Friday, May 11, 2012

Kennedy Rails Against Pacific Northwest Coal Projects

Environmental activist and attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. says that coal export terminals planned for about half a dozen locations throughout Oregon and Washington would lead to environmental damage and political malfeasance, while creating a minimal number of jobs.

“It’s going to end up leaving Portland with a legacy of pollution, poison and corruption,” Kennedy said of coal exports during a May 7 anti-coal rally at Portland’s Pioneer Square. The event was organized by environmental groups the Sierra Club and Columbia Riverkeeper, which have been involved in concerted efforts to prevent Pacific Northwest ports from developing terminals that would export coal to Asian countries.

The environmentalists argue that the resulting dust from the trains hauling the coal to coastal ports from the Midwest and elsewhere would pollute the countryside along the proposed routes.

During the anti-coal rally, Kennedy claimed coal export companies would inevitably pay off legislators to see pro-coal legislation passed, using the prospect of job creation as a selling point.

“It poisons democracy, it poisons communities, it poisons values,” Kennedy warned. “Coal is crime. Do not let it come through this community.”

Despite the vocal opposition however, about half a dozen Oregon and Washington ports are currently considering coal export terminal proposals, partially because of the jobs they would bring and the positive economic impact they could have on the surrounding communities.

Among them is the Port of Longview, where Millennium Bulk Terminals has applied for permits to build a $600 million terminal in a bid to become one of the largest coal exporters in North America.

Coal companies have also submitted permits to build export terminals at or near Port Westward near Clatskanie; Port Morrow and Port of Bellingham. Two other proposals have surfaced in Coos Bay and Hoquiam, but no formal permit requests have been filed as of yet.

In response to the controversy, numerous state and regional officials and entities, including Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, Washington state Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant and the US Environmental Protection Agency have weighed in, with each saying that a comprehensive study is needed to study the full potential cumulative environmental effects of the coal export proposals.

Nanaimo Port Authority Eyes Upgrades, Modernization

The Nanaimo Port Authority, which operates the Port of Nanaimo in British Columbia, has unveiled what it calls its ”Path 2025” strategic direction, designed to address the port’s need for upgrades and modernization over the next decade.

As part of its plan, the port authority hopes to reach agreements with private companies for investment in up to 30 port land use projects.

“We need world class facilities to be competitive and to bring new economic development opportunities to Nanaimo,” Port Authority President and CEO Bernie Dumas said. ”We are reviewing how we use all our assets so we can operate our core elements effectively and efficiently while providing a stronger transportation system for Vancouver Island.”

Among the priorities, Dumas said, is upgrading the Commercial Inlet Basin and Marina in downtown Nanaimo with more commercial and transportation activities, and modernizing and extending commercial activity at the Duke Point Terminal.

A key element of the plan is transforming the Nanaimo Assembly Wharf lands into a mix of commercial and light industry uses to help spur growth.

Dumas said that the Port Authority, which runs Nanaimo on behalf of the Canadian government, recognizes that it doesn’t have all the answers and will continue to look to the business community to bring in proposals for different land use.

“Our goal is to attract new economic activity in Nanaimo with our port assets,” he said. “Our role as stewards of marine safety and sustainability means all proposals need to be balanced and considered through the lens of social, commercial, environmental and transportation requirements.”

Global Container Terminals Announces Expansion Project

Global Container Terminals, which operates facilities at Port Metro Vancouver in British Columbia as well as in the New York-New Jersey area, has unveiled plans for a multi-million dollar project to develop a 70-acre container terminal on the Bayonne, NJ, waterfront.

The company promises that when complete, Global Terminal at Port Jersey would be the most advanced marine terminal within the Port of New York and New Jersey.

The expanded facility, scheduled to open in 2014, is expected to improve the competitiveness of the Port of New York and New Jersey via a world-class terminal designed to handle the largest container vessels at greater throughput density per acre, the company says.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey acquired the project land, which adjoins Global’s existing facility in 2007. Both the existing Global Terminal and the expansion area are situated on New York Bay.

With 50 feet of water depth at its new berths, Global Terminal will be able to handle the largest container vessels in the world, according to the company, and have total capacity to move 1.7 million twenty-foot equivalent units annually.

“Our expanded Global Terminal facility will come on line precisely in time to help meet the demands of larger vessels transiting the Suez Canal and new wider Panama Canal,” Global President and CEO James Devine said.

BNSF, Union Pacific See Quarterly Profits Rise

Both of America’s largest railroads, which play important roles in shipping goods to and from West Coast ports, reported an increase in profits during the first quarter of 2012.

BNSF Railway reported net income of $789 million for the first quarter, up almost 16 percent from the same period in 2011. The company’s overall revenue for the three-month period that ended March 31 was $4.9 billion, up 10 percent compared to a year ago.

The rise, the railroad says, is partially attributable to average revenue per car or unit increases for all business units due to higher rates and higher fuel surcharges.

BNSF's principal rival, Union Pacific, which is the No. 1 U.S. publicly held railroad, reported first-quarter revenue of a record $5.1 billion, up 14 percent a year earlier. The company’s first-quarter profit was $863 million, or $1.79 per share, a jump of 35 percent from a year-earlier profit of $639 million, or $1.29 per share.

The increased traffic and financial gains are being attributed to various factors, including coal demand; higher domestic intermodal volume driven by highway conversions to rail, and higher volumes of automotive shipments, driven by increased North American auto sales and dealerships rebuilding vehicle inventories.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Shaver Welcomes the M/V Sommer S

Ports along the lower Columbia and Willamette Rivers in Oregon and Washington will soon get more help as venerable Shaver Transportation celebrates the christening of a brand new, 5,360-HP combination ship assist tug. To be commissioned the Sommer S in a ceremony on the banks of the Willamette River later this month, the tug, built by Portland's Diversified Marine, is a memorial to Sommer Shaver, one of the company’s principals who passed away ten years ago at the age of 43. The M/V Sommer S is a confident stride into the future of ship assist in the area.
“We designed this boat to be Columbia River specific,” says Steve Shaver, President of Shaver Transportation. Dubbed the Columbia class, the new boat is the first in a new series of tug designs by the firm, and will be the most powerful tug in Shaver’s fleet.
Portland, Oregon’s Shaver Transportation has a long history of service moving freight on the Columbia, Snake and Willamette Rivers, as well as a history of assisting ships into the ports of Portland and Astoria.
In 1880 George Washington Shaver and partners founded People’s Freighting Company. The company’s first vessel was the steamboat Manzanilla, which they sailed on the Willamette and Columbia rivers between Portland and Clatskanie, Oregon. In 1893 Shaver Transportation was incorporated by George W. Shaver and sons James W. Shaver and George M. Shaver. Their next two steam-powered sternwheelers were the George W. Shaver and the Sarah Dixon, named for the founder and his wife. Shaver soon shifted away from transporting people and cargo in favor of barge towing, and the fleet grew to seven tugs by 1914.
By 1950, Shaver Transportation had two-dozen steel-hulled diesel engine tugs. Log towing was a large portion of the business during these years, and Shaver established itself in ship assist work in Portland’s booming harbor and in ocean towing up and down the coast from Alaska to the Panama Canal.
The Shaver family remains at the helm today. Harry L. Shaver is the Chairman of the Board, his son, Steve Shaver, is President, and his daughter, Samantha Shaver, is a member of the Board. The company currently has about 98 employees.
Today, Shaver Transportation focuses on three lines of business: ship assist, grain barging and harbor/specialty towing.
Sommer Sondra Shaver
The new boat is named after Harry Shaver’s daughter and Steve and Samantha’s sister, Sommer Sondra Shaver, who dedicated much of her life to Shaver Transportation. “Sommer was a strong, fearless and brilliant woman,” says her sister, Samantha. “She would be so proud to have a tug named after her. She had so much pride in the family business and the shipping industry.”
Samantha says the company was Sommer’s life. “She did the work of ten. She treated our customers like family, and she traveled the world to visit them.”
Ten years after the loss of Sommer, the company still benefits greatly from the relationships she forged and the trust she established with the shipping community around the world.
“She crossed barriers that most women would not,” Samantha recalls. “She loved everyone at work, especially the boatmen. She looked out for them, making sure they always knew how much she appreciated their hard work. She believed at Shaver the employees were like family.”
The Sommer S
The Sommer S is an 80-foot by 36-foot, twin Z-drive, diesel-powered ship-docking tug, designed specifically for the particular job of ship-handling, escort, and related harbor support activity services on the lower Columbia and Willamette Rivers. The boat is equipped with a hawser winch and line-handling crane forward and heavy bow fendering for ship assist and escort work. A series of barge handling winches are fitted aft for securing to and pushing bulk barges.
Capilano Maritime Design, in North Vancouver, British Columbia, designed the new boat. The firm specializes in the design of commercial workboats including tugs, barges, crew boats, dredges, offshore supply vessels, marine construction vessels and ferries. Capilano also offers general consulting services to the marine industry.
Capilano’s Senior Naval Architect, Mark Mulligan, also had a hand in the design of the company’s first Z-drive boat, the 107-foot, 4,000-HP M/V Portland, built by Nichols Bros. Boatbuilders, in Freeland, Washington, in 1981. “At the time of her design I was working for Maritime Industries, and we did all the engineering. The tug was actually designed by my predecessor at Maritime, Jim Towers, so I helped him in the final design and sailed with him from Nichols Brothers builders to Portland on the delivery voyage as engineers,” he says. “As I recall, it was the first Z-drive in the area,” says Matt Nichols, CEO of Nichols Brothers Boatbuilders, which delivered the Portland in 1981.
Shaver Transportation president Steve Shaver concurs. “It was definitely the first one on the West Coast. There was only one other Z-drive around at the time, and that one was on the East Coast. There isn’t anything older than the Portland with Z-drives out here – we were ahead of our time.”
The company also recently repowered the Portland, which was built with World War II-vintage engines. The company’s Chairman of the Board, Harry Shaver, says the Portland’s Fairbank Morse engines were replaced with more powerful MTUs, which will also help with fuel consumption in the big boat. “It was the first tractor tug on the West Coast, and it’s built like a tank,” he says. In addition to being more efficient and more powerful, the new engines are quite a bit smaller. “There’s a lot more space in the engine room now,” he notes. “It was pretty roomy before, but you could play volleyball in there now.”
While the Sommer S is smaller (although deeper) than the Portland, at only 80 feet long by 36 feet wide and with a 14-foot draft, the boat’s twin MTU/Detroit Diesel 16V4000 M61 main engines, each rated 2,680 bhp at 1,800 rpm, driving Schottel SRP1215 360-degree azimuthing thrusters with 94.5-inch diameter fixed pitch propellers, will provide a bollard pull of more than 65 tons, making her by far the most powerful tug in the company’s fleet.
“We initially discussed a tower tug with a big tower and push knees as a kind of combination upriver and ship docking tug,” Mulligan explains, “but the customers decided a pure ship docking tug was what was needed,” although the company did specify a push pad on the bow, under the main fender. “The result is a simple, hard-working 65-ton bollard pull ship docker that can also push barges around.”
We decided a ship-assist boat that can push barges would be better,” says Steve Shaver. “You can look into the future and see the potential need for this boat. The pilots told us what was important to them, and as a result, this boat hits the sweet spot for its size and horsepower.”
The bridge of the Sommer S is very well laid out for ship assist work. “This boat has some of the best visibility of a ship-docking tug that I’ve ever seen,” he says. “I’m excited about this boat because in the concept stage we got a lot of input from pilots and employees.
Crew-Friendly Spaces
The design of the boat was a collaborative effort, and the company made sure to get the operators, or boatmen, involved throughout the design and construction process. The result is a vessel that is as well suited to the operator as it is to the task at hand. “I spent 17 years working on the boats,” Steve says, “and I tried to keep in mind what I would like if I was living on the boat.” For example, there’s a vestibule off the galley that separates the galley and mess from the doors to the berths. “I hate to have a door right up against the galley,” he says. “Noise in the galley might wake the crew, and the vestibule acts as a buffer for that noise. You might walk through the boat and ask yourself why that weird hallway is there- that’s why.”
Steve did a lot of research before the design process even started. “I looked at a lot of boats here on the West Coast, as well as on the Mississippi, and this boat is laid-out better than any I’ve ever seen,” he says. The Sommer S can accommodate 6 crew in two double berths and two single berths, although she will normally sail with two or four. “It’s amazing how much we’ve been able to fit in to a boat of this size,” he says.
Rob Rich, Shaver’s Vice President of Marine Services, started working on Columbia River tugboats in 1979, and has been with Shaver Transportation for 26 years. Rich echoes what Steve Shaver said about the crew spaces. “It’s not a giant boat, but it’s doing a big boat’s job. We tried to make it as spacious as possible, and the crew has had significant input in terms of the wheelhouse and deck machinery and interior layout and function.”
The company tries to promote from within its ranks, so the possibility of training operators is a very real one for the new boat. “We have room for extra crew, in case we’re training someone,” Rich says.
The new boat will be performing ship assist work in the ports along the lower Columbia River, so the company really wanted to design the boat around the tasks it would be performing on a day-to-day basis. This might include assisting an auto or lumber ship one day, while making up to a grain barge for a short trip down river the next.
According to Steve Shaver, the ratio of ship assist to barge towing is roughly fifty-fifty. “We were looking at horsepower and maneuverability,” he says, “and we did things the way we felt would work best for Columbia River – she’s definitely not an off-the-shelf model.”
For ship docking the boat is fitted with a heavy duty DEPCF-48 hawser winch from Markey Machinery, with a 50-hp electric motor. The winch is a single-drum electric hawser winch with fairlead featuring automatic tension-selectable render/recover mode, high braking capacities, and fast line speeds for escort and ship-assist vessels. The winch drum will be fitted with 400 feet of 9-inch circumference Spectra/Plasma line in 8 layers and will have a brake capacity of 400,000 lbs. minimum, at the second layer. The rated pull is 22,150 lbs. on the second layer at a speed of 67 feet per minute. The company prefers electric hawser winches because, according to Steve Shaver, “they’re a lot smoother, and the crews like them much better.”
Rob Rich points out that an additional duty of the Sommer S will be Columbia River Bar escort work, and for this she had to be built to American Bureau of Shipping Standard. “Frequently, the Coast Guard will call us out to escort a ship due to propulsion, steering or navigational issues. These vessels require an escort, and occasionally a tethered escort, “ Rich says. “This is where a good render/recover winch really becomes important.”
Another feature of the Sommer S is the boat’s deck crane, used for line handling, which she has in common with the other ship assist boats in Shaver’s fleet. “The Vancouver has a crane, and we bought a crane for the Portland as well,” Rich says. “We’ve been told by vendors and other operators that they’ve only seen that on our boats.” Steve Shaver notes that the new crane will be useful in putting a line aboard a ship or running lines to a dolphin.
Rich points out that, although the Sommer S is only 80 feet long and primarily designed for ship assist, she is also set up to easily handle harbor barge activity. “With rubber down to the waterline and four 60-ton barge winches on it, it’s fully capable of making up to a barge and working it around the harbor or down the river.”
He says the lack of a large push surface for more dedicated barge work was driven by the boatmen. “We looked hard at installing knees on the stern or integrated on the bow, but the crew said they’d rather just have the pad.” Rich points to decisions such as this one that make the boat such a unique blend of Capilano’s cutting edge design and state of the art equipment coupled with the input of Shaver’s crews. “In a small family owned company like Shaver, where the owner is a step away from the pilothouse, the crew’s input rates quite highly,” he says.
Looking Ahead
Ship assist and escort have been a key part of Shaver’s business for almost 100 years, and Shaver’s fleet of six tractor tugs each offer more than 3,000 HP and more than 40 tons of bollard pull to handle ships of any size and configuration.
In addition to the Sommer S, Shaver has three tugs that are either ABS certified or meet ABS standards, including one recently acquired tractor tug from the East Coast. The new 93-foot tug, to be named Washington, is in the process of being outfitted for Columbia River work at Diversified Marine, where she shared the yard briefly with the Sommer S.
“In the space of 14 months we’ve gone from one Columbia River Bar escort tractor to four, the Sommer S, Vancouver, Washington and Portland” says Rob Rich.
The company’s fleet of tugs is RCP and ISO 9001/2008 certified, and the engines in four of the Shaver boats were replaced with 2007-2009 Tier II engines, which offer 11 percent more power but burn almost 35 percent less fuel and use 90 percent less lube oil. The new engines are quieter and have less vibration, leading to less crew fatigue and more comfort.
While half of Shaver’s business is shipdocking, the other half involves moving massive grain barges up and down the Columbia-Snake river system, and the company’s barge fleet has a combined capacity of almost 55,000 tons. Most of the barges are specially designed to transport grain and bulk commodities such as wheat, barley, soybeans, corn, canola and rapeseed, and the fleet includes four 298-foot long self-unloading barges. At 4,000 tons each, these “Magnums” have the greatest capacity in the region. The company employs highly automated cargo systems and weight-saving features that allow a barge to be completely discharged within 5 hours.
Shaver currently has two new barges under construction at Portland’s Zidell Marine Corporation that are 23 feet shorter than the Magnums, yet capable of hauling nearly as much cargo. The first of the new barges will be ready by August, and the second is scheduled for delivery in October of this year.
“We’re trying to become more efficient in the way we use our equipment,” says Steve Shaver, “because we have more demand for our bigger barges.”
The two new barges, to measure 275 feet by 42 feet, will each be capable of transporting 3,600 tons of grain. “Not our biggest barges,” he says, “but pretty big.”
Harry Shaver says the company is planning to have two of the big Magnum barges built as well. “It costs as much to push a small barge as a big barge,” he notes. To handle the barges, Shaver’s fleet of specialized push-knee tugs includes the 3,600 horsepower tractor tug M/V Deschutes, and her sister tug M/V Willamette, as well as the recently repowered M/V Cascades and M/V Clearwater, making the company’s push-knee tugs some of the cleanest, most reliable and fuel-efficient tugs in the industry.
With the addition of the Sommer S, Shaver Transportation has a versatile, reliable fleet of tugs and barges to meet the future head-on.

Coal Train Protest Leads to Arrests

More than a dozen protestors, including a Nobel Prize-winning economist, were arrested May 5 after setting up a blockade on train tracks in White Rock, British Columbia to stop BNSF trains from delivering shipments of coal from the US to local ports for export to Asia.

The demonstrators, which included Nobel winner Mark Jaccard, had camped out for most of the day on the tracks to protest the mining of the coal, which they said affects climate change.

The protesters, who were from the anti-global warming coalition British Columbians for Climate Action, began gathering near the White Rock pier Saturday morning, but the arrests didn’t come until about 6 p.m. after some of the demonstrators walked onto the rail line just east of the pier and erected a banner that said “Stop Coal – Keep It in the Ground,” according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Thirteen of the protesters, 12 men and one woman, were each issued $115 tickets violating the Railway Safety Act code against trespassing, and were later released from police custody.

According to protestors, five incoming trains from Blaine, Washington were prevented from entering British Columbia to unload at Westshore Terminals that day and the arrests occurred after a sixth train entered the protest area.

Port of Anchorage Expansion Delayed

An expansion project at the Port of Anchorage that’s already been marred by delays, cost overruns and political interference, is again being put on the back burner.

Interim port director Steve Ribuffo told the Anchorage Daily News recently that no construction on the project will take place this summer – the peak building season – because engineers will be studying the project to try determining the best way forward.

This would make the third straight construction season that passes without work progressing on expansion of the port.

Difficulties with the expansion have included cost overruns; the August 2011 death of a bulldozer operator who drowned when his machine accidentally slid into gravel fill; the discovery in 2009 that steel sheets used to form a new dock face bent and separated during installation.

The project, which has been in the works for more than a decade, and up to now has been overseen by the federal Maritime Administration, was originally estimated to cost $360 million, and was originally supposed to be complete by 2011. Instead, cost estimates have jumped to about $1 billion and climbing and completion date is nowhere in sight.

However, in February, Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan declared that the project was back on track and that project oversight and technical committees have been formed to review the expansion, and that a quality control program had been created to ensure work was done properly.

Sullivan’s declaration came a little more than a month after port director Bill Sheffield retired after 10 years on the job. Sheffield, who had been heavily criticized for his role in the cost overruns, stepped down effective Jan. 15, but remains on the port’s payroll as a consultant. His replacement, Richard Wilson, assumes his new position May 14, two weeks before the city assumes responsibility for the project from the Maritime Administration on May 31 at the behest of Sullivan and other city officials.