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Friday, April 6, 2012

Port of Bellingham Director Resigns

Port of Bellingham director Charlie Sheldon announced April 3 that he was stepping down from the job effective at the end of the month. His resignation comes six months after a port commissioner had called for his ouster.

Sheldon, who had only been on the job 18 months, had been asked to resign last October in a motion by port commissioner Scott Walker, who was upset that Sheldon had authorized the port’s aviation director to take a trip to a conference in the Caribbean without informing the board first. Although the board voted 2-1 against Walker’s motion at the time, the damage had been done, and Walker and Sheldon’s professional relationship deteriorated in subsequent months.

After submitting his resignation, two of the three port commissioners – Walker and Jim Jorgensen -- voted to accept it and a separation agreement that includes five months’ severance pay.

Before the vote, numerous port stakeholders, including commercial fishermen, labor activists, former Mayor Dan Pike and the CEO of Bellingham Cold Storage, Doug Thomas, all voiced their support for Sheldon and urged the board not to accept the resignation, saying that Sheldon had done a fine job and deserved a second chance.

Thomas, in particular said that in his 14 years running his cold storage business, his working relationship with port staff reached a peak during Sheldon’s 18-month tenure.

In the end however, port commissioner Mike McAuley was the lone vote against accepting the resignation.

During the meeting, the commission also appointed Chief Financial Officer Rob Fix to the position of interim executive director, which he will hold while a search for a permanent director is ongoing.

Amway Buys Port of Quincy Acreage

Direct selling company Amway has bought 12 acres of a newly-developed industrial park at the Port of Quincy, Washington on which the company says it plans to build a 48,000-square-foot nutritional products extraction and concentration facility.

Amway also has an option with the port to buy another 15 acres of property at the same industrial park. Amway says it plans to begin development of a $31.8 million facility at the port later this year, which would create about 30 permanent jobs and about 100 temporary construction jobs.

Operations are expected to begin in 2014, according to Michigan-based Amway.

Amway’s locating a processing facility at the port is the culmination of several months of efforts by a coalition of partners, according to Port of Quincy chair and president Curt Morris, including the Washington State Department of Commerce, Grant County Public Utility District, Grant County Economic Development Council, the City of Quincy and other local entities.

The Amway deal follows several other major additions the Port of Quincy has made in the past few years, the largest of which came in early 2010, when the port upgraded its freight transportation connections and began a partnership with Cold Train, via BNSF Railway, to provide door-to-door refrigerated intermodal service between the Pacific Northwest and Chicago/Indianapolis/Ohio Valley area markets.

The Cold Train intermodal container rail and distribution service has turned the Quincy Intermodal Terminal into a key distribution hub for central and eastern Washington.

Stolen Luxury Vehicles Seized at LA/Long Beach Port Complex

Twenty stolen luxury vehicles valued at about $1.5 million were found and seized by US Customs and Border Protection at the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex, officials said April 3.

The vehicles, which included a Ferrari 453 Italia and Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus brand vehicles were in containers marked as containing used fitness equipment, that were bound for Hong Kong and Vietnam.

According to Customs official Carlos Mantel, CBP officials were tipped off in February by a dealership that rented the Ferrari to someone who’s ID turned out to be fake. This resulted in an anti-theft device being activated on the vehicle, and the car being found at an unidentified terminal at the seaport complex.

A subsequent investigation turned up eight cargo containers filled with the remaining vehicles, which included cars, SUVs and pickup trucks, which were manufactured from 2009 to 2012, Martel said. Four of the vehicles reached Vietnam, but authorities managed to seize them for CBP.

The thieves are believed to have operated by renting or buying luxury cars under false identities, thereby defrauding rental agencies, banks and insurance companies. No arrests have been made yet in the case, but the investigation is still ongoing.

The vehicles will be turned over to the California Highway Patrol, which will then give them back to the companies that reported them missing, according to Customs.

Port of Long Beach Finalizes Record Lease

Orient Overseas Container Line on April 3 officially signed a 40-year, $4.6 billion lease with the Port of Long Beach to operate the port’s under-development 300-acre Middle Harbor terminal.

“I can’t overstate the significance of this agreement,” port Executive Director Chris Lytle said in a news release announcing the finalization. “It is the largest and most far-reaching terminal lease ever at the Port of Long Beach.”

The Middle Harbor redevelopment project consists of the combining of two aging shipping terminals into one modern facility to improve cargo-movement efficiency and environmental performance.

Under the nine-year, $1.2 billion project, which began in the spring of 2011, the port’s upgrading the area’s wharfs, water access and storage area, plus expanding on-dock rail. The lease will give OOCL and its subsidiary, Long Beach Container Terminal, full use of the facility.

A ceremony marking the lease’s signing was held April 3 at OOCL’s Hong Kong headquarters. In attendance were Lytle, OOCL CEO Philip Chow, members of the port’s harbor commission and representatives from the Pacific Maritime Association and International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

During the ceremony, Harbor Commission President Susan Anderson Wise presented Chow with a glass sculpture by California artist Paul Harrie. In return, Chow presented the port with a vase on behalf of OOCL.

A ceremonial groundbreaking is also scheduled for Port of Long Beach in May.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Fidley Watch: Fresh Starts

Spring has finally arrived on the West Coast. (Summer has apparently been spotted in several Midwest and East Coast locales, but so have tornadoes, so we should count our blessings.)

With spring comes rebirth – a reawakening of the earth after a particularly bleak winter. Signs of this reawakening are everywhere, even in the maritime industry.

One company experiencing a rebirth is the venerable Black Ball Ferry Line, operator of the M/V Coho, a vehicle and passenger ferry that travels between Port Angeles, Washington and Victoria, British Columbia.

The 341-foot by 72-foot Coho was designed by renowned naval architecture firm Philip F. Spaulding & Associates of Seattle, and made her first commercial sailing to Victoria, BC on December 29, 1959.

Earlier this year Black Ball announced that its current executive management team has agreed to purchase the company from the Oregon State University Foundation, which had held the company since it was bequeathed to the Foundation by former owner in 2004.

“Our management team will continue a strong commitment to the local community, the employees and culture of Black Ball Ferry Line,” said Ryan Burles, President of Black Ball Ferry Line. “We will ‘stay the course’ while continuing to improve our service and invest in the future.”

The M/V Coho has a capacity of 110 vehicles and 1,000 passengers, and during her more than 50 years of service the ferry has transported more than 22 million passengers and six million vehicles. Originally outfitted with two 2,080 BHP Cooper-Bessemer diesel engines, the vessel was repowered in 2004 with two General Motors EMD Engines rated at 2,550 BHP each.

Black Ball employs more than 120 people, and transports 400,000 passengers and 120,000 vehicles annually, with an estimated yearly economic impact of more than $160 million within the local communities.

Philips Publishing Group congratulates the new owners on their historic acquisition. We look forward to producing our first issue of the company’s onboard magazine, M/V Coho Magazine, the first issue of which will be available this spring.

Another company celebrating spring is Fremont Maritime Services. Founded by Captain Jon Kjaerulff in 1989 to provide safety and survival training to mariners sailing in Alaska and along the Pacific Coast, the Seattle-based maritime safety and fire training organization has opened a new, state-of-the-art training facility in Seattle’s Fishermen’s Terminal.

Captain Kjaerulff holds a US Coast Guard-issued license as Master of inspected vessels to 1,600 tons, and Chief Mate of inspected vessels of any tons. He is a 1983 graduate of the US Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, NY and has sailed as captain and licensed ship’s officer on a variety of civilian and naval vessels operating in numerous trades all over the world. His first fishing vessel safety program, the Survival Afloat Seminar, was specifically designed to provide training to crews of fishing vessels under 100 feet. Since then the academy has built a fire training simulator, the M/V Fire Dragon and added basic and advanced firefighting courses, towing vessel responsible carrier and STCW refresher programs, as well as many more USCG-approved programs.

Over the past 23 years Fremont Maritime has started and extinguished thousands of fires while preparing its student mariners for the real thing. The school has provided training to thousands of mariners and hundreds of companies including Alaska Tanker Company, the previously mentioned Black Ball Ferry Line, Dunlap Towing, Foss Maritime and Harley Marine Services. The training center has also trained crews from the US Army, Navy and Coast Guard.

With success comes the need for expanded facilities, and the new Fishermen’s Terminal location offers two 24-student classrooms with flat screen monitors for video conferencing and equipment display. The new site also provides easy water access and more parking, while a student shuttle offers quick access to the Fire Dragon, less than a mile away.

The success of Fremont Maritime Services indicates the quality of training the facility has provided over the years, and speaks well of the commercial fishing and maritime companies that train their crews to be safe on the water.

Chris Philips, Managing Editor

Canadian 2012 Transport Outlook Positive

The 2012 outlook for Canada’s freight transport sector is broadly positive, according to a newly-released report by London-based analysis company Business Monitor International.

Imports are expected to rise during the year, partially because of the strong Canadian dollar, according to BMI’s “Canada Freight Transport Report Q2 2012” analysis. Although the report states domestic consumption growth is expected to slow, imports are expected to remain high, according to the company.

“Canada’s external accounts should continue to be buffeted as a strong dollar pushes up imports, even as global demand for commodities maintains an elevated level of exports, both of which bode well for the country’s port sector,” the analysis reads in part.

Freight transport volumes should also be supported by the fact that an increasing number of shippers are using Canadian ports to import goods destined for the US, in an attempt to avoid paying the harbor tax on imports coming through US ports, the analysis states.

Among the other conclusions in the report:
  • Port of Metro Vancouver tonnage throughput is forecast to grow 2.7 percent in 2012. And over the medium term, BMI projects a 2.6 percent increase to 2016.
  • Rail tonnage is expected to grow 5.9 percent during the year.
  • Growth of 6.2 percent in road freight tonnage is also expected in 2012.
Regarding industry trends, BMI’s report says that global marine terminal operator DP World expanding its operations in Canada by signing an agreement to operate the Port of Nanaimo’s facilities is a positive step, since the country’s imports remain strong.

The analysis also predicts that longer trains will become more of an industry norm in North America over the medium term.

“The rail freight sector is following its shipping intermodal counterpart in espousing the bigger-is-better viewpoint, making the most of economies of scale,” the report states, while mentioning that rail operator Canadian Pacific is investing in developing its operational infrastructure to accommodate the longer transport vehicles.

The positive outlook for the Canadian economy is tempered by risks pointed out in the report, however. The first is that any significant slowdown in the US recovery would be highly negative for Canadian transport sector.

Similarly, the analysis states, any significant slowdown in Chinese demand would be negative for commodity prices and Canadian exports, and therefore presents potential downside risk to forecasts.

Coos Bay Could Receive Offshore Wind Project

An offshore wind energy developer has entered into negotiations with the International Port of Coos Bay regarding bringing a staging area for an offshore wind pilot project to the port.

Port chief communications officer Martin Callery has confirmed that negotiations are ongoing regarding bringing in a launch site and staging area for an offshore wind energy developer, according to the Portland Business Journal and Coos Bay World newspapers.

The negotiating period is believed to be for up to six months; if contract terms can be reached, the unnamed ocean wind energy company could be the first on the West Coast to test offshore wind energy.

Callery told the Business Journal he couldn’t name the company due to confidentiality agreements.

During a March 26 business meeting, port officials said the wind energy company is competing for a contract with the Department of Energy to test offshore wind turbines and if it wins the contract, it could launch demonstration turbines and platforms from the west berth of the port’s Oregon Gateway Terminal as early as 2014.

This initial demonstration would test ocean wind technology and the turbines would not be connected to the local power grid Callery told the Coos Bay World.

If the technology proves successful, the company could eventually install more turbines and eventually deliver energy into the Bay Area, according to port officials.

Port of San Diego Seeks Sponsorship Applications

The Port of San Diego’s seeking applications for programs that award financial sponsorships to activities that economically benefit the port and surrounding area, attract visitors to the area or educate the community about the port’s mission.

Under the port’s Revenue and Promotion-Generating Sponsorship Program, activities that generate promotional and economic benefit to the port, its tenants and the region can receive sponsorship for the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

Under the Community Sponsorship Program, activities that attract visitors or educate the community about the port’s mission can receive backing from the port.

To qualify for a sponsorship, a program has to demonstrate economic benefit and/or show how it attracts visitors to the San Diego Bay waterfront in the Port of San Diego’s member cities of Chula Vista, Coronado, National City and San Diego and to the oceanfront of Imperial Beach.

Applications must include a detailed budget, financial and marketing information and clearly spell out how the proposal meets the requirements criteria.

Proposals for both programs, including 10 double-sided copies, are due by 5 pm Mon., April 30, 2012. Interested applicants can contact the port’s Business Development and Marketing office at (619) 725-6080.

The port says it will notify applicants of their proposal status upon approval by its board of commissioners, and then begin the process of contracting with approved applicants.

Long Beach Opens Harbor Tour Reservations

The Port of Long Beach has opened reservations for its 2012 series of free harbor tours.

Reservations for the annual tour series began April 2 and continue through September. The 90-minute excursions are held from May through October on the first and third Saturday of the month and the second Tuesday and fourth Thursday of the month.

Online reservations open up at 8 a.m. on the first Monday of each month for tours the following month. In April, reservations can be made for the May tours, followed by June tour reservations on May 7, July tours on June 4, and so on. Seating is limited.

The port says that new elements are being added to the tour program this year, including special evening tours from 7 pm to 8:30 pm on the fourth Thursday of each month; and a special “social media” tour exclusively for the port’s Facebook and Twitter followers.

To see tour times and dates or make a reservation online, visit www.polb.com/porttours. Reservations can also be made at http://www.polb.com/about/ticketreservation/default.asp or by calling (562) 283-7700.