international classification society American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), which maintains offices at all the major West Coast ports, has announced that the firm's President and COO Christopher Wiernicki will assume the additional role of CEO starting in April.

Robert Sommerville, current Chairman and CEO of ABS, will step down as CEO while maintaining his role as Chairman of both ABS and the ABS Group of Companies.

Classification firms such as ABS develop and verify standards for the design, construction and operational maintenance of marine-related facilities.

Wiernicki, also a member of the Board of Directors of ABS, is a 17 year veteran of ABS and has worked closely with Somerville for the last four years in his position as President and COO.

In addition to his current roles, Wiernicki has also held a number of senior positions during his tenure at ABS, including President and COO of ABS Europe Ltd, Chief Technology Officer and President and COO of ABS Group. He joined ABS in 1993 as Vice President of Engineering within the ABS Americas Division. Prior to ABS, Wiernicki was President and Chief Executive of naval architecture firm Designers and Planners Inc.

According to ABS, the new management structure mirrors that of the ABS Group of Companies, which provides independent risk management services to the energy, government, insurance and industrial sectors. Tony Nassif serves as CEO and President of the ABS Group of Companies, which is also based in Houston.

Maxum Readies Four New Oil Barges for West Coast Service

Maxum Marine, a division of Greenwich, Conn.-based Maxum Petroleum, has formally christened the first of four new Global Class oil tank barges as the Global Seattle in a recent ceremony at Pier 66, in the Port of Seattle.

The Global Seattle, at 190 feet long and 46 feet wide, has a capacity of 10,000 barrels. The Global class barges feature double-hulls, eight cargo tanks and two Blackmer 8 inch cargo pumps that will be capable of supplying both marine gas oil and marine lubricants Offloading capacity is around 2,800 bbl/hr.

The double-hulled Global Seattle was followed out of the ways by the Global Long Beach, which has been delivered and is expected to begin operations in the Port of Los Angeles by the end of the month. The Global Seattle will serve the Port of Seattle.

Two additional sister barges are nearing completion and are expected to be delivered to Portland and San Francisco in May of this year. The vessels are being built by Madisonville, La.-based Trinity Marine Products, a division of Dallas-based Trinity Industries.

Maxum Marine, a division of Maxum Petroleum, provides marine gas oil and deep draft lubricants to vessels in ports throughout the US West Coast and British Columbia, as well as in the Panama Canal. Deep draft lubricants are blended at Maxum Marine facilities in Rancho Dominguez, Calif., and in Balboa, Panama.

TITAN Salvage Appoints New Vice President

Florida-based worldwide marine salvage and wreck removal firm TITAN Salvage has named Captain Rich Habib to the position of Vice President.

Habib, a former US Navy and US Coast Guard veteran, will be responsible for TITAN's overall performance, including operations, administration, finance and commercial activities. Headquartered at the firm's main offices in Pompano Beach, Fla., Habib will report to Crowley Maritime Corporation’s senior vice president and general manager of technical services Todd Busch. TITAN is a wholly owned subsidiary of Crowley Maritime.

“I am very pleased to welcome Rich back to TITAN,” said Busch. “He began as one of our jack-up barge superintendents and then became a salvage master. Later he was TITAN’s senior salvage master and director of salvage. Needless to say he brings a wealth of experience to his new position, which will serve our clients around the world very well.”

TITAN, which mobilizes worldwide, has performed over 350 salvage and wreck removal projects since being founded in 1980 and maintains offices and staging bases in Florida, the United Kingdom, Singapore, and Australia.

In related news, outgoing TITAN Vice President Dan Schwall has accepted the position of Vice President of business development, sales and marketing efforts for Crowley's new solutions group.

According to Crowley, the new solutions group brings together "a host of disciplines, including marine contract services, engineering, naval architecture, project management and logistics, to deliver customized solutions for customers."

Long Beach Approves Terminal Development Contract

The governing board for the Port of Long Beach on Monday approved a $153 million contract with the Manson/Connolly Joint Venture of Seattle for the first phase of a nearly $1 billion terminal redevelopment project.

The Manson/Connolly contract, the first major construction contract awarded by the port in more than five years, will cover dredging, landfill, wharf construction and backlands development related to the port's Middle Harbor Terminal Redevelopment Program.

Consisting of more than 30 individual projects, the Middle Harbor program will transform two smaller odd-shaped and aging terminals into a single geographically efficient 342-acre mega terminal. The Manson/Connolly project represents Phase 1, Stage 1 of the total program, which is expected to take nine years to complete.

The new contract provides $123.3 million for construction costs, with the remainder of the $153 million covering design, surveying, program management, consultants, permitting and various contingencies.

The project was given the go ahead by the City Council in May 2009, and port staff have spent the past year and a half designing and developing the contract for Phase 1, Stage 1. The port handed out 223 sets of bid documents during the bid period with three firms eventually submitted completed packages. Opened on Jan. 25, 2011, the bids ranged from Manson/Connolly's low bid of $123 million to a high from another bidder of $142.5 million. The port's estimate for the costs of the work was $135 million.