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Friday, September 20, 2013

Towing Industry Sees Changes

The Ocean & Coastal Towing sector has been seeing a number of changes over the past few years, most specifically the adoption of Articulated Tug/Barge (ATB) units for most coastal petroleum movement and the rising importance of offshore oil work for tug & barge owners. Seattle-based Foss Marine Holdings has sold its Columbia River and Boston tug operations while merging its remaining business units under the name “Foss Maritime Company” and preparing for a stronger commitment to offshore work in the Arctic. At the same time, Crowley Maritime has opened up a new project management office in Singapore to support its expanding operations in Southeast Asia while also teaming with Alaska’s Bowhead Transport Company to form Bowhead-Crowley for supply operations in the Arctic. Crowley has also completed its decade-long articulated tug/barge (ATB) building program, giving it a fleet of 17 modern ATBs with capacities ranging from 155,000 to 330,000 barrels.

Other tug and barge operators have also been adding new equipment, with Portland-based Gunderson turning out deck barges for both Northland Services of Seattle and Oregon’s Sause Bros. Gunderson is still awaiting a potential contract from coal exporter Ambre Energy for a possible 20 coal barges for Columbia River employment. This same work has the interest of Portland’s Vigor Industrial, which is completing a crane-equipped deck barge for Seattle’s Harley Marine. Harley has already taken delivery of a new 125-foot by 35-foot ASD tug from Portland’s Diversified yard (see Pacific Maritime Magazine, July 2013), with both vessels to be employed in Alaska.

ATBs Take Over
The ATB revolution, which got off to a slow start back in the 1970s, came into its own during the 1990s with the incorporation of sophisticated coupling equipment. To date, Crowley’s construction program represents the largest single investment in the ATB concept and has seen a major share of the Pacific Coast product trade shifted to pushed barges. This same shift has taken place along the Gulf and East coasts where such operators as New York’s Bouchard Transportation have also invested heavily in the concept.

ATBs are also being used to handle other freight. The Great Lakes have seen a number of the units employed in the dry bulk sector, often making use of old ship hulls minus engines to create the pushed barge. Unfortunately, one of these sets, the tug Victory coupled to the converted barge James L. Kuber, formerly the steamship Reserve, suffered a separation on Lake Superior earlier this year but without pollution or injury. The barge, which had more than 21,000 tons of iron ore on board, was eventually rounded up by the US Coast Guard’s 140-foot tug Thunder Bay and Purvis Marine’s 132-foot tug Anglian Lady, with assistance provided by the nearby ore carrier Saginaw. Separations of ATB units have been rare and only minor repairs were needed to return Victory and James L. Kuber, both operated by Grand River Navigation, to service.

To Africa and Back
Illustrating the flexibility ATBs can offer in the dry cargo trades has been a three-and-a-half-month voyage made by Foss International’s ATB set Thunder/Lightning to West Africa and back earlier this year. Formerly owed by the Jore Group, the 1978/82-built Thunder/Lightning, along with sister ATB Strong/Mariner, feature barges equipped with a bow door that allows cargo to be handled roll-on/roll-off style. This makes the vessels a good fit for serving ports where cargo handling gear is minimal. In the case of Thunder/Lightning, which has been handling US aid cargos, the ATB’s first stop was Freetown, Sierra Leone where 40 containers were discharged. Because of bad roads and broken-down equipment it took more than a day to get the boxes moved just ten miles to a storage warehouse, their final destination.

Things were a little better at the next stop, Lomé, Togo, where 47 containers were off-loaded in relatively good time. However, their final destination, Bamako, Mali, was more than 900 miles inland and Foss had to take care of logistics. Because of recent hostilities in Mali, Foss elected to hire an established local contractor, Central African Transport, to move the boxes inland using guarded truck convoys.
The ATB’s last stop was Douala, Cameroon where 112 containers were discharged at a relatively well-equipped terminal. Prior to the West African trip Thunder/Lightning had received a major overhaul in Singapore after which the ATB was contracted to transport US military equipment from the Philippines back to the United States.

Crowley’s Asian Barges
With its own ATB fleet now fully built out, Crowley Maritime has been looking at other opportunities in the tug and barge sector. South East Asia has been showing potential and the company is opening a new project management office in Singapore to oversee two heavy-lift deck barges it is having built in China, an order that contains options for an additional two. The first two 400-foot by 120-foot barges, to be named HDB 01 and HDB 02, will have 25-foot side shells and a deck strength of 4,200 pounds per square foot. This will give them enough capacity to accommodate the large drilling and production units now being used for deepwater offshore work in the region. Additionally, the Chinese-built barges will have larger capacity ballast systems to deal with the high tidal ranges found in Southeast Asia. They will also have enough internal strength to withstand sitting on the bottom while being loaded if port requirements and water depths dictate.

Designed by Crowley subsidiary Jensen Maritime, the twin barges will be ABS-classed and have a deadweight capacity of around 20,000 metric tons. According to Craig Tornga, Crowley’s vice president of Solutions, both will be positioned to Batam, Indonesia after being delivered early next year. “This move not only allows us to broaden our geographical reach, but will also allow for more efficient turnkey solutions within the areas in which our customers are focused,” said Tornga. “It is also important for us to be able to support the operation and market growth with dedicated equipment, which is why we are investing in the construction of two new barges for the region.”

New Alaska Joint Venture
Crowley is also continuing to invest heavily in a region it already knows very well: Alaska. Earlier this year it teamed up with Bowhead Transport Company to form a new joint venture, UIC Bowhead-Crowley, to provide marine services in Alaska’s Arctic region. Bowhead Transport is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ukpeaġvik Iñupiat Corporation (UIC), the Alaska Native Village Corporation based in Barrow, Alaska. Both companies have longstanding histories of providing services in the Arctic, with Bowhead operating a common carriage service for 30 years to the coastal communities of the region while Crowley has been providing marine transportation, energy support and petroleum distribution services in the 49th state for more than 60 years.

According to Crowley’s vice president, Anchorage, Bruce Harland, the UIC Bowhead-Crowley venture will focus mainly on the oil and gas industries in Alaska and supporting their growing needs in the Arctic by offering marine, logistics and transportation services. “This new partnership is really tailored to meet the needs of customers in the oil and gas; mining and minerals; and engineering, procurement and construction management industries,” said Harland. “Crowley has provided turnkey marine solutions in the Arctic for many years utilizing the company’s diverse capabilities, assets and world-class project management skill..." We look to provide greater efficiency, lower costs, expanded capabilities and higher value to our customers through the joint venture.” Jim Dwight, general manager of Bowhead, noted that because of the companies’ “strong ties” to the communities in which they work, they will be able to facilitate local hire and provide local expertise.

Foss Moves North
Seattle’s Foss Maritime has also been long active in Alaska and has been moving more assets into the region. This past spring the company’s tug Halle Foss was again moved north to act as tender for the petroleum barge Washington operated by sister company Delta Western. Working out of Bristol Bay, the tug and barge combination delivers fuel to more than 50 communities in Western Alaska.

The more remote villages are served by transshipping the fuel to three shallow-draft tug/barge teams that can navigate the shallow rivers to reach their destinations. One of these tugs, the Capt. Frank Moody, draws only 3½ feet of water and was completed by the Foss yard at Rainier, Oregon in 2011. Earlier this year the same yard completed a sister tug, the 73-foot-long Emmett Foss, which will be operated by the company on Alaska projects where shallow water is encountered. Besides its shallow draft the 1,437 horsepower tug has a bollard pull of 25,000 pounds, making it ideally suited to handle barges carrying modules or other kinds of heavy freight that must make a beach landing.

Red Dog Mine
Farther north, in the Chukchi Sea, Foss is continuing its seasonal lightering operations in support of Alaska’s Red Dog Mine where between 1.2 million and 1.4 million tons of ore will be transshipped to deep draft bulk carriers this year. The seasonal operation uses the loading barges Kivalina and Noatak, along with the tugs Iver Foss, Stacey Foss, Sidney Foss and Sandra Foss. New to the operation this year have been lighter weight wheeled loaders used to handle ore on the barges. The machines weigh about 60 percent less than the units they’ve replaced and consume about 60 percent less fuel. Both barges also received new scale systems used to weigh the ore they carry, as well as new electronics for monitoring draft, at the Foss yard at Seattle this past winter.

Arctic Class Tugs
An even larger commitment to the north is getting underway at Foss’ Columbia River yard where work has commenced on the construction of the first of three Arctic class tugs designed by Foss along with its naval architecture partner Glosten Associates. To be built in modular sections, the 132-foot vessels will have ice-strengthened hulls and will be powered by Caterpillar C280-8 main engines that meet the latest environmental standards. In addition, there will be no ballast tanks carried, thus eliminating the chance that invasive species might be transported, and holding tanks for both black and gray water will be provided to permit operations in “no discharge zones.” Energy efficient LED lighting will also be used where possible and all hydraulic oil systems will be compatible with biodegradable oil.

Designed to achieve in excess of 100 metric tons of bollard pull, the first of the new tugs is to be delivered in December of next year while the latter two will follow in 2015 and 2016. Gary Faber, Foss’ President and Chief Operating Officer, said the tugs have been designed specifically to withstand harsh-environment Arctic operations and will allow Foss to “compete for global opportunities” in the rapidly evolving oil and gas industry. This includes the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas off Alaska where Foss already has five vessels committed to Shell’s arctic offshore exploration program.

Better Barges
Two other operators are having new barges built for eastern Pacific operation, one for Alaska employment and the other for the run between the West Coast and Hawaii. Seattle-based Harley Marine chose Crowley’s Jensen Maritime to design a 250-foot by 70-foot deck barge that will carry a 230-ton lift capacity Manitowoc 4100 crawler crane for cargo handling. To be christened Iliuliuk Bay upon completion later this year by Portland’s U.S. Fab, the barge will be used between Dutch Harbor and Akutan, Alaska to carry containers and general cargo.

The vessel’s deck design features both D-rings to secure containers stacked up to three high as well as eight lashing bars running fore and aft for over-sized freight, such as heavy construction machinery. Already completed and due to enter service shortly is the 362-foot by 105-foot barge Columbia, built by Gunderson at Portland for Sause Bros. of Coos Bay and to be employed between Sause’s Teevin Terminal on the Columbia River at Rainier, Oregon and Kalaeloa Harbor (Barbers Point) on the island of Oahu.

Designed by Hockema & Whalen Associates of Seattle, the new barge has a maximum deck load of 3,650 pounds per square foot and a deadweight of 14,000 short tons. “The launch of Columbia is an exciting time for Sause Bros. because we will soon be able to offer even better, economically viable service to our customers in both Hawaii and Oregon,” said Sause General Manager of Columbia River Service, Jeff Browning, who noted that Sause also plans to update its fleet of tugs by utilizing the latest engine technology in conjunction with ultra-low sulphur diesel fuel. Several Sause tugs are currently being repowered by the firm’s associated Southern Oregon Marine yard at Coos Bay with the goal of achieving an overall carbon reduction of 80 percent on the Hawaii common carrier run by the end of next year.


FMC Examining New China Transport Tax

The Federal Maritime Commission says it’s looking into the potential impact on US waterborne cargo of new regulations by China regarding a nationwide value-added tax on international transportation services.

Under the tax revamp, companies pay on the value added during the business process; the previous business tax was set at five percent of a company’s total sales. Some businesses say the change has resulted in an increase in their tax burden.

China implemented the new tax on Aug. 1, 2013.

The Commission says its action is a response to a number of maritime industry stakeholders expressing concerns regarding the application of the tax. The FMC says it has received requests for assistance from the shipping community to clarify the tax’s application and scope and that its staff is gathering information on the tax through cooperative efforts with other US federal agencies, the US Embassy and various US Consulates in China.

Information is also being gathered from the private sector, including carriers and non-vessel-operating common carriers, according to the FMC.

In a Sept. 18 statement, the Commission said that after conducting a closed meeting on the issue, it’s concerned that there may be negative impacts on oceanborne international commerce between the United States and China.

The FMC says that ocean carriers and NVOCCs it regulates appear to be collecting the new tax, and that it’s considering a range of options to obtain further clarity on the new tax’s application.

Pacific Northwest Ports Back Maritime Goods Legislation

The Port of Seattle and other stakeholders have come out in support of proposed legislation that would repeal the federal Harbor Maintenance Tax and replace it with a maritime goods movement fee, saying that it would save thousands of jobs in the region.

The legislation was proposed in August 2013 by U.S. senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, both Washington state Democrats. They say the problem with the current Harbor Maintenance Tax, which is levied on imports and funds the operation and maintenance of seaports throughout the US, is not being fully collected.

Shippers can avoid paying the tax by shipping goods through other ports in Canada and Mexico and then transporting those goods into our country via truck and rail.

But the senators say they have a solution to the problem. Their bill would repeal the Harbor Maintenance Tax and replace it with the Maritime Goods Movement User Fee, the proceeds of which would be used for port operation and maintenance.

The senators say the fee would nearly double the amount of funds available for American ports by ensuring that shippers cannot avoid the fee by using ports in Canada and Mexico. In a Sept. 17 statement, the Port of Seattle expressed strong support for the bill.

“The Port of Seattle applauds Senator Murray and Senator Cantwell for being strong champions for our nation’s ports by sponsoring the Maritime Goods Movement Act,” the statement reads in part. “The bill significantly increases investments in America’s maritime and freight infrastructure system.”

The legislation would also set aside a portion of the user fee for critical low-use ports that are at a competitive disadvantage for federal funding, and create a grant program using a percentage of the collected user fees to improve the U.S. intermodal transportation system.

“By leveling the playing field and encouraging competition, this legislation could preserve 10,000 jobs between Seattle and Tacoma alone,” the Port of Seattle said in its statement. “The bill deserves serious consideration among stakeholders and the Port of Seattle will look for ways to build support for the proposal.”

The ports of Tacoma, Grays Harbor and Vancouver, Washington have also endorsed the legislation, according to the senators, as have the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association and the Washington Council on International Trade.

Redwood City Port Commission Selects First Woman Chair

Lorianna Kastrop has been elected chair of the five-member Redwood City Port Commission, becoming the first woman to hold the position in the port’s 76-year history.

In June 2008, Kastrop became just the second woman in history appointed to the Port Commission. The first was Marguerite Leipzig, in the early 1980s, after having served on the Redwood City Council, including two years as mayor.

Kastrop was reappointed to a second four-year term on the Commission in 2012.

Kastrop is vice president and controller of The Kastrop Group, Inc. architectural firm, of which her husband, Michael, is principal architect. She also has long history of community involvement in Redwood City, including a stint as a member of the Redwood City Elementary School Board from 1997 to 2001, during which she received a Master of Boardsmanship award from the California School Boards Association.

As of Sept. 4, she succeeded Commissioner Dick Dodge as board chair. Additionally, Commissioner Tom Cronin was elected vice-chair and Commissioner Ralph Garcia was named board secretary.

The Port of Redwood City, located 18 nautical miles south of San Francisco, is the sole deep-water port in the South San Francisco Bay. Its specialties include bulk, neo-bulk and liquid cargoes.

LA Port to Hold Public Update on Waterfront Plans

The Port of Los Angeles plans to hold a public meeting at 6 pm Tues., Sept. 24 to update the public on LA Waterfront project initiatives, including recently completed projects, current projects and future plans.

The meeting is scheduled to be held at the Crown Plaza Hotel in San Pedro.

“Over the past decade, we’ve made tremendous improvements along the LA Waterfront, transforming it into a visitor-friendly destination,” port Executive Director Geraldine Knatz said in a statement. “The purpose of this annual meeting is to provide the community with updates on our progress this past year and what is underway or on the horizon.”

Recently completed projects include Cabrillo Way Marina, the “Ghost Fish” art installation at the San Pedro Slip, the Catalina Express Terminal, parking upgrades at the World Cruise Terminal, restoration of Angels Gate Lighthouse and an all-new Plaza Park. Demolition of storage tanks along the Main Channel has also been completed.

Since the last annual waterfront meeting, the port has also welcomed the former battleship Iowa, which is now a floating museum, and "Crafted at the Port of Los Angeles," a large-scale craft marketplace.

Waterfront projects currently underway include the Wilmington Marina Parkway, the Downtown Harbor “water cut” promenade, design of the Front Street Beautification Project and increased vehicular signage and parking along the water’s edge.

Future projects planned to be discussed during the public meeting include the Wilmington Youth Sailing Facility, Avalon Triangle Park, the planned AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles urban marine research center and redevelopment plans for Ports O’ Call Village.

The port says there will be a public comment period to offer feedback and ask questions.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

POLB Sees Leap in Monthly Cargo Volumes

This year’s peak shipping season has been a good one so far for the Port of Long Beach, which saw a total of 630,292 TEUs in August 2013, a 16 percent increase from the same month last year.

The port saw double-digit increases last month in the both the number of loaded inbound and loaded outbound TEUs. The more than 327,000 loaded inbound containers that moved through Long Beach last month represented a jump of over 19 percent from the about 275,000 shipped during August 2012.

There was also a 20 percent jump in the volume of loaded outbound containers, with the number increasing to over 154,100 last month from about 128,200 in August 2012.

Even the number of empty containers moved rose; last August, the port saw 140,200 empty containers, but the number was about 148,300 last month, an increase of almost six percent.

For the fiscal year-to-date, container volumes have risen 13.4 percent from the same period last year. The port saw 5.34 million TEUs up to this point in FY 2012, but has seen 6.0 million TEUs so far during FY 2013. Long Beach’s fiscal year began last October and runs through the end of September. The peak shipping season typically runs from July through October, as shippers import goods, mainly from Asia, in preparation for the holiday season.

In July, cargo activity at the POLB also showed steady growth in imports and exports last month, as containerized cargo volume climbed 7.6 percent during the month compared to the same month a year ago.

LA Container Volumes Remain Flat

The volume of loaded inbound and outbound TEUs that moved through the Port of Los Angeles last month was flat, continuing a downward statistical trend at America’s busiest seaport.

A total of 709,675 TEUs were shipped though the POLA in August 2013, which was actually up almost half a percent from the about 706,670 TEUs that were moved during the same month in 2012. It was also the second consecutive month volumes exceeded 700,000 container units.

However, the overall volume increase was mainly due to an about eight percent jump in the volume of empty containers imported and exported.

LA saw 195,500 empties last month, compared with 181,000 in August 2012, an increase of about 14,400. The news was not so good when it came to full containers, however. Port terminals saw a total of 355,682 TEUs last month, a 1.4 percent drop from the 360,700 containers from the same period last year.

Additionally, the volume of loaded outbound containers was down 3.84 percent, falling from 164,819 TEUs to 158,484.

Overall, the port’s volume of loaded TEUs was down 2.17 percent year-over-year.

For the fiscal year-to-date, total volumes are off just slightly, falling from 1.43 million containers to 1.42, a drop of 7,700 TEUs, or 0.54 percent.

Current and past data container counts for the Port of LA can be found at: http://www.portoflosangeles.org/maritime/stats.asp.

Metro Vancouver Container Volumes Climb

Port Metro Vancouver, Canada’s largest and busiest seaport, saw a 3.3 percent rise in cargo volumes for August 2013 compared with the same month last year, according to newly released data.

Metro Vancouver terminals moved a total of 259,790 20-foot equivalent units last month, compared with 242,821 in August 2012. The volume marked Vancouver’s busiest month of the year so far for containers. The majority of the total volume was in full inbound containers; port terminals moved 130,766 during the month, a steep jump over the 123,251 TEUs from August 2012. Outbound full containers made up the second highest percentage; Metro Vancouver terminals saw 105,419 of them last month, compared with 84,968 TEUs during the same month last year.

The port saw a total of 23,606 empty containers – outbound and inbound – last month, compared with 34,603 in August 2012.

For the calendar year to date, Port Metro Vancouver terminals have moved 1.84 million TEUs, compared with 1.78 million through the same eight months last year, a difference of over 59,000 containers, or 3.3 percent.

Within that YTD total, imports are up 2.0 percent and exports up 4.9 percent compared to 2012 levels, according to port data.

Port of Oakland Volumes Flat

Container volumes at California’s third-largest port were flat in August 2013, continuing a year-long trend at the Port of Oakland.

Oakland terminals imported over 73,000 full TEUs and about 21,900 empty TEUs last month, representing an increase of 4.3 percent and decline of 1.2 percent, respectively, compared with the same month last year.

Overall, the port saw a 1.1 percent rise in total volumes over August 2012. That volume falls in line in what’s been a see-saw of a year so far when it comes to volumes. Although full imports were up last month, the number of empty containers imported was down 1.2 percent and the volume of empty exported TEUs was down 10 percent compared to the same month in 2012.

Five of the eight months of calendar year 2013 have seen small declines in monthly volumes at Oakland, while most of the other months saw minor year-over-year increases. The only month with a substantial year-over-year increase was February, which recorded a 12.5 percent jump.

For the calendar year to date, Oakland has seen a total of 1.56 million TEUs, a slight increase – 0.5 percent – from the same eight month period in 2012.

Monthly container statistics for the Port of Oakland can be seen at http://www.portofoakland.com/maritime/containerstats.aspx.