Friday, April 29, 2011

Long Beach Port Awards $5M for Local Health Programs

The Port of Long Beach announced last week the awarding of $5 million in grants to fund ten projects aimed at improving what port officials call "the lung and heart health of people who live closest to the port."

The port funds will pay for projects that will educate families on asthma care, screen at-risk populations for respiratory illness, and build a cardiovascular disease diagnosis laboratory.

Announced recipients of the funds include: St. Mary Medical Center; The Children’s Clinic; the City of Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services; the Long Beach Comprehensive Health Center; the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America; the Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma; BREATHE California of Los Angeles County; Miller Children’s Hospital of Long Beach; Cambodian Association of America; and, the Westside Neighborhood Clinic.

“These grants [are going] to health programs that directly help the people most affected by air pollution from the goods movement industry,” Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners President Nick Sramek said.

“We continue to work to reduce air pollution at the source, but these grants help us address the overall effects of the Port’s presence.”

The grants, which range from $120,000 to $835,000, include health outreach projects to inform people – especially the most sensitive – about care and prevention of respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses. Other projects involve mobile units to bring health outreach and screening programs directly to the communities closest to the Port, and air filters for a children’s hospital.

The award recipients were selected by the port with input from a five-member advisory committee representing the community, industry and a regulatory agency.

The port has long struggled to combat both legacy pollution issues as well as the pollution from daily operations in and out of the immediate port area. Since the 2006 implementation of numerous pollution-cutting programs contained within the port's Clean Air Action Plan, port-generated pollution has collectively been reduced by 50 percent, including a more than 80 percent reduction in pollution from port-servicing diesel trucks.

New Transpac Service at Long Beach Port

The Port of Long Beach kicked off a new transpacific service on Tuesday with ceremonies welcoming Grand China Shipping as the port's newest container carrier.

The ceremonies focused around the inaugural call of the first of five 2,700-TEU vessels that will call weekly as part of GCS's new Super Pacific Express service. The SPX service will call at the port's Total Terminals International facility on Pier T.

The Red Strength and the other four ships in the SPX service are expected to import about 140,000 TEUs through the port by the end of 2011.

This is the first major expansion out of the intra-Asia trade for the four-year-old start-up carrier. The SPX route includes the Chinese ports of Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Ningbo and Shanghai, and then to Long Beach. Intermodal connections to key Midwest hubs such as Chicago, Dallas, Houston and Kansas City are also available.

GCS-parent Grand China Logistics Holding Group plans on a rapid and aggressive transpacific expansion, with a second service from additional Chinese cities to Long Beach set to launch next month.

"It is a vote of confidence that global trade is rebounding, and that the Port of Long Beach is the preferred route to reach US markets," Board of Harbor Commissioners Vice President Susan E. Anderson Wise told those gathered for a luncheon on Pier T to celebrate the event.

"We believe in fate," GCL Holding Group Chairman Jia Hongxiang said. "And we are going to have a very bright future together."

Grand China Shipping operates a fleet of 23 container ships with a total capacity of 37,000 TEUs and is, according to the carrier, ranked 33rd among the world's biggest container lines.

Ninth Circuit Sets Date for SoCal Truck Plan Hearing

The US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has set June 10 as the date it will hear arguments in the long-running case pitting the trucking industry against portions of the Port of Los Angeles drayage modernization program.

While both the American Trucking Associations, representing the trucking industry, and the port have already filed their written arguments over the appeal with the court, both sides will appear to answer questions from a three-member appellate panel whose members will be announced in late May or early June. As much of the material has been submitted or covered in other stages of the litigation, the appeals hearing is not expected to last more than a few hours. No rules state how long the panel has to reach its final ruling, though a final determination is likely at any time within a few months following the hearing. The case, regardless of who wins, is expected to wind up before the US Supreme Court.

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 independently included non-environmental criteria in the Los Angeles 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 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 some of the non-environmental portions of the port's Clean Truck Program, including the employee-mandate, violate the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution and federal laws governing interstate commerce.

After a lengthy court battle through 2008 and 2009 that saw the contested portions of the truck plan enjoined by the court, District Court Judge Christina Snyder ultimately 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.

Judge Snyder's ruling hinged on the concept of market participation. She determined 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 appeal to the Ninth Circuit, the ATA reiterated its original arguments from the lower court case 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 February 15 rebuttal response to the port filing argued 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 District 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 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.

Despite the litigation and the enjoined parts of the plan, the environmental portions of the trucking plan have been tremendously successful. Due in no small part to a more than $650 million out-of-pocket fleet turnover by the trucking industry since 2008, the ports estimate that more than 90 percent of the Southern California drayage fleet trucks are now 2007 or newer model year vehicles. Air pollution generated by drayage trucks, according to the ports, has been slashed by more than 80 percent since the truck program started.

Bicycle Shorts

In late March, drivers who use the Ballard Bridge to cross the Seattle Ship Canal were treated to an extra hour to enjoy their morning radio show, thanks to Seattle Public Utilities and the Seattle Department of Transportation.

A contractor working on a sewer project missed his morning deadline and kept one of the two southbound traffic lanes closed well into the morning commute. Bicycle traffic was unaffected. The resulting gridlock stretched into the Ballard and Fremont neighborhoods and effectively closed the surface streets to traffic for as much as an hour and a half.

Much of the problem might have been attributable to the City of Seattle’s “road diet” program, which consists of taking vehicle lanes away from major freight corridors and arterials, including those which serve as “alternate routes,” and reassigning them as bicycle lanes.

Rick Sheridan, Communications Manager for the Seattle Department of Transportation claims that the removal of 50 percent of the vehicle lanes “doesn’t reduce capacity,” and says this is the official line of the City of Seattle. The City bases this belief on a study, conducted by the City after the fact to justify the program, which is championed by avid bicyclist Mayor Mike McGinn.

Another bridge, another port. In San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District (GGBHTD) has proposed several safety recommendations for bicyclists using the Golden Gate Bridge, including a 10 mph speed limit (5 mph around the Bridge towers and in construction and maintenance zones), a fine schedule of $100 per offense and a prohibition on bicycles whose seat exceeds four feet in height above the ground, and a prohibition against unicycles. Apparently the unicycle and velocipede lobby lost that battle.

As part of the Golden Gate Bridge Seismic Retrofit Construction Project, GGBHTD will be temporarily closing the Golden Gate Bridge sidewalks, one sidewalk at a time. According to GGBHTD, the west sidewalk will close on Monday, May 9 and remain closed for a 4-month period. During this time, bicycles and pedestrians will share the east sidewalk, and the GGBHTD has determined that bicyclists will have access 24 hours/day, while pedestrians have access sunrise to sunset.

If a bicyclist gets a flat tire halfway across the bridge after dark, suddenly becoming a pedestrian, will he be required to wait until sunrise to complete his journey?

Another port, more bicycles. California contributing editor Keith Higginbotham says California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer told maritime industry representatives last week that the California budget situation could affect a major bridge replacement project underway at the Port of Long Beach.

Lockyear, appearing as the keynote speaker at a Pacific Merchant Shipping Association annual luncheon in Long Beach, said that until the state budget for the coming fiscal year is approved by the state legislature, he can not issue bonds to cover the more than $250 million in state funds promised for the Gerald Desmond Bridge replacement project in Long Beach. Lockyear told the assembled businessmen that until the budget is approved, which is required under the state constitution by June 15, projects like the Gerald Desmond Bridge would remain on what he described as the state’s “wish list” of projects to fund.

In designing the new structure, Caltrans and the Port have asked the design-build teams to include plans and cost estimates for a bikeway to be incorporated into the design. Perhaps this would be a good time to ask the bicycle advocates in the Long Beach area to contribute some money to the cause.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Widdows to Step Down From NOL Top Slot

Neptune Orient Lines Group President and CEO Ron Widdows, one of the most prominent and vocal chief executives in the shipping industry, will retire from his post at the end of the year to be replaced by a Singapore government insider.

Widdows, who will remain with the Singapore-based NOL Group as a Senior Advisor, will be succeeded by Ng Yat Chung as of January 1, 2012.

A nearly 30-year veteran of the Singapore armed forces, Ng served as the nation's Chief of Defense Force from 2003 to 2007 before his current role as a senior executive with Temasek Holdings, an investment firm which owns and manages the Singapore government's direct investments, both locally and overseas.

NOL Chairman of the Board Cheng Wai Keung cited Ng's "outstanding leadership and management abilities," as a major factor in Ng's selection to lead the firm.
Under the NOL Group executive succession plan, Ng will be appointed as an executive director to the NOL Group Board of Directors effective May 1. He will work with closely Widdows to ensure a smooth transition at the end of the year.

Widdows, who has been with NOL for three decades, was appointed president and CEO of NOL Group in 2008 after serving for five years as the CEO of NOL's container shipping business APL. During his tenure, NOL recorded a $1.2 billion turnaround in 2010 from the industry-wide drop off in 2009. Widdows is also Chairman of the World Shipping Council and past Chairman of the Transpacific Stabilization Agreement.

Major Subcontract Awarded For Long Beach Middle Harbor Project

Development continues apace at the Port of Long Beach, with a major multi-million subcontract for electrical work on the massive Middle Harbor Redevelopment Project being awarded to a subsidiary of Fortune 500 construction firm EMCOR.

The contract with EMCOR subsidiary Dynalectric Los Angeles is actually a subcontract within a $123 million contract with Middle Harbor first phase construction lead Manson/Connolly that was approved by the port in mid-February.

The Middle Harbor project is a nine-year $1 billion modernization and consolidation of two aging shipping terminals into a more contiguous state-of-the-art container terminal with twice the current cargo capacity of the two existing terminals. The Manson/Connolly phase one work, which includes building wharfs, dredging one slip and filling in another, is expected to start this spring and take 22 months.

The Dynalectric contract will see the installation of a dock electrification system that will provide electrical power from the landside power grid to berthed container ships. Dynalectric will also install the power grid infrastructure for the Middle Harbor project so that power can be provided to ships, cranes, and area lighting.
Although financial details of the contract with Dynalectric were not immediately available, the specified electrical work in the larger Manson/Connolly contract was roughly $13 million.

The scope of work for Dynalectric includes excavation and installation of 260,000 feet of underground concrete encased conduit, underground pre-cast pull boxes, pre-cast vaults, pre-cast manholes, and a pre-cast tunnel vault. Additionally, Dynalectic will install a main terminal substation and a ship-to-shore substation.

Ship-to-shore power systems allow vessel crews to turn of their auxiliary diesel engines while at berth and draw maintenance power for the vessels from the landside power grid, thereby cutting a large percentage of the diesel emissions generated during each call.

Plan Envisions New $15M Dispatch Hall for SoCal Dockers

Dockers at the Southern California ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles may soon have new digs under a plan awaiting approval by Los Angeles port officials.

A new $15 million International Longshore and Warehouse Union dispatch hall, measuring nearly 33,000 square feet, is being proposed to replace the 9,200-square-foot 1940s-era hall in Wilmington currently being used.

The new hall, with a tentative completion date in 2013, would also boost the number of parking spaces from the about 50 at the current hall to more than 800 at the new location about a half-mile away at the intersection of Anaheim and Alameda streets.

The plan would also consolidate an additional smaller satellite hall, also in Wilmington and used mainly by ILWU casuals, into the new facility.

The union and the two ports have been looking at various sites for a new hall within the two ports for close to a decade.

The governing board for the Port of Los Angeles is set to vote in May on a nominal $1-per-year 32-year lease to the Pacific Maritime Association for the site of the proposed hall.

The PMA, which represents the shipping industry and hires the dockers, will pay for the construction of the new hall and the ILWU will sublease the site for $2,050 a month to help the PMA recoup the construction costs.

New Maritime Security Training Center Opens at Los Angeles Port

US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa officially inaugurated a new maritime security training center at the Port of Los Angeles Monday, aimed at boosting security at the nation's ports.

The new $16.1 million Maritime Law Enforcement Training Center, the first of its kind in the US, will offer five-week training programs to law enforcement personnel from across the nation in such maritime security disciplines as arrest procedures, boardings, maritime counter-terrorism operations, and vessel searches.

The main training course is based on curriculum developed by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, and was jointly developed by the will be developed jointly by FLETC staff, the Long Beach Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, and the Los Angeles Port Police.

Villaraigosa said that to keep ports safe and secure, "we must invest in our personnel and provide them with the latest training tactics and procedures to be on alert for any signs of potential terrorism."

Basic training in boat handling skills, chart reading and navigation rules will also be provided at the center by the California Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.