Friday, March 16, 2012

Long Beach Monthly Container Volume Drops 15 Percent

February was an all-round bad month for both imports and exports at the Port of Long Beach, as container trade volume at the port dipped 15.2 percent overall compared to the same period a year ago.

According to port data released this week, Long Beach terminals handled a total of 388,589 twenty-foot equivalent container units last month, compared to 458,336 TEUs in February 2011.

Long Beach’s loaded imports were down 18 percent compared with February 2011, falling to 191,475 TEUs from 233,660; loaded exports dropped almost 1.6 percent, falling to 120,006 from 121,929 TEUs.

Empty container moves were down 25 percent, to 77,108 TEUs, compared to 102,747 TEUs in February 2011.

February’s drop in imports was partly attributed by the port to the start of the Chinese New Year. Import volumes typically fall following the New Year as factories in Asia close for about a week during the holidays.

Last year, when the New Year fell on Feb. 3, the slowdown was felt in the latter part of the month and into early March. But this year, since the New Year fell on Jan. 23, the entire slowdown period came in February.

For the fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, the port’s total TEU volume is down a total of 12.4 percent compared to fiscal year 2011. The number of loaded inbound, loaded outbound and empties moved have declined 12.93 percent, 12.89 percent and 10.79 percent respectively, compared to the same period during the previous fiscal year.

Exports Continue to Rise at Port of LA

Exports at the Port of Los Angeles last month grew by 9.5 percent compared to February 2011, making it the 21st consecutive month of export growth at the port, according to data released this week.

The port exported 164,725 full twenty-foot equivalent containers last month, compared to 150,357 TEUs in February 2011. This was the only category, however, in which the port saw year-over-year gains.

Imports decreased 7.8 percent during the month to 254,359 TEUs, compared to 275,886 TEUs during the same month in 2011. Total loaded imports and exports for February declined a combined 1.7 percent, from 426,243 TEUs last February to 419,084 TEUs last month.

Factoring in empties, which declined 17 percent year over year, the overall February 2012 volume of 525,653 TEUs represented a drop of 5.3 percent compared to February 2011’s 554,912 TEUs.

The port attributes the declines in part to plant shutdowns in China for the Chinese New Year, which fell on Jan. 23.

For the port’s fiscal year to date, which began July 1, total volume is up 0.26 percent from the same period in fiscal year 2011, rising by just over 14,000 containers to 5.39 million TEUs from 5.38 million.

For the calendar year to date, the PoLB’s TEU volume was up 0.74 percent the first two months of this year compared to 2011. The port saw an increase of 14,000 containers, going from 1.21 million TEUs last year to 1.22 million this year.

Seattle Port Police Chief Put on Leave

Colleen Wilson, the Port of Seattle’s Chief of Police, has been placed on leave for allegedly verbally abusing subordinates and creating a hostile work environment.

The allegations came from two female members of staff management, who filed written complaints.

Wilson was placed on paid leave March 6 pending the results of an investigation. Deputy Chief Rodney Covey has been named the department’s acting chief.

Wilson has a 40-year career in law enforcement. Prior to being hired by the port, she was police chief in the city of Monroe from 1993 to 2002, and in Sumner from 2002 to 2007. She joined the port in August 2007.

In an interview with KING-TV news, Wilson said she expects to be exonerated and back on the job eventually.

“I didn’t do anything bad,” she told the station during a brief phone interview.

The port’s Police Department, which was formed in 1972 and consists of more than 100 commissioned police officers and more than 30 non-commissioned personnel, is the primary first responder for all reported crimes and incidents within its jurisdiction, including the port, Sea-Tac Airport and portions of the Puget Sound Region.

Lane Closures Scheduled at Port of Long Beach

There will be temporarily lane closures along Harbor Plaza at the Port of Long Beach beginning the night of Mon., March 19 as crews replace a water pipeline underneath the roadway near the port’s administration building.

The $1.5-million replacement project is the last major step to address an issue with the port’s water supply that cropped up at the end of 2010, when traces of crude oil were found in the port’s 20-inch main waterline.

The port says it expects the project to take about three months to complete. The work begins with an overnight closure of southeast-bound Harbor Plaza to put in traffic controls from Pico Avenue to Harbor Scenic Drive.

Starting at 8 p.m. March 19, the southeast-bound half of Harbor Plaza closes, along with the Harbor Plaza East off-ramp from Harbor Scenic. By 6 a.m. Tues., March 20, the opposite side of Harbor Plaza -- which normally takes only northwest-bound traffic – temporarily becomes a two-way street.

The project will stretch from Pico Avenue southeasterly to about 300 feet before Harbor Scenic Drive. Access to the admin building’s driveways is expected to remain open during the work.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Ferries Lead, Tugs Need Help to Follow

By Wendy Laursen

Commuter ferries with innovative power systems are the testing ground for systems that could also bring clean power to harbor tugs and, with batteries included, may close the gap between cleaner land and sea solutions.

With the most recent oil field developments looking at baseline prices of around $100 a barrel, it is not surprising that tug and ferry designers are looking elsewhere for powering options. For harbor tugs, the alternatives to diesel still represent a poor return on investment, so innovation is being pushed forward with harbor ferries and, with new land-based bunkering infrastructure established, a new generation of tugs may follow.

“It is a chain reaction and we have really not seen more than the beginning of this,” says Arnstein Eknes, segment director for special ships at Det Norske Veritas. Eknes believes that, within the next 10 years, many tugs and ferries will combine dual fuel or electric hybrid propulsion systems with batteries. “What if you run a ferry on battery during the day when the energy cost on land is high and then, when the energy cost is low during the night, you recharge the batteries? That is a very efficient mode of operation.”

A Future for Land and Sea Integration
Eknes’ vision for the future doesn’t stop there. “I can even envisage a setting where if you have a battery combined with an LNG turbine, a ferry becomes a kind of power plant and gives power back to the grid while it is at berth.” In Europe, wind power for land-based electricity consumption is a rapidly expanding industry. Additional clean and reliable power sources are required to provide base load when the wind is not blowing and contributions from such ferries could be an option, but the potential link between power infrastructure and fuels for harbor vessels is clear elsewhere as well. Indonesia, for example, a country with thousands of small islands where oil is burned for power, is now looking seriously at local air pollution. For small island communities, a switch to LNG would provide a much cleaner energy source that could also be used to power the inter-island ferries they rely on for local trade and communication.

Australia too has great potential for the adoption of LNG as bunker fuel. Anticipated to be second only to Qatar in LNG exports by 2020, the port infrastructure being built to support new gas trains could also include LNG bunkering facilities. “It is a unique opportunity,” says Eknes. Currently, most of Australia’s land-based power generation involves the burning of coal, so if harbor vessels were to recharge their batteries there it would reduce local SOx and NOx emissions but would not bring a dramatic overall environmental improvement when the entire carbon footprint of the solution was considered. LNG bunkering infrastructure could change that.

“We need more governments taking a position and saying that the industries that intend to compete in their waters need to demonstrate that they are using cleaner technology and moving towards the use of cleaner fuels. We need these kinds of visionary statements,” says Eknes.

Tugs Suffer from Cost Pressures
The problem with implementing this vision for harbor tugs is that fuel consumption is comparatively low, so the capital investment of switching to LNG propulsion doesn’t provide operational payback. Fuel consumption features more strongly for ferries, so they could lead the way, says Eknes. Once the new bunkering infrastructure is available and once governments and port authorities have set the goals, harbor tugs could follow.

Tug designers globally are under pressure to do more with less, but Eknes’ vision for hybrid solutions is shared. Michiel Wijsmuller, managing director of Ijmuiden, Netherlands-based Offshore Ship Designers, says that as designers, they are having to cram more functionality into smaller hulls for both onshore and offshore tugs. The need to come up with designs that are simultaneously less polluting and cheaper to operate is also growing. “Standard designs should be less costly than custom designs for specific tasks but they are much more costly to build and operate as they rely on a larger hull and simple lines. A specific tailored design will deliver all the operational tasks required on a smaller, less capital intensive hull with lower fuel costs and emissions,” he says.

Meeting fuel costs and environmental pressures go hand in hand and are hard to achieve with older designs as effort needs to be put into hull form and machinery choices to suit each task. “All these factors push in one direction: towards smaller hulls which are cheaper to build with flexible hybrid power plants which are as efficient as possible in a variety of roles,” says Wijsmuller.

Options for LNG are Increasing
As a cleaner fossil fuel option, LNG is comparatively cheap in the US but Norway, where prices are two or three times that of the US, has proven the economic benefits of LNG-fuelled ferries for many years. Engine manufacturers are supporting LNG with the development of new lean burn mono and dual fuel gas engines in a range of sizes. For example, Wärtsilä’s 20DF is a new medium-speed dual fuel engine claimed to be ideal as a mechanical-drive prime mover for small vessels. It can run on LNG, marine diesel oil or heavy fuel oil and can switch smoothly during operation without any interruption or reduction in speed or power output. It can also be started or stopped in either gas or liquid-fuel mode.

As well as new engines, manufacturers such as Wärtsilä and Rolls-Royce are advancing suitable vessel designs. Earlier this year, Rolls-Royce signed a contract to supply engines and propulsion equipment for four gas-fuelled ferries for Norwegian operator Torghatten Nord. The vessels will be the first in the world to feature the Rolls-Royce Hybrid Shaft Generator, which produces electrical power with reduced fuel consumption and emissions. A vessel’s engines traditionally operate at a fixed speed when conventional shaft generators are in use but the new system allows shaft speed to be reduced while maintaining a constant frequency for the electrical supply. The ferries will also have Rolls-Royce’s integrated propeller and rudder system, Promas, to reduce drag and increase thrust.

Batteries Included
Hybrid solutions with batteries offer the potential to move away from burning fossil fuels as bunker. Plans are underway in Norway to introduce battery-powered ferries on up to 100 local routes with vessels designed and built by Norwegian shipyard Fjellstrand. The use of hydro-electric power for energy generation on land in Norway means that the use of shoreside power to charge the batteries will reduce CO2 emissions as well as polluting SOx and NOx emissions.

Even without full battery power or burning LNG as fuel, battery hybrids result in lower emissions because the diesel engine can always be run at optimal load. French battery system manufacturer Saft is supplying advanced lithium-ion battery systems for two hybrid diesel-electric ferries that will operate a shuttle service across the Garonne River in Bordeaux, France. Keolis, France’s largest private sector transportation group, will launch the new hybrid ferry service in 2012 to help the Urban Community of Bordeaux meet its stringent environmental targets. The shuttle service is expected to carry around 200,000 passengers and their bicycles per year.

Each ferry will be equipped with a 140 kWh battery system that will supply power both for its electric propulsion motor and auxiliary loads such as lighting and communications. The battery will work in conjunction with the ferries’ diesel engine, storing power produced by the generator and providing additional propulsion power when required. The batteries will be charged overnight from the local grid and also when the diesel engine is running. They will provide the ferries with six hours of autonomous, fully-electric operation during the two busiest periods of the day – three hours in the morning and three hours in the evening.

Sails and Solar Come as Optional Extras
Battery technology is gaining interest in Asia and engineering consultancy BMT Nigel Gee in the UK is designing a 25-meter all electric, 150 passenger ferry for use in the estuaries and coastal waters of China. Batteries will provide power to the electric drive motors and solar cells will be incorporated into the roof structure to charge the batteries.

In Japan, the combination of solar cells and batteries has also been adopted by designer Eco Marine Power. The company is using Corvus Energy battery systems in their renewable energy vessel designs. The Medaka is an urban solar-electric commuter ferry design that incorporates an array of rigid but movable sails to collect wind and solar energy. Corvus Energy, based in Canada, provides compact, modular lithium-polymer battery systems that have the capacity to output sustained power comparable to diesel engines in hybrid and full-electric vessels.

The Solar Albatross, a 24-meter, 100-passenger catamaran ferry operating for the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Kai Sai Chau Golf Club, features a solar sail concept developed by Solar Sailor of Australia. The vessel takes club patrons to and from their three island-based 18 hole golf courses and Solar Albatross is the first true commercial hybrid boat in operation for Solar Sailor that is propelled by wind power, solar power, stored electricity and fossil fuel. The vessel features solar cells that are fitted into two rigid sails that also harness energy from the wind. The SolarSails stow flat on the roof of the ferry when not in use although they continue to collect solar energy and store it in batteries located in the two hulls of the catamaran. The sails are engineered for 44 knots of apparent wind with a 100 percent safety factor. They can be feathered or lowered into a headwind and can automatically track the sun for optimal solar collection. The Hong Kong Jockey Club has already purchased four similar ferries capable of 6 knots on solar electric and 16 knots on diesel. The vessels achieve a 50 percent fuel savings compared to the old ferries they replaced.

Hydrogen Fuels a Vision for the Future
Fuel cells offer a compact, zero emission solution that Bristol City Council in the UK anticipates will meet their goals for reducing local emissions and increasing local job creation. The council has sponsored the construction of the UK’s first hydrogen ferry, which is scheduled to begin operation this year. Builder, Bristol Hydrogen Boats, is a consortium formed between No 7 Boat Trips, the Bristol Packet and Auriga Energy and the 12-passenger ferry is designed to demonstrate the commercial advantages of fuel cell technology to business, residents, commuters and tourists.

The ferry’s fuel cell uses hydrogen as fuel and, analogous to batteries, the system converts chemical energy to electrical energy without combustion. Using oxygen from the air, the fuel cells produce water as their only waste product. Adoption of the technology could mean a big reduction in air and water pollution for Bristol, as well as less noise, and Bristol Hydrogen Boats expects the design and construction of harbor tugs to follow the successful launch of the passenger boat, sooner rather than later.

According to Bristol Councilor, Neil Harrison, “The council is now starting to look at ways of producing hydrogen locally from renewable energy, which would mean a cut in carbon emissions too. Hydrogen cars will be commercially available in the UK from 2014 and we are aiming to ensure that they will be able to refuel here, alongside the ferry. The hydrogen economy will be a major employer by 2020 and I want to make sure that Bristol is at the forefront.”

There is potential for the concept to expand across Europe as Germanischer Lloyd (GL) has developed a design for a hydrogen bunkering station that uses wind energy to produce liquid hydrogen. A lack of mature storage technologies for offshore wind farms means that as much as 30 percent of their potential energy output is lost. An estimated 10,000 tons of liquid hydrogen could be produced from this surplus power each year from wind farms in German waters and GL estimates that their hydrogen solution could be commercially attractive as early as 2020.

Wendy Laursen is a freelance journalist based in Australia who has been writing for maritime and engineering magazines since 2004. Wendy can be reached at

Long Beach Port HQ Move May Come By Year’s End

The Port of Long Beach, which for years has tried to find a new location to replace its crumbling headquarters, but saw it’s the momentum stalled last year by a board stalemate, could move its administrative offices to an interim location by the end of 2011, according to officials.

The current seven-story headquarters is located on the outskirts of the port’s confines, but the new offices could be located outside the port.

“We’re looking primarily in downtown Long Beach, but we’re not limiting the field,” Doug Thiessen, the port’s managing director of engineering, revealed during the harbor commission’s March 12 business meeting.

“We’d prefer to keep all the employees in one building, but if we had to break them in different locations, what would be the drive time to and from the port facilities,” is something under consideration, he said.

Also among the criteria port staff is looking at, he said, is drive time to the port from the headquarters building, the building’s size, security and whether there’s a need for a real estate appraisal.

The port had originally planned to internally fund and build a $220 million state-of-the-art headquarters within the harbor; however the idea was eventually shot down by Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster as too expensive. Since then, the port’s been looking to lease or purchase a nearby office building to house the port’s 400-member staff.

Last fall, the harbor commission twice deadlocked on a 2-2 vote whether to purchase the Long Beach World Trade Center. Vice President Thomas Fields and commissioner Nick Sramek voted for the extension and commissioners Rich Dines and Doug Drummond against. The fifth member, President Susan Wise has recused herself from the issue because she and her husband both have office space in the building.

Fields and Sramek argued the purchase was needed to expedite the exodus of the port’s 450-person staff from the current building, which was built in the 1950s and has been declared seismically deficient.

But Dines and Drummond argued that the purchase price – $130 million – was too steep for the 27-story downtown building. The purchase plan was eventually dropped.

APM Wins Terminal Safety Awards

For the fifth straight year, APM Terminals’ Pier 400 facility at the Port of Los Angeles has won the Pacific Maritime Association’s Category A Southern California Area Container Terminal Safety Award, and the PMA’s Coast Award for the safest terminal on the Pacific Coast.

The awards were announced March 1 at the PMA’s 63rd annual West Coast Safety Southern California Area Awards in Los Angeles.

“It is gratifying that the hard work of our men and women in ensuring the safe operation of our terminals is recognized by our peers in the industry,” APM Terminals’ Americas Region President Eric Sisco said.

The awards, which are based on reported injury rates per man-hours worked, are divided by geographic area and by size and are presented for the Southern California, Washington and Oregon ports.

Facilities are separated into three categories according to size; in Category A are terminals totaling more than one million man hours worked per year. Category B is for terminals with more than 500,000, but less than one million man hours worked, and Category C are those terminal operators with fewer than 500,000 thousand man hours worked per year.

Local area awards are presented in each of the terminal categories based on injury rates. The Coast awards are given in each terminal category for the best safety performance on the West Coast.

Pier 400, the largest container terminal in the US, saw its lost-time injury frequency (LTIF) rate drop 22 percent from 2010 to 6.01 per million man-hours worked for the year. The facility handled 1.91 million TEUs in 2011.

On Feb. 29, the PMA held its State of Washington Area Safety Awards and APM Terminals Tacoma was the winner of the Category C Container Terminal Safety Award and the Coast Award for Category C for the safest terminal on the Pacific Coast.

APM Tacoma, which handled 264,397 TEUs in 2011, improved its LTIF rate by 64 percent to 8.39 per million man-hours worked for the year, also won the award for the “Greatest reduction in injury rates for the Washington Area,” which is given irrespective of terminal size.

Detained Car Carried Cleared to Leave Portland

A nearly 650-foot car carrier that had been detained at the Port of Portland after losing power near the mouth of the Columbia River last week has been cleared by the US Coast Guard to leave.

The M/V Morning Spruce had been detained since Feb. 28 after the vessel lost engine power while 12 miles southwest of the Columbia River bar. Power was restored by the ship’s engineer about four-and-a-half hours later.

A subsequent inspection by Coast Guard Port State Control Branch of Marine Safety Unit in Portland found numerous safety hazards on the vessel.

After remaining in port for a few days, another Coast Guard inspection determined that the violations, which included fire control boundaries, excessive oil in machinery spaces, soft patches on fire main piping and heavy hydraulic leaks had been remedied, according to the USCG.

In addition to a full shipment of vehicular cargo, the vessel was also reportedly found to be carrying 543,000 gallons of heavy oil, diesel fuel and lubricant oil when initially inspected.

The Singapore-flagged car carrier is owned by EUKOR Car Carriers, one of the world’s largest operators of car and truck carriers.

Seattle Port Commissioner Announces State Senate Run

Gael Tarleton, who’s been a member of the Port of Seattle Commission since 2007 has announced she’s running for the 36th District legislative seat being vacated with the retirement of veteran State Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson (D-Seattle).

“I have been watching the education cuts and watching the challenges to women’s rights that we thought were settled 35 years ago, and just decided that I wanted my voice to be heard,” she said in her March 12 announcement.

Tarleton, a Democrat, has been president of the five-member Port Commission since January and is in the first year of her second four-year term as an elected official on the port board.

A Massachusetts native and Georgetown University graduate, she works at the University of Washington’s Institute for National Security Education and Research, which specializes in issues of public safety and national security policy.

With her announcement, she becomes just the latest commissioner to attempt to jump from the port to higher office. Last year John Creighton, a commissioner since 2006, ran for the King County Council, but was defeated and remains on the port board.