Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Fidley Watch - State of the State

By Chris Philips, Managing Editor

A collection of maritime leaders gathered in Sacramento, California late last month for the 13th Annual California Maritime Leadership Symposium (CMLS). Developed as a way to brief Sacramento’s policymakers on key matters related to the entire Maritime Transportation System, the conference is hosted by a coalition of maritime organizations. These include the California Association of Port Authorities, California Marine Affairs and Navigation Conference, California Marine and Intermodal Transportation System Advisory Council (CALMITSAC), California Maritime Academy (CMA), Harbor Association of Industry and Commerce, and the Propeller Club of Los Angeles/Long Beach.

This year’s event addressed several issues facing the state, and was well attended by legislators and policymakers, representatives from California’s ports, members of the marine transportation industry and labor, and a number of cadets from the California Maritime Academy.

While the topics addressed by panels during the two-day symposium were largely California-centric, several addressed coastwide issues, including a panel on marine terminals, rail and trucking that looked at the steps being taken by industry to address three issues outlined succinctly by Alan McCorkle, Sr. Vice President of APM Terminals: bigger ships, cleaner air and life on the docks.

Bigger ships includes the challenges of servicing vessels approaching 15,000 TEUs, which will require more and larger cranes, more room under the keel and an infrastructure – most likely on-dock rail – that can move the freight away from the vessels.

Cleaner air can be addressed by electrifying and automating terminal equipment, which also addresses the bigger ships issue (an issue at the heart of our 2012 Green Pacific Conference). Life on the docks refers to the fact that none of the above can be achieved with out the cooperation of labor.

Another panel addressed Safety and Security “Lessons Learned,” including piracy and terrorism. Professor Donna Nincic, Director of the School of Maritime Policy and management at CMA, addressed the often-overlooked toll of piracy on the shipping industry, in which ransoms play a very small role. A study on Somali piracy in 2011 put the cost of piracy to industry at $5.3 to $5.5 billion, in the form of rerouting, security equipment and higher insurance costs (46 percent) and increased speeds (40 percent) with another $1.3 billion to governments (19 percent) for military efforts, with ransom costs only contributing 2 percent.

Hank Glauser, with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, discussed the threat of terrorism to domestic terminals, and offered one solution in the form of the Portunus Project, in which future US ports could be located in the ocean, 20 or more miles offshore, to allow cargo to be inspected away from cities. The floating offshore terminals would accommodate extremely large container vessels, and would allow for freight transfer to smaller feeder vessels, which could then call at a variety of onshore ports.

A notable event during the conference was a reception in the Capitol Rotunda and the awarding of the 3rd annual Gary L. Gregory Lifetime Achievement Award. This year’s award went to Captain Richard McKenna, Executive Director for the Marine Exchange of Southern California. McKenna, who announced his retirement last October, said he was flattered and very appreciative of the award. “The California maritime industry is relatively unheralded in its importance to the state, but is so vital to our economic well being,” he says. “To be involved in this effort is reward enough, to be honored in such a way is both gratifying and humbling.”