Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Law of Logbooks

By Marilyn Raia,
May 2012

Federal law governs countless aspects of the maritime industry. It should come as no surprise then, that vessel logbooks have not escaped government regulation. This article explains some of the laws applicable to official vessel logs and the ramifications of non-compliance with them.

The Vessels Required to Have a Log
Title 46 of the United States Code sets forth the two categories of vessels required to maintain an official log: 1) a vessel on a voyage from a United States port to a foreign port (except a Canadian port); and 2) a vessel in excess of 100 gross tons on a voyage between a United States port on the Atlantic Ocean and a United States port on the Pacific Ocean. As a courtesy, blank logbooks are available free of charge from the United States Coast Guard. They can be obtained via an internet request. A master of a vessel that is required to maintain a log, who fails to maintain a log, is liable to the government for a civil penalty of $200.

The Required Contents of the Official Log
Federal law also specifies what entries a vessel’s master must make in the official log and when time-wise, the entries must be made. Contrary to what might be expected, federal statutory law does not require the official log to contain entries about the weather and/or sea conditions encountered by the vessel, the vessel’s geographic position, or the vessel’s work. Rather, the master must make entries about such things as pre-departure testing of the steering gear and propulsion systems, fire and boat drills, draft markings, hatch checks, and testing of lifeboat winches. The master must also make entries about the vessel’s crew including among other things, convictions and punishments, deaths and illnesses, and the name of each seaman whose employment is terminated and the circumstances thereof. Finally, the official log must contain information about marine casualties. Some types of vessels, such as tankers and passenger vessels, have more particularized requirements for log entries. 

United States federal statutory law does not require entries in the official log pertaining to navigation of the vessel. However, an international treaty to which the United States is a signatory, the 1978 International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, does. It requires a proper record of the movement and activities during the watch relating to the navigation of the ship.

In addition to what must be put in the official log, federal statutory law dictates when and how the entries must be made. As a general rule, the log entries must be made as soon as possible after the occurrence of the event being entered. If the entry is not made on the date the event occurred, the entry must be dated and state when the event did occur. If an event being entered is about something that happened before the vessel arrived at the final port of discharge, the entry must be made within twenty-four hours after arrival. 

Each entry in the official log must be signed by the master. It must also be signed by the chief mate or another seaman. A master failing to make the required entries in the official log is liable to the government for a civil penalty of $200. Moreover, a person making an entry in the log more than twenty-four hours after the vessel’s arrival at the final port of discharge, about something that happened before that arrival, is liable to the government for a civil penalty of $150.

Commercial vessels and naval vessels often maintain a draft or “rough” log. The entries from the rough log are later put into the official or “smooth” log. Changes may be made in the “rough” log. However, entries in a vessel’s official log should be made in ink and without erasures. If an entry in the official log must be corrected, it should be stricken with a single line and remain legible. The correction should be initialed by the person required to sign the log for that watch. 

Presumption of Accuracy and Binding Effect of Log Entries
As a general rule, entries made in a vessel’s official log by the vessel’s officers are binding on and considered an admission against the interest of the vessel owner. If the entry is made by someone who should have knowledge of the facts or an opportunity to determine the true facts, it will be held binding on the vessel owner unless a mistake is shown. 

The entries in a vessel’s logbook are presumed to be accurate, the rationale being a ship’s officer would not have made a log entry unless he/she believed the entry to be true. However, under certain circumstances, the entries may be disregarded in later litigation and held not binding. A mistake sufficient to avoid the binding effect of a log entry must be proved by conclusive evidence, a high standard to meet. 

For example, in Texas Eastern Transmission Corp. v. Garber Brothers, Inc., 494 F.Supp. 832 (E.D. La. 1980), the master of a vessel owned by Garber Brothers made an entry in the vessel’s log that while picking up the anchor and moving to another side of a drilling rig, “hung anchor in pipeline”. Texas Eastern, the pipeline’s owner, sued Garber Brothers for damage found in the pipeline. Texas Eastern argued the log entry was conclusive evidence of liability on the part of Garber Brothers. The court disagreed and held the log entry was not conclusive evidence of the anchor making contact with the pipeline. It reasoned that when the master made the entry, he did not know and could not have known what the true facts were. It further reasoned the entry was not based on the master’s personal knowledge but on what the master had been told by someone on the drilling rig.

Ramifications of False or Missing Log Entries
The importance of maintaining a properly completed and accurate log cannot be overstated. When a log contains erasures or lacks the required entries, the consequences can be devastating for the vessel owner. While courts have held false log entries are not “gospel”, false entries are likely to have a “considerable effect,” as one court said, on the outcome of a case. Moreover, the absence of entries in the log that should be there, raises a presumption the entries would be unfavorable to the vessel owner. In what has become an often quoted summary of the law about logbooks, the judge in Capehorn Steamship Company v. Texas Company , 152 F.Supp. 33 (E.D. La. 1957) said:

Suffice it to say that under the law of the sea, when a party comes into court with log entries which will not stand the test of credibility, that party’s chance of success in the litigation is little short of nonexistent.
In The Silver Palm, 94 F.2d 754 (9th Cir. 1937), a collision between a navy cruiser and a merchant ship was attributed to the reckless speed of the navy cruiser in the fog. The court found numerous erasures and alterations in the official log of the navy cruiser. In particular, when the fog whistle of the merchant ship was heard, the engines on the navy cruiser were ordered only to proceed at two-thirds speed. A log entry was made reflecting the speed reduction. That log entry was later erased and the words “all engines were ordered stopped” were inserted. The court held the alteration of the logbook “not only casts suspicion on the whole case of the vessel but creates a strong presumption the erased matter was adverse to her contention.”
In an unreported federal case in San Francisco involving dock damage, the log did not contain an entry about the pre-voyage testing of the ship’s steering and braking systems. Such testing and an entry confirming the testing were statutorily required. Those systems did not work as the pilot expected and damage ensued. Because there was no record of the required tests having been done, the court concluded the testing had not been done. The court also disregarded the master’s testimony that based on information he received from the chief mate, he was certain the required testing had been done. The court held the absence of a log entry about the required testing proved it had not occurred. Because the required testing had not occurred, the vessel owner was held to have breached a statute, which raised a presumption of fault. Because the steering and braking systems could have caused the accident, the vessel owner could not meet its burden of proof to avoid liability.

Marilyn Raia is of counsel in the San Francisco office of Bullivant Houser Bailey. She specializes in maritime and transportation law and can be reached at

2 Seattle Dockworkers Killed

Two dockworkers have been killed during separate incidents on the same day in Seattle. At the Port of Seattle, a forklift driver working at Terminal 18 on Harbor Island died after he was accidentally crushed between a forklift and a container on May 17, according to the Washington Dept. of Labor and Industries.

The terminal was later shut down for about 24 hours by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union following the death of the man, who was later identified as Paul A. Stuart, 61, by the King County Medical Office.

On the same day as Stuart’s death, a man performing pressure washing on a large commercial fishing boat tied to a dock at the Port of Seattle’s Maritime Industrial Center began having breathing trouble and collapsed on the ship’s walkway.

The man, who was later identified as Francisco J. Montes-Lopez, was pronounced dead after paramedics who arrived on the scene couldn’t revive him. Seattle police and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration say they are investigating the cause and manner of Montes-Lopez’s death, and that it may have involved carbon monoxide poisoning.

Oil Pipeline Company Settles LA Spill Case

A Long Beach-based company has agreed to pay $1.75 million to settle a criminal case involving a 2010 oil spill at the Port of Los Angeles, the largest such monetary settlement ever obtained by the city of Los Angeles for an oil spill violation.

Under the agreement, Crimson Pipeline Management must not only pay the restitution, which will be split between Los Angeles and state agencies, but also set up an environmental compliance program; allow for federal, state, and city regulatory agencies to conduct yearly inspections and oversee any significant repair or construction on all Crimson pipelines in Los Angeles County; and establish procedures for immediate reporting of any spill, of any quantity, whether inland or into California waters.

Law enforcement first became aware of the pipeline breach on Dec. 21, 2010, when significant amounts of oil seeped into the Dominguez Channel during a large storm event. Investigators eventually found that the oil that entered the channel came from Crimson Pipeline.

The California Department of Fish and Game and Los Angeles Watershed Protection Division also discovered the cause of the spill was a gash in the protective casing surrounding the pipeline.
The gash was wrapped, and the carrier pipe inside the casing was pulled from the ground in October 2011.

Two months later, the LA City Attorney’s Office filed a 61-count complaint against Crimson alleging that the company and its operators unlawfully caused, allowed, permitted, and contributed to the discharge of large quantities of oil into the storm drain system, which led into Dominguez Channel and Port of LA waters.

Port of Seattle Cautions Against Arena Plan

The Port of Seattle is attempting to rain on newly-announced plans by the city to build a sports arena near port property, saying that such a venue would harm the port’s growth plans.

In a letter sent May 22 to the Seattle City and Metropolitan King County councils, the port said that a proposal on the table to build an 18,000-seat hockey and basketball arena in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood in the Industrial District would conflict with the port’s own Century Agenda, under which it plans to generate 100,000 new jobs for the area within the next 25 years.

Under the arena plan, which was announced May 16, developer Chris Hansen would build a $490 million sports and entertainment complex in SoDo. Under the agreement, the city would buy the land from Hansen for up to $100 million and Hansen and ArenaCo would privately finance the arena’s construction.

In its letter, the port urged that city and county officials proceed with caution.

“The developer has presented no compelling policy or business justification for urgent action on a proposal that has not been fully studied and could weaken port/industrial businesses,” the letter, which was signed by all five members of the port commission, reads in part. “We ask you to proceed cautiously and deliberately as you consider this proposal.”

The letter goes on to state, among other things, that the port’s “disappointed” that baseline data for the impact the project would have on traffic in the area hasn’t been generated.

Floating Museum’s Move to Port of LA Delayed

Rough seas have delayed the arrival of the floating museum USS Iowa at its new permanent home at the Port of Los Angeles.

The retired battleship, which was commissioned in 1943 and decommissioned 47 years later, was expected to begin a journey this week to LA’s Berth 87, but the trip has been stalled by rough offshore waters in the San Francisco Bay area.

The 887-foot ship was originally scheduled to depart May 20 on the three-to-four day trip, but as of May 24, the departure is expected to come no sooner than Memorial Day Weekend, according to ship operations director and chief engineer Mike Getscher.

When it eventually arrives, the 45,000-ton vessel is scheduled to open to the public on July 7 at Berth 87 along the Main Channel, directly south of the World Cruise Center. The Pacific Battleship Center will offer guided tours and educational programs expected to include overnight stays and youth camps.

During its heyday, the USS Iowa took part in every major military conflict from World War II until the post-Cold War period. It was decommissioned in 1990. In 2011, it was donated to the Los Angeles-based non-profit Pacific Battleship Center.

Tuesday, May 22, 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.

Long Beach Approves Anti-Pollution Incentive Program

The Port of Long Beach’s harbor commission on May 21 adopted the latest in a series of enticement plans designed to curb air pollution from incoming cargo ships.

Under the port’s Green Ship Incentive Program, which is expected to launch in July and continue indefinitely, vessels with certain engine types would receive financial compensation for each time they call at Long Beach.

Ships meeting the Tier 2 engine standard would be paid $2,500 per call at the port, while ships with Tier 3 engines would receive $6,000 per call.

Long Beach estimates that in the first year of the program, 60 Tier 2 vessels would make a total of 120 calls at the port, representing about five percent of total calls. In 2011, six ships with Tier 2 engines called at Long Beach during the year, according to the port.

If the program meets participation goals, NOx emissions could be reduced by about 22.7 tons during the program’s first year, according to estimates, with a total payout of about $295,000 for the year.

Tier 2 engines offer a 15 percent reduction in NOx emissions, compared to Tier 1 engines, while Tier 3 engines are expected to offer an 80 percent reduction in NOx, according to the port.

Tier 3 engines, however, aren’t expected to become standard within the industry until 2016.

The port estimates that by 2023, when 90 percent of ships are anticipated to have Tier 2 or Tier 3 engines, 2,700 tons of nitrogen oxide emissions would be cut annually at Long Beach.

The Port of Los Angeles passed its own version of the green ship program earlier this month. Under it, about 30 percent of the ships calling at the port are expected to qualify for the financial incentives, with diesel particulate pollution expected to be reduced by 16 tons during the program’s first year.

Monthly Container Volume Down Slightly in Oakland

The number of empty containers that shipped out from the Port of Oakland last month was up by double digits compared with the same month last year, but the sharp increase still wasn’t enough to counter a slight overall decline in volume for the month.

Oakland moved a grand total of 20,127 TEUs in April 2012, a 18.6 increase from the previous April, but the grand total of TEUs that the port moved during the month was down 1.8 percent, to 188,085.

The decline was due to percentage decreases in the number of full and empty containers imported through Oakland. The number of full exports was 80,279, which was a decrease of 5.5 percent compared with April 2011. Meanwhile, full imports fell to 63,390, a drop of 3.2 percent, according to recently released port data.

Other than the leap in empty containers exported, the only other category where Oakland saw a gain last month compared with April 2011 was empty imports. A total of 24,289 unfilled TEUs were brought into the port last month, a year-to-year rise of 0.5 percent.

Last month however, was the first one during this calendar year that the port saw declines in the volume of both imported and exported full containers. During the first four months of 2012, Oakland saw a 0.6 percent gain in full imports and a 1.8 percent rise in full exports compared with the same period last year. For the year to date, the port has seen flat volume growth, 0.2 percent, compared to the same four-month period in 2011, according to the data.

Monthly TEU Movement Rises at Tacoma

Container volumes through the Port of Tacoma increased 4.3 percent in April compared with April 2011, though year-to-date volumes were down 0.4 percent, according to newly released data.

The number of full inbound containers that originated at non-domestic locations rose from April 2011 to April 2012 at Tacoma, going from 33,903 to 39,121. Likewise, the number of full outbound 20-foot-equivalent units was up during the same time period, going from 29,213 to 29,335. This led to a total volume of non-domestic TEUs of 68,456 last month, an increase of over 7,000 from the 63,116 that moved through the port in April 2011.

The boost in full containerized imports is attributed by the port to double-digit gains in such commodities as industrial equipment, vehicle parts, electrical equipment, and toys and games moving across Tacoma’s docks.

The port saw a decrease in shipments of empty containers compared with the same month last year, however. The number of non-domestic empties moving through Tacoma was 10,820 in April, a sizable dip from the 12,594 of April 2011.

For the year to date, Tacoma has moved a total of 463,440 TEUs, down from 465,098 during the same four months last year.

As far as types of cargo, break bulk volumes continue to out-pace 2011 numbers at Tacoma, posting a nearly 80 percent increase through April. Demand for agricultural and construction equipment continues to fuel the surge as the construction and planting seasons ramp up, according to the port.