Friday, February 8, 2013

PortTechLA Director Resigns

PortTech Los Angeles Executive Director Jeff Milanette is leaving the organization to launch an innovation center in Africa. His resignation is effective Feb. 15.

“As a business incubation professional, the opportunity to build PortTechLA, coach innovative entrepreneurs and work with a highly talented management team has been incredibly rewarding,” Milanette said in a prepared statement announcing the move. “I thank PortTechLA’s Board of Directors and the Port of Los Angeles for the opportunity to lead the development of this program. However, start-ups are my area of expertise and I leave PortTechLA well positioned for a new Executive Director to step in and lead the organization into its next phase of growth.”

PortTechLA, located adjacent to the Port of Los Angeles, is a commercialization center and incubation program, promotes and develops companies with technologies that enable enterprises and consumers to meet their immediate and future environmental, energy, security and logistics goals. It’s a cooperative effort of the Port of LA, City of Los Angeles and the business communities of San Pedro and Wilmington.

Milanette was named executive director of the organization by Port of LA Executive Director Geraldine Knatz in October 2009. Since then, PortTechLA has grown from a fledgling non-profit with one client to an organization capable of supporting more than 20 clean technology companies with a combination of onsite and virtual services.

Shortly after taking charge, Milanette established the PortTechForum, a monthly program specially designed for entrepreneurs and members of the clean technology business community to come together to exchange ideas, business tips, marketing advice and benefit from networking opportunities.

Milanette also launched the annual PortTechEXPO, a venture conference and technology exposition designed to introduce the business community to the products and services being developed by PortTechLA clients and other technology entrepreneurs.

“Jeff has built a great foundation upon which PortTechLA is well positioned to become a leading technology center focused on the maritime industry. We wish him well in his new ventures," PortTechLA Board Chair Herb Zimmer said.

Entrepreneur and investor Stan Tomsic has been named the organization’s interim Executive Director. The search for a permanent Executive Director is being initiated by PortTechLA’s Board of Directors.

More Sampling Planned at Contaminated Shipyard

Soil, sediment and groundwater samples will be collected by Port of Bellingham contractors from a shipyard in Fairhaven later this month to better locate and define the extent of contamination on the property.

The Harris Ave. Shipyard site, located at 201 Harris Ave., has been used as a shipyard since the early 1900s, and past shipbuilding and ship maintenance operations contaminated portions of the site.

Contractor crews collected samples from in and around the property from Jan. 28 through Feb. 2, 2013, and collection is scheduled again for Feb. 14. The work is expected to cost about $130,000, according to the port, and is part of an extensive environmental study being performed, which would be used to develop future cleanup plans.

Previous sampling and investigations have found gasoline, diesel, oil, arsenic, metals, polychlorinated biphenols, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, semi-volatile organic compounds and more in the soils, sediment and groundwater. Their concentrations, which exceed standards set by the state’s cleanup law, have been typical of historic shipyard operations throughout the Puget Sound.

Two tenants currently lease the property from the Port of Bellingham, All American Marine and Puglia Engineering, but neither is believed by the port to have caused the contamination.

The property, which is owned partly by the state and port, has been designated as a cleanup site by the Washington Department of Ecology, the agency overseeing the sampling and future cleanup.

A 2010 legal agreement between the port and Ecology Dept. requires the port to assess contamination and cleanup options. The department is scheduled to reimburse half the port’s costs through the state’s Remedial Action Grant program, which helps pay to clean up publicly owned sites and is funded with revenue from a voter-approved tax on hazardous substances.

The Harris Avenue cleanup site is one of 12 sites around Bellingham Bay that are part of a coordinated, bay-wide effort by federal, tribal, state and local governments to clean up contamination, control pollution sources and restore habitat. The pilot program, known as the Bellingham Bay Demonstration Pilot, is a major step toward restoring Puget Sound.

Port of LA Chemical Fire Doused

One person was hospitalized this week after firefighters responded to a fire in a storage area on Terminal Island where goods are imported through the Port of Los Angeles.

At 11:43 a.m. on Tues., Feb. 5, Los Angeles firefighters responded to the facility near the intersection of Cannery Street and Terminal Way to investigate a fire in an outside storage area where imported goods are fumigated.

Upon their arrival, they found white smoke coming from a 55-gallon drum used to neutralize pesticide products. LA Fire Dept. hazardous material experts then assembled an entry team, performed an assessment and managed to control the fire using a dry chemical fire extinguisher.

The product within the drum was eventually identified by the LAFD hazardous material team as aluminum phosphide, which is used as a rodenticide, insecticide and fumigant for stored cereal grains.
One Los Angeles Port Police officer who was exposed to the smoke was transported to an area hospital for further evaluation, according to LA Fire.

The Health Hazardous Materials Division of the Los Angeles County Fire Dept. is investigating the incident. The fire was not believed to have had any impact on Port of Los Angeles operations and shipping continued as normal, according to the LAFD.

Grays Harbor Port Receives Partnership Award

The Port of Grays Harbor received Minnesota Soybean’s 2012 International Marketing Committee Partner of the Year Award during Minnesota Soybean Growers Association’s annual meeting Jan. 28.

Port Commissioner Jack Thompson and Executive Director Gary Nelson were both on hand for the gathering in Mankato, Minnesota.

“It was an honor to come here to receive this award and be recognized by the farmers who have made all of the growth and success we have all experienced in the soybean export industry over the past few years possible,” Thompson said. “We look forward to the continued partnership.”

Minnesota Soybean, which represents more than 25,000 soybean farmers across Minnesota, selected the Port of Grays Harbor for the award due to the role it has played in helping Ag Processing Inc. (AGP) increase export tonnage of soybean products to international markets over the past eight years.

AGP operates nine soybean processing plants: six in Iowa and one each in Minnesota, Missouri and Nebraska. In 2012, a record setting 1.69 million metric tons of soybean products were exported through the Port of Grays Harbor to international markets, including China, Japan, Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and Australia.

The increase in export activity in soybean products and other dry agriculture cargos has also been accompanied by increased exports in autos, liquid bulks and forest products, according to the port, with increased export activity creating over 100 longshore jobs.

The Port of Grays Harbor operated at a 96 percent export rate in 2012.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Some Enlightenment on Vessel Lighting

Lights on an automobile give information to the driver about what is on the road ahead. Lights on a vessel give no information to the vessel operator. Rather, lights on a vessel give information to others about the vessel’s course and characteristics so that collisions can be avoided, and federal law dictates what lights are required on a vessel. The lighting laws are not as simple as one might expect, and are said to “embody an elaborate code”. This article addresses some vessel lighting basics.

Finding the Lighting Rules
Vessel lighting requirements in the United States date back to the mid 19th century. The current versions of the requirements are found primarily in two places: the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea 1972 (known as the “Colregs” or “International Rules”) and the Inland Navigational Rules Act of 1980 (known as the “Inland Rules”). The former is an international treaty adopted in 1972 and entered into force in 1977. The latter is a federal statute enacted by Congress in 1980.

The International Rules and the Inland Rules contain many types of navigation-related rules in addition to vessel lighting rules. The International and Inland rules are similar, but not identical. Both are available on the Internet for no charge or side-by-side in a booklet published by the Coast Guard.

The Basic Application of the Vessel Lighting Rules
The vessel lighting rules apply to all “vessels,” and “vessels” is defined broadly as watercraft including non displacement craft and seaplanes, used or capable of being used for transportation on the water. That means the vessel lighting rules apply to a wide variety of watercraft including, but certainly not limited to, canoes, sailboats, fishing vessels, tugs, seaplanes, barges, containerships, and tankers as well as partially submerged vessels, anchored vessels, and vessels being towed.

Whether the International Rules or the Inland Rules apply depends on where the vessel is. The International Rules apply to vessels on the high seas and on all waters connected to the high seas that are navigable by seagoing vessels. The Inland Rules apply to vessels on the inland waters of the United States and to United States vessels in the Canadian waters of the Great Lakes, if not in conflict with Canadian law. Federal regulations provide a line of demarcation for the applicability of the International and Inland Rules. That line generally follows the coastline. For example, the International Rules apply in San Francisco Bay.

The lighting rules apply from sunset to sunrise. During that time, no other vessel lights are permitted to be displayed that could be mistaken for the required lights, or that could interfere with the visibility or distinctive characteristics of the required lights. Lights that impair a vessel’s ability to keep a proper lookout are also not permitted. The lighting rules are not suspended during inclement weather.

Types of Lights
The International Rules provide for six different types of lights. They are a masthead light, sidelights, a stern light, a towing light, an all around light, and a flashing light. The Inland Rules provide for the same six types of lights plus a seventh, a “special flashing light”. Both sets of rules provide for four different colors of lights: white, red, green and yellow.

Each of the required types of lights has characteristics that may include color, intensity, and location on the vessel. For example, under the International Rules, a masthead light is “a white light placed over the fore and aft centerline of the vessel showing an unbroken light over an arc of the horizon of 225 degrees and fixed that it shows light from right ahead to 22.5 degrees abaft the beam on either side of the vessel.” Under the Inland Rules, the definition of a masthead light is the same, except on vessels less than 12 meters in length, the masthead light need only be placed “as nearly as practicable” to the fore and aft centerline of the vessel.

How intense the required lights must be is dependent on the size of the vessel. For example, under both sets of rules, the masthead light on a vessel more than 50 meters in length must be visible for a minimum of six miles. On vessels more than 20 but less than 50 meters in length, the masthead light must be visible for a minimum of five miles. On vessels from 12 to 20 meters in length, the masthead light must be visible for a minimum of three miles. On vessels less than 12 meters in length, the masthead light must be visible for a minimum of two miles.

A vessel’s type, type of propulsion, and activities also affect what lights are required. There are basic lighting rules for a power-driven vessel when underway, and modifications of the basic lighting rules if a power-driven vessel is engaged in certain activities such as towing or being towed, dredging, trawling, fishing but not trawling, mine-clearing or diving. There are also lighting requirements for vessels under sail, vessels under sail but also propelled by machinery, and vessels under oars. Vessels restricted in their ability to maneuver and vessels at anchor are also required to display particular lights.

Consequences of Not Following the Lighting Rules
When followed, the lighting rules provide important information about a vessel. When the lighting rules are not followed, serious consequences may follow. Indeed, the failure to properly light a vessel has been said to be “one of the most recklessly unlawful acts a vessel can commit”. And, under The Pennsylvania Rule, when a vessel in a collision is found to have violated a statutory rule designed to prevent collisions, such as the lighting rules, a presumption of fault is raised. To avoid liability, the violator must prove the violation did not and could not have played a role in the collision. It is a very difficult burden.

The First National Bank of Chicago v. Material Service Corporation, 597 F.2d 1110 (7th Cir. 1979) is one of many cases addressing the consequences of improper vessel lighting. That case involved a nighttime collision between a 16-foot pleasure craft and a flotilla of barges being pushed by a tug. The barges had red and green lights on their bow corners and a flashing amber light at the center head. A forward facing white light on the tug’s pilothouse was not illuminated although there were red and green directional lights on the pilothouse roof. The tug operator saw the pleasure craft’s red light and perceived the vessels to be on a collision course. He reversed the tug’s engines and steered right, believing he was leaving a wide expanse of clear water for the pleasure craft. The pleasure craft struck the center of the bow of one of the barges and two occupants of the pleasure craft were killed. The district court found the pleasure craft solely at fault. The Seventh Circuit reversed the decision and sent the case back to the district court. On retrial, the district court found the tug and barge to be in violation of three lighting rules as well as other navigational rules. It allocated sole fault in the collision to the tug and barge. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the finding of fault imposed on the tug and barge due to improper lighting and held the lighting configuration created a “traveling trap” moving down a dark river. But, the Seventh Circuit also held some fault should be attributed to the pleasure boat operator. It reasoned the pleasure boat operator should have been able to see the lights on the barges and been on warning that something, albeit unidentifiable at the time, was ahead.

The lighting rules may not be disregarded in favor of a local custom. Kaseroff v. Etersen, 136 F.2d 184 (9th Cir. 1943) involved a nighttime collision between two fishing vessels, the Martindale and the Yankee Clipper, off the California coast. The night was moonless but clear, and the sea was calm. The Martindale located and circled a school of fish. While preparing to make a set, the Martindale was struck by the Yankee Clipper and suffered hull damage. At the time of the collision, neither vessel had a white masthead light. Instead, under a local custom, they each had a red masthead light which, when illuminated, showed the vessel had priority over a school of fish. The district court found the Martindale had complied with all laws and customs, and was not at fault in the collision. The Ninth Circuit disagreed. It held a local custom of not displaying a white masthead light did not excuse compliance with the International Rules nor relieve the offender of the consequences of non-compliance. It held both vessels equally at fault for improper lighting and reduced by half the damages previously awarded to the Martindale’s owner.

The lighting requirements in the International and Inland Rules are designed to convey information about a vessel’s size, activities, and course so that collisions can be avoided. Mariners should determine what lighting requirements apply to their vessels and make sure their vessels are in strict compliance to avoid significant financial consequences.

Marilyn Raia is of counsel in the San Francisco office of Bullivant Houser Bailey. She is certified by the State Bar of California as a specialist in admiralty-maritime law and can be reached at