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Friday, July 13, 2012

POLB to Hold Community Grants Workshop


The Port of Long Beach will hold a public workshop at 6 pm, Thurs., July 26, to discuss revisions to its grant programs that address the health impacts of port-related air pollution.

Attendees can learn about possible updates to the guidelines for two port community grant programs: Schools and Related Sites, and Health Care and Senior Facilities.

The workshop will be held at the Miller Family Health Education Center, 3820 Cherry Ave., Long Beach, 90807. Potential grant applicants and other stakeholders are invited to attend.

The meeting is being held in advance of future grant application opportunities and the changes will impact future grant opportunities expected later this year.

Long Beach’s Port Community Mitigation Grant Programs are designed to improve community health by lessening the impacts of port-related air pollution, and to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. The community programs primarily address air pollution risks to vulnerable groups including children and seniors. Examples of projects that have received grants include air-filtration systems at schools and daycare centers, and health outreach programs for families and seniors.

Those who can’t attend the workshop, but have comments or questions about the grant programs can e-mail grants@polb.com , and more information on the Port Mitigation Grant Programs can be found at www.polb.com/grants.

Vigor Industrial Ferries Win Transportation Award


The three new 64-car, 750 passenger ferries constructed by a subsidiary of Pacific Northwest-based Vigor Industrial have won the regional “Under Budget, Large Project” category in the America’s Transportation Awards competition.

“It’s important that we make the absolute most of our transportation dollars, and Vigor’s ability to deliver three new ferries under budget and on time, in just 34 months, saved the state nearly $7 million,” state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, chair of the Washington Senate Transportation Committee, said.

The vessels were built by US Fab, Vigor’s industrial and new-build branch. The award was presented to the Washington State Department of Transportation July 9. WSDOT is now entered into a competition for one of two national awards that carry $10,000 in prizes.

“US Fab is extremely honored to have been a part of this award winning effort and proud to have played a role in sustained job creation in the shipbuilding industry in our region,” company Vice President Chris Morgan said.

The America’s Transportation Awards competition, sponsored by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, AAA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, recognizes the very best of America’s transportation projects in three main categories: Ahead of Schedule, Under Budget, and Best Use of Innovation.

“The construction of the Kwa-di Tabil class ferries demonstrates what can be accomplished with great partnerships. US Fab’s in-house engineering staff and its subcontractors collaborated closely with an exceptional team at Washington State Ferries expediting production throughout the entire process,” US Fab’s engineering director, Kevin Hein, said. “This was particularly important as the project moved from an existing design to a detailed production design.”

ILWU Pickets Oregon Barge Facility


An International Longshore and Warehouse Union local branch has begun what it says is an informational campaign against an Oregon lumber company that has hired non-union labor to work at a new barge facility.

Members of ILWU Local 12 picketed the Southport Lumber Co.’s mill on the North Spit in the Coo’s Bay area on July 9 in response to the company hiring workers who are not union members to load and unload barges.

Southport bought the barge slip from the Port of Coos Bay in 2004 then rehabilitated it, thanks in part to a public subsidy. The rehabilitation, which now allows the facility to load and unload multiple types of cargo, was completed within the past few months.

The union says it tried to negotiate contracts with Southport, but that the company wanted to use fewer men and pay them lower wages than ILWU members would accept. It claims the protest is against “the company’s bid to undercut wages and cut staffing at a newly renovated barge slip that received $500,000 in public funds.”

“The public needs to know what is going on,” longshore spokesman Gene Sundet said. “(Southport) has been subsidized 100 percent. Now after taking public money, they are cutting jobs and wages.”
Southport Lumber has declined to comment on the matter thus far.

The dispute is the third in which the union has become embroiled within the Pacific Northwest over the past year. In January, it settled a dispute with grain terminal operator EGT in Longview, Washington over the use of ILWU at the newly-finished terminal, and it is currently fighting a jurisdictional battle with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers regarding jobs hooking and unhooking refrigerated containers at the Port of Portland’s Terminal 6.

Pacific Northwest Coal Terminals Would Cause Rail Congestion, Report Says


If several coal export terminal proposals in the planning stages throughout the Pacific Northwest come to fruition, they could lead to heavy congestion within the region’s rail system, according to a newly-released in-depth analysis.

The report, which was released July 11, was conducted by transportation experts Terry Whiteside and Gerald Fauth, III on behalf of conservation group Western Organization of Resource Councils.
Among the report’s key findings:
  • The expected large coal volumes would result in several major choke points and bottlenecks and would likely cause rail congestion problems for the entire route. Some of the impacted railroad line segments, such as the line known as “The Funnel” from Sandpoint, Idaho to Spokane, Washington, already have significant rail capacity and congestion issues.
  • The westbound movement of coal would likely disrupt the frequency and reliability of inbound and outbound shipments of containerized traffic, and that traffic would likely experience a diversion to California and Canadian ports where it will not be impacted by the congestion associated with the increased coal shipments to the Pacific Northwest.
  • The two major cities that would be the most adversely affected in terms of the expected export coal trains per day are Spokane, Washington and Billings, Montana. Nearly every loaded and empty coal train would move through these two cities, with up to 63.2 trains per day traveling through Spokane and 57.6 trains per day going through Billings.

The report also states that the projected movement of 75 million tons per year by 2017 to 170 million tons per year by 2022 would equate to the movements of 27.86 to 63.15 loaded and empty coal trains per day.

Several of the larger coal export related port expansions are now in the formal permitting process, including Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point in Washington State and Millennium Bulk Logistics in Longview, Washington, Kinder Morgan Terminals at St. Helen’s, Oregon and Coyote Island Terminal at Port of Morrow.

The WORC’s full report can be seen at http://www.heavytrafficahead.org/pdf/Heavy-Traffic-Ahead-web.pdf .

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Port of Oakland Marks $15 Million Rail Grant

US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, California Gov. Jerry Brown and other local, regional and federal officials were on hand at the Port of Oakland July 9 to mark the port’s launch of the first phase of a rail project that has just received $15 million in federal grant funding.

 “This $15 million grant from the federal government boosts state and local efforts to create thousands of jobs by investing nearly $1.5 billion in Bay Area transportation projects. We’re not just rebuilding our infrastructure – we are also rebuilding our middle class,” Gov. Brown said during a ceremony commemorating the funding.

The grant comes from the latest round of Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, grant program.

TIGER funds are expected to boost rail access and capacity at the Port of Oakland by helping to pay for the construction of a new arrival track and high-speed turnout from Union Pacific’s mainline, two track leads into the port’s new Joint Intermodal Terminal and a new manifest yard to replace the former yard. The new yard is anticipated to be able to handle 100-150 rail cars per day.

The project is a crucial first step, the port says, in creating a world class trade and logistics hub on the land, which is the former site of the Oakland Army Base. The Army abandoned the 366-acre base in 1999 and later split the land between the port and the city.

The $80 million rail yard expansion is just the initial first phase of a more than $1 billion project to transform the former 366-acre base into a high-tech maritime transportation logistics center.

The Port of Oakland handles 99 percent of all containerized goods in Northern California and is the only major US West Coast container port that handles more exports than imports.

“The Port of Oakland is already the leading export gateway on the West Coast and this TIGER grant will help boost rail access and capacity, which will contribute to the economic growth of the region,” LaHood said.

The federal funding is expected to be matched more than one-to-one by the port and city to launch the first phase of the rail access project, which is part of a joint city-port redevelopment plan.

The project, according to the port, is expected to deliver greater efficiencies in Oakland’s rail operations, create additional capacity for cargo movement at the seaport, reduce congestion on local roads and highways, create jobs, and promote sustainable economic growth in the region.

“This grant is another giant step forward toward implementing a transformative project at the Port of Oakland which will translate into thousands of jobs for our city and will spur economic growth for generations to come,” Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said. “The TIGER grant-funded Rail Access project provides a critical link between the new logistics center and the existing port infrastructure making Oakland one of the most efficient ports in the nation.”

The rail project is expected to begin in the fall of 2013, with completion scheduled for 2015.

NLRB Accuses Union of Resuming
Work Slowdown

The National Labor Relations Board is accusing the International Labor and Warehouse Union of not adhering to the stipulations of a restraining order that was put in place by a federal judge last week regarding work at the Port of Portland’s Terminal 6.

The NLRB filed a motion with US District Judge Michael Simon July 6, asking him to find the union in contempt of court for not complying with an order the judge issued July 3. In his order, Simon barred the union members from “engaging in slowdowns, stoppages, withholding of services, or threatening, coercing or restraining ICTSI Oregon Inc., or any other person engaged in commerce” over a 10-day period.

On July 4, the Cape Manila, a 696-foot container ship operated by German-based Hapag-Lloyd called at Terminal 6 and no problems with work flow were reported during the day.

But according to the port and labor relations board attorney Ann Pomerantz, union workers have continued to conduct a work slowdown in the days since the ship’s arrival. Typically, about 27 containers are moved per hour at the port, but in the days since the restraining order was put in place, about 22 cans are being moved hourly, the port has estimated.

The NLRB is requesting an expedited hearing on the matter. The next container ship arrival at the port is scheduled for later this week.

Under the labor dispute, the ILWU says its contract with the Pacific Maritime Association requires the terminal operator to hire longshore workers to handle the plugging and unplugging of refrigerated containers, work that until recently had been performed by another union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. The ILWU, which has previously denied conducting a slowdown has so far declined to comment on the court filing.

Oil Spilled in Tacoma’s Blair Waterway

About 50 gallons of oil accidentally spilled into the Port of Tacoma’s Blair Waterway the night of July 6 after a tanker truck aboard a ship was inadvertently ruptured.

The incident occurred when a tanker truck on board the M/V Midnight Sun was struck by another vehicle, rupturing one of the truck’s four compartments, according to the Washington Department of Ecology.

The Ecology Dept. and US Coast Guard both responded to the scene, where about 1,500 gallons of lube oil wound up spilling from the tanker. Most of the fluid, however, was contained on the ship’s deck.

The spill to water was controlled with an oil containment boom, and no more oil was believed to have gotten into the waterway.

A private contractor, NRC Environmental Services, and other cleanup crews worked on the deck of the M/V Midnight Sun and on the water last weekend, according to the Ecology Dept.

The accident came just two weeks after the Ecology Dept. announced it had fined US Oil & Refining Co. more than $28,000 for spilling about 75 gallons of diesel fuel in Blair Waterway.

The spill, which occurred in November 2010, happened when the Tacoma-based refinery was testing a new eight-inch oil pipeline.

Ribbon Cutting Held at Longview’s EGT Terminal

Numerous federal, regional and local officials participated in a ceremony to formally commemorate the opening of the port’s new EGT grain terminal at the Port of Longview July 9, a venture which had a cloudy future just a few months ago.

“This is the single largest capital investment that’s ever been made in Longview. It really puts us back in the grain trade in a very big way,” port Executive Director Ken O’Holleran said during the ceremony.

Up until January of this year, a prolonged labor dispute was ongoing between EGT and International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 21, stemming from the company using the services of a union other than the ILWU at the Berth 9 terminal, which is a $200 million joint venture between Bunge Ltd, ITOCHU International and STX Pan Ocean.

But on Jan. 27, the port’s three-member commission ratified a settlement giving the ILWU control over the grain handling union jobs.

Berth 9 was the first export grain terminal built in the United States in more than 25 years. EGT spokesman Matthew Beck has previously said the company expects to load 150 to 200 ships annually bound for Asia.

The new grain terminal could quadruple the tonnage of cargo that passes through Longview, according to port officials.

Although this was the official dedication, the terminal actually opened in February with the arrival of the grain ship Full Sources, which is owned by STX Pan Ocean.