Friday, October 19, 2012

Monthly Traffic Volumes Down Again at Port of Oakland

Overall container volumes at the Port of Oakland were down last month from the same period last year, the sixth time this calendar year that numbers were down from the corresponding month during the previous year.

The total volume of containers moved last month was nearly four-and-a-half percent lower than in September 2011, according to newly released port data.

Shipping terminals at California’s third-busiest port saw a total of about 191,500 TEUs last month, a decrease of 4.4 percent from the number Oakland moved during the same month in 2011.

The reason for the overall decline was a sizable drop in imported and exported full containers. Although the number of empty TEUs that were shipped during the month rose slightly year-over-year, it wasn’t enough to counter the decline in full TEU exports.

The port moved just 65,425 full, imported TEUs during the month, a decline of 6.9 percent compared with September 2011; it imported 75,691 full TEUs, which was a 5.7 percent year-over-year drop.

Although the 20,246 empty TEUs imported represented growth from September 2011 numbers, the increase was just 0.5 percent. The number of empty TEUs exported was also fairly flat; just over 30,100 empty containers were shipped out from Oakland last month, representing a year-over-year increase of 1.9 percent over September 2011. The volume does, however, continue a trend of monthly increases in the empty exports category dating back to April.

For the calendar year-to-date, Oakland has moved a grand total of 1.74 million TEUs, a decline of 0.4 percent from the same nine-month period in 2011, according to the data.

Bellingham Executive Director Finalists Revealed

The Port of Bellingham Board of Commissioners on Oct. 16 named the finalists for the port’s executive director position and announced the candidates will attend a public reception later this month as part of the selection process.

The three finalists, who were chosen from among 95 applicants, are Jonathan Daniels, executive director for Port of Oswego, New York; Bill Panos, the Public Works and Port Director for the City of West Sacramento in California; and Les Reardanz, the Port of Everett’s Chief Administrative Officer.

“The commissioners have individually interviewed each of them and we believe these candidates have the ability to lead Port staff and Port operations in a manner that will result in strong performance for our community,” port Commission President Scott Walker said.

The finalists will be in Bellingham on Oct. 29 and Oct. 30 for additional interviews by commissioners, port staff and community members, with one portion of the interview process being a public reception and introduction to the finalists.

The port will host a public reception at 5 p.m., Mon., Oct. 29, at the Bellingham Cruise Terminal in Fairhaven. The reception is scheduled to begin with brief remarks from each finalist and is expected to provide the community with opportunities to have informal discussions with the candidates.

The candidates are vying to replace former executive director Charlie Sheldon, who resigned under pressure April 3 after about a year-and-a-half on the job. The position has been filled in the interim by port Deputy Director/CFO Rob Fix.

POLB Hires New Security Director

The Port of Long Beach Harbor Commission on Oct. 15 voted to hire US Transportation Security Administration executive Randy Parsons as the port’s new security director.

Parsons, who starts at the port Nov. 5, was chosen after a national search. He replaces Cosmo Perrone, who retired in May 2011 after six years as security head.

Parsons has had a long and varied career in counterterrorism, transportation security, education and law enforcement. He joined the TSA in March 2009 as federal security director at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. In August 2010, he moved into the same position at Los Angeles International Airport where he remained until being hired by the port. Parsons also has extensive experience in the private sector as a consultant on security and business continuity.

Parsons retired from the FBI in 2005 after 20 years of service. His last assignment was as the Special Agent in Charge for the Counterterrorism Program in the Los Angeles office. Prior to the FBI, Parsons practiced law and before that was a police officer in Topeka, Kansas.

He was also a professor of criminal justice for Washburn University in Topeka.

Vancouver USA Receives Industrial Park Grant

The Port of Vancouver USA has been awarded a $5.7 million grant for the development of almost 60 acres of the port’s Centennial Industrial Park.

The grant agreement between the port and Washington State Department of Commerce was finalized in September and announced Oct. 16. The funding was provided through the Washington State Legislature’s “2012 Jobs Now Act,” a $1.1 billion capital budget package aimed at stimulating the state’s economy.

The project was of a set of port infrastructure projects put forth by the Washington Public Ports Association. It’s expected to attract an estimated $100 million in private-sector investment and create as many as 500 new jobs for the local community.

Centennial Industrial Park, which is situated in Southwest Washington, encompasses 108 acres zoned for light industrial use. It has proximity to a deep-draft shipping channel, key freeway freight corridors, and dual-carrier rail service by BNSF Railway and Union Pacific Railroad.

“There’s good reason for the Columbia River Economic Development Council’s designation of this property as a development of county-wide significance. It’s one of the most development-ready light industrial sites in Clark County,” Curtis Shuck, the port’s director of economic development and facilities for the port, said. “And thanks to the grant funding we can fast-track our site improvements to meet growing market demands, which is especially important now that the port’s industrial occupancy rate is 99 percent.”

The port says grant funding will be used to make infrastructure improvements to the first 58 acres of the park, which will support future development of about 550,000 square feet of manufacturing, production, warehouse and ancillary office space. Specific improvements include final site preparation, installation of underground utilities, construction of roadways and sidewalks and the creation of a new storm water management system.

The current site plan divides the property into seven buildable lots ranging from five to 11 acres, with the ability to be assembled into larger parcels to accommodate marketplace needs. According to the Washington Public Port Association, infrastructure construction is expected to begin later this month and be complete in July 2013.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Port Tech LA Expo

By Mark Edward Nero

Although advancements have been made over the years in the operation of environmentally friendly port drayage trucks, one obstacle that has been difficult to overcome is the travel range of such rigs. Where diesel-fueled rigs can typically travel hundreds of miles before having to refuel, battery-powered and other zero-emission trucks generally have a top range of only about 100 miles.

But at this year’s PortTech Expo near the Port of Los Angeles, the head of one company said he’s confident that such limitations will fall by the wayside in the not-too-distant future.
“That 100 mile limit is going to go up,” Mike Simon, CEO of clean technology company TransPower confidently predicted. “In five years, it’s going to double; in 10 years, it’s going to triple.”

Simon was on hand during the conference to introduce two of his company’s latest achievements: a yard truck and yard tractor, both of which are Class 8, battery-operated vehicles. The heavy-duty drayage trucks were among the highlights of the conference, which took place Sept. 5 and 6 at the Doubletree Hotel in San Pedro.

The PortTech Expo, now in its third year, is hosted annually by the non-profit technology center PortTechLA. The organization was launched in 2008 through a partnership between the San Pedro and Wilmington chambers of commerce, in conjunction with the Port of LA.

Since its inception, the tech expo has each year attracted more than 20 sponsors, 50 exhibitors and 300 individuals, venture capitalists and community leaders. Among the primary sponsors of this year’s event were Siemens, TransPower, the Port of Los Angeles and US Hybrid Corp.
One of the heavy-duty industrial trucks revealed by TransPower at this year’s event – a Navistar International Pro-Star on-road tractor designed to haul loads up to 80,000 pounds – was originally manufactured with a diesel engine, but was retrofitted with all battery-electric drivetrains powered by lithium ion batteries.

It was funded in part by a $1 million research grant from the California Energy Commission’s Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology (ARFVT) program and $500,000 from the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

The truck’s advanced components and drive-train package were developed and paid for by TransPower, which is based in the northern San Diego County city of Poway.

The other industrial truck displayed was a Kalmar Ottawa off-road tractor that was funded by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The technology used in the truck was developed as a result of the success of the Navistar vehicle, according to TransPower.

Simon said he believes that in addition to the limited range issue, another obstacle for zero-emission trucks that will be overcome in the coming years is the relatively high production costs.
“Electric trucks are in their infancy,” he said. “There’s nowhere to go but down in terms of price.”
He said the main selling point of zero-emission port vehicles now is they save money over time.
“What we’re offering is a truck that costs a lot more now, but with the savings in fuel costs, you end up spending less in the long run,” Simon said. “That’s the basic business model.”

Although electric trucks cost about $300,000 to purchase upfront, owners can expect to pay only $100,000 in maintenance costs over the next 10 years, for a total of $400,000 over the span of a decade.

On the other hand, he said, diesel trucks may only cost $100,000 up front, but between maintenance and refueling costs, the expenditures can amount to about $500,000 over 10 years, $100,000 more than zero-emission trucks.

In other news, Simon said his company is also working on a battery-operated train car that could travel up to 50 miles, meaning it would be able to operate within the Los Angeles Basin without adding to the region’s already notorious problems and reputation as having some of the worst air quality in the US.

“These vehicles show how clean energy can help meet challenging performance demands while reducing pollution and creating jobs,” Carla Peterman, a member of the California Energy Commission, the state’s primary energy policy and planning agency, said. Peterman not only gave brief remarks during the unveiling of the electric trucks, but was also the conference’s keynote speaker.

“Reducing California’s dependence on petroleum is not easy,” she said during her lunchtime speech. “But it is necessary because this dependence makes the state extremely vulnerable to price volatility and environmental impacts.”

“Our common challenge, summed up by the port’s mantra – more cargo and cleaner air – is how to maintain and enhance the economic value of the ports while minimizing impacts to our environment and to ourselves,” Peterman said. “Overcoming this challenge requires significant investment by industry and government. Cleaner ship fuels, electrification of ships at dock and modernization of the port’s truck and rail fleet are critical.”

The conference represented the third consecutive year that hundreds of people in the maritime and clean technology industries converged in the Los Angeles port area for the expo. In addition to the unveiling of the electronic trucks and Peterman’s keynote speech, the event included an investment pitch competition and panel discussions on environmental technologies, financing clean technologies and labor opportunities that are enabled by new technologies.

“Industry and education need to form partnerships,” Amy Grat, CEO of the International Trade Education Program, or ITEP, said during the labor opportunities panel. “Connect the classroom to careers,” Grat said.

ITEP is an organization that helps guide students and schools in the poorer neighborhoods of Los Angeles and Long Beach, toward careers in the trade, transportation and logistics industries.
Another member of the labor panel, Michael Ponce of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63, a clerical division representing LA/Long Beach dockworkers, predicted that there would be a major shift in the number and types of jobs union members have on the docks over the next decade.

“I see a lot of changes coming,” he said, referring to shippers wanting to implement European-style systems of cargo movement at West Coast port terminals in the US. “It’s going to be hard for the longshoremen.”

“From what I’ve seen in Europe, I think we’re one or two generations behind. Instead of one-for-one (human-to-machine ratio), you have one (person) for six (pieces of equipment). I see that as a huge impact.”

The shift, he said, will also come in the form of most new union jobs being in the realm of machine repair and diagnostics.

“It’s going to have an impact, but it’ll take maybe two to 10 years to have a big impact,” he said, due to such technology having to be negotiated during upcoming labor negotiations.

During the financing technologies panel, representatives from three venture capital firms – California Capital Partners, Peate Ventures and Pan Pacific Capital – gave a roomful of technology company heads and other interested parties tips on the criteria they use to choose which projects to fund.

“We’re not looking for the second coming of Bill Gates right off the bat, we’re looking for potential,” Pan Pacific’s Joe Platnick said. “We’re also looking for people who have been through adversity (personally or professionally); that can be revealing.”

“If someone’s passionate (about their company or product),” that can help make up for other flaws,” John Peate of Peate Ventures said.

John Nelson of California Capitol Partners, however, warned of the creeping problem of debt.
Only one percent of ventures had ongoing debt in 1997, according to Nelson, but that number is expected to rise to 20 percent by 2015.

“One thing you want to think about is not raising money,” Peate said, saying that companies that can’t raise additional capital should have plans in place regarding how to proceed if they don’t receive infusions of capital. “When you think you can’t go any further, how much further can you go?” he said.

Seattle Arena Deal Approved; Union to Sue

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union says it plans to sue over a recently approved plan to build a $490 million sports arena near the waterfront, saying the location jeopardizes jobs at and near the Port of Seattle.

Seattle and King County councils on Oct. 15 gave final approval to a plan to construct the combination basketball/hockey venue in Seattle’s SoDo area. Under the plan, $200 million of the funding would come from public bonds, with the rest raised by developer Chris Hansen. The public investment would be paid back through rent money and taxes from the arena under the plan.

But prior to the vote, ILWU Local 19 revealed that it plans to file suit in King County Superior Court challenging the agreement with the developer.

The lawsuit will be filed, according to ILWU attorney David Mann, because the City of Seattle and King County have committed public funds to a project without completing an environmental impact study on the proposed site.

“We cannot stand idly by while Mr. Hansen and his well-connected lobbyists, along with our elected officials, build an arena in a location that threatens the livelihood of our members and many other workers in the maritime industry,” Local 19 President Cameron Williams said.

The Port of Seattle has also previously urged caution regarding the arena proposal. Container operations, railway lines and truck activity are all currently located within blocks of the proposed arena site, and multiple Port of Seattle studies have determined that traffic congestion and pressure on industrial businesses brought by a sports facility near the waterfront could squeeze out small businesses, disrupt port operations and limit the potential for port growth.

A recent revision to the plan, however, includes a $40 million road improvement fund. The fund, which would be covered by tax revenues, would go toward the study and prioritization of area transportation improvements.

Port of LA Has Busiest Cargo Month in Two Years

Container terminals at the Port of Los Angeles moved nearly 745,000 TEUs during September 2012, making it the busiest month in overall volumes at the port in two years, according to newly released data.

The port’s overall volumes increased 5.57 percent last month compared to September 2011. It was the strongest single-month in overall volumes since August 2010 when overall volumes reached 763,837 TEUs, according to the data.

Imports increased 3.38 percent year-over-year, rising from 372,655 TEUs in September 2011 to 385,250 TEUs this September.

Combined, total loaded imports and exports for August increased 1.47 percent, from 549,609 TEUs last September to 557,683 TEUs in September 2012. Also, the number of empty containers shipped through the port was up dramatically year over last year. The number rose to 187,240 TEUs from 156,000 containers in September 2011, an increase of more than 31,200 TEUs, or 20.01 percent.

The news for the month wasn’t all good, however. Exports decreased 2.56 percent at port terminals, dropping from 176,954 TEUs in September 2011 to 172,432 TEUs in September 2012, a 2.5 percent decline.

For the first nine months of calendar year 2012, overall container volumes increased 5.16 percent to 6.18 million TEUs compared to 5.8 million containers in the same period in 2011.

For the current fiscal year, which began July 1, container terminals at the port have sent and received a total of 2.1 million TEUs, a 2.8 percent jump from the same three-month period last year.
Current and past data container counts for the Port of Los Angeles may be found at

Monthly Imports Flat at POLB, Exports Down

Cargo volumes at the Port of Long Beach were mixed in September 2012, with imports up a combined 0.7 percent and exports down 2.8 percent at container terminals compared to the same month last year.

Overall, cargo volumes at Long Beach were down 2.9 percent compared to September 2011. Port terminals handled over 265,000 20-foot equivalent container units of loaded inbound cargo during the month, compared to about 263,200 TEUs in September 2011.

Export containers declined to 114,902 TEUs, a drop of 2.8 percent from the 118,214 TEUs moved during the same month a year ago. Empty container volumes also declined; they fell 9.4 percent to 132,016 TEUs from 145,747 TEUs in September 2011.

For the calendar year so far, overall container volumes at the port are down 4.4 percent, with Long Beach attributing the cause to continuing weakness in the economy and cutbacks in ship calls by several niche vessel operators at the end of 2011 and early 2012.

Imports are down four percent and exports down 1.3 percent through September, compared to the same period a year ago.

September was also the final month in the port’s 2012 fiscal year, and for the 12-month period that began in October 2011, container volumes were down across the board. Port terminals moved a total of 5.85 million TEUs during the fiscal year, a decline of seven percent from the 6.29 million units moved during FY 2011. The number of loaded inbound, loaded outbound and empty containers shipped dropped 6.6 percent, 5.8 percent and 9.1 percent, respectively, compared with the previous fiscal year.

More details on the Long Beach cargo numbers can be found at

San Diego, Los Angeles Port Execs Named to Federal Panel

Port of San Diego Executive Director Wayne Darbeau and Port of Los Angeles Deputy Executive Director for External Affairs Cynthia Ruiz have been named to a new supply chain advisory committee formed by the US Commerce Dept.

The Advisory Committee on Supply Chain Competitiveness, headed by Acting US Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank, is comprised of 40 senior-level representatives of multiple industries and supply chain experts, will advise the Secretary, the U.S. Department of Transportation and other U.S. agencies on issues that affect the international competitiveness of US businesses.

The committee, according to Blank, “will provide crucial input on issues related to national freight infrastructure and policies so that we can best support millions of US businesses, export goods, compete domestically and globally and support American jobs.”

Others named to the committee include Dean Wise, vice president of network strategy for BNSF Railway; W. Scott Brotemarkle, director of transportation policy and program development Organization for the American Association of Port Authorities; and Leslie Blakey, president and executive director of the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors.

The committee is intended to act as a liaison between industry and government, and is a step toward ensuring regular contact with the supply chain industries, including manufacturers, distributors and exporters. It’s scheduled to hold its first meeting Oct. 19 at the US Department of Commerce headquarters in Washington DC.

The group’s advice will be considered in the development of a national freight policy and in executing Pres. Obama’s National Export Initiative, which aims to double US exports by the end of 2014.