Friday, August 5, 2011

LA Port Postpones Infrastructure Cargo Fee Until 2014

The governing board for the Port of Los Angeles on Thursday delayed the implementation of a per-TEU infrastructure fee that is hoped to pay for $1.4 billion in port-area projects until at least Jan. 1, 2014.

The Infrastructure Cargo Fee (ICF) was first proposed more than three years ago as a funding mechanism to support development of port-area infrastructure, but has faced several delays and has yet to be implemented.

In early 2008, Los Angeles officials, along with official from the neighboring Port of Long Beach, approved moving forward with a $15-per-TEU fee on all containers moving in or out of the two ports by truck or rail. Originally envisioned to last for seven-years, the fee was initially set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2009.

The estimated $1.4 billion in collected funds were to be used for a handful of projects identified by port officials as “critical” to the future growth of the two neighboring ports. At the time, these included: the replacement of the aging Gerald Desmond Bridge with an taller and wider version for more than $800 million, replacing the Commodore Heim lift bridge with a fixed and wider structure at a cost of more than $650, expanding a short freeway heading to one of the ports’ main intermodal yards, and expanding on-dock rail capacity at several locations. The ICF project list now includes five in the Los Angeles port, two in Long Beach, and one for the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority.

Following the worldwide economic downturn, the 2009 start date was later delayed for further consideration by the two ports and in April, 2010, the ports approved delaying the collection of the ICF until Jan. 1, 2012.

Los Angeles port officials, in approving the 2014 delay this week, cited the current national economic uncertainties and adequate funding in port coffers to cover port infrastructure projects through the end of fiscal year 2012.

The Port of Long Beach is expected to approve a similar delay next week.

Long Beach Pitt Going Out To Bid On $17.7M Electrification Project

The Port of Long Beach governing board has approved going out to bid on an estimated $17.7 million project to provide ship-to-shore power at one of the port's major cargo terminals.

The project consists of retrofitting three existing berths at the port's Pier A facility to provide landside electrical power to vessels. Providing landside power to vessels at berth allows the vessels to turn off their diesel-powered auxiliary engines normally run while at dock, dramatically cutting ship-generated pollution in the harbor. Up to 50 percent of a typical calling vessel's total emissions are generated by the at-berth use of auxiliary engines.

The port's Pier A facility is operated by SSA Terminals and is currently serviced by a number of carriers including CMA CGM, Matson, MSC and Zim.

In December 2007, the California Air Resources Board approved regulations requiring a 50 percent reduction in at-berth vessel emissions in California by Jan. 1, 2014, rising to 80 percent by Jan. 1, 2020.

When completed, the Pier A project will be the fourth ship-to-shore installation at the port. The port plans to eventually have ship-to-shore hookups at each of its terminals.

The deadline for bids on the project to be submitted to the port is September 27.
As part of the bid criteria, the port has set a goal of 30 percent small business participation and 5 percent very small business participation.

Two New Commissioners Approved For Long Beach Port Board

The Long Beach City Council on Tuesday approved the appointment of two new commissioners to the governing board for the Port of Long Beach.

Longshore union official Rich Dines and former Long Beach City Council member Doug Drummond received unanimous approval from the council to fill the two vacant seats on the five-member commission which oversees and sets policy for the port.

"Rich Dines probably knows the port better than anyone that works there every day," Mayor Bob Foster said.

"He is a very capable individual who I expect will do a great job in making sure that the air quality improvements continue, that the infrastructure investments continue, and maybe, most important of all, that there are improvements in how we handle cargo--so we can handle greater volumes at greater velocities. I know he is committed to that."

Dines represents more than 20,000 dockers from San Diego to Fresno as the President of the Southern California District Council of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). He also serves as the SCDC's representative to the FuturePorts organization, a board member of the Pacific Gateway Workforce Investment Network and sits on the Policy and Steering Committee for California State University Long Beach’s Center for International Trade and Transportation (CITT).

"When it comes to competition," Dines told the council, "I see if first hand each day. I realize how important it is to this port and to this city that we remain competitive and I believe that goes hand in hand with job creation."

Foster also praised Drummond, a 29-year veteran of the Long Beach Police Department who also served as a Long Beach City Council member from 1990 to 1998 and served as the city's vice-mayor from 1994 to 1996.

Drummond's background with the LBPD comes as City Hall moves toward absorbing the port's internal security operations into the city police department.
"I think Doug's law enforcement background in particular will be very helpful as we try to more fully to integrate some of the law enforcement issues and security issues with the city," Foster said.

Drummond told the council that he believes job creation and security at the port are two key concerns. He also made clear his stand on the typically sacrosanct semi-autonomous relationship the port has held with City Hall.

"I also want to assure you that I will work very closely with the city council with respect to the port," Drummond said. "It, to me, is the City of Long Beach Harbor Department."

Dines and Drummond will attend their first port commission meeting next Monday.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Fidley Watch: Here’s Lookin’ at You

by Chris Philips, Managing Editor 

Since May 11th, much of Seattle has been abuzz (atwitter?) about a strange vessel that came to visit Vigor shipyard. The Sea-Based X-Band Radar-1 (SBX-1) was towed into port under cover of darkness on May 10th, and neighbors awoke to this large white orb. Speculation started immediately, and even though media tours and news coverage of the vessel allayed the fears of most, there is still a contingent that believes the ship is a sinister secret government project having to do with weather modification, strings of massive earthquakes, tornadoes, birds falling from the sky in triangular patterns and the disappearance of all garden insects in Seattle. (The editor lives just north of the City limits, and still has plenty of insects in his garden, so at least the SBX-1 is observing boundary lines).

The SBX-1 is an advanced X-Band radar mounted aboard an oceangoing, semi-submersible platform. It provides the Ballistic Missile Defense System with a missile tracking and discrimination capability that can be positioned to cover any part of the globe to support both missile defense operations and testing. The platform is twin-hulled, self-propelled (four azimuthing thrusters- one at each corner) and very stable in rough seas and turbulent sea conditions. It provides an advanced radar capability to obtain missile tracking information while an incoming threat missile is in flight, discriminates between the hostile missile warhead and any decoys, and provides that data to interceptor missiles so that they can successfully intercept and destroy the threat missile before it can reach its target. The radar is capable of tracking an object the size of a baseball from 2,900 miles.

The platform is 240 feet wide and 390 feet long, and rises 250 above the waterline and requires a draft of 30 feet. The vessel houses living quarters, workspaces, storage, power generation, a bridge and control rooms while providing the floor space and infrastructure necessary to support the radar antenna array, command, control and communications

suites and an in-flight interceptor communication system data terminal.
Construction of the vessel and integration of the payloads were completed in two Texas shipyards and extensive sea-trials were conducted in the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean.

The SBX-1 was not in town to adjust the weather, but for routine maintenance and upgrades including power and radar upgrades and the installation of a cold-ironing system, as well as work on the thrusters.

It’s nice to know this remarkable vessel is looking out for us, and we’re glad a West Coast yard won the maintenance contract. At press time, our honorable representatives in Washington DC were squabbling about the budget we hope funding for the SBX-1 isn’t on the table.

Long Beach Port Study Shows Significant Cuts In Port-Area Pollution

The latest annual analysis of pollution reduction efforts at the Port of Long Beach has shown a 72 percent decline in port-area diesel particulates between 2005 and 2010. The document, released Monday by port officials, also marks the fourth straight year that the port-funded annual analysis has detailed significant reductions in port-generated pollution.

The annual "emission inventory" showed dramatic reductions in all major pollutant categories compared to 2009, including all three particulate matter categories, the oxides of sulfur category (SOx) and the oxides of nitrogen (NOx) category.

Diesel particulate matter (DPM) was down 42 percent in 2010 compared to 2009 levels, PM10 levels were down 41 percent and PM2.5 levels were also down 41 percent. Particulate matter, the largest of which is most clearly seen as soot in engine smokestacks, is linked to various respiratory problems. The three categories cover increasingly smaller particulates, with PM2.5 being the smallest, and according to most respiratory health officials, that with the most serious impact of the three on human health.

Port-generated SOx levels in 2010 were down 52.5 percent compared to the previous year, and 2010 NOx levels were down 17.1 percent. SOx and NOx are both related to various respiratory ailments. NOx is also a precursor of smog.

The nearly 350-page port analysis also compared 2010 port-area pollution levels to 2005 levels--the year the port's first emissions inventory was compiled. This comparison attempts to provide a pre- and post-picture of the impacts on pollution reduction afforded by the port's ongoing omnibus environmental program--the Clean Air Action Plan--which was implemented in 2006.

The port's 2010 DPM levels have fallen 72 percent from 2005 levels, while PM10 and PM2.5 levels have both fallen 70 percent.

The port's 2010 SOx levels have dropped 73 percent since 2005 and 2010 NOx levels in the port-area are 46 percent lower than those seen in 2005.

The emissions inventory analyzes port-area emissions from forklifts, locomotives, ships, trucks, tugboats and other equipment that move cargo at the port.

The inventory's results were reviewed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the California Air Resources Board and the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

“We’re seeing the benefits of the hard work by the Port and the entire goods movement industry to reduce air pollution and to be better neighbors to the community,” Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners President Susan Anderson Wise said. “And we’re not finished. We are continually exploring new practices and technologies to improve air quality in the harbor to benefit the entire region.”

The primary contributing factors to the major reduction, according to the inventory, was the ubiquitous use of lower-sulfur fuels by all waterfront equipment – but especially the ocean-going ships – and the continued phasing out of the oldest trucks under the port's Clean Trucks Plan that began in 2008.

Other factors include an expansion and high compliance rate of a voluntary vessel speed reduction program where most ships slow down to reduce air pollution within 40 miles of the Port, and the continued changeover of yard equipment and the port-servicing Pacific Harbor Line locomotive fleet.

The full 2010 emissions inventory is available on the port website at

Roadrunner Purchases California Drayage Firm

Wisconsin-based transportation and logistics firm Roadrunner Transportation Systems (RRTS) announced Monday that it has acquired all of the outstanding stock of short-haul transportation firm The James Brooks Company.

James Brooks, with headquarters in Fresno, California, provides drayage service to the ports of Long Beach, Los Angeles and Oakland transporting primarily fresh produce including citrus, vegetables, fruit, and nuts.

The purchase price was approximately $7.5 million and was financed with borrowings under RRTS' credit facility. According to RRTS, James Brooks generated about $12 million in sales during calendar year 2010, all with operating margins in excess of 10 percent.

RRTS chief financial officer Peter Armbruster said that he expects the James Brooks acquisition to add to RRTS' net earnings in 2011.

Mark DiBlasi, President and CEO of RRTS, said, "The James Brooks acquisition substantially enhances the scale and critical mass of our drayage operations in key ports on the West Coast. In addition, [James Brooks'] seasonality matches up well with our existing intermodal drayage business, which we believe will enhance our driver utilization and retention. We look forward to supporting and expanding James Brooks' solid customer relationships and strong service record as we pursue continued growth in the business."

Also on Monday, RRTS announced a 6.9 percent general rate increase to all points in the US and Canada. The increase is set to take effect August 15.

The James Brooks purchase is only the latest in a string of recent expansion moves by RRTS.

In early June the firm announced a management restructuring to better handle the evolution of RRTS from an LTL trucking firm to a broadeer-based multimodal transportation and logistics firm.

A week earlier RRTS had announced the $10.6 million purchase of Wichita, Kansas-based refrigerated carrier M. Bruenger Trucking.

In February, RRTS moved strongly into the intermodal sector with the $20 million cash purchase of Morgan Southern, an Atlanta-based drayage firm with 19 intermodal terminals nationwide. Located mainly in the US Southeast and Midwest, the Morgan facilities include three at West Coast ports: Los Angeles, Stockton, and Tacoma.

Post Office Honors US Merchant Marine In New Stamp Series

The United States Postal Service on Thursday commemorated the 75th anniversary of the signing of the law that created the modern US Merchant Marine with the dedication of a new series of postage stamps honoring the US Merchant Marine.

In several ceremonies across the nation, including one aboard a restored World War II Liberty ship in the Port of Los Angeles, the USPS unveiled the series of four new stamps, each featuring vessels that played key roles during the history of the US Merchant Marine.

"The new four-stamp pane that we are issuing today features vessels that have formed an important part of our country’s maritime history – clipper ships, auxiliary steamships, Liberty ships and container ships," USPS vice president of Product Information Jim Cochrane said at a similar dedication ceremony held Thursday at the US Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York.

The Clipper Ship stamp is based on an undated Frank Vining Smith lithograph of the famous clipper Sovereign of the Seas, which launched in 1852.

The Auxiliary Steamship stamp is based on contemporary lithographs of ships of the Collins Line, which provided service between New York and Liverpool in the 1850s. These were steam-powered ships with back-up sailing rigs.

The Liberty Ship stamp is based on a photograph of an unidentified Liberty ship in the files of the public library in Westport, Conn. During World War II, the US built nearly 3,000 of these plain but sturdy cargo vessels for the war effort. 

The Container Ship stamp is based on an undated photograph of the R.J. Pfeiffer, a modern container ship launched in 1992 and operated by Matson Navigation Company.

"The men and women who built and sailed the ships depicted in these four postal stamps have buoyed our prosperity, liberty and way of life. Their sacrifice is worthy of remembrance, as they continue to be an integral part of America’s economy and national security," US Merchant Marine Academy administrator David Matsuda said.

The US Maritime Administration, whose forerunner the US Maritime Commission was also created 75 years ago by the Merchant Marine Act of 1936, is charged with developing and maintaining an adequate, well-balanced national merchant marine, sufficient to carry the nation's domestic waterborne commerce and a substantial portion of its waterborne foreign commerce, and capable of service as a naval and military auxiliary in time of war or national emergency.

Known as MARAD, the agency also seeks to ensure that the US maintains adequate shipbuilding and repair services, efficient ports, effective inter-modal water and land transportation systems, and reserve shipping capacity for use in time of national emergency.

The US merchant fleet currently consists of just fewer than 200 large cargo vessels of various types. One hundred of these vessels fall under the Jones Act, which requires the vessels to be built in the US and staffed by US sailors.

"As we dedicate these stamps, we pay homage not only to the ships, but also to the valor of the thousands of dedicated members of the US Merchant Marine who served their country and served it honorably," USPS' Cochrane said.

The four stamp series are offered as "Forever stamps," meaning they are always equal in value to the current USPS First-Class Mail one-ounce rate, regardless of the original purchase price.

In addition to the restored Liberty ship S.S. Lane Victory, the Los Angeles port is also home to the American Merchant Marine Veterans Memorial, the first national memorial honoring the hundreds of thousands of merchant mariners that have served the nation in wartime.

tags: United States Merchant Marine, Port of Los Angeles

Potentially Devastating Pest Found In SoCal Port Shipment

A living specimen of a destructive wood pest has been discovered by government officials at the Long Beach/Los Angeles port complex in a shipment of pineapples from Costa Rica.

It is the first West Coast appearance of the strongylaspis corticaria, a close relative of the highly destructive Asian longhorned beetle, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, and only the second occurrence of this specific species in the US The first occurrence was in Miami in 1999.

Government agriculture specialists discovered the adult beetle in the pineapple shipment last month, but an identification was only confirmed last week. The pineapple shipment was immediately sent back to Costa Rica.

Both larval and adult beetles feed on living tree tissue. Larvae laid by a female adult on the tree eventually bore into the tree, eating through tissue that carries water from tree roots and nutrients from the leaf canopy. Once the pest has sufficiently disrupted these pathways, the infected tree will die.

Certain members of the longhorned beetle family, not including the one found in Southern California, are already a serious concern in other parts of the country.

Longhorned beetles, according to the USDA, likely arrived in the US in solid wood packing materials. The first official US identification of Asian longhorned Beetle was in Brooklyn, New York in 1996 and infestations of certain species now exist in parts of New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts. Infestations were eradicated in Illinois and Hudson County, New Jersey.

The longhorned beetles are a serious threat to hardwood trees and have no known natural predator in US They threaten urban and suburban shade trees, as well as recreation and forest resources valued at billions of dollars.

Asian longhorned beetles primarily damage and kill maple trees, including box elder, red, silver and sugar maple; birch; elm; willow; Ohio buckeye; and horse chestnut. Other possible hosts for the beetle include ash and poplar trees.

According to the USDA, if the Asian longhorned Beetle becomes established in the United States, it has the potential to cause more damage than Dutch elm disease, chestnut blight and gypsy moths combined, destroying millions of acres of US hardwoods, including national forests and backyard trees.