Friday, June 7, 2013

Long Beach Files Suit Against SCIG Project

The City of Long Beach on June 5 filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction against a BNSF Railway and Port of Los Angeles plan to construct a $500 million rail yard project that Long Beach says would negatively affect its residents.

In its suit, Long Beach seeks an injunction against the 153-acre Southern California International Gateway, or SCIG, project. The proposed project would sit just outside West Long Beach, alongside the Terminal Island Freeway on land owned by the Port of LA. The project, if built, would serve on-dock rail facilities at both the Port of Long Beach and the Port of Los Angeles.

The City of Long Beach, however, claims that the SCIG would adversely affect its residents, businesses and schools by bringing more noise and air pollution to an area that has already suffered plenty over the years due to nearby port-related operations.

“The negative effects of the rail yard project will be borne almost entirely by the residents of West Long Beach,” the legal complaint states in part.

The city also contends in its suit that the project doesn’t comply with the California Environmental Quality Act, a statute requiring state and local agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of their actions and to avoid or mitigate those impacts.

Despite ongoing objections by the City of Long Beach, the Los Angeles City Council on May 8 gave final approval to the SCIG via an 11-2 vote; the Port of Los Angeles Harbor Commission likewise approved the project in March.

The project also has had major support from local labor unions due to the estimated 1,500 direct and indirect jobs per year that BNSF has said the project would create over three years.

The railway company also says that if built, the SCIG would reduce truck traffic, freeway congestion and air pollution by eliminating about 1.3 million truck trips annually along a 24-mile stretch of the Long Beach (710) Freeway to BNSF’s Hobart Yard near downtown LA.

Originally, construction was due to begin later this year and open in 2016, but that plan could be delayed or scrapped altogether depending on the status of Long Beach’s legal action.

Study: Port Metro Vancouver Cargo Values Up

There has been a significant increase in the total value of cargo handled annually through Port Metro Vancouver over the past four years, according to a newly released study.

The port’s 2012 Economic Impact Study, which was released May 31 by InterVISTAS Consulting, a Vancouver-based management consulting company, also show considerable growth in the average port-related wage as well as in the number of full-time positions since the last study, which was released in 2008.

Port Metro Vancouver is the busiest port in Canada and the fourth largest tonnage port in North America.

According to the report, Port Metro Vancouver handles $172 billion of cargo each year, or about $475 million daily, representing one-fifth of Canada’s total trade by value.

“The report demonstrates our substantial employment and economic impacts provincially and nationwide, with a particular focus on the communities that surround the Lower Mainland,” Port Metro Vancouver President and Chief Executive Officer Robin Silvester said.

In addition to the amount of total cargo handled, key findings from the study include that Port Metro Vancouver handles 19 percent of Canada’s total trade by value.

Also, it generates $20.3 billion in economic output; $9.7 billion in direct GDP; $6.1 billion in wages; 98,800 jobs in Canada; 38,200 direct jobs in British Columbia; and a $67,000 average wage vs. a $44,000 average wage in Canada.

The study also says Metro Vancouver generates $1.3 billion per year in tax revenues, including $756 million; federal; $403 million provincial; and $116 million municipal.

The full study can be seen at

Compass Courses Launches New QMED Class

Compass Courses Maritime Training is offering a 30-day QMED (Qualified Member of the Engine Department) program at their facilities in Edmonds, Washington beginning June 17, 2013.

Compass Courses has teamed with The Anchor Program (TAP) to provide the training, which will encompass the QMED Oiler and Fireman/Watertender ratings.

The new course can benefit mariners looking to enter the Engineering path of licensing, as well as anyone seeking the training north of Southern California.

The month-long program will provide students with proof of having completed the US Coast Guard Oiler and Fireman/Watertender exam modules, and 60 days of sea service creditable towards their QMED.

Any applicant successfully completing the QMED – Oiler – Fireman/Watertender course will satisfy the requirements of 46 CFR 12.15-7 (b)(2), according to Compass Courses, and can receive credit for 60 days of the sea service needed for a QMED Oiler and Fireman/Watertender endorsement, as long as they also present evidence of at least 120 days engine room service; and if presented within a year of the completion of training, satisfy the requirements of 46 CFR 12.15-9 for the Fireman/Watertender, and Oiler: Steam & Motor examination modules.

Compass Courses says that if the program grows, training for additional QMED ratings could be added, such as Junior Engineer, Deck Engineer Machinist, Refrigeration Engineer, Electrician and Pumpman.

More information regarding the QMED Program can be found at

LA, Hamburg Ports Sign Partnership Agreement

The Port of Los Angeles and the Hamburg (Germany) Port Authority on June 6 signed a five-year agreement that paves the way for increased cooperation and partnership between the two.

The two ports have agreed to share strategies and best practices on topics ranging from port infrastructure, environmental and security challenges, and strategies to enhance trade competitiveness.
“I am delighted to have the Port of Los Angeles as a partner with whom we can share experiences and discuss, on equal footing, subjects of interest and concern,” Jens Meier, Managing Director of the Hamburg Port Authority, said. “It is always a good thing to look over the rim of your tea cup and benefit from a mutual exchange of views.”

The agreement was signed at the International Exhibition for Logistics, Mobility, IT and Supply Chain Management conference taking place in Munich.

The two ports have said the collaborative agreement could potentially benefit U.S. and international maritime and environmental companies from the transport and logistics industry as the two seaports share best practices with respect to equipment and new technologies.

“We have been fortunate to have a close collaborative relationship with the Hamburg Port Authority,” Port of LA Executive Director Geraldine Knatz said from the International Exhibition. “This agreement formalizes and expands our partnership and I expect it to be beneficial to both ports in the years ahead.”

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Not So Fast

By Marilyn Raia

The propulsion issue of this magazine is a good place to examine the law pertaining to vessel speed. A vessel’s speed may be governed by federal, state and/or local law depending on where the vessel is being operated. This article focuses on speed basics under federal law.

The Basic Federal Speed Law
The International Rules for Prevention of Collisions at Sea and the United States Inland Navigation Rules address vessel speed. They both have the same basic speed rule. Rule 6 requires every vessel at all times to “proceed at a safe speed so that she can take proper and effective action to avoid collision and be stopped within a distance appropriate to the prevailing circumstances and conditions.” The term “collision” is interpreted broadly and includes a vessel’s wake striking another vessel.

Rule 6 does not define “safe” but does identify some factors to be taken into account when determining what a safe speed is. The factors are well-founded in common sense. They include: 1) visibility; 2) density of vessel traffic; 3) maneuverability of the vessel with special reference to stopping distance and turning ability in the prevailing conditions; 4) the presence of background lights from shore or from the back scatter of the vessel’s own lights; 5) the wind, sea, and current conditions; 6) the proximity of navigational hazards; and 7) the draft of the vessel in relation to the depth of the water. Additional factors are considered if the vessel has operational radar such as: 1) the characteristics, efficiency and limitations of the radar; 2) constraints imposed by the radar scale; 3) the effect of sea state, weather, and other sources of interference on the radar; 4) the possibility that small vessels, ice and other floating objects may not be detected by the radar; 5) the number, location, and movement of vessels detected by the radar; and 6) the more exact assessment of visibility that may be possible when radar is used. Although not specifically stated in Rule 6, a court may also consider whether the moving vessel’s speed has an adverse effect on nearby vessels and structures.

Vessel Speed in Limited Visibility Conditions
Rule 19 of the International and Inland rules addresses vessel speed in limited visibility conditions. That rule requires every vessel to “proceed at a safe speed adapted to the prevailing circumstances and condition of restricted visibility.” It requires a power driven vessel to “have her engines ready for immediate maneuver.” It also requires every vessel 1) that hears the fog signal of another vessel apparently forward of her beam; or 2) that cannot avoid a close quarters situation with another vessel forward of her beam, to reduce speed to the minimum at which the vessel can be kept on course. Moreover, if necessary, a vessel is required to take all her way off.

Some courts have determined safe speed in restricted visibility conditions by analyzing the vessel’s stopping distance, using the “half-distance” rule, i.e., a vessel should not operate in fog at a speed that would prevent it from coming to a dead stop in one half of the visibility distance. The rule is based on the possibility that another vessel may be operating on an intersecting course in the fog. If both vessels can stop within one half of the distance of each other, a collision can be avoided.

Effect of the Pennsylvania Rule
When two vessels collide, their speed is among the first things considered by a court when determining fault. A violation of the safe speed rules triggers the application of a presumption of fault under the Pennsylvania rule derived from an 1873 US Supreme Court case arising out of the collision of two vessels in dense fog. Under that rule, if, at the time of a collision, a vessel is in violation of a statutory rule designed to prevent collisions, the burden of proof shifts to the violator to show the violation was not, and could not have been, a contributing cause of the collision. It is one of the most onerous burdens in admiralty law and rarely met. If both vessels involved in a collision have committed a statutory violation, both must meet the required burden of proof.

While US naval vessels enjoy certain immunities under the law, they are not exempt from the Pennsylvania rule. For example, in Bernert Towboat v. USS Chandler, 666 F. Supp. 1454 (D.Or. 1987), the guided missile destroyer USS Chandler was traveling up the Columbia River to Portland for the annual Rose Festival. At the same time, a tug was pushing two loaded barges down the river. The USS Chandler was traveling in excess of 21 kts in a 300-yard-wide channel. Its wake caused one of the barges to become holed and list. The list caused much of the cargo on the barge to spill into the river. The barge was beached to prevent sinking and suffered damage. The court held the USS Chandler’s operation at an excessive speed triggered the Pennsylvania rule. It also held the United States could not prove that the damage to the barge was not caused by the USS Chandler’s wake resulting from its speed. The United States also did not prove the existence of any extenuating circumstances requiring the USS Chandler to operate at a speed that posed a threat to life and property. Because it failed in its proof, the United States was held solely at fault for the barge damage.

Defenses to a Violation of the Speed Rules
Although it is a difficult burden to sustain, it is possible for a vessel owner to avoid liability for violating a speed rule. In Union Oil Company of California v. Tugboat San Jacinto, 409 U.S. 140 (1972), the United States Supreme Court explained the circumstances under which violation of the half distance speed rule might be excused. In that case, the loaded oil tanker Santa Maria was proceeding on the Oregon side of the Columbia River in clear visibility conditions. At the same time, the tug San Jacinto with its tow was proceeding in the opposite direction on the Washington side of the river. As the vessels approached Cooper Point, the watch on the Santa Maria was able to see the San Jacinto visually and on radar. At that time, the vessels were almost two miles apart and on opposite sides of a 500-foot-wide shipping channel.

There was heavy fog around Cooper Point but it was localized on the Washington side of the channel. As the San Jacintoentered the fog on the Washington side off Cooper Point, the watch on the Santa Maria lost sight of it. The watch did not track the tug on radar believing it would stay on the Washington side and that there was ample room for the vessels to safely pass each other.

The San Jacinto reduced its speed when entering the fog and its captain navigated by visual sight of the Washington coast. As the San Jacinto passed Cooper Point, its crew heard one blast of a ship’s horn and responded, but did not see the ship. Shortly thereafter, the tug captain saw range lights which he thought were off his starboard bow. To avoid a collision and while still in heavy fog, he swung the San Jacinto toward the Oregon side of the river and made a U turn. The watch on the Santa Maria saw the tug emerge from the fog at a distance of 900 feet and at a right angle to the tanker. Although full astern was ordered, before the Santa Maria could stop, the barge in tow of the San Jacinto swung across the channel and struck the bow of the Santa Maria, driving the tanker aground.

The district court held the collision was the San Jacinto’s sole fault and any negligence by the Santa Maria was not the proximate cause of the collision. The Ninth Circuit partially reversed, and held the Santa Maria was operating too fast on the edge of a fog bank and could not stop within half the distance between it and the San Jacinto when the tug emerged from the fog. Finding a violation of the speed rules, the Ninth Circuit held the Santa Maria fifty percent at fault because it could not meet its burden under the Pennsylvania rule. The United States Supreme Court reversed. While recognizing the purpose of the half distance rule, the court held the rule is premised on the assumption the vessels are on intersecting courses. In this case, the tanker and tug had been on opposite sides of the channel and the tanker’s visibility ahead was almost two miles. No fault could be imposed on the tanker for “not anticipating the tug’s totally unorthodox maneuver in darting across such a channel” to come on an intersecting course.

All persons in charge of the operation of a vessel must be sure the vessel is operating at a safe speed. Determining safe speed involves consideration of many factors. The operator of a moving vessel involved in a collision will be required to explain the vessel’s speed. The failure to prove the vessel’s speed did not and could not have contributed to the collision will result in the imposition of full or partial liability depending on the fault of the other vessel(s) involved in the collision. It is possible, but difficult, to avoid liability for a collision resulting from violation of a speed rule .

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

Yang Ming Extends LA Terminal Lease

Marine transport company Yang Ming has agreed to extend its lease at the Port of Los Angeles for an additional nine years, the port revealed May 30. Yang Ming’s current lease at the West Basin Container Terminal ends in 2021; with this agreement, the lease is extended to 2030.

“I am happy this agreement will allow the largest, most modern ships to call at Yang Ming and provide cargo growth over the next 17 years,” Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa said. “The port is an economic driver for our region, and its success translates to jobs here in Los Angeles.”

The extension represents additional port revenues of between $365 and $525 million, depending on cargo volumes, according to the port.

In conjunction with the lease extension, Villaraigosa on May 28 signed a Memorandum of Understanding while in Beijing on a trade mission. The MOU provides for the expansion and modernization of the LA port’s Yang Ming terminal facilities. As part of the agreement, the port is required to invest $122 million in improvements at the terminal, including: construction of a new 1,260 linear foot wharf at Berths 126-129; the dredging to a depth of minus-53 feet at the newly constructed wharf; and expansion of the West Basin Intermodal Container Transfer Facility.

The West Basin Container Terminal is a partnership between Yang Ming, China Shipping and Ports America.

“This agreement and lease extension ensures that West Basin Container Terminals will increase its global competitiveness with expanded facilities to handle more cargo,” Port of LA Executive Director Geraldine Knatz said in a statement. “The Port had been making progress on these negotiations, but it was this trade mission and the Mayor’s leadership that closed this important deal.”

China is Los Angeles’ number one trading partner, representing 39.4 percent of LA’s total global trade numbers. In 2012, China’s total trade with the LA Customs District was over $159 billion, according to the City of Los Angeles.

Vigor Industrial, Community College Launching Industrial Training Center

Vigor Industrial is partnering with South Seattle Community College to launch an industrial training center this week at the Harbor Island shipyard in Seattle.

The Harbor Island Training Center, which opens with a ribbon cutting ceremony June 7, aims to serve maritime companies in the Puget Sound region by providing students with the industrial skills needed to get jobs with regional industrial manufacturers.

“There’s a disconnect between industry and a lot of talented, hardworking people in this country,” Sue Haley, Vigor’s senior vice president of human resources, explained. “People want to work and industry needs a highly skilled workforce. However, Vigor and other manufacturers can’t find enough workers with the right skills to fill good-paying jobs. This training center will bridge that disconnect by providing motivated local people with critical industrial skills.”

Under the partnership, Vigor provides the location, equipment and a real-world industrial workplace, Haley said, while the college’s welding and manufacturing programs bring expertise in skills training and instruction.

The training center includes a computer lab, classroom space and an industrial training floor with weld-booths and industrial machining equipment. The shipyard location is expected to allow students to experience how the facility works and learn from veteran workers.

The college, which will administer the program, says it worked closely with industry to design a curriculum that teaches marketable welding and fitting skills for maritime and other manufacturing industries.

“The training program will allow its graduates to obtain the skills that they need to contribute to this booming industry and will keep the Seattle maritime industry a key component of our local economy for many years to come,” South Seattle Community College President Gary Oertli said.

More information about the program is available at

Shipping Lines Receive POLB Environmental Awards

Twenty shipping lines that have engaged in efforts to improve air quality locally by slowing down or deploying cleaner vessels – or both – were honored by the Port of Long Beach during the port’s annual Green Flag and Green Ship awards luncheon May 30.

Long Beach created its Green Flag Program in 2005, and as of 2012 almost 96 percent of all ships calling at Long Beach slowed to 12 knots within 20 nautical miles of the port.

In 2009, the port added a 40 nautical mile option and as of last year, more than 83 percent of vessels slowed from 40 nautical miles, therefore burning less fuel and generating less pollution. Thirteen shipping lines were found to be top performers in 2012, earning Green Flags this year. An additional 10 shipping lines received the first Green Ship awards, a program that since July 2012 has encouraged vessel operators to assign the cleanest ships to Long Beach. Three companies – Hanjin Shipping, Mediterranean Shipping Co. and Orient Overseas Container Line – collected both Green Flags and Green Ship awards during the luncheon.

“These fleets are the top performers in an industry that is working to reduce its environmental impact,” Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners President Susan E. Anderson Wise said.

Since the launch of the ship-slowing program in 2005, more than 200 vessel operators have been awarded Green Flags and qualified for reductions on dockage fees. The port says the program has been instrumental in helping it decrease diesel pollution from all port-related operations by 75 percent since 2005.

Green Flag participants were awarded $2.5 million in dockage fee discounts in 2012 as part of the program. And since the Green Ship Program began in July 2012, the port has awarded $135,000 in incentives.

The full list of 2013 Green Flag and Green Ship award recipients can be seen at:

ACX Remains Leading US Hay Exporter

ACX Pacific Northwest was the leading US exporter of alfalfa and grass hay in 2012, the third straight year it was tops in the category. ACX also moved up a notch in the animal feed category to become the country’s second largest, behind grain shipper DeLong, according to new data.

ACX exported 52,400 TEUs in 2012, representing almost 700,000 tons of long fiber forage, according to the Journal of Commerce. The JOC lists ACX as the 23rd largest exporter in the US overall. Most of ACX’s hay exports are to Asia and Middle East markets.

“When ACX started 35 years ago, we shipped our hay products primarily to Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan for dairy and beef cow markets,” Chief Marketing Officer Mike Gombos stated. “Today we are also shipping to China and the Middle East, not just for dairy and beef, but to feed goats, camels and sheep.”

Exports of US hay continue to grow each year. According to the Department of Commerce, 2008 hay exports totaled about 2.5 million tons; but by the end of 2012, global demand for US hay increased to over 3.7 million tons, and 2013 is on track to reach or exceed those levels.

ACX was the first hay exporter to open a major hay processing facility just outside the Port of Los Angeles and also opened a new facility in the Port of Stockton and began exporting large volumes of hay through the Port of Oakland.

“We located our facility at the Port of Stockton in anticipation of their new barge service to the Port of Oakland on the Marine 580,” Gombos said. The Marine 580 project allows exports of heavy containers by using a barge service operated by the Port of Stockton to transport containers to Oakland.