Tuesday, July 2, 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.”

Port of Pasco Picks New Executive Director

Port of Pasco Director of Planning and Engineering Randy Hayden has been chosen to become the port’s new executive director, and will take over for current director Jim Toomey, who is retiring at the end of 2013.

Hayden, who’s been with the port since 2000, was chosen via a unanimous decision vote by the Port of Pasco Commission on June 27. Under the Commission’s action, Hayden was appointed deputy executive director effective July 1, and will then move up to fill the executive director seat upon Toomey’s retirement.

Under the plan, Hayden’s salary now increases from $117,000 annually to $120,000.

“I am humbled and honored by your decision,” Hayden told the three-member Commission June 27.

The Port of Pasco, located in the Tri-Cities region of Washington State, manages a 28-acre marine terminal, 15-acre multi-modal rail/barge terminal, 600-acre industrial center, the Tri-Cities Airport and numerous other properties, with the assets worth more than $130 million dollars.

Hayden’s priorities, according to the Commission, will include industrial development and business recruitment, as well as a major airport expansion.

The Tri-Cities Airport is currently planning the largest expansion project in its history: a $36 million project that would nearly double the size of the existing terminal. Construction’s slated to begin in early 2014.


Litigation Fear Led to Port Angeles Rehiring, Commissioner Says

It was the fear of a lawsuit being filed that led the Port of Port Angeles Commission to rehire executive director Jeff Robb to a different job at the same pay after he resigned June 24, according to one port commissioner.

In a June 27 interview with the Peninsula Daily News, which covers Washington state’s North Olympic Peninsula, Port Commissioner John Calhoun said Robb was awarded a one-year contract to become the port’s environmental affairs director because the relationship between Robb and senior members of port staff had become so dysfunctional that it had become possible that either party could sue.
“To avoid that, we settled on this course of action,” Calhoun told the newspaper.

Robb submitted his resignation as executive director on June 24 citing health problems.

“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.

Calhoun said Robb’s health problems were caused by stress.

Immediately after his resignation, Robb was hired by the port commission at the same salary -- $138,000 annually -- to fill the newly-created, previously unadvertised environmental affairs director position.

The vote was 2-1, with Commission President Jim Hallett against. Robb’s one-year contract that is effective July 31. The hiring has been characterized as “a sweetheart deal” because Robb is one year away from retirement and from qualifying for state retirement benefits.

Robb, who has been with the Port of Port Angeles since 1984, was promoted to executive director in August 2009. If he completes his upcoming one-year contract, he’ll have 30 years of service with the port.

Port Angeles has retained executive-search firm Waldron & Co. to find candidates for the executive director position, and the commission says it hopes to name an interim director at its July 8 meeting.


Camas-Washougal Port Awards Marina Contract

The Port of Camas-Washougal has awarded a contract for a reconstruction and maintenance project at the port’s 350-slip marina in Washougal to an Oregon-based company, Legacy Contracting.

Legacy secured the contract with a bid of just under $404,000. The work to be done includes reconstruction and replacement of aging walkways, floats and pilings.

Floats for the docks, the plumbing, pilings and electrical installation will be provided by four Washougal-based subcontractor businesses.

According to port executive director David Ripp, the window for in-water work that was approved by the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife is Oct. 1 through Nov. 30. Work done during this time includes replacement of deteriorated wood pilings with 65-foot steel pilings to help anchor the floating dock system.

“We will be able to complete this project with minimal inconvenience to our tenants and boaters during the less busy fall and winter seasons,” Ripp said.

Substantial completion of the project is scheduled for Jan. 31, 2014.

The port says it anticipates intermittent power outages during the project that will affect tenants in the upper and lower portions of the marina and that there will also be limited access to the docks during the headwalk section replacement.
Detailed information is expected be provided to marina tenants throughout the process, according to the port. Written notices of construction plans are expected to be supplemented by signage in the marina as well as information on the website project page at http://portcw.com/index.php/projects/2013_marina_projects/.


Shipping Industry Confidence Rising, Study Says

Overall confidence in the shipping industry rose to its highest level in two and a half years during the three months that ended May 2013, according to a new survey by shipping adviser Moore Stephens.

According to the survey, there was evidence of increased enthusiasm for new investment, although doubts persisted about the availability of bank finance.

In May 2013, the average confidence level expressed by respondents in the markets in which they operate was 5.9 on a scale of 1to 10, compared to the figure of 5.8 recorded in the previous survey in February 2013.

It marks the highest figure since a 6.0 recorded in November 2010. The survey was launched in May 2008 with a confidence rating of 6.8.

The likelihood of survey respondents making a major investment or significant development over the next 12 months was up marginally from the previous survey. On a scale of 1 to 10, the number rose from 5.5 to 5.6 – the highest level since a 5.7 was recorded in February 2011.

Demand trends, competition and finance costs were the top three factors cited by respondents overall as those likely to influence performance most significantly over the coming year.

For demand trends, the overall numbers were down one percentage point to 22 percent; competition numbers were static at 20; and finance costs were also unchanged at 16 percent, according to Moore Stephens.

After the top three, tonnage supply was in fourth place at 12 percent, a decrease of one percentage point from the previous three month period.

The number of respondents overall who expressed an increased expectation of higher rates in the tanker sector over the next 12 months was up by two percentage points to 37 percent. For the dry bulk sector, there was a 10 percentage-point fall, from the highest figure in the life of the survey three months ago to 40 percent this time, in the overall numbers of those anticipating rate increases.

In the container ship market, there was an eight percentage-point fall in the overall numbers expecting rates to go up, to 26 percent from 34 percent.