Thursday, December 22, 2011

Clean Ports Act Introduced in US Congress

Legislation that would give local and regional ports across the US the autonomy to implement programs that go beyond current federal mandates to reduce diesel emissions has been introduced for consideration in the US Senate.
The Clean Ports Act of 2011, which was submitted Dec. 16 by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), was inspired in part by the respective clean trucks programs at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

“It’s time to update federal laws and allow our nation's ports to help reduce diesel emissions and improve air quality,” Gillibrand said in a statement announcing the proposed legislation.

The Clean Ports Act, which is co-sponsored by five other senators – Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) – would allow ports to impose more stringent terms and conditions of operations on drayage trucks and other diesel-powered equipment that contribute to air pollution.

Similar legislation was first proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010 by Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), but failed to pass. Earlier this year, Nadler introduced a modified version of the bill, which mirrors the Senate version and is still pending.

More than 150 business, environmental and labor groups have already lined up to support the House or Senate versions of the Clean Ports Act, including American Stevedoring Inc., the Teamsters union and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

But the legislation has been opposed by the American Trucking Associations and US Chamber of Commerce, among others. They say the bill would lead to increased costs, as trucking companies would be forced to buy newer, less-polluting vehicles and then pass the cost on to consumers.

The measure has not yet been scheduled for a vote in either the House or Senate.

Oakland City Council Rejects Port Protection Law

A resolution that would have required the city of Oakland to use stronger measures to protect the port in the future in the event of disruptions like the recent Occupy movement demonstrations, was rejected by the Oakland City Council this week.

The proposed legislation, which would have mandated that the city use any and all lawful tools at the city’s disposal to keep protesters from shutting down the port failed to move forward after half of the eight Council members – Jane Brunner, Rebecca Kaplan, Pat Kernighan and Nancy Nadal – voted not to hear it during the Dec. 20 Council meeting.

Brunner indicated during the meeting that her opposition was due to the potential cost the city would incur. She said she’d been told by Oakland police chief Howard Jordan that protecting the port during a two-day protest would cost the city about $1.5 million.

“Police really help us in this city, but they’re not the answer for a social movement,” she said.

The item needed at least six votes to move forward for full consideration by the Council because it had been placed on the agenda less than 10 days before the meeting.

Despite the failure of the proposal, Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente – who wrote the proposal with Councilwoman Libby Schaaf, a former Port of Oakland public affairs director – has said he will reintroduce the legislation at some point in the future.

The proposal was created in response to two recent protests at the port. During the Dec. 12 “Occupy the Ports” movement, where major ports along the West Coast were targeted, four of the Port of Oakland’s seven shipping terminals were blocked by protesters throughout the day.

Port officials said the disruption cost the port and its companies between $4 million and $8 million in lost productivity.

Port of Long Beach Container Volume Dips Again

A troubling trend continued for the Port of Long Beach last month as it saw double-digit decreases in both the number of loaded and empty TEUs in November compared with the same time last year.

The biggest drop was in loaded outbound containers, which fell 22 percent compared with November 2010. According to port data, about 142,600 TEUS were moved in November of last year, but the number dropped to roughly 111,000 in November 2011.

Additionally, the number of loaded inbound containers fell 15 percent year-to-year, going from 274,400 in 2010 to 231,700. The number of empty TEUs transported fell by more than 17 percent, to 459,800 from 558,300.
For the year-to-date, loaded outbound containers have dropped just under 22 percent at the POLB, and the number of loaded outbound and empty TEUS moving through the port have dipped about 18 percent each.

Long Beach has moved a total of 5.5 million containers during the first 11 months of 2011, a drop of 3.3 percent compared with last year. By comparison, the adjoining Port of Los Angeles reported moving 7.2 million containers so far during the calendar year, an increase of about one percent compared with 2010.

Long Beach’s dip in cargo movement is partially due to the loss of tenant Hyundai Merchant Marine, which moved to the Port of LA in 2010.

Year-to-Date Cargo Stats Rise at Port of Tacoma

A total of 1.36 million cargo containers moved through the Port of Tacoma through the first 11 months of 2011, a 3.2 percent increase over the 1.32 million that passed through the docks during the same period last year.

Represented in that 1.36 million is a six percent increase in the number of foreign containers moved. There were more than 934,800 during the time period, compared to about 881,400 through the first 11 months of 2010, according to port data.

Full import containers were up just one percent during the time period, however, and the number of domestic containers took a dip, falling to 432, 200 this year from 443,700 during the same period last year.

Also according to port data, Tacoma handled nearly 16 million tons of cargo from January through November of this year, a six percent increase over January through November of 2010.

The port’s leading export commodity, based on tonnage, is grain. And for the 11-month period that ended in November, more than five million tons were exported through Tacoma, according to the data.

Other year-to-date cargo highlights include a 36 percent increase of auto imports, reflecting strong new auto sales in the US; a 71 percent increase in break bulk tonnage, which the port says is driven by agricultural, industrial and construction machinery exports; and a 69 percent jump in log exports.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Port of Vancouver USA Launching Rail Expansion Project

Construction is scheduled to begin Dec. 22 on an $11.28 million rail expansion project that aims to eliminate a transportation chokepoint at the Port of Vancouver USA by separating train and vehicle traffic.

The Gateway Avenue cargo overpass would be on the east side of the port’s Terminal 5 and have six train tracks running beneath it. The overpass is the latest component of the port’s $150 million, 21-phase West Vancouver Freight Access project, which has been built in phases since its 2007 launch.

The freight access project is planned to improve the ability to move freight not only through the port but also along the BNSF Railway and Union Pacific Railroad mainlines. Portions of the WVFA project include construction of a new dual carrier rail access into the port, enhancement of the port’s internal rail system, relocation of port facilities to accommodate track realignment and roadway improvements.

Among the elements of the project that have already been completed are, a $14 million Terminal 5 loop track, which was completed in June 2010; and $16 million in rail improvements completed in 2008.
Construction of the overpass, which should be finished by May 2013, is funded primarily by an $8.8 million federal grant, with the port picking up the remaining $2.48 million.

Port officials say the WVFA project is about 40 percent complete and should be finished by 2017. It’s expected to help the port generate up to 2,000 new, permanent jobs over the next five to 10 years as it increases rail capacity and current tenants expand their operations.

The port is also in negotiations to lease 218 acres of Terminal 5 land to Australia-based mining company BHP Billiton for the purpose of exporting potash to Asian countries. If an agreement can be arrived at, the new tenant could bring even more jobs to the port.

Port of Oakland Exports Continue Slide

Although imports of full and empty cargo containers both rose in November compared with the same month in 2010, it still wasn’t enough to counteract a months-long downward trend in overall TEU movement at the Port of Oakland.

The port moved a grand total of 199,775 TEUs last month, a 0.9 percent decrease from the same period last year. The largest reason, however, was a 19.4 percent drop in empty cargo container exports compared with November 2010. In all other categories – full exports, full imports and empty imports – the port saw increases of 0.1, 2.0 and 6.6 percent, respectively.

November was the fifth consecutive month and eighth out of 11 months so far this year that the export of empty containers was down at Oakland. Last month, however, was the least steep drop from the same month last year, however. In four of the eight months with negative growth – April, May, July and September – the percentage drop was more than 30 percent compared to the equivalent month in 2010.

For the calendar year to date, exports of empties are down 22.5 percent from 2010. This has resulted in a grand total of only 0.5 percent growth overall year-to-year at the port, despite full exports reaching 909,231 for the year – a 4.3 percent increase – and imports rising to 264,519 during the 11-month period, a 27.4 percent increase.

For the year so far, imports of full containers have dropped to 734,814 containers, a relatively modest 0.3 percent decrease from the first 11 months of 2010.

Port of LA Releases APL Terminal Expansion Study

The Port of Los Angeles and US Army Corps of Engineers on Dec. 16 released a draft environmental impact study regarding potential expansion of the port’s second-largest container terminal.

The proposed project at Pier 300’s APL container terminal would involve renovation and expansion of the current 291-acre facility to 347 acres. It calls for the development of 1,250 feet of new wharf and 41 acres of backland at berths 302-306. Among the proposed features are 12 new cranes and shore-side electrical power facilities.

The draft report assesses the proposed improvements and projected container throughput under the current lease term with APL that expires in 2027, as well as the environmental impacts and identifies mitigation measures that meet state and federal regulations.

The public review period for the document is from Dec. 16, 2011 to Feb. 17, 2012. During this time the port accepts written comments and will conduct a public meeting at 6 pm Jan. 19 at the Port of Los Angeles Administration Building to present its findings.

After the public review period, a final version of the environmental report that includes the additional comments from the various agencies and individuals is prepared, and then the document is submitted to state and federal agencies for review and a final decision on whether or not to approve the recommendations within.

Port of Long Beach Receives $17 Million Rail Project Grant

The US Department of Transportation has awarded a $17 million grant to the Port of Long Beach to help fund a rail track improvement project that’s expected to allow for a shift of cargo carriage to trains from trucks.

As part of the $66 million Green Port Gateway, which is slated to begin construction in 2012, 16,400 new feet of track would be laid to relieve a rail chokepoint at the Ocean Boulevard overcrossing near the 710 Freeway, according to the port.

“This project will not only bring jobs, which are critical during these tough economic times, but also enhance both our region’s and the nation’s long-term economic competitiveness by improving the port’s rail system,” POLB Executive Director Chris Lytle said.

The gateway’s expected to eliminate about 2.3 million truck trips by 2035 from local roadways by improving rail transportation in and out of the port complex. The reduced truck trips would theoretically help alleviate traffic congestion and cut air pollution.

The project’s part of the larger San Pedro Bay Ports Rail Enhancement Program, which involves several inter-related projects by the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles and the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority.