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Friday, November 22, 2013

Long Beach Harbor Board President Ousted; VP Resigns

The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners lost two members this week, as the City Council fired the board president, and the vice president resigned less than 48 hours later.

In an unprecedented move, the Long Beach City Council on Nov. 19 voted 6-3 to fire Harbor Commission President Thomas Fields from the five-member board, following a recommendation by Mayor Bob Foster.

“Mr. Fields has been immune to suggestions or advice and is often dismissive,” Foster told the Council regarding his desire to fire Fields. “I have no confidence that he can lead the port or appropriately weigh broader city concerns in harbor department actions.”

Fields, a Long Beach advertising executive and former city planning commissioner, was appointed to a six-year term on the Board by Foster in December 2009 and in June 2013, he was elected to a one-year term as board president by his fellow commissioners.

He had come under pressure from personnel within the port and City of Long Beach in recent months for numerous reasons, including a perceived overbilling of the port for travel expenses. Over the past two years, Fields has traveled extensively out of the country on port business, including to Hong Kong, Montreal, Europe and Guatemala, sometimes racking up tens of thousands of dollars in costs.

Before the vote, Fields defended his tenure on the board, saying that his trips were made with the intent of bringing more business to Long Beach and that some of the trips he made were on behalf of other commissioners who were unable to travel due to other commitments.

“Every decision I’ve made as a member of this commission has been based on what’s best for the port and the city,” he said.

Among those who cast votes against the removal of Fields was Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske, who said she’d been told that Foster wanted Fields fired because he makes up half of a two-person ad hoc committee tasked with selecting a new executive director for the port, to replace Chris Lytle, who quit earlier this year to become executive director of the Port of Oakland.

Schipske said that she’d heard that the mayor already had a candidate for the executive director position, and that firing Foster clears the path for a new committee member who would go along with the mayor’s executive director choice.

The mayor however, denied this.

“I don’t care what the rumors are,” he said, “it’s not the way I run my office.”

Two days after Fields was fired, harbor board vice president Nick Sramek submitted his resignation to the mayor. Sramek’s first six-year term on the board had expired July 1, but had remained on the commission the past few months while the mayor was deciding whether to reappoint or replace him.

According to the mayor, Sramek cited fatigue as a reason for his resignation and said the firing of Fields played no part in his decision. In his day job, Sramek is a senior project leader in system engineering for The Aerospace Corp, where he’s worked for over 30 years.

Fields’ and Sramek’s departures mean there are now three commissioners left on the Board for now. Only two members are required for a quorum.

Container Traffic: Up at LB, Down in LA

Containerized cargo continued its recent upward trend at the Port of Long Beach last month, with volume rising 8.7 percent compared to October 2012 as the annual three-month peak season for imports drew to a close.

Port terminals handled 576,502 20-foot equivalent container units in October 2013, an increase of 8.7 percent over October 2012, according to port data. Imports climbed 7.8 percent to 298,271 TEUs, and exports were up by six percent to 141,457 TEUs. The number of empty containers shipped was up 13.9 percent to 136,774 TEUs.

Cargo container volume was up 13.2 percent during the first 10 months of the calendar year – including 15.2 percent more imports, 10.9 percent more exports and 11.1 percent more empties.
During the peak shipping season of August through October, imports were up 14.4 percent over the same three-month period in 2012.

The cargo traffic news was not as positive at the Port of Los Angeles however, where October overall volumes totaled 684,207 TEUs, a drop of about 4.7 percent compared to October 2012 volumes, according to port data.

Imports declined by 5.14 percent, from 364,881 TEUs in October 2012 to 346,137 TEUs this October. Exports dropped 5.7 percent, going from 179,810 TEUs in October 2012 to 169,568 TEUs last month.

Combined, total loaded imports and exports for October were down 5.32 percent, dropping from 544,692 TEUs last October to 515,705 TEUs in October 2013. Factoring in empties, which decreased three percent year over year, the overall October 2013 volume of 684,207 TEUs, was a decline of 4.76 percent compared to October 2012’s 718,406 TEUs.

Current and past data container counts for the Port of Los Angeles may be found at

Man Dies After Falling From Crane on Ship

A sailor working onboard the cargo ship Albert Oldendorff at a Port of Oakland terminal was killed Nov. 18 after he fell several feet from a crane.

Oakland emergency crews were called to the port about 2:30 pm and responded to the ship, which was docked at metals recycling company Schnitzer Steel, where they found the man lying on his back on one of the crane’s platforms, according to Oakland Fire Battalion Chief Coy Justice.

Ship crewmembers were already performing CPR and trying to defibrillate the worker, Justice said, but the man had already died.

Witnesses told fire crews that the man was working in a crane operator’s compartment and collapsed inside. According to the Coast Guard, the man might have fallen out of the compartment and dropped about six feet onto the platform.

The Albert Oldendorff, a 561-foot long, 88-foot wide Portugese-flagged vessel, arrived at the Port of Oakland Nov. 16 carrying scrap metal.

According to the Coast Guard, the man was a Polish sailor and the ship’s chief engineer. His name has not been released because his family has yet to be notified.
Autopsy results are still pending.

Crowley Awarded Environmental Achievement Certificates

Crowley Maritime Corp. was awarded 100 Certificates of Environmental Achievement for 2013 – more than any other company in the running – during the tenth-annual Chamber of Shipping of America awards ceremony, held Nov. 14 in Washington, DC.

The certificates were awarded to Crowley-owned and operated vessels for having worked at least two consecutive years without an environmental incident. Additionally, Crowley was also presented with a membership award in recognition of five years of support to the CSA.

The Environmental Achievement awards are open to all owners and operators of vessels that work on oceans or inland waterways. This year, nearly 1,431 vessels from 76 companies were recognized.

In total, the honored vessels accumulated 10,282 years of safe operations, with a vessel average of just under seven years. Two hundred and eighty of the vessels have logged more than 10 years each of environmental excellence.

Crowley’s vessels achieved a total of 1,066 years of combined service without incident. Of those vessels, 53 have gone without incident for 10 or more straight years.

“This recognition is a testament to the rigorous work of our crews who ensure that our vessels operate safely and in an environmentally responsible manner,” Crowley vice president of ship management, Mike Golonka, said.

A full list of all the vessels that received 2013 environmental certificate awardees can be seen on the CSA’s website at http://www.knowships.org/press-releases/2013-Envl-Achievement-Awards-Cos-and-Vessels.pdf.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Oakland Port Truckers Threaten to Go on Strike

The Port of Oakland Truckers Association, a self-organized group of owner-operator truckers, is threatening to go on strike by the end of the month if the port won’t help pay for anti-pollution truck retrofits required by an upcoming state-mandated deadline.

Representatives of the Truckers Association have pushed for an extension of the California Air Resources Board-enforced deadline of Jan. 1 to acquire trucks built in 2007 or later in order to continue working at the port. Pre-2007 trucks can continue to operate at the port provided they undergo significant retrofitting, estimated about $80,000 per truck.

The Association has also asked for grant funding to help about 800 at-risk truckers offset the financial burden of costly truck upgrades required by the law.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and port Executive Director Chris Lytle have said they would take a look into port and city finances to try finding funding for port truckers.

The Truckers Association says that if it does not receive a response regarding funding from city and port officials by Wed., Nov. 20, or if they are denied funding, a work stoppage could take place as early as the last week of November.

The Association previously conducted a work stoppage at the port Oct. 21 to protest what they call unsafe working conditions and unfair compensation. Multiple terminals at the port had their operations shut down or slowed by the one-day protest, which began at 5 am.

Maritime Economic Impact Study

Three Seattle and King County organizations have released an economic impact study on the effect of the maritime industry on the State of Washington. The Washington State Maritime Cluster Economic Impact Study sought to quantify the impact of the maritime industry in order to better understand and strengthen its contributions to the regional economy.

The study was commissioned by the Economic Development Council of Seattle and King County, the Puget Sound Regional Council and the Workforce Development Council of Seattle and King County, with input from a broad spectrum of maritime industrial businesses – including Philips Publishing Group. The study looks at the direct and indirect impacts the maritime industry has on the local and regional economy.

According to the study, Washington’s maritime cluster employed more than 57,700 people directly in the state last year, and was responsible for $15.2 billion in gross business income. Indirect and induced Maritime jobs account for another 90,000 jobs, for a total impact of 148,000 Washington jobs. The direct contribution of the industry's $15.2 billion in gross business income generates another $14.8 billion in induced and indirect output, for a total contribution effect of nearly $30 billion to Washington’s economy.

Below are some of the study’s other findings. The maritime industry paid nearly $4 billion in wages in 2012 with average salaries of $70,800. In comparison, the state’s median wage is $51,000.

Every direct job in the maritime industry supports 1.6 jobs elsewhere in the economy. And for every $1 million in sales, another 10 jobs are supported elsewhere in the economy.

Industry-wide, revenues have grown 6.4% per year on average with the largest growth rate in Maritime Logistics and Shipping, at a robust 10.2%.

Go to http://www.EDC-SeaKing.org/maritime-study to download the report.

LA Port Truckers Stage 3-Day Strike

Drayage truck drivers working for three companies near the Los Angeles-Long Beach harbor complex began a three-day strike on Nov. 18, alleging that they have been the victims of unfair treatment by their employers.

Dozens of drivers working for Carson, California-based trucking companies American Logistics International, Green Fleet Systems and Pacific 9 Transportation began picketing at 5 am on Monday to protest what they say are poor working conditions. Among their grievances, they say, are long work hours for low wages, lack of overtime pay and no medical benefits.

The drivers, who are independent contractors that are paid per load, say they’re trying to gain classification as employees and to unionize, so that they can receive more rights under the law.

The drivers also conducted a 24-hour strike on Aug. 26.

In a prepared statement, Green Fleet Systems spokesman Alex Cherin said that very few port drivers have shown interest in joining a union and that his company “will continue to pay its drivers some of the best wages in the drayage industry” and also “provide one of the safest rated work environments in the industry while doing it.”

“The overwhelming majority of our drivers vehemently and passionately have voiced their opposition to the current strike and organization effort,” Cherin said.

Earlier this year, Teamsters Local 848 filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board on behalf of the truck drivers, accusing Green Fleet of worker intimidation and attempting to prevent workers from unionizing. In September, the NLRB ruled that the company was at fault.

Despite the strike and protests, organized and promoted by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, no disruption to operations at either the Los Angeles or Long Beach port was reported Monday or Tuesday.

Logistics Company Acquires Port of Quincy Land

Diamond Logistics Northwest (DLNW) is buying about 18 acres from the Port of Quincy, Washington, on the Columbia River, for future expansion of its cross-docking and load consolidation facilities.

The DLNW development is designed to be built in stages with Phase 1 scheduled for construction in the next 18 months. The property is located about 10 miles north of I-90, next to a new Amway-Nutrilite Botanical Concentrate Manufacturing facility scheduled to be completed in early 2014.

Currently, DLNW operates a 15,000 square foot refrigerated warehouse just north of Quincy; however, the newly acquired property in Industrial Park No. 6 in the port is expected to allow for additional cold storage space and more room for loading and unloading trucks.

“It is clear to us that changes in trucking regulations are creating challenges for everyone involved in the perishable supply chain, which is why DLNW is providing a cross-docking and load consolidation facility to help produce shippers and receivers,” DLNW President Warren Morgan said.

DLNW says it has also been working with intermodal service company Cold Train to enhance the service customers receive when they take advantage of the refrigerated and expedited intermodal transportation options available in Quincy.

According to Cold Train President Steve Lawson, his company has been involved in a pilot program with Diamond Logistics NW for the past six months.

“Many of our customers have been requesting cross dock and consolidation services, and Diamond Logistics NW has provided that service seamlessly,” he said. “We look forward to their full scale operation being completed in the future.”

LB Port Cancels Cargo Fee

The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners on Nov. 18 followed in the footsteps of the Port of Los Angeles and voted unanimously to officially repeal a cargo fee that has been on the books since 2008 but had never been collected after numerous delays.

The “infrastructure cargo fee” which would have varied from $6 to $18 per 20-foot equivalent container unit, would have been assessed on all loaded containers entering and leaving the port by truck or rail. There would have been a charge on each cargo container to help fund roadway and railway improvements in and around the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. Long Beach’s repeal follows a similar revocation by the LA port commission in September.

The fee was expected to begin in 2009 and raise $1.4 billion in order to secure matching state transportation funds for the design and construction of 17 specific highway and rail construction projects throughout the harbor district.

Although the fee was never implemented due to a downturn in the global economy, both ports have moved forward with its efforts to modernize and make capital improvements using other revenue sources.