Friday, March 30, 2012

Experts Predict Growth in Goods Movement

There’s a sense of optimism among goods movement industry experts and executives regarding Southern California’s upcoming peak shipping season, but challenges still remain, they say.

During the eighth annual “Pulse of the Ports” peak season forecast conference, which was hosted March 28 by the Port of Long Beach, representatives from across the supply chain examined the trends and expectations in international trade.

The general consensus, the panel of experts told the audience of about 400 at the Hyatt Regency Long Beach, was that international cargo shipping should be busier during this year’s peak season of summer and early fall than it was in 2011.

“Importers are optimistic and they believe sales will increase this year,” Daniel Wall, a senior vice president with logistics firm Expeditors, said. “And they are excited about it.”

Additionally, exports, which have been the backbone of the economic recovery of the West Coast goods movement industry, are expected to continue to rise, according to Walter Kemmsies, chief economist for civil engineering company Moffatt & Nichol.

The optimism was tempered, however, by concern for regulatory challenges facing the trucking industry and the sense that economic recovery in this country is still a work in progress.

Among the factors that can determine the speed of the recovery include economic challenges in European countries and geopolitical instability in oil-rich countries in the Middle East. However, the long-term picture looks good, experts say, partially due to ongoing investment in infrastructure.

Among those infrastructure projects is the Middle Harbor redevelopment, a nine-year, $1.2 billion Port of Long Beach project under which two aging shipping terminals will be combined into a more modern and efficient one.

Shipping line OOCL recently signed a 40-year, $4.6 billion lease to operate the terminal.

“The Middle Harbor redevelopment project will enable us to meet the challenge of the future,” OOCL USA President Erxin Yao told the assemblage.

An archived webcast of the “Pulse of the Ports” forecast is available at

Small Shipyard Grants Awarded

The US Dept. of Transportation has announced nearly $10 million in grants to 15 small shipyards throughout the United States, including four on the West Coast, to pay for modernizations that increase productivity and help small shipyards compete in the global marketplace.

The funds were allocated as part of the US Maritime Administration’s Small Shipyard Grants Program. The grants fund a variety of projects, including infrastructure improvements and equipment modernization to increase the efficiency, competitive operations and quality of vessel construction in US shipyards.

“These small shipyard grants reflect the … commitment to strengthening our transportation systems and creating an economy that’s built to last,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in announcing the grants.

Of the $9.98 million issued, almost $2 million was allocated to West Coast shipyards. The West Coast grantees are:
  • Seattle-based Kvichak Marine Industries, which says it will use a $987,307 grant to buy a water-jet cutting table to cut and bevel ferrous and non-ferrous plates; a hydraulic swing beam shear for accurate cutting in place of skill saws; and welding equipment. The grant will also fund a boatbuilding skills training program.
  • Foss Maritime Co.’s Seattle Shipyard, which received $578,402 to buy two 45-foot manlifts; a dust collection system to allow the yard to blast and paint without contaminating the atmosphere; a three-ton forklift; and shelters for additional work overflow.
  • Honolulu-based Navatek Ship Construction, whose $248,805 grant goes toward buying wind turbines and towers to provide clean renewable electrical service to the shipyard.
  • Sitka, Alaska-based Allen Marine, which says it will use its $163,500 grant to buy a welding fume and particulate extraction system it needs to meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements for its aluminum welding operations.

“They will provide new tools and equipment to help maritime businesses sustain and create good American jobs through increased productivity and efficiency,” US Maritime Administrator David Matsuda said of the grants in a news release. “These federal investments will fund shipyard essentials.”

Port of Seattle Police Chief Reinstated

Colleen Wilson, the Port of Seattle police chief who was placed on administrative leave three weeks ago after staff complaints against her, has been reinstated.

An internal investigation found that Wilson had committed no violations of port regulations, according to port CEO Tay Yoshitani.

Wilson was placed on paid leave March 6 after being accused of verbally abusing subordinates and creating a hostile work environment. The allegations against her came from two female members of staff management, who filed written complaints.

For three weeks, Deputy Chief Rodney Covey was the department’s acting chief, but in a March 28 memorandum to port employees, Yoshitani said that a management team and an independent reviewer found that employees aired their grievances in good faith, but that Wilson had committed no rules violations.

“However,” he wrote, “the process identified dynamics among the command team that do not meet the high standards we all strive for in our work.”

Wilson has a 40-year career in law enforcement. Before being hired by the port, she served as police chief in two cities: Monroe from 1993 to 2002, and Sumner from 2002 to 2007. She joined the port in August 2007.

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

BNSF Touts Emission Reductions

Shippers who moved their freight via BNSF Railway instead of solely over the road in 2011 reduced carbon dioxide emissions by millions of tons during the year, according to a newly released analysis by the company.

BNSF customers avoided emitting over 30 million metric tons of CO2 last year by using the railway, the equivalent of reducing the annual fuel consumption and resultant greenhouse gas emissions of more than six million passenger vehicles, according to the analysis, which the company performs annually.

“We believe our chief contribution to sustainability is the major fuel efficiency and emissions reductions our customers achieve,” BNSF executive vice president John Lanigan said. “Rail provides enormous value in reducing the country’s overall transportation emissions and carbon footprint.”

The data was determined through customized analysis by the railway of each intermodal, automotive, industrial products and agricultural products customer’s total rail carbon footprint and savings compared to movements of those shipments exclusively over the highway.

The calculations are based on commodity type and weight as well as distance traveled by rail. Also taken into consideration are the different fuel efficiencies of trailer, container or carload shipments.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

USCG 13th District Promotes Safety and Stewardship

By Rear Admiral Keith Taylor

It’s been six months since I left the “other Washington” and it is great to be here as the new Thirteenth District Commander – it has been exceptionally challenging, rewarding and a real honor to be part of the tremendous maritime community here in the great Pacific Northwest. After getting to meet many in the industry over the last six months and engaging in all parts of our operations, I can report back that your Coast Guard is on watch and ready 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Together we are ensuring the safety, security and environmental stewardship of our waters and the incredible economic force they represent to all
of us.

The Pacific Northwest is not only a beautiful place to work, it is also essential to our nation’s economy. It hosts the country’s largest ferry system, the third biggest container port complex, and is a major gateway for grain exports. It serves as a strategic port for the US Navy, caters to a busy cruise ship season, and is home to one of the nation’s largest commercial fishing fleets. The Northwest presents unique maritime challenges and perils not commonly found elsewhere in our nation. Commercial mariners and our Coast Guard men and women face hazardous river bar conditions, rugged coastline, year-round cold water, severe weather, and dangerous operations in their daily work.

Safety cannot be taken for granted. As the senior commander for more than 5,500 Coast Guard personnel, I am constantly stressing the importance of proficiency; doing the best we can each and every day, and not just meeting minimum standards – no one goes home to his family and brags about accomplishing the bare minimum. I firmly believe that everyone in the maritime industry must focus on these same values and instill them in all employees. As maritime professionals, being proficient, being safe and protecting our waters are not only the “right” things to do, they are essential to the bottom line. A strong safety and environmental culture will reduce workplace injuries, lower insurance costs, cut down on the need to manage “bad” things, and improve employee morale and productivity.

The Coast Guard plays very important roles as the federal lead for safety, security and stewardship on our nation’s waterways: we work hard to prevent bad things from happening; and, when bad things do occur we respond decisively. To achieve these outcomes we must work exceptionally close with many of you in the maritime industry. As a regulator, the Coast Guard helps build effective regulatory regimes and ensures compliance with all applicable federal laws. As a partner, the Coast Guard collaborates with the marine industry, elected officials, other agencies, and the public to identify, assess and mitigate risk. We also work very closely with the tribal nations and our Canadian partners on a host of issues. Using both informal and formal processes, we routinely seek the advice and support of stakeholders to ensure a full understanding of all issues, bolster relationships and trust, and to develop industry standards of care that advance safety, security and stewardship.

A good example showcasing the Coast Guard’s role as both regulator and partner is the current Towing Vessel Bridging Program. In the interest of promoting safety, we have been working closely with industry and stakeholders for many years to fully implement the provisions of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2004, and, as many of you may be aware, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) was issued on August 11, 2011. I encourage all of you with an interest in the very important change to provide comments as part of this rulemaking effort. The bridging program was designed to help ease the towing vessel industry’s transition from an uninspected to an inspected regime, as outlined in the NPRM. As part of this program we are working hard to acclimate all involved with existing and, as implementation draws closer, new Subchapter M regulations. To further these ends, during this period of transition the Coast Guard is conducting extensive industry outreach, training our inspectors by having them spend time onboard towing vessels to learn from industry experts, and examining every uninspected towing vessel that will be subject to the new rule. In all encounters with industry, our approach will be measured, professional, and, to the greatest degree possible, in the spirit of cooperation, while ultimately ensuring compliance with applicable safety, security, and environmental protection regulations.

Strong relationships, collaboration on the toughest of issues and honest dialogue have long been the trademark here in the Pacific Northwest, and are essential to the continued safety and environmental protection on our oceans and waterways. I promise I will do my part each and every day. Thanks again for the hearty “Welcome Aboard” my family and I have received – we are excited to be here and love being part of this great community. I look forward to working with all of you to tackle the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Be proficient, be safe, and never forget we are a maritime nation!

Rear Admiral Keith A. Taylor, Commander of the Thirteenth Coast Guard District headquartered in Seattle, Washington, is responsible for US Coast Guard operations covering 4 states, more than 4,400 miles of coastline, 600 miles of inland waterways, and a 125-mile international border with Canada. Rear Admiral Taylor holds a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the US Coast Guard Academy, a Master of Science in Industrial Administration degree from the Krannert School at Purdue University and a Master of Business Administration degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Rail Unions File Discrimination Charges Against BNSF

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen and a number of other labor unions have filed charges of discrimination against BNSF Railway to try putting the brakes on a new rule requiring that railway workers provide information pertaining to off-duty medical procedures and non-work-related medical issues.

“The highly personal medical information that must be provided under the policy includes doctor’s notes, diagnostic test results and hospital discharge summaries, which the carrier has no right to obtain,” the BLET said in a statement regarding its challenge.

The policy, which BNSF instituted Jan. 1, requires all employees to notify the carrier of medical conditions and/or events that occur or are diagnosed while they are away from work.

Employees must report medical events or conditions even, according to the BLET, “if there’s no basis for believing the condition or event has any impact on the employee’s ability to perform their job and even when the employee’s own doctor has placed no limitations on the employee’s job activities.”

In its complaint, which was filed with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission March 23, the BLET alleges that BNSF’s new company-wide medical reporting policy violates the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and could violate other federal statutes.

The BLET’s complaint was filed in conjunction with the filing of similar discrimination charges with the EEOC by numerous other rail and transportation labor unions, including the American Train Dispatchers Association, Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, Transportation-Communications International Union and United Transportation Union.

The unions allege that the medical information could reveal a disability that’s neither job-related nor relevant to any carrier interest, is likely to result in the carrier improperly obtaining genetic information, and discriminates against women affected by pregnancy and/or related medical conditions.

BNSF Railway, however, maintains the policy changes were implemented partially because some employees in the past were found to have serious medical conditions that impacted their safety, the safety of co-workers and potentially the safety of the general public.

Port of Tacoma Monthly Container Volume Down

Despite an increase in vessel calls, the total number of 20-foot equivalent units that moved through the Port of Tacoma last month was down 11 percent compared to the same month last year, according to newly released data.

A total of 102,947 TEUs made their way through the port last month, a sizeable decline from the 116,484 that were shipped through Tacoma in February 2011. The total includes 61,114 full containers traveling to and from international destinations, 12,208 empty containers traveling internationally and 29,619 TEUs – full and empty – traveling to and from Alaska and Hawaii. Each number was a decline of a few thousand containers from the same month the year before, as well as the prior month during this year.

For the year-to-date, Tacoma’s TEU volume is down 4.2 percent, with the number of full, empty, international and domestic containers all down from the same period in 2011.

Despite the net decline however, the port saw growth in some areas of cargo shipping. The amount of break bulk shipped was up 51 percent last month compared with February 2011, while the amount of grain rose over 28 percent, and the number of automobiles shipped was up 6.7 percent.

Additionally, the total number of vessel calls rose, going from 149 last February to 155 in the same month this year, a four percent increase, according to port data.

Port of Seattle Confirms New Alaska Cruises

The Port of Seattle on March 23 officially confirmed that it’s adding two new routes to Alaska, one each from Celebrity Cruises and Oceania Cruise Lines, for the 2013 cruise season.

The Celebrity Cruises’ ship Solstice will be making 19 calls, with the bulk of the itineraries being seven day roundtrip cruises during the summer departing from Smith Cove Terminal at Terminal 91.

The Solstice, which was built in 2008, would be one of the largest cruise ships to berth in Seattle, with an overall length of 1,041 feet and a capacity of 2,850 passengers.

Additionally, the flagship of the Oceania Cruise Lines fleet, the cruise ship Regatta, will be embarking and disembarking guests from Bell Street Pier at Pier 66, for a total of six calls.

The ship, which was refurbished in 2011, has an overall length of 594 feet and a capacity of 684 passengers. Most trips will take place between May and August.
Early cruise bookings have already begun for both new ships.

According to the port, Seattle leads all US cruise homeports on the West Coast in passenger volume and number of ship calls.

The cruise business is responsible for more than 4,319 jobs and $416 million in annual business revenue in the Seattle area, according to the port, with each vessel call generating about $2 million for the local economy.

LA Port Seeks Nominations for Clean Air Awards

Nominations have been opened for the annual San Pedro Bay Port Clean Air Action Plan Air Quality Awards, which recognize the air pollution-fighting efforts of local port-related businesses.

Nominations are accepted for port tenants operating at the Port of Los Angeles or Port of Long Beach, as well as other operators serving the ports – such as shipping lines, trucking companies and rail operators – that demonstrated a strong commitment to reducing air pollution in 2011.

Awards will be given in four categories: Air Quality Improvement Leadership at the Corporate Level; Innovative Air Quality Improvement Technologies; Innovative Operations that Improve Air Quality; and Significant Early Action to Reduce Air Pollutant Emissions.

Only port tenants and other operators that serve one or both ports are eligible for awards; technology vendors are not eligible. Self-nominations will be accepted. Award recipients will be recognized during an event this summer.

The deadline for nominations is 4 pm Fri., April 27, 2012. For more information on the awards program and categories, visit