Friday, January 4, 2013

California Nautical Shipping Lanes Revised

Changes to maritime shipping lanes off the coast of California have been approved by the International Maritime Organization in an effort to better protect endangered whales from ships.

The vessel lane changes, which are expected to go into effect later in 2013, affect busy shipping lanes to San Francisco Bay, the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex and the Santa Barbara Channel, which include routes that cross three national marine sanctuaries.

Extending the three lanes in the approach to San Francisco Bay is expected to reduce interactions between ships and whales within Cordell Bank and Gulf of the Farallones national marine sanctuaries.
According to the IMO, the lane extensions should improve maritime safety in the area by keeping vessels on a dedicated route through prime fishing grounds, which will reduce interaction between fishing vessels and commercial ships.

The vessel lane changes in the Santa Barbara Channel and Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary narrow the overall width of the existing lanes and shift the southbound lane one nautical mile north. This change will move vessels away from an area used by feeding blue and humpback whales.

Blue, humpback and fin whales are protected by the Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act and National Marine Sanctuaries Act.

In 2010, five whales – two blue, one humpback and two fin – were killed by confirmed or likely ship strikes in the San Francisco area and elsewhere along the north-central California coast. In 2007, four blue whales were killed by confirmed or likely ship strikes in and around the Santa Barbara Channel.

The lane changes were crafted in part by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and US Coast Guard.

“The modifications to the traffic lanes balance the safe and efficient flow of commerce within and between our nation’s ports with NOAA’s goal of reducing whale strikes from vessels,” USCG Rear Admiral Karl Schultz, the Eleventh Coast Guard district commander, said.

Jensen Maritime Receives Vessel Design Award

Jensen Maritime, the Seattle-based, Crowley Maritime Corp.-owned naval architecture and marine engineering firm, has been honored with the New Wave Award, which recognizes the company for the concept and design of the Northern Leader, a 184-foot long, environmentally-friendly longline fishing vessel owned by Alaskan Leader Fisheries.

The New Wave Award is issued by National Fisherman and WorkBoat magazines during Seattle’s Pacific Marine Expo.

The Northern Leader will be one of the world’s largest commercial longline fishing vessels and is also the first Z-drive, diesel-electric fishing boat ever produced. Jensen has provided complete marine engineering services for the vessel, ranging from concept design to production engineering and even 3D fly-through modeling.

“We are proud of the innovation we’ve been able to infuse into the design of Northern Leader,” Jensen Vice President Johan Sperling said in a statement. “We know that commercial fishermen operate in some of the world’s harshest and most isolated environments, which can create extremely hazardous working conditions. To counteract the dangers and increase the comforts for the crew, we have designed a vessel that will keep them safe from harm, while capitalizing on the small seasonal window they have for harvesting their catch.”

The Northern Leader is currently under construction at J.M. Martinac Shipbuilding Corp., in Tacoma, Washington and is to be delivered to its homeport of Kodiak, Alaska, in April 2013.

The design of the 184-foot by 42-foot vessel allows for full utilization of the targeted fish species by using equipment with minimal environmental impact on the ocean’s ecosystem and a light operational fossil fuel footprint. The vessel will be used in the commercial, longline fisheries in the North Pacific, Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands.

East Coast Longshore Strike Temporarily Averted

The East Coast union representing dockworkers at 15 ports from Texas to Canada has agreed to extend its contract with an employers group for 30 days while the two sides work on a more permanent solution.

Talks between the ILA and United States Maritime Alliance, or USMX, have been ongoing for months and revolve around, among other things, usage of technology to improve terminal efficiency.

The 30-day extension was agreed to Dec. 29, but due to federal holidays, the deadline is set at Feb. 6.
In late December, the two sides managed to come to an agreement on the issue of container royalty payments, which are payments made to longshoremen based on the weight of the cargo. Since mid-September, negotiations between the parties have been overseen by the Washington DC-based Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, the government agency that handles arbitration and mediation of labor disputes and contract negotiations.

The FMCS has refused to publicly provide details of negotiations, but according to agency chair George Cohen, the extension shows that progress is being made.

“Given that negotiations will be continuing and consistent with the Agency’s commitment of confidentiality to the parties, FMCS shall not disclose the substance of the container royalty payment agreement,” he said. “What I can report is that the agreement on this important subject represents a major positive step toward achieving an overall collective bargaining agreement.”

The USMX represents employers at 14 ports and 24 ocean carriers, while the ILA has about 65,000 members on the East and Gulf coasts. The contract between the two sides expired Sept. 30.

Groundbreaking for Desmond Bridge Set

The Port of Long Beach is scheduled to break ground on construction of a new, $1 billion bridge next week. The event will officially mark the start of the largest bridge project in Southern California.

The new structure, which is expected to have towers reaching 500 feet above ground level, is a replacement for the obsolete and deteriorating Gerald Desmond Bridge. The cable-stayed bridge, which will act as a connector between the Long Beach and Los Angeles port areas, is expected to include additional traffic lanes, a higher clearance to accommodate the new generation of cargo ships, dedicated bicycle paths and pedestrian walkways, including overlooks 200 feet above the water.

The port says the design-build project could create about 3,000 jobs a year, on average, for three years. The $1 billion in construction-related spending is expected to generate regional economic activity of about $2 billion.

The bridge replacement, which is designed to ease traffic congestion and improve safety, is being jointly procured by the port and the California Department of Transportation. Caltrans, Los Angeles County Metro and the US Department of Transportation are among those contributing funds to the project.

While the contract for the joint venture is about $650 million, the total cost of the overall bridge replacement project is estimated at about $1 billion, including site preparation, demolition and other considerations.

Construction is expected to be complete in 2016, according to the port.