Thursday, November 3, 2011

WSF’s Security Program Delivers Peace of Mind for its 22 Million Riders

By Greg Jose, with contributions from staff of Washington State Ferries Security Department, US Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound and Art Anderson Associates

The events of 9/11 brought into clear focus the need to strengthen the United States’ critical infrastructure against risks associated with potential terrorist attacks. Transportation systems, including ferries, were recognized to be at heightened risk due their public prominence and dense accommodation of large numbers of people.

New laws were created to address this concern, including the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002. Referred to as MTSA, the law requires vessel and port facility operators to conduct vulnerability assessments and develop security plans. In 2003, the US Coast Guard estimated the private sector costs of compliance to be $6.8B over ten years. To help defray this cost, the Government implemented the Port Security Grant Program (PSGP), which has since provided more than $2B in competitive grants to port and transportation facility operators.

Washington State Ferries (WSF), as the largest passenger and automobile ferry system in the United States, has been a recipient of PSGP funding and has engaged in a systematic and continual effort to improve vessel and terminal security. Art Anderson Associates (AAA), an engineering firm that specializes in services for ferry transportation systems, has served as WSF’s lead consultant providing critical implementation engineering support since 2003.

WSF now boasts a security program that includes, among other things, a fully integrated access control and video monitoring system. WSF’s successful buildout of its vessel and terminal security systems and procedures provides innovative and reliable security assurance to its daily operations, which translates to peace of mind for its 22 million annual passengers. But the path to success hasn’t been without its challenges, and WSF and AAA’s experience can provide lessons for other operators with similar security needs.

The Learning Curve
The relatively quick action by the Government to implement new requirements presented a steep learning curve for all involved. Following the 9/11 attacks, it was generally accepted that the next one was not a matter of “if,” but “when.”

A rapid rollout of new security measures and systems was needed, but nobody was really sure how they would take shape. In Puget Sound, the US Coast Guard Captain of the Port took charge, setting up a port security-related committee to address these challenges (the Puget Sound Area Maritime Security Committee), including a subcommittee related to the ferry system. The committee brought together all the crucial agencies involved in security, including the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, Washington State Patrol, US Customs and Border Protection and others to develop coordinated strategies and plans.

“Everybody came together to figure things out,” said John Dwyer, Chief of the Inspection Division at US Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound. Mr. Dwyer is the current head of the Vessel Security and Washington State Ferries Sub-Committees within the Puget Sound Area Maritime Security Committee. “A lot of stuff is déjà-vu, back-to-the-future,” said Mr. Dwyer, referring to strategies like small boat patrols and TWIC card implementation, which were similar to security programs implemented in World War II and the Korean War.

As MTSA and its requirements were put into place, the committee worked together to develop WSF’s coordinated security plan. Helmut Steele, WSF’s Company Security Officer, and a former Washington State Patrol Captain, advised a key strategy in WSF’s Alternative Security plan, which was to improve WSF’s ability to control access to and monitor and record sensitive areas at terminals and aboard vessels. Such a strategy would require the design and installation of video cameras, card access systems, alarm systems, improved lighting, physical security configuration changes and IT integration in central monitoring locations. WSF applied for, and was successful in being awarded the first of its Port Security Grants in 2003.

Grant funding requirements dictated that an outside consultant be engaged to support implementation of the new security systems. Art Anderson Associates was selected as the security consultant because of its customer service strategy for integrating naval architecture and marine engineering services with architecture and engineering for ferry terminals and support facilities, and its successful history serving WSF on previous contracts.

Facing Challenges
It was clear from the outset of the program that daunting challenges faced the team. There were questions as to what specifically needed to be monitored and controlled, whether to use a single vendor or multiple vendors, how to deal with the logistics of managing equipment information, and how to develop the best and most reliable strategies for mobile system connectivity using technologies that had not yet evolved to the current state of the art.

The team quickly recognized that successful knowledge management would be a key to the program’s success moving forward. With thousands of pieces of equipment spread throughout the WSF system, configuration data and documentation were determined to be critical attributes for success. An electronic catalog system was developed for user-friendly access to the equipment data. As equipment was added or replaced, the appropriate data was filed and cataloged immediately. Because of the pace of the project, daily updates were sometimes necessary to stay on top of things.

Addressing the mobile connectivity problem and the volume of monitoring information was another challenge. Spread across a large geographic area, with routes that ply the winding fjords of Puget Sound, building a system that ensures a reliable data connection with the reporting locations was a struggle, but not one that was insurmountable. The project team pioneered solutions that overcame the difficulties of limited existing infrastructure.

Adapting to Change
Among many challenges, the biggest of all was reconciling the fast-changing world of IT and computer systems with the relatively glacial pace of change in the maritime industry. “It was like trying to hit a moving target,” said Art Anderson Associates electrical designer Mike Tasso, a key member of the design team. “The technology was growing by leaps and bounds, and once a piece of equipment was selected, designed and installed, there was already a new one on the market that was better.”

In a typical ship design/repair project, it can take anywhere from six months to a year from development of a design drawing to final installation. For this project, the typical time frame needed to be accelerated. Even then, it was common that as a design package neared completion, the equipment would change right up until the moment it was time to purchase and install the item.

In addition, the “hardened” installations could only occur while vessels were in the shipyard. Therefore the team had to find a way to set up a design and production schedule that would match completion of design with vessel availabilities in a timely manner, lest the design be obsolete by the time the vessel could enter the yard.

Then there was the “domino effect” of changes. It was frequently the case that a new piece of equipment would require additional unforeseen changes to ensure it could function. For instance, new video equipment needed new servers, which needed additional power supplies, which generated additional heat in the server cabinet, requiring new cooling equipment. Early on, many of these lessons were addressed on the fly, but as the security program became more refined, these cascade effects were anticipated early and planned for.

Compounding the complexity was the fact that technology and equipment weren’t the only things changing – the security environment was too. For instance, at one point in the project, new requirements were introduced that necessitated expanded video surveillance coverage at ferry terminals and aboard vessels. This required WSF to determine the specific locations for the new equipment, and modify existing server racks and data systems to accommodate it.

Communication is Key
Early on in the project, WSF made the decision to utilize multiple vendors for the security systems, rather than a single source. While this freed the team to select the best piece of equipment for a specific application, it also raised the bar of knowledge and communication needed to design a well-functioning, integrated system with the best technology.

Fortunately, everyone seemed to get along well. “This area is good at collaboration,” said Mr. Dwyer. In addition to the bi-monthly meetings of the WSF Subcommittee Mr. Dwyer chairs, weekly project meetings between AAA, WSF and vendor personnel were important factors in keeping everyone on the same page. “WSF’s security team led a workgroup with a real diversity of expertise and opinion, which allowed ideas to be generated and good solutions to bubble to the top. Having all the vendors in one room also helped in expediting the often-difficult task of getting all the different pieces of equipment to talk to each another in an integrated way.

Looking Ahead
More than eight years have passed since WSF began the program. Since that time, the system has continued to be constructed to cover all 20 terminals and all 22 vessels in the fleet. The hundreds of data collection points (cameras, access systems, alarms) have been integrated into a single network with confidential central monitoring. As a result, WSF has significantly increased the safety and security of its vessels and facilities, and accordingly, the safety of the general public.

While system design and construction has fulfilled WSF Alternative Security Plan requirements since the initial build-out of the system, there is an ongoing technical and logistical challenge to maintain the systems and update the technology to keep pace with a rapidly evolving industry. But even more importantly, there is an ongoing challenge to continue to diminish the risk of a threat that might not be intercepted.

Both AAA and WSF have learned many hard-won lessons though the course of this challenging program. The chief lessons focus on the importance of strong relationships, communication and an acceptance of change.

WSF has also acknowledged the importance of technical capability. Mr. Steele emphasized this point: “The marine environment is much more challenging,” he said. “One key to success is finding outside companies with vast knowledge in marine operations, such as Art Anderson Associates and the security system vendors.”

With maritime engineering experience that spans from shoreside facilities to operating vessels, including working on complex systems for WSF, the nation’s largest ferry operator, vessel operators rely on companies such as Art Anderson Associates to provide expert engineering assistance.

Greg Jose is the Manager of Corporate Image and Opportunity at Art Anderson Associates. He leads business development and project management for ferry transportation planning projects and is responsible for the firm’s overall marketing campaigns and programs.

Changing of the Guard

In the late 1990s, as I sat down at a desk in the Business Department of the Long Beach Press-Telegram as a new reporter, I was immediately asked which beat I wanted to cover: aerospace or the ports.

Despite a fascination with planes and aviation since a child, I chose the ports. I figured that it would be a great learning experience on something I knew nothing about.

Flash forward more than a dozen years, and I can say with some certainty that I still don't know enough about the maritime industry. But good fortune and hard work have allowed me to spend these years covering an industry that I have come to love – mainly because there is something new to learn just about every day.

During this time, thanks to many of you, I have managed to offer news on this industry that I sincerely hope has been helpful and informative.

And yet, just like that first day as a reporter when I chose to hitch my career to the maritime industry, I have now decided to move into another field that I am sure will be another great learning experience.

So, the journalism part of my career comes to an end as yet another door opens.

Just over two years ago, we started the PMM Online newsletter with the idea of providing each of you with West Coast maritime news that was both substantive and also offered important background and context. I think we succeeded beyond our expectations.

And that success will continue. Veteran maritime reporter Mark Nero will take the helm of PMM Online starting next week. Mark is a great reporter, a good friend, and best of all, a member of that every shrinking clan of reporters who genuinely love covering the maritime industry.

For my part, I will look at my time with the PMM family as a tremendous learning experience – and an opportunity that has afforded me the chance to work with some of the best and the brightest people around.

And while my path may no longer go in the same direction as PMM’s, I am proud to say we all travelled together for a while. I can only hope that somewhere in the distance, our paths may intersect again.

Thank you to everyone, both in the industry and at PMM. It was quite a run.

Los Angeles City Hall Forms Export Council

With the goal of making it easier for Los Angeles region firms to export goods and services, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced Monday the formation of the Los Angeles Regional Export Council (LARExC).

The council is a collaboration between City Hall, the Los Angeles World Airports, the Port of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, the Centers for International Trade Development, the USC Center for International Business Education and Research and the UCLA Center for International Business Education and Research.

The LARExC will start by creating a website to serve as a single entry point for firms seeking assistance to sell goods and service abroad.

"We in Los Angeles are not waiting for Washington to create jobs," Villaraigosa said.
"We are launching the Los Angeles Regional Export Council to help local businesses find the export assistance they need to grow their businesses and create new jobs."

The LARExC website will serve as a one-stop regional export web resource to connect small- and medium-sized businesses with the appropriate export services. The council's main focus will be on existing exporters or firms that have the ability to start exporting, in about a dozen key growth industries ranging from apparel to green products to food products.

"As we continue to face a weak economy, regional leaders have to leverage their key assets and develop strategies to better engage in the global marketplace if they want to succeed in creating jobs in the short term and transform their economies for the long term," said Amy Liu, Co-Director and Senior Fellow, the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, who Villaraigosa praised for inspiring the idea of the LARExC.

"This economic initiative will put Los Angeles and Southern California on that path to a more prosperous future."

The LARExC will also work with area trade groups to offer local businesses training in the nuances and advantages of free trade agreements.

Protesters Occupy, Shut Down Oakland Port

Thousands of "Occupy Oakland" protesters marched into the Port of Oakland Wednesday night, effectively shutting down evening operations at the port.

The protest at the port was part of a day-long "general strike" called by the Occupy Oakland protesters in response to the police handling of protests last week that led to the serious injury by law enforcement officers of protester Scott Olsen.

The Occupy movement began in New York City almost two months ago, drawing thousands of angry protesters claiming that one percent of the population controls a disproportionate amount of the nation's wealth and power. The movement has since spread to nearly two-dozen United States cities and other cities abroad.

On Monday, members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union offered their support to the Occupy Oakland protesters. However, ILWU members are not allowed to call a strike in support of actions such as the Occupy protests. ILWU officials said several dozen dockers did not show up for work at the port Wednesday, representing about 10 percent of the approximately 300-member strong workforce called for on Wednesday.

Protesters began arriving at the port in the early morning Wednesday and quickly overwhelmed gates and entrances throughout the port. The protesters, estimated by police to number about 3,000, stayed at the port for four to five hours before returning to Frank Ogawa Plaza in downtown Oakland.

Port officials on Thursday morning reported that operations at the port were returning to normal, but the situation remained "fluid."

Despite the relatively short duration of the protests on Wednesday, the first Occupy efforts directed at the port, port officials warned that such shutdowns could have dire economic consequences.

"Continued disruptions will begin to lead to re-routing of cargo and permanent loss of jobs, a situation that would only exacerbate the on-going economic challenges of our region," the port said.

WTC Owners Seek to Break Long Beach Port Deadline on HQ Purchase

With the clock ticking on the Port of Long Beach's purchase agreement to buy the World Trade Center in downtown Long Beach as a new headquarters, the current owners of the building are seeking to break the port governing board's deadlock on the $130 million deal.

Legacy Partners, the current owners of the 27-story office building, have taken advantage of an extension in the 60-day agreement to extend the deadline to Nov. 15. The previous deadline had been set to end the agreement earlier this week.

Legacy has also taken steps to break the 2-2 deadlock on the five-member port board due to one commissioner's recusal on the vote.

The port has been seeking to replace its circa-1959 headquarters building – determined to be seismically unfit – for nearly a decade. The WTC is one of several properties that port management have considered over the past year as a possible location to move the more than 450-member port staff.

The port had planned to internally fund and build a $220 million state-of-the-art "green" headquarters in the port, but Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster shot the plan down last year as too expensive, despite no planned expenditures of taxpayer funds. Since the mayor's decision, the port has been looking to lease or purchase a nearby office building to house the port staff.

In preparation to purchase the WTC, the port entered into a 60-day due diligence agreement with Legacy on Sept. 12.

Despite approving the 60-day agreement, the two freshmen commissioners on the port board – Rich Dines and Doug Drummond – have since blocked moving forward with the purchase. Commissioners Thomas Fields and Nick Sramek have voted to move forward with the purchase, but Commission president Susan Wise has been forced by the City Attorney to recuse herself from the vote because she subleases an office space in the WTC from her husband. This has left the port board in a 2-2 deadlock over the purchase of the WTC.

Dines and Drummond have said that they would prefer the port to purchase land and build a new headquarters building in downtown. The only properties offered up that meet these criteria are owned by Skip Keesel, a prominent Long Beach attorney and a major supporter of Mayor Foster.

Dines and Drummond, who were appointed to the port board by Mayor Foster earlier this year, have both indicated that they support a new direction for the port that places more emphasis on following the direction of City Hall. Technically the port functions as a semi-autonomous department of the city, though recent moves by Mayor Foster have sought to reign in that autonomy.

Legacy asked City Attorney Robert Shannon to reconsider his opinion that Commissioner Wise must recuse herself from voting on the WTC deal, but earlier this week Shannon declined to change his opinion or extend the deadline.

Legacy has also asked the state Fair Political Practices Commission – which operates as the final voice in government conflict of interest situations – to assess the situation with Commissioner Wise. The group has requested a speedy hearing from the FPPC.

Commissioners Dines and Wise are out of the country on a trade mission and are not expected to return to the US until Monday at the earliest. However, if neither can make it to the Monday board meeting, it would leave the possibility of a three-member quorum vote on the issue, with the already stated positions of the remaining commissioners giving a 2-1 edge in favor of purchasing the WTC.

If no vote is taken Monday, the final full meeting within the deadline period would be Nov. 14.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Oakland Council Must Revote on Port Board Appointments

File this under "Oops."

A recent Oakland City Council vote approving the appointment of Jakada Imani and Victor Uno to the Port of Oakland Harbor Commission will have to be retaken on the advice of the City Attorney for potentially violating the state's open meeting laws.

The vote, which occurred earlier this month, approved replacing commissioner Margaret Gordon with Imani and approved reappointing Uno to the port governing board.

However, the vote took place during a crowded and confusing council meeting, where more than 60 members of the public had signed up to speak. Council members, who had already given preliminary approval to the appointments during two previous public meetings, took the Imani/Uno vote before allowing the registered members of the public to speak – an apparent violation of the state's open meeting laws.

Following the meeting, a Council subcommittee asked City Attorney Barbara Parker to evaluate whether the process regarding the vote was properly handled by the council. Parker later notified Oakland Mayor Jean Quan in a memo that the council vote on the commissioners was invalid.

"Given the confusion in the chamber and timing of the vote, we conclude that public speakers on both sides of the issue were not given a clear opportunity to speak before the Council voted on the item as required by the Sunshine Ordinance and Brown Act," Parker said in the memo.

"It is of the utmost importance that citizens have a voice in the business conducted on their behalf by the Council. To fully comply with the requirement that the public has a meaningful opportunity to address the Council before it takes action, this item must be re-noticed to “cure and correct."

Mayor Quan has drawn heat from the public and many members of the city council over her plans to replace Gordon, a noted environmental and community activist, on the port board. In addition, Quan has taken criticism for the way she handled the appointment of Imani over Gordon – reportedly notifying Gordon of her decision via email and refusing to talk to Gordon supporters regarding the decision.

For her part, Quan has denied any improper treatment of Gordon.

APL/APL Logistics Assisting With Thailand Flood Relief

APL and APL Logistics, the shipping and logistics arms of Singapore-based NOL Group, announced a three prong effort on Monday to assist victims of devastating flooding in Thailand. The two NOL Group subsidiaries added that they are maintaining full operations in Thailand despite the fact that large swaths of the country remain underwater.

Torrential rain has caused Thailand’s worst flooding in a half century. Nearly 400 people have died during the crisis. A third of the country’s provinces have been inundated.

"We are doing everything we can to provide uninterrupted service in a time of need," APL Thailand Managing Director Watana Kitikongnopakorn said. "At the same time we are providing resources to help the country overcome this crisis."

The APL/APL Logistics three-pronged contribution to flood relief includes: free containerized transport of relief supplies and rescue boats to outlying Thai provinces, a rescue paddle boat, and a 40-foot container for a barrier to hold back flood waters; $20,000 to the Red Cross in Thailand; and, more than $6,000 from APL/APL Logistics employees to relief agencies.

APL Thailand said it would remain in contact with emergency response officials to determine if further support is needed.

APL and APL Logistics said their Thailand offices and facilities remain operational. Both have developed contingency plans should flooding become widespread in Bangkok. According to the firm, APL service at Laem Chabang Port and at its Lat Krabang container depot near Bangkok remains uninterrupted.

APL is still accepting inbound bookings at Laem Chabang and Lat Krabang. APL and APL Logistics are urging customers to clear cargo directly at Laem Chabang Port to avoid potential flooding risks in Bangkok. APL said there are no restrictions on outbound bookings.

APL Logistics said it is taking preventive measures at its warehousing facilities to protect customers’ goods and to limit damage from the flood, which has broken down supply chains across the inundated country. APL Logistics added that it is working closely with customers to execute contingency plans.

Construction to Start on New 144-Car Washington State Ferry

Construction will begin early next year on a new 144-car ferry for the Washington State Ferries, following the State's signing of a contract change order with Vigor Industrial and its US Fab shipbuilding division to begin construction.

“This has been a momentous week for Washington state and our ferry system,” said Gov. Christine Gregoire. “We have just taken delivery of the last of three new 64-car ferries, the Kennewick, and now we begin construction on a new 144-car ferry – an important action that helps ensure we have modern vessels to continue giving our passengers safe and reliable service.”

Work on this first vessel will create an estimated 200 family-wage jobs at Vigor and 350 jobs at subcontractors, vendors and other shipyards in the region.

The new ferry is scheduled to take about 27 months to complete. Cost of construction is $115 million and the total cost of the vessel is $147 million, which includes owner-furnished equipment, construction management and contingencies.

The design of the ferry is based on the 130-car Issaquah class, which has proven to be the most versatile vessel in the state fleet. Benefits of the new 144-car ferry will include increased passenger comfort, improved safety systems, better access for customers with disabilities and reduced operating costs.

“This construction is a vital part of our vessel-renewal program and will allow us to retire the 55-year-old ferry Evergreen State,” says state Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond. “But this is the last boat we have funding for and we don’t have the money needed just to operate our ferry system at the current level. We are on the brink of a crisis.”

WSF has a contract with Vigor for design and construction of up to three 144-car ferries, but it is contingent on available funding.

“We’re eager to get started building this new ferry with our two dozen subcontractors and suppliers around the region,” says Kevin Quigley, president of Vigor’s US Fab division. “We look forward to putting local, skilled shipbuilding trades to work producing another new ferry for the citizens of Washington State.”

Washington State Ferries operates the largest ferry fleet in the United States. Twenty-two ferries cross Puget Sound and its inland waterways, carrying more than 22 million passengers a year.