Friday, April 13, 2012

Port of LA Sees 9 Percent Monthly Volume Increase

Imports at the Port of Los Angeles were up by 9.3 percent in March to 324,758 20-foot-equivalent containers compared to 297,023 TEUs during the same period last year, according to newly released data by the port.

The rise in imports, the port says, is reflective of a volume surge following a break in exports from Asia in February due to Chinese New Year celebrations.

Reversing a trend, however, was the number of exports. The port’s outgoing container volume had been on the rise for months, even setting a record in 2011 with a 14.5 percent surge over the year before.

But last month, imports dropped by 2.4 percent compared with the same month in 2011. The port exported 188,155 TEUs in March compared to 192,849 TEUs in March 2011.

Also, the number of total empty containers moved jumped by a whopping 24 percent in March compared to last year. Over 137,500 empties were moved during the month, compared with just over 110,920 in March 2011. The port says the strong increase may be attributed in part to shipping containers back to Asia as the Chinese New Year cycle came to a close.

During Chinese New Year celebrations, factories in the region typically close for a week or longer. This year, the New Year fell on Jan. 23.

Factoring in empties, LA.’s overall March 2012 volumes -- 650,452 TEUs -- increased by 8.27 percent compared to March 2011’s 600,796 TEUs.

Through the first three months of the calendar year, the port has handled 1.87 million TEUs, compared with 1.81 TEUs in January through March of 2011, an increase of 3.23 percent.

Grain Terminal Fires Hit Portland, Longview

Two grain terminal fires have occurred within days of each other in the greater Portland area, but the two blazes are believed to be unrelated.

On April 10, firefighters were called to Columbia Grain, Inc. in north Portland around 11:15 a.m. after an employee smelled smoke coming from a 125-foot silo, according to Portland Fire & Rescue.

The fire, which turned out to be caused by one of the facility’s grain elevators, was quickly doused, but firefighters remained on hand for several hours afterward to monitor the silo for signs of smoke. No injuries were reported.

Columbia Grain exports hard and soft wheat to destinations around the world. At the time of the fire, the Nord Ocean cargo ship out of Panama was docked at the grain facility awaiting a load of grain, according to Portland Fire.

The ship was not affected by the fire, according to the fire department.

Days earlier, on April 7, several fire agencies responded to a grain fire at the new EGT terminal at the Port of Longview.

The blaze started just before 9 am in the conveyor system above the Panama-flagged freighter Navios Gemini S, which was being loaded with wheat. Burning debris fell into the ship’s hull, but the ship itself suffered no damage, according to fire authorities.

The fire, which was extinguished by 2 pm, is still under investigation to determine the exact cause, according to the port.

No injuries were reported, but the ship’s operators say they’ve elected to keep the vessel’s other two loaders offline for at least a few days while the fire’s cause in investigated.

Port of Kalama Commissioner Dies

The longest-serving member of the Port of Kalama’s port commission has died. Jim Lucas, a lifelong Kalama resident who had sat on the three-person commission since 1984, died April 4 from complications due to cancer, according to the port.

“Jim had a long term vision for the Port of Kalama,” port commission president Randy Sweet said. “He always kept that vision in mind during our deliberations about future development.”

The Port of Kalama, which is located in southwest Washington on the Columbia River, is 30 miles northwest of Portland, Oregon and about 120 miles south of Seattle.

Among the significant developments Lucas is credited with helping oversee during his 28-year tenure at the port were the reopening of a wine bottle manufacturing facility at Kalama earlier this year, the securing of multiple large industrial tenants, numerous infrastructure projects and the acquisition of various properties for future business development.

As a port commissioner, Lucas served as a delegate to the American Association of Port Authorities, and was a board member of the Cowlitz-Lewis County Economic Development District.

A memorial service for Lucas was held Sat., April 7 at Longview Memorial Park & Crematory. A potential replacement for him on the port commission has not yet been announced.

Crowley Maritime Names New VP

Crowley Maritime has promoted Julia Shemesh to the position of vice president and deputy general counsel. Shemesh, who’s based in Seattle, will report to senior vice president and general counsel, Michael Roberts, who works out of Crowley’s Jacksonville, Florida corporate headquarters.

In her new role, Shemesh is responsible for providing advice and support on legal issues affecting company business on the West Coast, including petroleum distribution, marine solutions, and harbor ship assist and tanker escort services.

The company also says she’ll play an active role assisting in the continued expansion of Crowley subsidiary Jensen Maritime, which specializes in naval architecture and marine engineering services.

“I truly enjoy working with each business unit and its leaders, and I’m looking forward to assisting them from a more strategic perspective,” Shemesh said in a statement announcing the promotion. “My goal is to help them continue to grow their businesses and reach their objectives while minimizing risk to the corporation.”
Prior to joining Crowley as senior corporate counsel in 2009, Shemesh practiced with Allen & Overy, where she specialized in corporate law and advised on mergers, acquisitions, privatizations, initial public offerings and project financing.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Zero Emission Container Handling

By Mark Sisson, PE

As environmental awareness of port operations has steadily increased in recent years, air emissions have emerged as one of the most serious negative impacts from operations. More and more ports worldwide are implementing policies that aim to reduce air emissions with a “zero emission” terminal being hailed as the holy grail of the industry.

Efforts to reduce air emissions typically fall into three broad categories:

• Do everything possible with electric power

• Generate as much renewable power on site as possible

• Make the terminal, especially the non-electric parts, as efficient as possible

Electric power is compelling for many reasons. Equipment running on electric power generates zero local emissions. The emissions of health risk related pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons are far lower at stationary power plants, even coal fired power plants, than from mobile sources like ship engines, so switching to electric power results in a large net reduction in these types of pollutants.

Electric powered machines use far less energy for the same amount of work than diesel machines because they do not use power to idle, and they can regenerate power when braking, or when lowering a container. The chart below describes the electrification potential of many elements of marine container terminals and their landside connections.

Although dockside cranes, yard gantry cranes, and ships are all powered by either cables or bus bar type power transfer systems, other elements will have to depend on battery power. Yard tractors have a relatively easy duty cycle that consists of a confined operating area with low speed, little to no gradients to climb, and high fraction of idle time. This duty cycle lends itself to battery power very easily and prototype electric tractors are already in place at the port of Los Angeles.

Other types of duty cycles involving heavier loads, steeper grades, and longer distances mean that battery power for things like street trucks, or reachstackers, is still some way off. A great deal of time and money is currently being invested in improving battery performance, so this story may change quickly if there are significant breakthroughs in battery technology in the years to come.

Although the greenhouse gas emissions from electric power depend on the source fuels for the local grid, the long term trend in most places is for the grids to evolve into ever lower carbon content so electric equipment will automatically become “greener” over time in most locations. Ports are not waiting for power grids to become greener in many cases. They are taking matters into their own hands developing renewable energy on port property.

Solar power is the most common option for ports, as photovoltaic panels can be added to everything from building rooftops to parking shade canopies to electric cranes and even ships to generate clean power from the sun. Some terminals, such as the YTI terminal at the Port of Los Angeles, even post real time solar power generation data on their websites (http://live.deckmonitor

Wind turbines can generate a great deal of power, with a single turbine capable of producing more than a megawatt of power, if the local wind conditions are favorable. Many ports in northern Europe make extensive use of wind power generation on or near port property. Ports are great places for turbine placement because winds are often stronger at the water’s edge than they are inland, and there are already many large steel structures on the horizon so there may be less aesthetic objection to wind turbines in a port than on a ridgeline in undeveloped countryside.

Although less developed than solar or wind power, clean energy can also potentially be derived from tidal and wave power, and from fuel cells powered by hydrogen or natural gas.

Increasing efficiency on terminals can be accomplished in many ways, but the main focus is typically on longer hours of operation in order to smooth out the peaks in demand, and on better, earlier, transfer of information to allow the terminal operator to make better decisions.

Up until 2005, truck gates at terminals in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the two largest ports in the US, were typically only open from 8-5 on weekdays. This work schedule was used to minimize labor cost on the terminals but it resulted in substantial queues of street trucks waiting to enter the terminals.

In 2005, operators in southern California created the PierPASS organization to implement a daytime fee scheme to fund longer gate hours. Terminals stayed open for twice as long each day and trucks that picked up containers on the day shift were charged a fee to subsidize the costs of operating night gates. Approximately 40 percent of traffic shifted to night gates almost immediately. This resulted in a dramatic decline in truck queuing time and related emissions from idling trucks.

Some ports, such as the Port of Vancouver Canada, have implemented appointment systems to spread out the demand for truck service evenly throughout the day. As these systems get more sophisticated, operators may be able to rehandle containers in advance so that the containers to be picked up each day are nearly always on the top of the stack. This will further reduce truck delay and related emissions.

Ports and trucking companies are also working to develop “virtual container yards” so that when an import container is unloaded at a warehouse, it can be picked up at that warehouse by an exporter who needs an empty container to fill with cargo as opposed to being drayed back to the container terminal as an empty. Trucking companies are always working to maximize the number of double moves, i.e. driving with a container in both directions, that are done at ports. This results in fewer emissions per container moved.

Shifting cargo movement from trucks to rail or barge is an effective way to reduce emissions per ton-mile of cargo moved. The Port of Rotterdam has written into its newest terminal leases that container terminal operators must shift from the current 60 percent of cargo moved via truck to a future goal of only 35 percent of cargo moved via truck, with the remainder moved by rail or barge.

There are a great many tools in the toolbox for motivated port authorities and terminal operators to use to transform their operations in the direction of zero emissions. By taking advantage of global best practice from both a policy and technology perspective, ports can make steady progress toward a long-term goal of zero emission operations.

Mark Sisson leads AECOM’s marine analysis group, and is responsible for business development, project execution, and oversight of research and development of simulation models. He holds a BS in civil engineering from California State Polytechnic University and an MS in civil engineering from Northwestern University, and is a registered professional engineer in the state of California.

BNSF Rescinds Medical Reporting Rule

In a victory for labor unions, BNSF Railway has reversed course and put the brakes on a recently imposed rule that required railway workers company-wide to provide information pertaining to off-duty medical procedures and non-work-related medical issues.

In a written statement, BNSF spokeswoman Suann Lundsberg acknowledged the railroad had reviewed the situation and decided to withdraw the rule effective March 29, just six days after the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen and other labor unions filed complaints against the policy with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

“BNSF continues to assess and consider the very real and serious safety concerns that gave rise to the rule but will be considering alternative ways to address those issues in a manner consistent with past practice and the practices already in effect on other railroads as well as the practices in other regulated transportation industries,” Lundsberg said in an email to the news media confirming the change.

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

The BLET and other labor organizations, including the American Train Dispatchers Association, Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, Transportation-Communications International Union and United Transportation Union, however, had alleged that the new medical reporting policy violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and possibly other federal statutes.

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

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

But as of late March, the policy has been scrapped, according to the railroad.

Port of Oakland Touts Economic Impact

The Port of Oakland helps sustain thousands of regional jobs as well as hundreds of thousands more jobs across the US, according to the results of a newly-released economic impact study.

The study’s key findings are central to a new jobs brochure, “Powering Jobs, Empowering Communities,” that the port unveiled April 5 to illustrate its positive economic impacts.

“The Port of Oakland is a jobs-creating powerhouse and we wanted to put a human face on the over 73,000 jobs in the region that are powered by the port,” port Board President Pamela Calloway said regarding the new brochure.

The study, which was conducted by Martin Associates and based on 2010 data and collected and analyzed in 2011, found that the port generated over $671 million in tax revenue in 2010 and $1.5 billion in wages for 37,116 direct job holders that year.

It also found that nearly one in five direct jobs created by the port is held by an Oakland resident and that more than half of port’s direct jobs belong to residents of Alameda County. Over 30,000 trade-related jobs in the California Central Valley are connected to the port as well, according to the study.

“Port business drives job creation – specifically more cargo, more passengers, more infrastructure projects, and more tenants,” Oakland’s Executive Director, Omar Benjamin, said. “That’s why the port is focused aggressively on its core businesses.”

The Port of Oakland includes the seaport, 20 miles of waterfront and Oakland International Airport. The Port of Oakland receives no local tax dollars, but instead, generates tax revenue from its three business lines: maritime, commercial real estate and aviation.

For every 1,000 containers imported or exported at the seaport, eight direct jobs are supported, according to the study, and the port’s commercial real estate powers nearly eight percent of the region’s 73,000-plus port-related jobs.

The port’s new jobs brochure and a PowerPoint presentation on the 2010 Economic Impact Report are available at

Port of Long Beach Seeks Interim HQ

After reaching dead ends in previous potential paths toward a new administration building, the Port of Long Beach is now exploring yet another avenue of approach.

The port has begun requesting information from office building owners and their representatives as part of its search for an interim headquarters.

The port says it could either lease or purchase its new facility, and has asked office building owners and their representatives to submit information by 3 p.m., Fri., April 20, 2012.

The complete Request for Information (RFI) document is available for download at

The port’s current seven-story building is located on the outskirts of the port’s confines, near downtown Long Beach. It was built in 1959 and no longer meets the port’s needs, according to officials, nor does it meet modern earthquake codes.

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

Registration Open for Bay Planning Conference

The Bay Planning Coalition, a group dedicated to maritime issues in the San Francisco Bay area, has opened registration for its annual Decisionmakers Conference, a daylong event scheduled for Thurs., April 26 in Oakland.

The annual conference brings together BPC-member business leaders and local, state and federal environmental regulatory agency representatives and others to focus on developing and implementing collaborative strategies for maintaining and improving the Bay’s economic and environmental health.

The 2012 conference’s theme is “The Maritime Bay: Its Economic Importance to the Northern California Economy.”

This year’s planned keynote speaker is Jock O’Connell, an international trade adviser to Beacon Economics, a consulting firm with offices in Los Angeles and in the San Francisco Bay Area. In his remarks, O’Connell is expected to address California’s economic forecast related to maritime activity and its importance in generating taxes to fund essential governmental operations.

Other scheduled speakers include Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, who will give the opening address; and San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission chair R. Zachary Wasserman, who will be the event’s luncheon speaker.

For more information or to register, visit the Bay Planning Coalition’s website at