Thursday, May 3, 2012

Landholder Opposes St. Helens Coal Export Terminal

The company controlling much of the land where the Port of St. Helens wants to place a coal export terminal has rejected a proposal to build the facility, saying that the project could result in too much pollution.

Portland General Electric, which controls about 850 acres of land at the Port Westward industrial park, says that coal dust from the proposed terminal could negatively impact the air that’s used for combustion at two nearby natural gas plants.

Kinder Morgan has plans to build and operate a 100-acre coal export terminal on part of developable land that PGE operates. The utility can sublease the land under a 99-year lease that it signed with St. Helens in 2008. Under the lease, the utility has the final say on what portions of the property are used for.

PGE this week publicly said that it believes that coal dust could cause problems for its nearby facilities and that it was concerned by a potential increase in rail traffic.

The export facility would cost between $150 million to $200 million to build and export 15 million tons of coal to Asia annually, according to Kinder Morgan. If plans to place the terminal at the Port Westward complex fall through, the Port of St. Helens still has hundreds of acres of land elsewhere that could be designated as suitable for the project, according to the port, and other options are still being considered.

With its opposition, PGE is now in solidarity with the Sierra Club and other environmental groups that have been opposed to the coal export terminal on the grounds that it would result in bringing air and noise pollution to the area.

The Port of St. Helens commission has already approved another coal export facility at Port Westward, however. Under the project, which would be run by Ambre Energy North America, coal would arrive at the terminal via barge rather than train, then transferred to ships at the dock.

New Port of Anchorage Director Named

Richard Wilson, who spent 13 years as a city administrator with the Alaskan island of St. George, has been named the new director of the Port of Anchorage, according to an announcement by Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan on May 2.

Wilson will assume his new job May 14, Sullivan said, taking over for deputy port director Steve Ribuffo, who has served as the port’s interim director since the retirement of Bill Sheffield from the top spot Jan. 15 after 10 years in the position.

Before joining the port, Sheffield was Alaska’s governor from 1982 to 1986. After one term as the state’s highest elected official, he served as chair of the board for Alaska Railroad from 1986 to 1997 and was then promoted to become the state-owned railroad’s president and CEO.

He served in that role from 1997 until joining the port in 2001. He had come under increasing criticism during his final years as port director, mostly due to a port expansion project which had ballooned in cost since its origins in 2005.

The project, originally estimated to cost $360 million, has jumped to about $1 billion and counting. Last year this led to Anchorage Assemblyman Paul Honeman saying that Sheffield should be fired.

Incoming director Wilson, who has been an Alaskan for 37 years, directed the planning, design and finance of a new commercial fishing port while with the island of St. George, which has a population of about 100 people. He previously spent 13 years as development director at Anchorage International Airport.

“I’m thrilled that Mr. Wilson accepted the position and I’m confident that he will work conscientiously to address the current changes and issues with the port expansion project,” Sullivan said in a statement.

Although Sheffield resigned earlier this year, he’s still involved with the port; he’s currently being retained by Anchorage under a one-year, $60,000 consulting contract.

Petition Drive Launched to Expand Bellingham Port Commission

In the wake of the under-pressure resignation last month of the Port of Bellingham’s executive director, a group of Whatcom County, Washington residents have launched a petition drive to change the makeup of the port’s three-member port commission.

During the commission’s May 1 meeting, several organizers of a petition drive addressed the commission, saying they’re seeking to have the port commission expanded from three members to five.

The rationale, they said, is to help prevent situations like the one that happened April 3, when executive director Charlie Sheldon submitted his resignation, which became effective at the end of that month. Sheldon’s resignation came six months after commissioner Scott Walker had called for his ouster; Walker 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. Sheldon’s resignation and a severance package for him were accepted on a 2-1 April 3 vote by the board, despite vocal support for Sheldon at the time by numerous port stakeholders, including former Mayor Dan Pike, commercial fishermen and labor activists.

During the commission’s May 1 business meeting, the petitioners said that more members of the commission are needed in order to make better decisions. They requested that the commission ask the Whatcom County auditor to place a measure regarding the number of commissioners on the August ballot.

The request is expected to be discussed during the commission’s next public meeting, scheduled for Mon., May 14.

Port of Oakland Resumes Ops After Day Shift Closure

The Port of Oakland resumed cargo-handling operations during the swing shift on May 1 after an eight-hour shutdown that coincided with May Day labor protests.

International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10 members did not work the day shift at the port on May 1, as the union and Pacific Maritime Association held business meetings during the day. The meetings were originally scheduled for May 17, but were moved up to May 1 to coincide with International Workers Day, commonly known as May Day.

May Day is typically marked – particularly in the Bay Area and Los Angeles – with labor marches, protests and other activities. The shippers and union said they felt it would be wise to move the meetings up to May 1 because the protests might have affected regular cargo handling operations.

The May 1 dayshift closure marked the third time in the past seven months that protests had directly or indirectly affected Port of Oakland operations. Last November and December, demonstrations by members of the Occupy movement caused the temporary shutdown of terminals during the day or evening shifts.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Fresh Starts

By Chris Philips, Managing Editor, Pacific Maritime Magazine

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.

May Day Protestors Affect Bay Area Waterfront

ILWU Local 10, some of whose members work with Occupy Oakland in two port shutdowns last fall, conducted a daytime work stoppage at the Port of Oakland May 1 as part of annual May Day protests.

Local 10’s rank-and-file members did not work the eight-hour day shift at the port in observance of International Workers Day, commonly known as May Day.

May 1 is observed by labor activists and others as International Workers Day, and the day is typically marked in parts of the world with marches, protests, walk outs and one-day strikes. Oakland and Los Angeles are West Coast cities that typically have heavy turnout for May Day activities.

This marks the third time in seven months that the Port of Oakland has been affected by protests and labor unrest. Last November, about 3,000 protestors associated with the Occupy movement were successful in shutting down swing shift operations at the port for hours. In December, about 1,500 Occupy protestors disrupted port operations by marching on terminals.

Manson Construction Fined for Blair Waterway Spill

The Washington State Department of Ecology on April 30 announced that it is fining Seattle-based Manson Construction Co. $10,000 by for spilling nearly 180 gallons of diesel fuel from a barge into the Port of Tacoma’s Blair Waterway.

The Ecology Dept. says it has also billed Manson $2,800 to recover the state’s costs for conducting the cleanup. The final penalty amount collected will be deposited in special accounts to pay for environmental restoration and enhancement projects, according to the Ecology Dept.

The penalty was levied in part because it was determined the spill was due to negligence, according to the Ecology Dept.

The spill occurred on the morning of Oct. 29, 2010, when Manson was transferring fuel from a tug to the fuel tank of a barge. The company failed to monitor the transfer, and consequently diesel fuel overflowed from the fuel tank vent.

The vessels were moored just offshore of the Washington United Terminal at the time.

“Quick action by the barge and tug crew resulted in 168 gallons recovered from the water out of 177 spilled to water,” Southwest Regional Office Spill Response Unit Supervisor Jim Sachet said. “However, anytime that any amount of fuel is spilled into a waterway it causes damage.”

In a prepared statement, Manson Construction President Eric Haug said his company accepted responsibility for the incident.

“Manson Construction takes environmental quality very seriously and deeply regrets this incident taking place,” he said. “Manson has taken actions to prevent such accidents in the future.”

Manson is eligible to appeal the penalty to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board within 30 days, according to the Ecology Dept.

Port of San Diego Offering Public Tours

The Port of San Diego is offering public boat and bus tours of its two cargo terminals in May and June.

The six free bus tours will take participants to the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal and the National City Marine Terminal, where they can have an up close and personal look at San Diego Bay and the port’s maritime cargo, which includes imports of bananas, cars, wind energy components and other commodities. The tour also includes a visit to one of the port’s waterfront shipyards.

Each two-hour bus tour begins at 9:30 a.m. The scheduled dates are:

Mon., May 14: departing from Chula Vista Bayside Park, Chula Vista.

Tues, May 22: departing from Embarcadero Marina Park South, San Diego.

Tues., May 29: departing from Pepper Park, National City.

Mon, June 11: departing from Embarcadero Marina Park South, San Diego.

Tues., June 12: departing from Coronado Tidelands Park, Coronado.

The port’s boat tours will pass by many of the port’s waterfront parks, the B Street Cruise Ship Terminal, and also offer a look at the port’s two maritime terminals from the waterside.

Each of the four boat tours will depart from the bay tour operator facilities on North Harbor Drive, San Diego. Dates and times are:

Fri., May 18: 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., departing from Hornblower Cruises & Events, 1800 N. Harbor Drive, San Diego.

Tues., May 22: 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., Hornblower Cruises & Events, 1800 N. Harbor Drive, San Diego.

Fri., May 25: 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Flagship Cruises & Events, 1050 N. Harbor Drive, San Diego.

Tues., June 19: 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Flagship Cruises & Events, 1050 N. Harbor Drive, San Diego.

Signups for the bus or boat tours are available at

BNSF Launches Online Interactive Map

BNSF Railway has launched a new interactive map that highlights some of the activities along its 32,000-mile rail network, including the 155-mile Scenic Subdivision in western Washington State.

Visitors to a special website can select markers containing links to news updates, community projects and photos, as well as videos of BNSF trains in action and historical information.

The interactive map, which is powered by Google technology, can give users a bird’s-eye view of the entire network at once, or can zoom in to focus on a particular area of interest.

Users also can filter the selection of map markers using categories such as news, community, history and landmarks and photos.

The site’s collection of video clips includes two videos shot from a train’s perspective. During the making, high-definition cameras were attached to the outside of two BNSF locomotives to capture the scenery along two picturesque routes along the network.

One video depicts BNSF’s Scenic Subdivision in western Washington between Everett and Baring; the second shows the landscape of eastern Wyoming along the Canyon Subdivision.

The map is available at