Thursday, December 29, 2011

Port Metro Vancouver Completes First of Nine Infrastructure Projects

Canada’s Port Metro Vancouver has completed the first of nine construction projects that it says will both ease traffic congestion in the area and help the port build up its infrastructure to support increased trade with Asia.

The $24 million 41B Street overpass, which gives truckers and local commuters a crossing route to cross Deltaport Way without being delayed by long trains and truck traffic, is the first of nine projects to be completed as part of the port’s $307 million Roberts Bank Rail Corridor Program.

The RBRCP is funded by the port along with 11 other public and private partners, including the federal Transportation and Infrastructure Ministry, BNSF Railway and a number of local and regional governments.

It’s comprised of eight new overpasses and one railway siding; all nine projects are currently in various stages of development, with each expected to be finished by March 2014.

“With the completion of the 41B overpass and eventually the Roberts Bank Rail Corridor overall, we are strengthening Canada’s Asia-Pacific Gateway, while positioning the West Coast as the corridor of choice between Canada and the high-growth Asia-Pacific markets,” Ed Fast, Canada’s Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, said in a Dec. 21 statement announcing the overpass’ completion.

Port of Hueneme Hires New Director

The Oxnard Harbor District, which owns and operates the Port of Hueneme, has found a new director to replace Anthony Taormina, who stepped down in October.

His successor is Kristin Decas, 42, the director and CEO for the New Bedford Harbor Development Commission, which governs the Port of New Bedford in southeastern Massachusetts.

She was officially confirmed on a unanimous vote by the five-member Oxnard Board of Harbor Commissioners Dec. 22.

Decas, who became the HDC’s executive director in 2007, is expected to stay in her current position through January before relocating to Ventura County, California with her family.

She was the first woman to hold the Harbor Development Commission post and will break similar ground with the Oxnard district, according to an article in the Massachusetts newspaper South Coast Today.

Decas’ pay is expected to double once she starts her new job; she made $91,000 annually with the HDC, but with Oxnard is expected to earn about $180,000 annually, according to harbor board president Jess Herrera.

Taormina, who is in his late 60s, announced his resignation in April; he’d been the district’s executive director since 2006. This was his second stint in the job; he previously filled the same role for a decade, from 1985 to 1995.

About $7 billion in cargo passes annually through the Port of Hueneme, which is the sole deepwater port between Oakland and LA/Long Beach.

Environmentalists Fight Portland Dredging Plan

A Port of Portland plan to dump roughly 30,000 cubic yards of Columbia River sediment from Terminal 6 at a nearby island is up in the air due to a legal challenge this week by environmentalists and other stakeholders.

It’s the chapter latest in years-long battle over the future of underdeveloped West Hayden Island.

The port says the dredging is needed to maintain safe navigation by waterborne vessels on the Columbia River. The plan is to place the dredged sediment at an existing fill at West Hayden Island, and periodically draw upon the fill for future development.

Earlier this year, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued a ruling stating that the contaminants found in the sediment – including lead, zinc and pesticides – are below the levels of concern for both people and animals, and the DEQ authorized the fill in November.

But on Dec. 27, the Portland Audubon Society, as well as a homeowners association on West Hayden Island, filed a motion asking Multnomah County Court to intervene.

They contend that contaminants in the dredged material, even in low levels, can cause harm to wildlife, particularly birds.

The Audubon Society and others support turning the island into a nature preserve, while the port has expressed an interest in building marine terminals on 300 acres of the 826-acre island.

The court has not yet indicated whether it would issue a stay regarding the dredging.

Trucking Industry Slams New Federal Regulations

The American Trucking Associations and other industry advocates are slamming newly announced federal regulations that govern the hours long-haul drivers can be on the road, and how long they’re allowed to drive each week.

The regulations, once enforced, are expected to have at least a small effect on the work schedules of drayage truckers who haul goods between West Coast ports and other regions of the US and Canada.

Under the new rules, which were announced Dec. 22 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, truckers can’t drive more than 11 hours in a single day, nor be on the road more than 70 hours a week. Under the current rules, drivers can work up to 82 hours within a seven-day period.

The new rules also decree that two days a week, drivers cannot start their shifts between 1 am and 5 am. It’s this particular provision that has raised the ire of trucking industry advocates, particularly since a number of drivers prefer to work early to beat traffic, particularly in California, where traffic snarls are frequent on freeways that service the ports.

“It makes no sense to impose rules that will force more trucks onto the roads at peak drive times thus raising the risk of crashes and increasing congestion and emissions from all vehicles,” Michael Campbell, executive vice president and CEO of the California Trucking Association, said in a statement.

Commercial truck drivers and companies have to comply with the final rule by July 1, 2013, according to the FMCSA. Companies that break the 11-hour driving limit rule by three or more hours could be fined $11,000 per offense. Drivers themselves could face civil penalties of up to $2,750 per offense.

The American Trucking Associations has also slammed the regulations, saying they would likely increase the risk of accidents. According to the ATA, the largest percentage of truck-involved crashes takes place between 6 am and noon.
This, according to the organizations, means the new rules would put more trucks on the road during the statistically riskiest time of the day.

“This rule will put more truck traffic onto the roadways during morning rush hour, frustrate other motorists and increase the risk of crashes,” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said in a statement.

“By mandating drivers include two periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. as part of a ‘restart’ period, FMCSA is assuring that every day as America is commuting to work, thousands of truck drivers will be joining them, creating additional and unnecessary congestion and putting motorists and those professional drivers at greater risk,” Graves said.

But US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement that the new rules will help protect drivers.

“Trucking is a difficult job, and a big rig can be deadly when a driver is tired and overworked,” he said. “This final rule will help prevent fatigue-related truck crashes and save lives.”

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Asian Shipping Lines Form Strategic Alliances

Five shipping lines, including Asia’s largest, announced Dec. 27 that they’ve formed an alliance to provide new weekly shipping routes around the world.

Evergreen Line, Hanjin Shipping, Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha and Yang Ming Line say they’re joining forces with Asia’s biggest shipping company, China Cosco, to offer 12 routes between Europe and the Mediterranean.

The cost and resource-sharing pact is expected to go forward during the second quarter of 2012. No West Coast lines are currently expected to be affected.
Last week, six Asia-based shipping lines revealed they’ve formed a pact to deploy new routes from the Far East; however, like this week’s newly-announced alliance, none of the routes is expected to involve the North American West Coast.

The so-called G6 Alliance, which would be among the largest such arrangements in the world, consists of APL, Hapag-Lloyd AG, Hyundai Merchant Marine, Mitsui OSK Lines, Nippon Yusen Kaisha and Orient Overseas Container Line.

The G6 says it expects to jointly deploy nine services from the Far East to northern Europe and the Mediterranean as a way to increase efficiency and become more competitive against industry giants like the world’s largest shipping company, Maersk Line.

“The nine joint services will offer more frequent departures with daily sailings and fast transit times,” the companies said in a Dec. 20 joint statement. “The schedule includes multiple weekly calls at Singapore, South China, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Rotterdam, Hamburg and Southampton.”

More than 90 ships are expected to cover over 40 ports starting in March or April of 2012, according to G6 member Hapag-Lloyd, and include deployment of the latest vessels with capacities of up to 14,000 TEU.

The new alliances come on the heels of another agreement forged earlier this month, when world’s second and third-largest shipping lines, Mediterranean Shipping and CMA-CGM, respectively, agreed to join forces on key global trade routes.

However, according to OOCL head of corporate planning Steven Ng, the G6 lines had been planning their alliance for some time, and its formation was not in response to the Mediterranean/CMA-CGM arrangement.

Longview ILWU Member Beats Assault Charge

An International Longshore and Warehouse Union member has been found not guilty of assaulting the manager of a grain terminal during a July 22 protest at the Port of Longview.

A jury last week found that Shelly Ann Porter, 39, of Longview, was lawful in her use of force in slapping the hand of EGT grain terminal manager Gerry Gibson. During the trial, which ended Dec. 19, Porter had defended her action by saying she committed it to prevent Gibson from taking her picture against her will.

The trial was the first in series that’s expected to take place in the aftermath of multiple labor actions conducted in July and September at the EGT terminal. The protests were part of a long struggle between the terminal operator and union over labor issues.

The union says its contract with the port requires that the 25 to 35 jobs inside the terminal must go to unionized labor. The company, however, says its lease agreement with the port does not specify ILWU labor. It employs members of a different union.

Over 200 longshore workers and supporters have been arrested or received summonses to appear on misdemeanor charges related to the various protests, including malicious mischief and disorderly conduct.

On Dec. 12, Judge Ron Marshall issued a written ruling declaring that there’s enough evidence to move forward with the trespassing trials of 45 longshore workers and supporters for incidents that occurred when protesters blocked incoming trains during the Sept. 7 and 21 demonstrations.

Most cases in the July protests are set for trial in Cowlitz County District Court in early 2012.

In addition to the dozens of arrests, the union was fined over $300,000 by the federal government for blocking of trains and alleged property damaged caused during three September protests.

The union is appealing the fines.

Port of Seattle Monthly Traffic Still Falling

Containerized traffic at the Port of Seattle fell 0.8 percent last month compared with November 2010, according to newly released data. This makes the seventh straight month that traffic was down compared to the same month the year prior.

From May through September of this year, total traffic dropped by double digits each month compared with the same month the year before, before a dip of just 6.6 percent in October.

Relatively speaking, a 0.8 percent drop last month at the port could be seen as good news compared with most of the year. A total of 170,104 TEUs moved through the port in November, compared to 171,546 in 2010.

Imports rose 2.1 percent year-to-year last month, but it wasn’t enough to offset a downward trend for the year, as for the year-to-date, imports are down 8.8 percent compared with the same 11 months in 2010.

For the year to date, Seattle has seen 1.87 million containers so far; in 2010, 1.98 million containers traveled through the port during the first 11 months of the year.

The 1.8 percent year-to-year decrease is mainly due to a drop in exports, which fell 6.1 percent compared to November 2010 and have fallen 5.5 percent overall compared with the same 11 months last year.

By comparison, a total of 1.36 million cargo containers moved through Washington state’s second largest seaport, the Port of Tacoma, through the first 11 months of 2011. The number represented a 3.2 percent increase over the 1.32 million that passed through Tacoma docks during the same period last year.

Bomb Scare Temporarily Halts Port of LA Traffic

An investigation has been launched into an incident where a suspicious cargo container caused traffic at a Port of Los Angeles cargo terminal to be halted for about five hours last week.

Authorities were called around 3:30 pm on Dec. 21 after a container with the word “bomb” spray painted on it in two places was found aboard the Singapore-flagged APL Belgium cargo vessel while docked at Pier 300.
Port police, U.S. Customs officials and the Los Angeles police and fire departments all responded to the incident, and all loading and unloading at the terminal was temporarily suspended while the ship’s 20-person crew was evacuated.

The suspect container was eventually removed from the ship and inspected. No explosives or other suspicious materials were found. Normal operations resumed at the terminal sometime after 9 pm.

Port spokesman Philip Sanfield said the vessel had originated in Vietnam and stopped at the Port of Oakland before arriving at the APL terminal in Los Angeles last week.