Friday, July 20, 2012

Port of Oakland Container Traffic Flat

The total number of 20-foot-equivalent containers that were shipped through the Port of Oakland in June was down 1.7 percent compared with the same month last year, continuing what’s been a flat year for traffic so far for California’s third-busiest port.

Increases in the number of full imports and empty exports shipped during June were negated by drops in full exports and empty containers imported during the month.

Full imports were up 3.0 percent month-over-month, reaching 70,730 TEUs, the second-best month in that category so far this calendar year for the port, after the 72,278 containers that were shipped in May. For the year-to-date, the number of full imported containers is up just 1.6 percent compared to the first six months of 2011.

Oakland’s number of full exports dipped 9.2 percent last month, to 75,359 TEUs, making June only the second month in 2012 where traffic has declined in that category. For the half of the year, the number of full exports at the port is virtually the same as the same period last year.

The number of empty containers imported through Oakland continued a downward trend last month, with 133,850 being shipped through the port, a decline of 3.4 percent from the same month in 2011, and the fifth month out of the past six that the month-over-month volume was down. For the calendar year-to-date, empty imports have declined 3.4 percent compared with the first half of 2011. The only month so far this year to see improvement in empty imports compared with the same period in 2011 was April, which saw a 0.5 percent increase over the prior year.

Regarding empty exports, Oakland continued a positive trend last month, with its TEU volume rising a whopping 52.9 percent compared with June 2011. A total of 31,708 TEUs were shipped out of Oakland last month, the highest total so far in 2012.

Although monthly exports of empty containers actually dropped each of the first three months of the year compared with the same three months of 2011, for the second three months, traffic has been up sharply, resulting in a year-to-date increase of 4.8 percent in the category.

During the first half of the year as a whole, Oakland moved a total of 1.14 million TEUs, a 0.7 percent rise over the first half of 2012, according to port data.

Port of Tacoma Sees Slight Bump in Cargo Volumes

The total number of TEUs moving through the Port of Tacoma improved 1.3 percent during the first half of 2012 compared with the same six months last year, with the slight increase driven largely by rising imports, according to newly-released data.

The number of inbound full containers was up by 13.4 percent during the six-month period, according to port data, rising from 217,512 TEUs to 246,750.

Full outbound container traffic also saw an increase, rising by two percent during the six-month period from 185,311 TEUs to 188,972. Cumulatively, the number of full containers moved during the first half of the year amounted to 435,722, an 8.2 percent rise from the 402,823 Tacoma saw during the same period in 2011.

The increases helped counter a decline in the number of empty containers that were shipped through the port the first half of the year. The number of empties imported and exported overseas was 69,174 during the six-month period that concluded at the end of June, a 17 percent drop from the 83,355 that moved through Tacoma during the first half of 2011.

In June, 87,610 full TEUs were shipped overseas through the port, a sizable increase from the 73,162 that moved through Tacoma in June 2011. The rise was a major factor in the port’s total container volume for the month increasing 9.9 percent to 143,830 TEUs from June 2011’s 130,838.

Maersk Renews Seattle Terminal Agreement

Maersk Line has renewed an agreement with SSA Marine to continue calling at the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 18, thus allowing the port to hang on to a customer that had previously been one of the Port of Tacoma’s biggest clients.

“This is great news for the Port of Seattle,” port CEO Tay Yoshitani said in a statement announcing the deal. “SSA’s T-18 is big ship ready – they’ve made the investments in six new container cranes capable of handling the largest ships in world. This cargo volume means jobs will be staying here.”

Terms of the deal have not been announced.

The agreement comes four months after the Grand Alliance shipping consortium, consisting of the Hapag-Lloyd, NYK and OOCL shipping lines, announced it was leaving Seattle’s Terminal 18 for the Port of Tacoma. The switch became official earlier this month.

Maersk, the world’s largest ocean carrier, calls the Port of Seattle via its TP9 service – a shared service with CMA-CGM where both lines run 8 vessels each. The carrier moved from Tacoma to Seattle three years ago due to an alliance between it and French containership line CMA-CGM, which had already been calling at Terminal 18.

Port of Longview Makes CEO Hire

The Port of Longview Commission on July 18 voted to hire Geir Kalhagen as the port’s new chief executive officer. He’ll replace Ken O’Hollaren, who announced in late 2011 that he’ll retire this December after nearly a quarter-century as CEO.

Kalhagen, who’s currently the general manager for the Pacific Northwest office of Tidal Transport and Trade, is expected to start at the port in early September, giving him a few months to learn the ropes from O’Hollaren before he leaves at the end of the year.

O’Hollaren, who joined the port as assistant operations manager in 1980, has been its executive director since January 1988, making him the longest-tenured port director in Washington state, and one of the longest-tenured maritime executives on the West Coast.

Kalhagen was unanimously chosen by the three-member commission over another finalist, Glenn Carlson, the chief commercial officer with the North Carolina State Ports Authority, after about 90 minutes of public and closed-session deliberation.

Before joining Tidal Transport and Trade in June 2010, Kalhagen spent 15 months as an operations manager with Grieg Star Shipping; from December 2007 to January 2009 he was an operations manager with Star Forest Carriers PTE Singapore.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cargo Handling Equipment

There is a bustle of cargo handling equipment activity in the yards and on the order books, and the drive for improved safety and developing more cost-effective, and environmentally friendly products is readily apparent.

BNSF’s Seattle International Gateway (SIG) Intermodal Facility, located just across the street from Safeco Field, is addressing going green with their electric rail-mounted gantry cranes which were first installed in the spring of 2007. “In the future, there will be more concerns over diesel particulate matter and other forms of emissions from fuel for that matter,” says John Hovland, BNSF director of marketing and facility development. “If you are going to construct something in California, the State of Washington or most anywhere else, you are going to have to consider electric cranes. The first ones we put in Seattle were the first foray into that.”

The cranes are about 153 feet across the length of the lifting beam and stand approximately 87 feet tall. Hovland says about 40 percent of the activities performed by the crane are braking-related which regenerates electricity during operation. When the cranes brake, the stopping action regenerates electricity, and when a container is lowered, that activity also creates energy that is put back into the grid.

Currently, there are four electric rail-mounted cranes manufactured by Konecranes working at the terminal with three railroad tracks under each, allowing more density in the facility. The cranes are cantilevered on one side, which enables stacking underneath them.

“These cranes have the capability of probably three if not four conventional cranes,” he adds. “They require a smaller carbon footprint because they have a very high stacking capacity. Seattle is a 14-acre near dock facility, and its capacity has been doubled with these cranes.”

BNSF is also mindful of safety for all workers. Hovland reports the newer cranes are built with technologies that make it very difficult for someone to get in harm’s way. Lasers shoot out from the front and the back of the crane down the track structure, and if any object breaks a laser beam, the crane will automatically stop without the intervention of the operator. Additionally, in the newest BNSF intermodal facility to use these cranes, each truck lane is equipped with red and green lights that indicate to truck drivers driving underneath a crane’s suspended load whether or not they can proceed.

The cranes at newer facilities are equipped with a GPS locator. “The computer in the crane communicates with a yard management computer which knows where each car is located based on the GPS location of the first car in a train,” explains Hovland. “As the crane moves throughout the facility the GPS tells the crane to go to the next spot so the operator doesn’t have to manually direct it to the proper location.”

Still, having skilled workers is critical. “We train them right on site. It is part of our scheduling process when we build a facility, we have all the infrastructure built and the cranes erected early enough that we can take the time to train our operators live in the facility.”

Straddle Expertise
“I think we are the most experienced straddle carrier operator, maybe in the world, but probably certainly in North America,” says Curt Stoner, Senior Manager for Container Business Development at the Port of Tacoma. “We’ve been doing it longer and more successfully than any other facility.”

Stoner says that as ports confront constrained capital and land, straddle carriers allow significant densification to container utilization on a terminal per acre. “They can allow you to increase your throughput volume and decrease your throughput cost on a reduced number of acres. That’s why if done well they can be such an attractive operational mode. However, they do not work well in a less than highly-developed container yard environment. Gravel and dirt just don’t mix with straddle carriers.”

The Port, whose container volumes increased 4.3 percent in April compared with April 2011, uses three-high strads. The Port owns 28 strads that serve several terminals and the North Intermodal Yard.

Stoner says in general, a good crane operator can accomplish 15 to 18 miles an hour, and this kind of output has certainly helped the Port maintain its excellent service history. “We are regularly able to have trains depart for their destination, be that Chicago, St. Paul, Minnesota or northern Ohio valley…fully loaded, ready to go, four to six hours after the last container for that train is discharged off the ship. There are times when it takes a little bit longer, but four hours is what one of the customers that we do business with expects and regularly gets.”

And it’s important to have skilled crane operators. “You have to have the folks who know how to drive and maintain them,” he says. “We are very fortunate here, at the Port of Tacoma that our ILWU longshore partners in transportation have those skills and that commitment."

When it comes to environmental concerns, Stoner says the Port elected to go with diesel-powered strads and retrofitted them to meet all of the latest emission standards. They are also currently looking at fleet renewal plans for the future and are evaluating the possibility of using electric/diesel as a hybrid alternative. “We are really excited about the way that the manufacturers are developing more environmentally-friendly systems, and we are very supportive of that and look forward to being able to operate zero emissions equipment in the future.”

Better Fuel Usage
In May, crane manufacturer Konecranes delivered six rubber tired gantry cranes to container terminal operator TCP Paranagua in Brazil, marking their third order and bringing the number of RTGs in TCP’s fleet to 16.

The cranes are expected to increase TCP’s container handling capacity to more than 30 percent, can stack over five containers high, and have a six plus truck lane wide. They are also equipped with active load control and fuel saver technology.

While the company continues to develop the latest in state-of-the-art and eco-efficient crane technologies, they also ensure that over 98 percent of the materials used to build their cranes can be recycled. “Our electric motors are energy-efficient and purpose made for cranes as well as Konecranes inverter technology is unequalled in lifting applications,” says Jost Dämmgen, Sales Manager of Port Cranes. “And increasingly, our equipment is electrically fed which reduces local emissions and enables it to re-feed regenerative energy to the grid.”

One of Konecranes’ newest products is the Smarter Cabin, available with the company’s straddle carriers, rubber tired gantry and rail mounted gantry container cranes. It is also available with their electrical overhead travelling (EOT) cranes that are delivered with a cabin.

The Smarter Cabin was developed after the company studied RTG, straddle carrier and EOT crane drivers’ habits and attitudes. It gives drivers improved visibility, with a window area increase of 60 percent, and improved comfort and climate controls.

Dämmgen reports that the company has secured a vast number of new orders in 2012; container handling crane orders have come in from all over the world, including Indonesia, Russia, Spain and the US.

“Customers are particularly cost-conscious and interested in energy-saving technologies,” says Dämmgen. “Our products combine the highest performance, lowest total cost of ownership and eco-efficiency to meet this demand.”

New Spreader Technology
RAM Spreaders, headquartered in Singapore with worldwide offices, is celebrating its 40th anniversary, and has just finished developing a new series of crane attachments. The Ram 3400, 3500 and 3900 ship-to-shore and RTG series have either fixed or electric-powered gather guides that help spreaders get down on the corner pins of containers to lock on.

“They reduce fuel costs on standard RTGs by about 15 percent,” says Martin Pilsch, Regional Manager for North America. “They also reduce the noise of the motors running to keep the hydraulics going as they are strictly an all-electric spreader.”

The company’s 2700 series mobile harbor crane spreaders is also becoming a popular product. “They are very versatile. Our spreader has been developed with a center post column that incorporates a lot of the functions including the storage of hydraulic oils,” says Pilsch. “We have everything centered in the middle of the spreader. The center post balances the container with two hydraulic cylinders and is much easier to use and is safer and easier to maintain.”

Pilsch also reports he is seeing a trend toward heavier cranes with greater capacity. To that end, RAM Spreaders has manufactured a single hoist dual headblock system, called the SingFlex Twin40 Headblock System for single hoist cranes, which he says is economical and saves weight on container cranes.

“SingFlex picks up two containers side-by-side utilizing a dual headblock via a single hoist,” he says. “The product can be incorporated into any terminal’s existing spreader and crane system, and it doesn’t take a lot of extensive modifications. We’ve just sold some in Europe and we are hoping to get the United States market to take note of this type of spreader system.”

RAM Spreader’s new Revolver product is a bulk materials loading attachment for any port dockside container crane. It attaches to a container with the bulk cargo inside, lifts it up, then rotates the container and places the cargo into the ship’s hold, taking the container back out and placing it on the dock.

“Revolver eliminates a lot of the dust issues as it removes the lids while it is placing the freight and puts the lid back on the container when finished. We also have a misting system that helps keep dust down,” says Pilsch. “In the case of the West Coast, it provides the potential for new bulk operations to start up in places like Long Beach and Los Angeles, where the environmental regulations are so stringent. With Revolver, you can be operating in six months instead of the years it would take to buy and install standard bulk equipment.”

The RAM PinSmart product, introduced a few years ago, continues to help improve safety on the docks. It automatically removes container locking pins by unlocking the twist lock, removing it and storing it in a bin. “These pins are very heavy, and workers can get lot of back and shoulder injuries. People have been killed underneath cranes by being run over by the trucks that move back and forth with the containers, and PinSmart eliminates a large part of that activity,” explains Pilsch. “It pays for itself in no time. PinSmart would return the investment just on the claims and injury costs alone.”

Long Beach Container Volumes Up in June

Both import and export container traffic at the Port of Long Beach rose in June compared to the same period a year ago, with imports up 3.5 percent and exports up 5.6 percent, according to newly-released data.

June was the busiest month year to date for calendar year 2012 at the port. Terminals moved 280,526 20-foot equivalent units of loaded inbound cargo last month, compared to 271,113 TEUs in June 2011. Export containers accounted for 133,649 TEUs, compared to 126,588 TEUs the same month last year. Overall, the port moved 555,359 TEUs, up 0.2 percent from last year.

The news wasn’t all good, however. Long Beach’s gain in both imports and exports was offset by a decline in empty containers moved. The port moved 141,184 empty TEUs last month, which is more than any other month this year, but still a drop of 9.8 percent compared with June 2011.

Through first half of the calendar year, overall container traffic at the port is down five percent. Long Beach attributes the decrease in volumes in part to the elimination of several niche service strings that had called at the port last year.

For the fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, the total number of TEUs moved has dropped 8.2 percent compared with the same period the previous fiscal year. The number of loaded inbound, loaded outbound and empty containers moved were off 8.0 percent, 7.59 percent and 9.2 percent from the same nine months during the 2011-2012 fiscal period.