Friday, June 28, 2013

USCG 13th District: The Maritime Imperative

It is hard to believe almost two years have passed since I took command of US Coast Guard District Thirteen in the Pacific Northwest. While my Change of Command and Retirement after 34 years of service is upon me, I wanted to share with you my observations about the state of “our” maritime community. First and foremost, I could not be more proud of the dedicated and heroic work the men and women of the Coast Guard do each and every day in our very challenging environment. From the outer Pacific Coast, up the Columbia and Snake River systems, through the Straits of Juan de Fuca, into the Puget Sound, and across the rivers and lakes of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana - they stand the watch and do it incredibly well. Second, this region is all about the maritime. All of the work you perform on the water and along the waterfront, in distant waters, and in support of those that put to sea is phenomenal and has an incredible economic impact on our Nation. You are, much like your Coast Guard, part of the fabric of the Pacific Northwest. However, it is clear more needs to be done to tell the maritime story in this region, as too few people truly understand its importance. For the last two years I have been amazed at how quickly the understanding and appreciation for the impact maritime activity has on this region fades as you move away from the waterfront.

Thanks again for the warm welcome you extended me when I arrived, and how you always embrace the Pacific Northwest Coast Guard team. I have worked closely with many of you in our local communities, industry, government and the private sector over the last two years, and I am proud to call you my friends. We have been brought together by business and we have been bonded by a special passion for the sea. In the opinion piece I wrote in this magazine at the beginning of my tour I covered several topics, such as the tremendous value that maritime activity in the Pacific Northwest brings to not only our region, but to the country and the world. I described the important role the Coast Guard plays, and how essential it is to collaborate with industry, elected officials, state, local, federal, international and tribal partners. I also talked about Safety. It is the key to everything the Coast Guard does, and it must be part of your operating culture as well. Our waters are unforgiving and we must all be rigorous in our attention to detail and our unwillingness to compromise - we have all lost too many shipmates, friends and family to the sea. 

The Pacific Northwest is home to the third largest container port (Seattle/Tacoma), the second largest grain export complex (Portland/Vancouver/Seattle/Tacoma), the largest vehicle import operation on the West Coast (Portland), the largest ferry system (Washington), a large portion of our Navy’s fleet (Bangor/Bremerton/Everett), and a large, complex international maritime border. This region is also home to one of the largest and most advanced commercial fishing fleets in the world. These ships harvest locally off the coast of Washington and Oregon, as well as in the distant waters of Alaska and in the Bering Sea. The wonder, beauty and bounty of this region is tremendous and is equaled only by extremely tough weather, harsh coastal conditions and treacherous breaking bars along the coast. Collectively we must work to ensure the safety, security and viability of the waterways in the Pacific Northwest. For the Coast Guard there is no shortage of work as we serve the public, and all of you, each and every day. Last year we conducted 1,631 search and rescue cases, saved 184 lives, assisted another 2,390 people in distress, and saved property valued at over $8 million.

While some Coast Guard members are heralded for their heroic rescues, or critical response and prevention actions; others are hard at work behind the scenes, in concert with all of you, to ensure that maritime activity is conducted safely and securely. In 2012, we conducted more than 2,000 vessel examinations and 530 facility inspections, all with an eye towards safety, security and environmental compliance. These efforts are critical to maritime business and commerce. In meeting many maritime professionals at Harbor Safety Committee meetings, professional seminars, industry meetings, and in discussions with elected leaders, there are a wide range of plans and ideas that may significantly increase commercial traffic in our ports, on our rivers and along our coast. It is also apparent there is concern about what these potential changes may mean. As many of you know, the Coast Guard stands the watch daily overseeing our region’s precious waterways. Whether it is in our regional Command Centers, at our Stations along the coast or from our Cooperative Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) here in Seattle; we are on watch and ready. VTS Puget Sound celebrated its 40th birthday in the fall of 2012, and the men and women who stand the watch monitor the Straits of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound, an area of more than 3,500 square miles. VTS Puget Sound is the nations’ only Vessel Traffic Service working cooperatively with the Canadian Coast Guard to protect our waters and allow traffic to travel seamlessly in our shared and challenging waterways. 

The Coast Guard’s partnership with Canada is extensive and covers the full spectrum of our various mission demands - Aids to Navigation, Search and Rescue, Pollution Prevention and Response, and National Defense to name a few. We work together daily and we recently regularized “Shiprider” operations under a regional agreement I signed with my counterpart from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Prototyped several times since 2005, and signed into law last year, the goal of “Shiprider” is to make the border transparent for law enforcement purposes. RCMP Officers and USCG Officers will work together on the same boats to enforce the laws of both Nations and deter, disrupt and apprehend criminals who look to exploit our maritime boundary.  

Keeping the waterways in our region safe and open for navigation is also one of the Coast Guard’s prime responsibilities. Two years ago the derelict vessel Davy Crocket began to spill oil into the Columbia River and required a very large, complex response led by the Coast Guard. It was difficult, it took a long time, and it was very costly. The take away from that experience is nothing new, but something we must all remember – these waters belong to all of us and we have a shared responsibility to protect them. In the Davy Crocket response the Coast Guard teamed with Federal, state, local and tribal partners to direct the effort that resulted in the recovery of approximately 33,491 gallons of oil, 4.5 million pounds of steel, and 841,796 pounds of debris. To do this type of work, to do it well, and to do it safely requires incredible professionalism. Everyone approached this work with skill, precision and passion, and I ask each of you to bring that same level of professionalism to everything you do in the maritime. We must always grow our collective expertise as professional mariners, maritime management experts, policy makers and law enforcement officers – together we can make the maritime safe and ensure these waters remain productive for generations to come. 

That said, I cannot divorce myself from the fiscal challenges and uncertainty the Coast Guard faces today, as I can only imagine many of you face. We push ourselves every day to be creative, shepherd the resources we have and meet our full array of mission demands. My job is to make sure we remain ready to meet the most urgent of mission needs, that we continue to train our people, and that we always strive for excellence. Given our limited resources, I must manage risk and allocate our ship days, patrol boat hours and flight hours to those activities that address the highest risk we face on and around the water. As I look out of my window here in Seattle, I see our aging fleet of large ships at Pier 36 - they are indispensable to our Nation’s maritime safety, security and environmental stewardship, and we must recapitalize the Coast Guard to ensure our ability to serve the Nation in the future, while at the same time meeting the many mission demands we have today. This is a very tough balance, and it must be done with great planning, a clear eye to the future and strong support for the Coast Guard.

As I said last time, strong relationships, collaboration on the toughest of issues and honest dialogue have long been the trademark here. This has been my personal experience, and has helped move several key initiatives forward over the last two years. But, like most things, much more can, and should be done. The Pacific Northwest maritime story needs to be told, and it is imperative that we protect the waters of the “Great” Pacific Northwest - they are our highways of commerce, the fertile grounds that feed us, the source of much enjoyment, part of our cultural DNA and absolutely critical to the economic vitality of our region and country.

Thank you and Semper Paratus –Always Ready! 

Rear Admiral Keith A. Taylor, Commander of the Thirteenth Coast Guard District headquartered in Seattle, Washington, is responsible for US Coast Guard operations covering 4 states, more than 4,400 miles of coastline, 600 miles of inland waterways, and a 125-mile international border with Canada. Rear Admiral Taylor is a career aviator with over 4,700 flight hours. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the US Coast Guard Academy, a Master of Science in Industrial Administration degree from Purdue University and a Master of Business Administration degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he was a Sloan Fellow.


Report: California 5th Biggest Shipbuilding State in US

California ranks fifth in shipbuilding and repair among US states, while Washington is ranked in the top 10, according to a new report.

The report, compiled by the US Maritime Administration, states that California has 7.6 percent of the country’s shipbuilding market, behind Virginia with 24.9 percent, Louisiana with 12.1 percent, Mississippi at 9.4 percent and Connecticut with 8.3 percent.

California employs 8,100 dockworkers in shipbuilding and ship repair, accounting for $777 million in gross domestic product, according to the report.

Washington state ranks ninth on the list with 3.3 percent of the shipbuilding market, according to the MARAD data.

Currently there are 117 shipyards spread across 26 US states that are classified as active shipbuilders. In addition, there are over 200 shipyards engaged in ship repairs or capable of building ships but not actively engaged in shipbuilding, according to MARAD. The majority of shipyards are located in the coastal states, but there are also active shipyards on major inland waterways such as the Great Lakes, the Mississippi River, and the Ohio River.

Employment in shipbuilding and repairing is concentrated in a relatively small number of coastal states, with the top five states accounting for 62 percent of all private employment in the shipbuilding and repairing industry.

The nation’s shipyards support $36 billion in gross domestic product, the report says. It also notes that although most shipbuilders are located in coastal areas, the direct and indirect economic benefits reach all 50 states.

For example, in 2011 the nation’s more than 300 shipyards directly provided more than 107,000 jobs, $7.9 billion in labor income to the national economy and contributed $9.8 billion in gross domestic product.

The average income for these industry jobs is $73,000, 45 percent higher than the national average, according to the report.

From 2010 to 2012, deliveries of vessels of all types -- including tugs and towboats, passenger vessels, commercial and fishing vessels, and oceangoing and inland barges -- exceeded 1,200 vessels per year, reaching 1,457 vessels in 2011.

The report, titled The Economic Importance of the U.S. Shipbuilding and Repairing Industry, can be seen at



Port of Everett Hires New CFO

After a nationwide search, the Port of Everett has hired City of Bellingham Finance Director John Carter to fill the Chief Financial Officer post left open by the imminent retirement of current CFO Karen Clements.

The hiring represents a homecoming of sorts for the new CFO: Carter, 58, grew up in Everett. He’s expected to assume his new position Aug. 12.

“I am very excited to work for such a great organization, with such outstanding opportunities, and, to do so in a place where I have deep family roots is an added bonus,” he said in a statement released by the port.

Carter, a Certified Public Accountant licensed in Washington state, received his bachelor’s degree in accounting from Central Washington University. Prior to working as the City of Bellingham’s Director of Finance the past five years, he spent 18 years in the port industry as the CFO at the Port of Bellingham.

At the Port of Everett, Carter will be responsible for the port’s $56 million-plus capital and operating budgets, its investment portfolios, risk management, bond issuance and overseeing information technology. He’ll also participate in union negotiations, lead staff efforts for the state and federal audits and manage the port’s industrial development corporation.

The position comes with a starting salary range of between $125,000 and $135,000 annually.

“John comes to the port highly recommended for his abilities to blend financial management with strategic planning and investments,” Port of Everett Executive Director John Mohr said. “We have numerous opportunities at the Port of Everett, but these opportunities take strategic financing plans and analysis to realize. John is the right person to help us navigate this growth period.”

The port’s current CFO, Karen Clements, retires in September after 18 years on the job.


Shipping, Cruise Lines Honored by LA Port

The Port of Los Angeles on June 25 honored 26 shipping and cruise lines for participating in the port’s Vessel Speed Reduction Program initiative, which involves the lowering of vessel speeds when ships approach the port.

The VSRP, which was established in 2001, is a voluntary program designed to reduce emissions from ocean-going vessels by slowing their speeds as they approach or depart the port at either 20 or 40 nautical miles offshore. The port pays incentives to shipping lines that achieve a 90 percent or higher participation rate in VSRP in a calendar year.

The port says that in 2012, it achieved 100-percent compliance for 543 vessels at 20 nautical miles and 386 vessels at 40 nautical miles. The voluntary actions helped reduce 73 tons of diesel particulate matter as well as 740 tons of sulfur oxide and 981 tons of nitrogen oxide emissions.

VSRP honorees this year included APL, China Navigation Co., China Shipping, CMA CGM, Crystal Cruises, CSAV, Evergreen Marine Corp., Grieg Star Shipping A/S, Hamburg SUD, Hanjin Shipping Co., Hapag-Lloyd AG, Hyundai Merchant Marine Co., Kawasaki Kisen Kaish, Maersk Line, Mitsui Bulkship, Mitsui OSK Lines, MSC Mediterranean Shipping, Nippon Yusen Kaisha, Nissan Motor Car Carrier, Norwegian Cruise Line, Orient Overseas Container Line, Princess Cruises, Saga Forest Carriers Intl. AS, Tesoro, Tokyo Marine Co. and Yang Ming Marine Transport.

Additionally, for the first time, the port also honored 12 ship carriers for their participation in the Environmental Ship Index (ESI), an international clean air program rewarding ocean carriers for bringing their newest and cleanest vessels to the port.

The program, which is also underway at several large European ports, involves a web-based tool that tracks and rewards vessel operators for voluntary engine, fuel and technology enhancements that reduce emissions from ships beyond the regulatory environmental standards set by the International Maritime Organization. Vessels calling on the port can earn financial incentives by meeting certain environmental and emission requirements tracked by the web-based tool.

Honored for their participation in the ESI program were K-Line America, APL, CMA CGM, Evergreen Line, Hamburg Sud, Hapag-Lloyd AG, Maersk Line, Mediterranean Shipping Co., MOL, Nippon Yusen Kaisha, OOCL and Yang Ming Marine Transport.

“We applaud our shipping and cruise lines for embracing our vision for a greener, cleaner port,” Port of LA Executive Director Geraldine Knatz said. “Our customers’ voluntary participation in these important emission reduction programs greatly contributes to better, healthier air quality in and around the San Pedro Bay.”



PMSA President to Receive Containerization Award

Pacific Merchant Shipping Association President John McLaurin has been chosen by the Containerization and Intermodal Institute to receive its 2013 Connie Award for his work in the industry.

“John McLaurin received many nominations and votes focused on his leadership and commitment of PMSA to the variety of issues with which all are involved,” CII President Michael DiVirgilio said. “This includes the environment, the citizens, community, economic programs, the California transportation policies-which also impact national subjects-and the lobbying he has led in these areas.”

The Connie Award was established by the Containerization & Intermodal Institute in 1972 to recognize individuals that have made extraordinary contributions to the evolution of containerized shipping and intermodalism.

The PMSA, which was founded in 1919 and has offices in San Francisco, Seattle and Long Beach, Calif., is an independent, not-for-profit shipping association that focuses on issues affecting international trade. On behalf of its members, the PMSA engages in community affairs and legislative and regulatory processes in California and Washington state. It provides members with an array of information services, including regular updates on matters of interest to the shipping industry, and serves as a clearinghouse for environmental practices across the industry.

McLaurin is expected to be honored during an event scheduled for Thurs., Sept. 26, at the Renaissance Hotel in Long Beach.



Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sea Powerless

“Speak softly, and carry a big stick.”

Teddy Roosevelt uttered the famous phrase in a speech in 1901, and for better or worse, the “Big Stick” theory dominated his foreign policy, and colored the foreign policy of the US going forward.
John F. Kennedy used the phrase in 1960 in describing his governing style of being liberal at home and careful abroad. The former naval officer demonstrated the practice during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when he used the US Navy to establish a blockade of Cuba, keeping the Soviets from establishing ballistic nuclear missiles on the island. Ronald Reagan also subscribed to the big stick theory, which is credited with having helped the US win the Cold War. During their presidencies, both Kennedy and Reagan gave rousing speeches at Berlin’s Brandenburg gate, pledging America’s might to help defeat the forces of communism.
Last month, President Obama also spoke at the Brandenburg Gate, speaking softly, but without the big stick. The President said the defeat of communism came not from “all the power of militaries” but instead from “the yearning of justice,” which was “supported by an airlift of hope” and the values of “openness” and “tolerance.” The Berlin Wall came down, he said, because the German people wanted it to.

He then told the crowd of Germans something he hadn’t yet mentioned to his own country: “So long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe,” and pledged to reduce US deployed strategic nuclear weapons by up to one-third, thereby reducing the US big stick to a medium stick, at best, and surrendering US nuclear superiority for the first time since the invention of atomic weapons.
Meanwhile the US fleet is less than half as large as it was during the Cold War. The defense budget since 9/11 has averaged 4.1% of GDP, but under the budgets projected by the Obama administration, the figure will drop to 2.5% in less than a decade. Last month, Rep. Randy Forbes (R, VA), chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on sea power, told a group at Washington’s Hudson Institute, “In 2007, the Navy was able to meet about 90 percent of America’s combatant commanders’ need [for ships]. This year that figure will fall to 51 percent.”

The White House has been embarrassed by a long list of scandals, the latest involving the defection of an NSA employee to China with a USB key full of US State secrets. Meanwhile, China, which remains a communist superpower, wielding a big stick and making no effort at conciliatory speech, continues to increase the size and capability of its Navy. And yet, for the first time in history, the Obama administration has invited China’s People’s Liberation Army to participate in the 2014 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise, an annual maritime exercise of US ally nations, where the superpower is likely to learn even more about US military strategy, tactics and procedures.
With participation in the RIMPAC exercise, China’s military and naval intelligence agencies will continue to add to their growing operational and intelligence arsenal, while the US continues to whittle away the stick of naval power in exchange for “yearning, hope, openness and tolerance.”

Supreme Court Partially Overturns Port of LA Truck Regs

The US Supreme Court has ruled that two components of the Port of Los Angeles’ anti-smog Clean Truck Program are to be overturned because they violate federal law.

Specifically, the court was unanimous in striking down the sections of the ports’ regulations requiring trucking firms to create plans for off-street parking and to post placards on drayage trucks with a phone number people could call to report safety or pollution concerns.

In its decision, written by Justice Elena Kagan, the Court cites the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act, which states that the enforcement of any state or local “law, regulation, or other provision having the force and effect of law related to a price, route, or service of any motor carrier,” is prohibited.

The Court concluded that the overturned elements fell within the scope of the FAAAA’s preemption provision.

The Clean Truck Program was devised by the port in 2007 in response to the then-growing problem of air pollution caused by older, pollution spewing drayage trucks hauling goods to and from Los Angeles and the adjoining Port of Long Beach. The major components of the anti-pollution program were left untouched by the Supreme Court, including a ban on older, more polluting trucks from the port.

In 2008, the American Trucking Associations sued the City of Los Angeles to try having elements of the program overturned. After the Supreme Court’s 9-0 ruling, the ATA issued a statement hailing the decision.

“We are gratified that, at the conclusion of many years of litigation, the highest court in the land unanimously agreed with ATA on these rules,” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said in the statement. “Our position has always been that the port’s attempt to regulate drayage operators – in ways that had nothing to do with its efforts to improve air quality at the port – was inconsistent with Congress’ command that the trucking industry be shaped by market forces, rather than an incompatible patchwork of state and local regulations.”

The City of Los Angeles also issued a response to the ruling, saying it was “reviewing the Supreme Court’s decision,” but intends to continue its anti-pollution efforts “to the extent the law allows.”

The Supreme Court’s decision can be read in full at



Port of Port Angeles Head Resigns, is Rehired

Jeff Robb, citing what he called “serious health issues,” resigned as executive director of the Port of Port Angeles this week, but was immediately hired by the port commission at the same salary to fill a newly-created job.

Robb, who has been with the Port of Port Angeles since 1984, was promoted to executive director in August 2009. On June 24, 2013, he submitted his resignation.

“I have had a number of serious health issues for a number of months that have not improved with time,” he told the commission during the meeting.

But on a 2-1 vote, with Commission President Jim Hallett against, the commission awarded Robb a one-year contract as port director of environmental affairs effective July 31.

Port Commissioners John Calhoun and Paul McHugh voted in favor of the new contract, but Hallett dissented, saying he felt the environmental affairs position should be advertised and other candidates interviewed.

In his new role, Robb is scheduled to make the same salary he received as executive director, $138,000.

Robb’s resignation this week marked the second time in three resignations that he wound up staying with the port. He left at the end of 1998 to become director of airport operations and real estate for the Port of Bremerton but returned to the Port of Port Angeles in October 1999.

Then in 2008, Robb was hired to become public works director for the city of Sequim, but eventually declined to take the job after deciding instead to stay with the port.


Oakland Port Installs 1st West Coast Visibility Sensor

The Port of Oakland has become the first port on the West Coast to embrace FS11 Vaisala visibility sensor technology. It recently placed a maritime visibility sensor at its Ben E. Nutter Terminal at Berth 38.

The Vaisala FS11 is an instrument that uses forward-scattering technology to measure the amount of scattering of an infrared beam in a small volume of air between a transmitter and receiver, resulting in an extrapolated visibility at a set distance out to 5.4 nautical miles. This is accomplished by the transmitter making continuous infrared light pulses.

The instrument only captures the visibility at that single height and location, but not small-scale differences in the air mass, such as patchy fog or low-lying fog.

Mobile Bay, Alabama is the only other major port in the nation to install visibility sensors.

“One of the benefits of this new sensor technology is that it provides good data and consistent results without being dependent on human observation,” Port of Oakland Acting Maritime Director Jean Banker said. “The equipment is also designed to be operationally reliable even during the harshest weather.”

The Nutter terminal is operated by Seaside Transportation Services and home to Evergreen Marine Corp.

Port of Oakland Chief Wharfinger Chris Peterson called the installation the culmination of a two-year project that included the port, the San Francisco Harbor Safety Committee, U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Francisco, Marine Exchange of SF Bay, NOAA’s National Weather Service Office Monterey and NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services. “Adding this new capability provides more information to the San Francisco Bar Pilots, the Coast Guard and other mariners on the bay for safer and more efficient navigation of ships in difficult and changing weather conditions, in particular foggy days on the bay,” Peterson said.

Real-time data from the sensors are disseminated on NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services website:



Seattle Year-Over-Year TEU Volumes Still Down

The shift of the Grand Alliance of shippers to Tacoma from the Port of Seattle is still being felt at Seattle, as the port’s year-over-year container volumes were down 26 percent for May 2013 vs. 2012 and down 22.5 percent year-to-date.

However, with the Grand Alliance volume shift factored out, Seattle’s full outbound volumes are up 4.3 percent YTD, according to port data.

In May, Port of Seattle terminals saw a total of 129,022 TEUs, down from over 174,000 TEUs in May 2012. Of the 129,000, full inbound containers made up the largest portion -- 44,770 TEUs – followed by full outbound, at 37,378 TEUs.

For the calendar year to date, Seattle has shipped 647,411 TEUs, a drop of over 187,700 containers from the same five months last year.

As a region, the ports of Seattle and Tacoma are down 8.5 percent for May 2013 vs. 2012 and down 0.6 percent YTD, according to Port of Seattle data.

The Grand Alliance began three new calls each week at the Port of Tacoma’s Washington United Terminals in July 2012 and since the shift, Tacoma has seen year-over-year container volume increases while Seattle has experienced the opposite.

The shift is expected to impact Port of Seattle year-over-year container volume comparisons until mid-year.