Friday, January 6, 2012

Citizens Group Seeks Ban of Coal Trains

A political action committee opposed to a planned goods export terminal says it will release a proposed ordinance later this month that would ban the transport of coal through Bellingham, Washington via train or any other means.

Organizers of the No Coal! political action committee say the proposal is being released Jan. 26 in hopes that it will be adopted by the Bellingham City Council.

The proposed measure comes in response to plans by SSA Marine to build its Gateway Pacific Terminal. Gateway Pacific, which was announced in 2010, is a planned multi-commodity export-import facility that would sit on 1,092 acres in Bellingham, which is located in Whatcom County, Washington about 17 miles south of the Canadian border.

SSA Marine says the shipping, stevedoring and warehousing facility would be the largest on the US Cest Coast, and would move dry bulk commodities such as grain, potash and coal between the US and Asian markets.

It’s been estimated that the facility would handle an estimated 54 million tons of cargo – mostly coal – annually and result in an additional 15 to 20 coal trains passing through Bellingham daily, which alarms some residents and environmentalists.

But since the interstate rail system is regulated by the federal government and BNSF Railway has a legal right of way through the city, the political action committee faces an uphill battle as far as limiting the content of what trains carry through Bellingham.

City officials have also said they have no direct legal control over the trains that would pass through the city if the GPC is built.

The No Coal! Coalition, however, maintains it’s attempting to establish legal groundwork to place rights of communities and ecosystems on equal or greater footing with the rights of railroads and other corporations.

It says if the proposed measure isn’t adopted by the Council, it would likely launch a petition drive to place ordinance on a citywide ballot.

The building of the terminal, if it ever occurs, is still years away, however. The permitting process is still ongoing, and an environmental impact study, which could take years to complete, is not expected to begin until later this year at the earliest.

BNSF Settles Puget Sound Water Lawsuit

BNSF Railway has agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle a lawsuit alleging violations of federal clean water laws at its Balmer Yard facility in Seattle.

In December, a proposed consent decree was filed in federal court stating that BNSF would pay $1.5 million to a third-party environmental group, with the money going to projects that improve Puget Sound water quality.

BNSF, which does not admit guilt in the decree, also has agreed to pay $1 million to cover the plaintiff’s attorney fees and other litigation costs in addition to the $1.5 million.

BNSF is to pay the $1.5 million to Oakland, California-based Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment, which would then award grants to local water quality improvement projects.

According to the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, which filed the suit in July 2009, the settlement is one of the largest ever involving citizen actions involving storm water pollution under the federal Clean Water Act.

The lawsuit alleged the railroad violated federal laws with storm water discharges at the 80-acre Balmer Yard facility. Judge John Coughenour found that BNSF had committed 19 pollutant discharge violations.

The decree notes that since the violations, BNSF has implemented numerous stormwater pollution control measures at Balmer Yard, including containing spills in the train fueling area, and outfitting above-ground storage tanks with automatic shutoff valves and overfill protectors.

The agreement now goes on to the Environmental Protection Agency and US Justice Department, which have 45 days to review it before it becomes legal and binding.

San Diego to Begin Work on Shoreside Power Terminal

Port of San Diego and tenant Flagship Cruises & Events have announced that construction begins this month on a $2.5 million shoreside power at a new facility to be built between Broadway and Navy piers.

The project, which is expected to be complete by mid-2012, would allow Flagship vessels to plug into on-shore electricity while docked instead of running their diesel engines.

Flagship is a luxury public and private dining tour company that has an 11-vessel fleet, including a 158-foot boat that can accommodate about 600 people. It held a private groundbreaking ceremony for the project in December.

The shore power system is expected to reduce diesel air emissions by 50 percent. When the fleet is docked, onboard diesel power supply would switch to shore-based electrical power in order to reduce air emissions from the ships’ diesel engines.

The project also consists of dock reconfiguration and construction of new boarding ramps and four slips.

“We’re investing money in projects that we believe will benefit the bay that we work on and live around,” Flagship Cruises CEO Art Engel said.

A similar shoreside power system was completed in San Diego in late 2010 and at the time was just the fifth such system to be installed globally, according to the port.

Former Port of Long Beach Top Executive Dies

Former Port of Long Beach top executive James H. McJunkin, who has been credited with playing a large role in the port’s growth to what it is today, died Jan. 2 at the age of 82.

McJunkin first joined the port’s operations division in 1963 and was later promoted to the number two position of assistant general manager. He succeeded Thomas J. Thorley in the general manager position in 1977 and retained it until 1988.

The position was later renamed executive director.

Under McJunkin’s leadership, Long Beach became the second-busiest container port in America, after the Port of Los Angeles, and one of the largest seaports in the world.

He oversaw the development of the Long Beach World Trade Center complex in the city’s downtown area, and is credited with helping spearhead some of the most significant trade-related projects in the region, including the Intermodal Container Transfer Facility rail yard and the Alameda Corridor rail expressway.

Before being hired by the POLB, McJunkin was director of the Northern California Ports and Terminals Bureau and also served as traffic manager for the Port of Sacramento.

McJunkin, who lived in Long Beach with his wife, Mary, also worked several years as a consultant to the maritime industry after retiring from the port.

Services were scheduled to be held Friday, Jan. 6 in Long Beach.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Little Black Box

The little black box you’ve been seeing around lately (on the preceding page of this magazine, for example, at the bottom of the masthead) is a QR code. A QR code (abbreviated from Quick Response code) is a type of “matrix barcode” (or two-dimensional code) first designed for the automotive industry. More recently, the system has become popular outside of the industry due to its fast readability and comparatively large storage capacity. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded can be made up of any kind of data.

With the advent of smart phones (iPhone, Android, etc,) the QR code has become a way to impart data to a handheld device.

What does this mean to the readers and advertisers of Pacific Maritime Magazine?

Our recent reader survey (thank you for the great response!) found that 27 percent of our readers kept the magazine on the bridge of their vessel, or on their desk (or in the galley or the head) for 14 days, while 55 percent of our readers kept the magazine around for 30 days or more.

When asked if you share the magazine, 68 percent of you told us you share Pacific Maritime Magazine with one to five others in the industry, while almost 10 percent of our readers share the magazine with more than 5 colleagues. While this data is good news for our advertisers, it becomes even better news for both advertiser and reader when the QR code comes into play. For example, on page 41 of this issue is an ad for Q3 Maritime Training Solutions, and their ad contains a QR code which, when scanned with a smartphone, opens the company’s website. This has the benefit of giving our reader more access to an advertiser, and giving the advertiser a way to keep his data current. For example, if an advertiser wants to offer a special rate, or has added a new product or service, the magazine that has been passed to a second, third or fourth reader and might be two or three months old, can still direct clients to the advertiser’s up-to-date information, whether it’s from a desk in Port Hueneme or the bridge of a tanker in Port Said.

Judges Reject Reinstatement of Lawsuit Against PMA

A panel of judges has refused to reinstate a lawsuit by a man who sued the Pacific Maritime Association and International Longshore and Warehouse Union alleging that a so-called “one-strike” rule against hiring work applicants who test positive for drugs is discriminatory.

On a 2-1 vote, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in December refused to reinstate the lawsuit of Santiago Lopez. In the suit, Lopez, an admitted former substance abuser, said that the PMA’s policy of not hiring anyone who had tested positive during a past initial drug screening discriminated against ex-addicts.

Lopez originally applied for longshore work at the Port of Long Beach in 1997, but was not hired after testing positive for marijuana. In 2004, he applied again after having been off drugs and alcohol for two years, but had his application rejected due to the PMA’s “one-strike” rule.

He was also denied the opportunity to appeal the rejection, as were at least 27 other individuals who were barred from being hired during the same time period, according to the lawsuit, which was filed on Lopez’s behalf by Long Beach employment law attorney Andrea Cook.

Lopez and his attorney eventually sued the PMA and union in the US District Court for the Central District of California, alleging they were violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and California’s Fair Housing and Employment Act.

The case made its way to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in late 2010, but in a March 2, 2011 ruling, the panel affirmed the lower court’s decision.

Two of the three judges, Susan Graber and Kenneth Ripple, said in a written decision that it was lawful for the PMA to eliminate applicants who were using drugs when they applied to be longshore workers, and also lawful to disqualify those applicants permanently.

“Nothing about the history of the one-strike rule leads us to conclude that defendant adopted the rule with a discriminatory purpose,” the decision states in part. “The ADA and the FEHA protect people who are recovering or who have recovered from a drug addiction; they do not protect people who are using illegal drugs when they apply for a job.”

However, the third judge, Harry Pregerson, partially dissented from the opinion, stating in a separate written opinion that Lopez’s case should be allowed to move forward.

“I do not suggest that we now determine whether lifetime employment bars resulting from a positive drug test necessarily violate the ADA,” he wrote. “It is clear, though, that where such a test is mandated by an employer who exercises singular control over an industry spanning the whole west coast of the United States, the potential impact of the policy is broad and pervasive. I would allow Lopez’s case to proceed to determine whether PMA’s lifetime hiring ban in fact has an adverse impact on recovering addicts.”

However, since his was minority opinion on the panel, the lawsuit was ultimately disqualified. Lopez’s attorney could not be reached regarding whether the recent refusal to reinstate the case is the end of the matter, or if the case might be appealed to a higher court.

Dredging Permit Granted for Coos Bay LNG Terminal

Despite arguments from opponents, the state of Oregon has issued a permit to the Port of Coos Bay that would allow for the dredging of a new terminal that could be used by ships transporting liquefied natural gas.

The Jordan Cove LNG project would consist of an LNG import and storage facility at the Port of Coos Bay. About six or seven vessels would call per month at the facility, according to its developers, Alberta, Canada-based energy infrastructure investment company Fort Chicago, and Energy Projects Development, Ltd., a United Kingdom-based company that provides engineering and project management services to the oil and gas industry.

Local and regional environmental groups have been opposed to an LNG terminal in the area.

But even with the dredging permit, the project still faces numerous hurdles, including export permits, a biological assessment from the US Fish & Wildlife Service, and permitting from the federal Bureau of Land Management for a gas transport pipeline, project manager Bob Braddock recently said during a regional Chamber of Commerce luncheon about a week before the permit was issued by the Department of State Lands.

The planned Jordan Cove LNG project has just a 50/50 chance of being built, and a terminal won’t be constructed unless space to either import or export liquefied natural gas has been rented out, Braddock said during the Dec. 14 luncheon, according to a report in daily Coos Bay newspaper The World.

Longview Dockworker Acquitted of Disorderly Conduct

A longshoreman who’d been charged with disorderly conduct for obstructing traffic during a protest at the Port of Longview has been acquitted during a jury trial.

It took a Cowlitz County District Court jury just 12 minutes of deliberations on Dec. 30 before finding longshore worker Kelly Powell not guilty.

Powell, 44, of Toutle, stood accused of intentionally blocking a car driven by a security company employee from entering the Port of Longview’s EGT grain terminal during a July 25 protest.

Surveillance video played during the trial showed that the car in question, which was driven by the head of a security firm hired by the terminal operator, never actually tried to enter the terminal gates as Powell and other protestors milled outside.

The video showed that the vehicle sat idle for about 10 minutes with its hazard lights on before the picketers were shuffled off by sheriff’s deputies.

The prosecution alleged that Powell then intentionally blocked the car, but the defense said he had merely walked past the vehicle while trying to find a quiet spot to talk on his cellular phone.

Powell and other International Longshore and Warehouse Union members and supporters had been picketing the terminal as part of an ongoing dispute over labor issues.

The ILWU 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.

During protests in July and September, over 200 longshore workers and supporters were arrested or received summonses to appear on misdemeanor charges related to the protests, including malicious mischief and disorderly conduct.

The first of what’s expected to be a long series of trials related to the case ended Dec. 19 when a jury 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, Porter defended her action by saying she committed it to prevent Gibson from taking her picture against her will.

Most cases in the July protests are set for trial in Cowlitz County District Court in the early part of this year.