Friday, October 5, 2012

Fidley Watch: Failure to Communicate

Ambrose Bierce was, among other things, a writer for the San Francisco Examiner, and was considered one of the most prominent and influential among the writers and journalists of the West Coast. Writing to his friend in 1911 about government civil servants who complained that their salaries were too low, Bierce famously said, “What this country needs – what every country needs occasionally – is a good hard bloody war to revive the vice of patriotism on which its existence as a nation depends.”

We hold that diplomacy is far preferable to war. Despite our recent diplomatic failures, the US is still better served by addressing our national economic and security needs through diplomacy rather than military action.

While the diplomatic attentions of the country are largely focused on the Middle East, events unfolding in Asian waters should be garnering more attention.

Late last month, in the Yellow Sea, South Korea’s navy fired warning shots toward North Korean fishing boats that crossed a disputed maritime boundary. The shots didn’t hit the fishing boats, which retreated, but North Korea has long refused to recognize the western sea boundary established by the UN at the end of the Korean War.

The disputed boundary was also the genesis of hostilities in 2010 when a North Korean artillery barrage killed four South Koreans, including two civilians. Also in 2010, an explosion ripped apart a South Korean warship in the area, killing 46 sailors.

A similar conflict in the South China Sea between China and the Philippines began in mid-April, when a Filipino frigate attempted to stop several boats of Chinese fishermen harvesting seafood from waters claimed by the Philippines around the Scarborough Shoal. China sent several larger, more modern boats from one of its civilian maritime agencies, which intercepted the frigate and allowed the fisherman to escape with their catch.

A dispute over a small island chain in the East China Sea known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese heated up recently after the Japanese government announced it would buy the islands from their private Japanese owners for around $30 million. China, which claims the islands as its own, responded by sending two ships to the area and, according to state media, drawing up an “action plan” for the defense of the islands.

The dispute has caused protest within China, where hundreds of Chinese demonstrators have been protesting outside of the Japanese embassy in Beijing since Sept. 15, expressing anger over Japan’s claims to the islands. Demonstrations against Japan have also taken place in cities across China, including Shanghai, Tianjin and Chengdu.

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was greeted by a small protest outside the Beijing Embassy when he visited last month, and demonstrators in Beijing caused minor damage to the official vehicle of US Ambassador Gary Locke on September 18th after they surrounded his vehicle outside of the embassy. Ambassador Locke was in the car at the time, and the official Cadillac limousine was flying the US flag.

China claims most of the area off its coast as either territorial water or Exclusive Economic Zone, but other states in the South China Sea area have conflicting claims. For example, China takes the position that all maritime data collection activities, including military intelligence and hydrographic collection activities, fall within the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea [UNCLOS] provisions for marine scientific research and therefore require coastal-state consent before they could be carried out in the two-hundred-nautical-mile EEZ.

Late last month, China’s first aircraft carrier entered service, underscoring the country’s desire to be a leading Asian naval power. The ship is the former Soviet navy’s unfinished Varyag, and is considered to be a kind of test platform for the future development of up to five domestically built Chinese carriers.
Writing about the new carrier in China Daily newspaper, retired Chinese Rear Adm. Yang Yi said, “When China has a more balanced and powerful navy, the regional situation will be more stable as various forces that threaten regional peace will no longer dare to act rashly.”

In light of China’s naval buildup, many of her neighbors, including Japan, India and Australia, have embarked on significant defense force modernization programs of their own, increasing their budgets for major air and naval platforms, including submarines. Meanwhile, the United States Navy has shrunk by half since 1990.

China is our second largest trading partner after Canada, and 60 percent of the world’s trade passes through the South China Sea. China’s rapid maritime rise and strategy for dominating large swaths of the Pacific need to be recognized and addressed. It’s time for the US to step up its political game. Ambrose Bierce also said, “In our civilization, and under our republican form of government, intelligence is so highly honored that it is rewarded by exemption from the cares of office.”
The time has come for our officeholders to pay less attention to politics and more attention to diplomacy.

Chris Philips,
Managing Editor

Thursday, October 4, 2012

POLA, APM Receive Lloyd’s List Awards

The Port of Los Angeles’ adoption and promotion of programs that reduce emissions from maritime sources has been recognized by London-based global shipping publication Lloyd’s List. The port recently received the Lloyd’s List Global Award in the Environment category, recognizing the port’s environmental leadership.

The award highlighted several of the port’s green initiatives and leadership efforts at both the regional and international level, including the San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan, which in 2006 established control measures for port-related ships, trains, trucks, terminal equipment and harbor craft and ties these measures to specific emissions reduction goals.

Two notable CAAP programs are the Clean Truck Program and the Vessel Speed Reduction Incentive Program, which have significantly contributed to emission reductions in and around the port.

“The fact that the Port of Los Angeles has supporting evidence of up to a 75 percent reduction in emissions since 2005 caught the attention of our judges,” Lloyd’s List Editor Richard Meade said. “The Port of Los Angeles is rightly recognized as an environmental leader and role model for other ports.”

Lloyd’s List, the leading international daily newspaper for the maritime industry, also cited the port’s record for promoting environmental innovation, citing the port’s annual funding of the Technology Advancement Program to encourage development of technologies to reduce maritime-related emissions. Over the past 12 months, TAP demonstrations have included an electric drayage truck, a Tier IV retrofit for locomotives and sea scrubbers on ships.

“This award is really the culmination of efforts by the port and its stakeholders,” Chris Cannon, the port’s director of environmental management said. “We could not have achieved these environmental milestones without the vision of our City of Los Angeles and port leadership, and the commitment of our industry and community partners.”

Others honored during last month’s ceremony included APM Terminals, which received the Port Operator Award. APM, which is based in the Netherlands, has numerous terminals in the U.S, including at the ports in Los Angeles and Tacoma.

“Our judges were impressed by the $3bn infrastructure investments made across the APM Terminals global network during the judging period, which now encompasses interests in 63 port and terminal operations in 37 countries and 155 Inland Services operations in 47 countries,” Lloyd’s List wrote in its award announcement. “But this was not simply an award of scale. The company's entry cited its commitment to sound growth based upon the highest standards of ethical and sustainable business practices, and our judges praised the company's tangible results when it came to lowering both accident rates and CO2 emissions.”

Panama Canal Expansion About Halfway Finished

Expansion of the Panama Canal, which began five years ago, is now about halfway finished, according to the government agency overseeing the project.

The Panama Canal Authority revealed Sept. 25 that the project, which is expected to double the canal’s capacity by 2014, was almost 45 percent complete as of Aug. 31, 2012. The project, which was officially kicked off in September 2007, creates a new lane of traffic along the canal by constructing a new set of locks.

The expansion “is moving forward at a good pace,” according to Panama Canal Administrator/CEO Jorge Quijano.

Among the project’s components are the excavations of new access channels, the widening of existing channels and the deepening of navigation channels. The expansion is expected to allow post-Panamax ships to travel through the canal en route to East Coast terminals, something that could negatively affect West Coast vessel traffic.

A key component of the expansion is construction of two new ship lock system complexes -- one each on the Atlantic and Pacific sides. The current lock system lifts ships of up to 85 feet to the main elevation of the Panama Canal and down again. According to the Authority, design and construction of the expanded locks, which could accommodate larger ships, has reached 31 percent.

The locks gates are being fabricated in Italy and the first four gates should be shipped to Panama during the first quarter of 2013, according to the Canal Authority. The contractor’s expected to complete the main lock structure and begin pre-commissioning tests in the dry during the first quarter of 2014, with flooding of the locks and final commissioning then planned to start in September 2014.

Crowley Folds Subsidiary Into Logistics Division

Crowley Maritime Corp. has announced that recently acquired freight forwarding, export packing and logistics company Jarvis International Freight will transition into the company as a new branch of Crowley Logistics.

Jarvis is to remain based in Houston, Texas but “will now operate under the Crowley name and its team will continue its nearly 30-year legacy of providing specialized international freight forwarding and logistics services,” according to an Oct. 3 statement announcing the move.

In addition, Crowley says, the subsidiary will continue its other capabilities, including engineering, procurement, construction support, and project management, to those in the energy, oilfield and mining industries.

“This team’s already strong client relationships and specialized knowledge of project logistics, combined with our experience, facilities and capabilities will prove to be an even greater resource to customers in the industries we serve,” explained Steve Collar, Crowley’s senior vice president and general manager, logistics.

“This decision gives Crowley a greater opportunity to extend our logistics services to new industries and geographic areas,” Collar said. “Adding this team to our logistics portfolio strengthens our position in the petroleum and energy industries – and will increase the opportunities for us to take on more logistically complex projects for these customers.”

The new web address for the subsidiary is

Vancouver Port Grain Storage Increase Planned

Winnipeg-based agriculture business Richardson International has applied for a permit to complete a $120 million expansion of its terminal facility at Port Metro Vancouver.

The company says the expansion is needed in order to increase storage capacity for grains and oilseeds to meet growing global demand.

“Increasing storage capacity at our Vancouver terminal is critical to our business,” Darwin Sobkow, Richardson’s Vice President of Agribusiness Operations said. “By increasing storage capacity and enhancing our operation, we will be better positioned to serve our farmer customers and meet increasing demand for Canadian grains and oilseeds from end-use markets worldwide.”

Richardson says its Vancouver terminal is currently operating at maximum capacity, handling about three million metric tons of grains and oilseeds each year. The company says that with growing global demand, it expects to handle in excess of five MMT of grains and oilseeds annually with additional storage capacity in Vancouver.

Richardson says it plans to build an additional concrete grain storage annex with a total capacity of 80,000 metric tons at its Vancouver terminal. The proposed project includes the installation of distribution equipment and an upgraded dust filtration system. By eliminating existing steel storage bins, Richardson says it would net an additional 70,000 tons of storage, bringing its total storage capacity at its Vancouver terminal to 178,000 metric tons.

The company says it believes it’ll take about two years to complete Port Metro Vancouver’s permitting process.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

ILWU Head Convicted of Obstruction

After a three-day trial in Cowlitz County, Washington Superior Court, International Longshore and Warehouse Union International President Robert McEllrath was convicted Sept. 28 of a misdemeanor charge of obstructing a train bound for the Port of Longview’s EGT grain terminal during a protest last year.

After a six-person jury found McEllrath guilty, he was sentenced to serve one day in jail, with 89 other days suspended. He was also ordered to pay $543 in fines.

At the time of the Sept. 7, 2011 protest, which ultimately led to the conviction, ILWU Local 21 had been in a dispute with terminal operator EGT over EGT’s labor usage. The local had contended that its contract with the Port of Longview required that the 25 to 35 jobs inside the terminal go to ILWU workers.

The company, however, said its lease agreement with the port did not specify ILWU workers. Members of International Union of Operating Engineers Local 701 had been working at the terminal.
“Fighting for good jobs in America shouldn’t be a crime,” McEllrath said following his arrest.

He was first tried in District Court last June, but the two-day trial ended after the six jurists hearing the case couldn’t agree on a verdict, resulting in a hung jury.
Before being sentenced after the retrial, he was unrepentant, telling the court he had “no regrets about leading men and women against corporate greed and helping them fight to protect middle class jobs in America.”

The labor issue was eventually settled under an agreement ratified by the port Jan. 27 and signed with the union in early February. Under it, all labor at the terminal must be dispatched through the Local 21 union hall.

Although McEllrath, who is based in San Francisco, is the highest-ranking union member convicted in the case, the president of the Local 21 chapter and a member of the union’s executive board both pleaded guilty in March to charges related to last summer’s protests.

ILWU dockworkers at a handful of Pacific Northwest seaports reportedly walked off the job Sept. 28 in protest of the conviction, including at the Port of Portland and Port of Longview, where a handful of union members left after the verdict was read around 4 pm. They then returned to work one to two hours later and no major disruptions of workflow were reported.