Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Nicaragua Breaks Ground on Panama Canal Rival

By Mark Edward Nero

The Central American country Nicaragua broke ground Dec. 22 on a new Chinese-backed shipping canal that aims to rival the Panama Canal. The $50 billion, 172-mile canal could be operational by the year 2020, according to the Nicaraguan government.

The Nicaragua Canal aims to connect the Caribbean Sea, and therefore the Atlantic Ocean, with the Pacific Ocean. The proposed route starts from the mouth of the Brito river on the Pacific Ocean side, passes through Lake Nicaragua, and ends in the Punta Gorda river on the Caribbean.

The proposed canal would be up to 1,706 feet wide and 90 feet deep. By contrast, the 48 mile-long Panama Canal is 110 feet wide, and 41.2 feet in depth.

Construction of the new waterway is to be run by Hong Kong-based HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co., commonly known as HKND Group; the company is run by Chinese telecom mogul Wang Jing.

“This moment will surely go down in history. I announce the start of work on the great canal of Nicaragua,” Wang Jing said during a Dec. 22 groundbreaking event, which was held on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast.

Despite the groundbreaking and the start of work on Dec. 29, excavation work isn’t scheduled to begin until the second half of 2015.

Although a Chinese company is managing the project, Nicaraguan officials have maintained that the Chinese government itself isn’t behind the project and that the canal is expected to receive international funding.

“The Chinese haven’t arrived in Nicaragua with occupying troops,” Nicaragua President Daniel Oretga said regarding the canal in a speech in late December.

Royal Caribbean Retrofitting 19 Ships

By Mark Edward Nero

Royal Caribbean Cruises says it will retrofit 19 of its cruise ships with exhaust gas scrubbers beginning early next year.

The systems, technically known as “advanced emissions purification systems,” or AEP, are expected to remove more than 97 percent of the sulfur dioxide emissions generated by the ships’ diesel engines, according to the cruise line.

Beginning in January 2015, installation will take place on 13 Royal Caribbean International ships and six Celebrity Cruises ships during scheduled drydockings and while ships are in service. While preliminary work has begun on several of the ships receiving AEP systems, most will take place between 2015 and 2017, according to the cruise line. Each installation is expected to take about eight months. Royal Caribbean says it is performing the work in order to stay in front of any forthcoming international emissions standards and also to be in compliance with existing standards.

The decision to install purification systems instead of switching to a fuel with a lower sulfur content will ensure that Royal Caribbean’s ships can be compliant everywhere they sail, according to the company.

Royal Caribbean Cruises has been involved in development, testing and planning for the use of advanced purification systems technology since 2010. Two newly built ships that entered into service in 2014, Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas and TUI Cruises’ Mein Schiff 3, were among the first cruise ships to be built with AEP systems installed during initial construction. Royal Caribbean International’s Liberty of the Seas has been operating one of its six engines with a retrofitted AEP system for two years.

AEP systems ‘scrub’ exhaust gases by injecting high volumes of water spray into the exhaust stream, removing more than 97 percent of sulfur dioxide emissions.

“AEP technology for maritime vessels is very new, and we expect that by utilizing multiple technological solutions to accommodate the differences among our ships, additional development will ultimately help industrialize AEP technology even more,” Royal Caribbean Cruises President and COO Adam Goldstein said in a statement.

New Towing Winch Design

By Mark Edward Nero

More than a decade ago, Seattle-based Western Towboat Co. purchased a new towing winch from another Seattle-based company, equipment developer Rapp Marine (formerly Rapp Hydema), for a new tugboat Western was building at the time, the Gulf Titan. Since then, Rapp Marine has manufactured several towing winches for Western Towboat and a long-term working relationship has been maintained. In recent years, Western Towboat has increasingly moved toward building its own tow winches, but earlier this year the company began working with Rapp Marine on a groundbreaking winch prototype.

The two companies began talking about the project about eight months ago, Rapp Marine Northwest engineering and production manager Dan Markovic said.

"We made a preliminary proposal and they liked it," he explained. "We offered to work together on it, and we applied both Western Towboat's and our solutions into our design and engineering."

What makes the prototype winch different is the level of expertise that both Rapp and Western Towboat are pouring into it, Markovic said.

"They told us what features they would like to have on the winch, so we basically used their experience as the end user alongside our experience as the manufacturer and designer of the equipment. We believe that we came up with a great product for the towboat market," he said.

Western Towboat differs from some other West Coast towing companies in that they build many of their own boats and other equipment, as well as perform much of the maintenance on that equipment, as opposed to other companies that send their equipment out for repairs and maintenance.

"The people here, the guys that build the boats and build the winches also do the maintenance on them once they're done, so it kind of makes things easier for everybody to be able to maintain it once it's done, rather than have something designed by a naval architect or something that way," the company's co-owner, Ric Shrewsbury, explained. "Our guys are able to do more and more of that type of thing and redesign things so that it's easier to maintain afterward."

Shrewsbury said that although the prototype winch will be new, it'll include elements of past winch designs.

"We're using their drive system on a winch that we have built in the past and we're building it as a double drum winch this time," he said. "We've kind of redesigned the back end of one of their winches and, between our people and their people, are kind of redesigning this winch a little bit."

Shrewsbury said that his company likes to "take the best of all worlds" and use what works, with one example being offset pins.

"We like the offset pins so that we can wrap our chain right up under a tow wire," he explained. "If the tug has to carry around a 90-foot piece of three and a quarter inch chain or three-inch chain they can just wind that right on top of the drum rather than have that all over the back deck."

Regarding the Rapp Marine prototype, the main drum capacity is more than 3,200 feet of two-and-a-quarter inch steel cable, with an additional 2,700 feet of two-inch cable stored onto the smaller drum. The pull at the first layer is rated at 25 metric tons.

The Rapp four-motor hydraulic drive is equipped with three speed steps, providing speed range from 30m/min up to 124m/min.

"For our winch division, this product is unique," Markovic said. "This is the first one, and is custom made for Western Towboat.

The project consists of a sole prototype, and once it is perfected, Rapp plans to open it for sale to other customers.

"This is a huge winch," he says. "It's quite a project."

Under the agreement with Western Towboat, although both companies are putting in resources, only one will retain ownership.

"This is a Rapp product. Western Towboat is working with us but this remains Rapp property, 100 percent," he said. "We hope that many other winches will follow."

Rapp Marine has not talked about the cost of designing and building the prototype, with Markovic saying that his company will wait until a later date.

"We are putting a lot of our time into this deal that we are not charging. In order to calculate the cost, I think you would have to wait until the project is finished and then we will see where we are standing with that," he said.

As far as the completion date, it's expected sometime in early 2015.

"We've been working on it for quite a while because we have time," Markovic said. "Since we did not have to rush, we wanted to make a complete, 100 percent product. You'll never get to 100 percent, but we want to get as close as possible."

He said that taking the time to get things right is something that's very important to the success of the company's products and the company as a whole.

Rapp Marine, which is headquartered in Norway, has had a presence in the Pacific Northwest since 1980. It has been most involved in equipment for fishing fleets, but the company has also delved into other fields, such as scientific winches, workboat winches and tug winches. Rapp has recently delivered deck machinery for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Alaska Region Research Vessels, and has become a supplier of winches and deck cranes for Coos Bay, Oregon-based towing company Sause Bros.

"We understand that the winch is a working tool for the vessel; if the winch does not operate, the complete vessel may be out of action," Markovic said. "We pride ourselves in being flexible regarding customer's needs, so we don't offer 'shelf' products. Each of our winches is customized in a way to meet specific customer's needs."

POLB Opens Temporary Container Depot

By Mark Edward Nero

A temporary empty container depot that is to be used to free up truck-trailer chassis and ease port congestion opened Dec. 29 on Pier S at the Port of Long Beach. The depot was approved by port officials in November.

The 30-acre site will be operated by Pasha Stevedoring and Terminals, a private company selected by the port. The depot is scheduled to close March 31, 2015, by which time the port expects the backlog in cargo to be cleared.

The temporary facility is designed to help put back into circulation more of the wheeled trailer-frames that trucks use to haul cargo containers. Because many terminals are congested and have little room to accept empty cargo containers, more space is needed to temporarily store those empties. The empty container depot is expected to free up the chassis for truckers to reuse to pick up new loads on the busy docks and speed up delivery.

“We are committed to providing our stakeholders with as much operational support as possible, and this temporary depot is one way we’re doing that,” Port of Long Beach Chief Executive Jon Slangerup said.

West Coast ports have been experiencing congestion due to the traditional increase in imports for the holiday shopping season. The congestion has been exacerbated by more cargo arriving faster on today’s giant ships, as well as a new chassis ownership system that has left some terminals and truckers without the equipment they need.

In addition to the empty container depot to free up chassis, Long Beach has enabled the introduction by private fleets of an additional 3,000 chassis into the local area and identified a plan for the port to operate its own chassis fleet for peak cargo shipping seasons and peak demand.

Industry stakeholders seeking more information about operation of the temporary empty container depot may contact Pasha Stevedoring Senior Vice President Jeff Burgin at Jeff.Burgin@psterminals.com.

POLA Public Works Projects Win Awards

By Mark Edward Nero

Two Port of Los Angeles projects have been named a “2014 Project of the Year” by the Southern California Chapter of the American Public Works Association. The projects include the Berth 100 Wharf South Extension and Backland Development initiative and the port’s LA Waterfront Downtown Harbor Landside and Rail Improvement project.

Additionally, trade industry publication Engineering News-Record announced that the Port of LA has won an “Award of Merit” for its Downtown Harbor project. The project won in the Landscape/Urban Development category of ENR’s “Best Projects” award program.

“We’re honored to be recognized for these exceptional, innovative port improvement projects,” LA Harbor Commission President Ambassador Vilma Martinez said.

The port’s Downtown Harbor Plaza and Town Square, which was unveiled in June 2014, is located on 1.2 acres between the Los Angeles Maritime Museum and Fire Station 112. Previously a parking lot, the space was transformed into a new harbor inlet for recreational vessels.

The Berth 100 Wharf South Extension and Backland development project included construction of a 325-foot reinforced concrete wharf and 14 acres of pavement backland. The port’s existing shoreside power system, which allows ships to plug into clean power while at berth, was expanded to the site to allow for an additional berthed vessel to connect to shoreside electrical power.

The Southern California Chapter of APWA presented the awards during the organization’s 15th Annual Public Works Awards Luncheon on Dec. 11.

Engineering News-Record, a weekly news magazine and website providing news and features about projects, products and people in the construction industry, presented its “Best Project” awards to winning teams in Southern California on Dec. 4 in Long Beach. The awards honor the most outstanding design and construction efforts throughout the US.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Oakland Port Implements Anti-Congestion Measures

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of Oakland said Dec. 22 that it has taken additional steps in an ongoing effort to manage container ships that have been arriving with unprecedented frequency the past few months within the San Francisco Bay.

The measures include a gate that was opened Dec. 21 at one of the port’s largest marine terminals to discharge additional import cargo; and an operational status update sent daily to hundreds of harbor truckers, ocean carriers and shippers to improve supply chain planning.

The port says the added features are expected to improve cargo flow, which has been slowed by increased container volume and a multitude of delayed vessels arriving simultaneously. From Dec. 20 to 22 alone, 13 ships called in Oakland; most well behind schedule, according to the port. Maritime officials say the number of ships in the SF Bay outstrips anything seen in the past decade.

“We welcome increased cargo volume at Oakland and we’ve got to do a better job of managing the flow,” port Maritime Director John Driscoll said. “We’re working every day with the marine terminals, truck drivers and shippers to pick up the pace.”

Import cargo volume has increased at Oakland in each of the last three months compared to 2013 totals. The port attributes the gains to aggressive marketing as well as congestion at other ports which caused cargo diversions to Oakland.

The port has said it has capacity to accept additional containers, but that operations have been hampered by off-schedule ships and recent labor-management disputes on the docks. The result has been a slowdown in cargo movement and long lines of trucks waiting to enter terminals.

Oakland has responded with extended hours, night gates and dedicated lanes in terminals to expedite simple transactions. The daily status update launched Dec. 22 is expected to provide the latest information on vessel arrivals, terminal operations and truck queues outside terminal gates.

Also, the Port of Oakland says, terminal operators plan to continue occasional night and weekend gates until cargo flows normalize. The port expects cargo volumes to moderate soon now that the peak holiday shipping season has passed.

Horizon Selling Assets to Matson, Pasha

By Jim Shaw

Matson Inc. and Horizon Lines announced Nov. 11 that they've entered into a merger agreement under which Matson will acquire the stock of Horizon, including its Alaska operations and the assumption of all non-Hawaii business liabilities.

Horizon also announced separately Nov. 11 that it has agreed to sell its Hawaii operations to the Pasha Group for $141.5 million and intends to shut down its Puerto Rico liner operations by the end of 2014.

Under the terms of the merger agreement, Matson is to acquire Horizon for 72 cents per share, or $69.2 million, plus the repayment of debt outstanding at closing. The total value for the Transaction is $456.1 million before transaction costs, based on Horizon's outstanding debt as of Sept. 21, 2014, minus the anticipated proceeds from the Hawaii business sale.

Horizon has a long operating history in Alaska. The company deploys three diesel-powered Jones Act qualified containerships and operates port terminals in Anchorage, Kodiak and Dutch Harbor. Its Alaska service consists of two weekly sailings from Tacoma to Anchorage and Kodiak, and a weekly sailing to Dutch Harbor. Horizon also has a reserve steam-powered Jones Act containership for drydock relief.

"The acquisition of Horizon's Alaska operations is a rare opportunity to substantially grow our Jones Act business," Matson President & CEO Matt Cox said. "Horizon's Alaska business represents a natural geographic extension of our platform as a leader serving our customers in the Pacific. We are also encouraged by the long-term prospects of the Alaska market, which mirrors Hawaii in many operational ways."

The Boards of Directors of both companies have already approved the transaction and it is expected to close in 2015.

"We wish the Matson team continued success in their new Alaska trade, and we look forward to working with them to close this transaction and provide a seamless transition for our customers," Horizon President & CEO Steve Rubin said.

Horizon says the ceasing of operations and shutting down its Puerto Rico domestic liner service is independent of the Matson deal and that it intends to cease operations between the US and Puerto Rico whether or not the Matson deal is consummated.

Under the terms of the Pasha Group agreement, Pasha will acquire certain subsidiaries of Horizon constituting substantially all of Horizon's Hawaii trade-lane business, including four Jones Act container ships.

"Since Pasha entered the Hawaii transportation circuit nearly 10 years ago, we have elevated the quality of customer service," the company's president and CEO, George Pasha IV, said. "With this acquisition, we will supplement that service and provide an improved, more competitive offering on the Hawaii trade lane."

Horizon Lines was started in 1956 as Sea-Land Service by containerized shipping pioneer Malcolm McLean. A converted World War II T-2 oil tanker, named the Ideal-X, carried the first containers from Newark, New Jersey to Houston, Texas. Two years later, Sea-Land introduced container shipping to the Puerto Rico market and pioneered container shipping to Alaska with the first year-round scheduled vessel service.

AAPA Urges West Coast Labor Talks Mediation

By Mark Edward Nero

The American Association of Port Authorities is urging President Barack Obama to assign federal mediators to help resolve the ongoing contract negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Pacific Maritime Association.

On Dec. 17, the AAPA, which represents 160 of the leading seaport authorities in North, South and Central America, sent a letter to President Obama, who previously said his administration would not step in to the middle of the negotiating process.

“At this tender stage of the economic recovery, our nation simply cannot afford disruptions, let alone a shutdown, of any part of the ports system,” AAPA president and CEO Kurt Nagle wrote. “After seven months of labor negotiations without an agreement being reached, we believe that federal mediation is now necessary to prevent the significant economic repercussions that can occur whenever there is uncertainty and unpredictability in the movement of international commerce through our ports.”

The PMA and ILWU have been in negotiations, off and on, since mid-May. The previous six-year labor pact between the two sides, which covered almost 20,000 longshore workers at 29 ports up and down the West Coast, expired at 5 pm on July 1.

The AAPA may be among the largest organizations so far to call for federal mediation, but it’s not the first. In November, the CEOs of the ports of Seattle and Tacoma sent a letter to President Obama urging that his administration become involved.

Coincidentally, on the same day the AAPA wrote the President, the PMA released a statement saying that it and the ILWU “remain far apart on several issues,” giving the impression that a deal is nowhere close to being completed.

San Diego Port Begins Exec. Director Search

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of San Diego, which fired its CEO in July, has just launched a global search for a replacement, it announced Dec. 15. Executive recruitment firm Boyden has been retained to recruit and screen prospective qualified candidates, according to the San Diego Port Commission.

“We have begun a national outreach campaign managed by one of America’s top executive recruitment experts,” Commission Chair Bob Nelson said in a prepared statement.

Harbor Police Chief and Vice President of Public Safety John Bolduc has served as Acting Chief Executive Officer since July 25, 2014, the date that former CEO Wayne Darbeau, who had been the Port of San Diego’s CEO for almost four years, was fired following a months-long investigation into allegations that he abused his power by asking for port tenants’ help in securing a job for his son.

Darbeau was placed on paid administrative leave through the end of 2014, after which, he’ll no longer be employed by the port.

As acting CEO, Bolduc leads more than 500 budgeted employees and oversees an annual budget of $145 million. The port, an independent public agency, manages the public trust Tidelands along 34 miles of San Diego Bay. It serves as landlord, principal land use authority and public steward pursuant to the California Public Trust Doctrine. It also regulates and supports maritime industry and commercial real estate development; and provides police, fire, park and environmental services.

The port’s hotels, marinas, restaurants and tourist attractions operate side-by-side with a working waterfront of shipbuilding and repair yards, boatyards, sportfishing landings, cargo and cruise terminals.

The executive search is being conducted on an expedited basis. Interested parties should submit in electronic format a resume with compensation history and a cover letter outlining reasons for their interest in the position, including detail on the aforementioned responsibilities, attributes, and qualifications to dfarmer@boyden.com.

Boyden may also be contacted via its toll-free phone number, 877.2.BOYDEN (226-9336) for additional information. A full description of the position and qualifications is available on the port’s website.

Panama Canal Expansion Now 83 Percent Finished

By Mark Edward Nero

One of the most important phases of the Panama Canal expansion project, the electro-mechanical installation stage, has begun with the installation of the first steel rolling gate at the Atlantic Ocean side, the Panama Canal Authority revealed Dec 19.

Unlike the current Canal, which uses miter gates, the expanded Canal will have steel rolling gates, with the rolling system facilitating gate maintenance.

The arrival of the last four of the 16 rolling gates for the new locks in November and the transfer of the eight gates for the Pacific-side locks through the waterway means all electro-mechanical components are ready to be installed by mid-2015, according to the Canal Authority, which is in charge of operating, managing and maintaining the Panama Canal.

Construction of the new locks is a major component of the Canal’s expansion. Already, much of the 4.4 million cubic meters of concrete needed has been poured, giving form to the structure and making the locks visible.

The massive steel rolling gates weigh on average 3,400 tons and vary in sizes depending on their location (Pacific Ocean or Atlantic) and their position on the locks chambers. The tallest of the gates is 108 feet high, the equivalent of an 11-story building.

To date, the overall program is 83 percent complete, according to the Canal Authority, with several major components already finished, such as the dredging of the canal entrances on the Pacific and Atlantic sides.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Willard Marine Acquires Crystaliner Design Rights

By Mark Edward Nero

Anaheim-based watercraft design, engineering and manufacturing company Willard Marine has acquired the rights to design and manufacture Crystaliner boats, a line of surf and rescue vessels that have been based on the West Coast for nearly six decades.

Crystaliner was founded in Southern California in 1956 by John Norek and they specialized in fiberglass recreational and commercial boats that were particularly popular with lifeguards, harbor patrol, and rescue operations.

Crystaliner is credited with building the molds for the Navy’s first 16 foot fiberglass lifeboat and in 1959, the first fiberglass boat to win the Miami Nassau Race. Although the company closed its doors in 2012, Crystaliners are still being used by law enforcement and lifeguard divisions in California coastal cities, such as Long Beach. It’s estimated that more than 100 boats were sold throughout the company’s history.

Financial terms of the acquisition have yet to be revealed.

“Crystaliner is an iconic brand with a long, reputable history and loyal customer following,” Willard Marine President and CEO Ulrich Gottschling said. “To be more competitive, we must diversify our product portfolio, and this is one of many moves planned over the next two years to grow our business.”

Lewis Page, who served as general manager at Crystaliner for 14 years, and spent 34 years building their boats and tooling said in a statement that Willard Marine is “unequivocally” the best boat builder today to carry on the Crystaliner legacy “of making high-quality, top-performing boats specific to lifeguards and rescue operations.”

“I am proud to collaborate with Willard’s highly skilled and experienced team to produce a new lineage of Crystaliners that first responders can depend upon for many decades,” Page said.

Monthly Volumes Down, Yearly Ones Up at POLA

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of Los Angeles released its November 2014 containerized cargo volumes Dec. 17 and according to the data, overall volumes decreased three percent in November 2014 compared to November 2013.

Total cargo for November was 663,346 TEUs, compared to 683,849 during the same month last year. Container imports decreased 2.7 percent, falling from 342,247 TEUs in November 2013 to 333,153 TEUs in November 2014, according to the data.

Meanwhile, exports declined 16 percent, from 179,176 TEUs in November 2013 to 150,568 TEUs in November 2014. The port attributes the decline in US exports during 2014 to weaker demand abroad and a stronger US dollar, which makes American goods more expensive.

Combined, total loaded imports and exports fell 7.2 percent last month from 521,423 TEUs in November 2013 to 483,721 TEUs in November 2014. Factoring in empties, which increased 10.6 percent year over year, overall November 2014 volumes (663,346 TEUs) declined three percent compared to November 2013 (683,849 TEUs).

For the first 11 months of calendar year 2014, the overall volume of 7.68 million TEUs represented a 6.5 percent increase compared to the same period in 2013, 7.21 million TEUs.

For the fiscal year to date, the cargo terminals at LA’s port have seen a total of 3.62 million TEUs, a 3.5 percent increase from the 3.5 million units shipped during the previous fiscal year, which ended June 30.

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

POLB Monthly Cargo Volume Up Slightly

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of Long Beach’s overall cargo volume saw growth of just two percent in November 2014 compared to the same month last year, but the modest rise was enough to mark the busiest November since 2007.

According to data released Dec. 16 by the port, a total of 581,514 TEUs moved through port terminals in November, compared to 569,999 TEUs in November 2013. The rise is primarily due to a surge in empty containers imported and exported during the month. Long Beach moved 157,570 empty TEUs in November, an increase of 30.2 percent.

However, exports saw a 14.5 percent decrease to 129,960 TEUs, while imports were recorded at 293,984 TEUs, down 0.9 percent from last year.

The overall result is that cargo numbers were flat in November at the port, something that Long Beach says is attributable to retailers having shipped the majority of their goods for the year in early autumn to be prepared for the busy holiday shopping season that’s currently underway.

Last year, against which 2014 is being compared, was the third-busiest year in port history with a total of 6.73 million TEUs. Through the first 11 months of the calendar year, the port saw a 1.7 percent increase in cargo.

For the fiscal year to date, the port has seen just 1.16 million TEUs, compared to 1.14 million during the same period in FY 2013, representing a 1.6 percent increase in traffic during the period, which began Oct. 1.

Tacoma Monthly Volumes Drop Sharply

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of Tacoma says that productivity issues plaguing it and other US West Coast ports the past few months resulted in Tacoma’s container volumes to drop eight percent in November compared to the same month in 2013.

It marked the end of eight consecutive months of growth at the port, according to data released Dec. 18.

Tacoma handled 140,218 TEUs in November, bringing calendar year-to-date volumes to 1.9 million TEUs. For the year, Tacoma’s container volumes are up 9.3 percent.

Tacoma says that grain exports experienced a bumper crop this year and are returning to normal following last year’s historic lows. Grain exports are up 53 percent year to date to 3.9 million short tons according to data.

Auto imports, intermodal lifts and breakbulk cargo also posted gains, while log exports continued to decline, something the port says reflects decreased demand in China.

Although full containerized imports have grown 12.8 percent year to date through November to 713,047 TEUs, most of those gains occurred earlier in the year. Exports for the year have increased 4.2 percent to 496,686 TEUs, and domestic volumes have improved 3.8 percent to 426,816 TEUs, port numbers state.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Bay Area Ports Offer Diversity and Cooperation

By Mark Edward Nero

The five seaports in the San Francisco Bay Area may be overshadowed in the public eye by their two massive competitors in Southern California, but that doesn't mean they're inert or sitting idly by.

In fact, the ports in Oakland, Redwood City, Richmond, Sacramento and San Francisco have all in the past year engaged in or completed infrastructure improvements geared to help bring in more revenue.

The largest rival in the Bay Area to the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports as far as container traffic goes is the Port of Oakland. The term "rival" may be stretching it a little, however, since Oakland's five terminals moved 2.3 million TEUs in 2013, while LA moved about eight million TEUs last year and Long Beach terminals saw 6.7 million over the same time period.

That said, the Port of Oakland had its busiest month in more than a year in October 2014, with total volume increasing 2.87 percent compared with the same month last year, while imports were up 7.1 percent over the same time period.

And Oakland is trying to increase its market share. Currently, the port is working to turn a 185-acre plot of nearby land into a global trade and logistics center, which would include, among other things, a new intermodal rail terminal, 30 acres of truck parking and two million square-feet of warehousing.

The multi-phase project, called the Oakland Global Trade & Logistics Center, has been in progress since October 2013. Phase 1 consists of building a new railyard to accommodate growth by increasing capacity from 17 cars to 200 cars at a time.

Also included are 29,000 feet of new track, which would allow the facility to handle two 7,000-foot-long trains daily; and a million square feet of new warehouse space.

As many as 200,000 additional cargo containers could pass through the waterfront annually and two million metric tons of bulk product would move in and out by rail once the facility's up and running, according to the port.

The project's second phase includes a new intermodal terminal; 15 acres of designated drayage truck parking; additional warehouse and logistics space; and a new grade separation.

The first phase is expected to cost $500 million to build, while the project as a whole is estimated at $1.2 billion. Construction of Phase 1 began in 2013 and is scheduled for completion by fall 2015. The schedule for Phase 2 is contingent upon the completion of Phase 1.

The project is expected to utilize over $400 million in state, local and private funding, as well as a $15 million federal grant. In November, Alameda County voters approved a half-cent sales tax hike to fund $7.8 billion worth of transportation infrastructure improvements, including improvement of highway connections to the Port of Oakland as well as upgrades of roads that connect to the port's intermodal terminal.

Even as the improvements are in progress, the port has experienced an increase in traffic volumes as a result of congestion at the LA/Long Beach port complex.

"Yes, customers have shifted some of their discretionary cargo over to Oakland due to the congestion issues they are facing in Southern California," a port spokesman told Pacific Maritime Magazine. "We're aggressively marketing Oakland as a key hub for West Coast and intermodal cargo."

Meanwhile, in September, the Port of San Francisco completed its largest maritime infrastructure project in decades: a new cruise ship terminal.

San Francisco has a very different focus from other Bay Area ports; while Oakland's main maritime revenue stream is container traffic, San Francisco's is passenger traffic. The port currently handles 60 to 80 vessel calls each year and 200,000 passengers annually, numbers that are expected to increase due to the opening of the James R. Herman Cruise Terminal at Pier 27 in September 2014.

The $100 million project includes a new terminal building, mobile passenger boarding bridge, shoreside electrical power, three-acre provisioning area, three-acre ground transportation area, and a three-acre public park. On non-cruise days, Pier 27 is used as a facility for conferences, trade shows and special events, while the existing two-berth terminal, Pier 35, remains in service for multiple-ship days.

Although passenger traffic is San Francisco's bread and butter, the port does also have a hand in the bulk and breakbulk industry. Not only is it the Bay Area's only breakbulk cargo port, it is considering expanding its bulk cargo operations.

"The port's dry bulk business has been steady for more than 10 years, with over one million tons of aggregate imported annually from Canada," Port of SF Deputy Maritime Director Peter Dailey told Pacific Maritime Magazine. "We are investigating the feasibility of establishing a bulk export facility for shipping iron ore to Asia, which would be a major boon to our cargo portfolio."

While the Port of Oakland focuses on bulk cargo and the Port of San Francisco dominates the passenger market, the Port of Redwood City's niche is in a different area altogether: aggregates.
The Port of Redwood City, located 18 nautical miles south of San Francisco, is the only deepwater port in the South San Francisco Bay. It specializes in bulk, neo-bulk and liquid cargoes. Fiscal year 2014, which ended June 30, 2014, was good to the port, with increases in both tonnage and vessel calls.

The fiscal year's total tonnage was almost 1.8 million metric tons, a 19 percent increase over the previous FY. About 75 percent of that dry bulk cargo was construction aggregates – sand and gravel – from British Columbia, 1,352,000 metric tons worth, according to the port.

"Demand for this material is expected to continue to grow as the increase in construction continues from San Francisco to San Jose, in other words the greater Silicon Valley," Port of Redwood City Executive Director Michael Giari told Pacific Maritime Magazine.

"You could do a whole separate story on the millions of tons of construction aggregates from British Columbia being brought into SF Bay Area ports on large self-unloading ships," Giari said.

In April 2014, the port completed a $17 million wharf modernization program under which a wooden dock from the 1940s was replaced by a new 430-foot by 60-foot concrete structure that is used to dock Panamax-sized dry bulk ships and handle aggregates as well as other dry bulk cargos.

And this past fall, the port began a $12.8 million dredging project under which its navigation channel was dredged to 28 feet between October and December. It is also set to be dredged to its fully authorized depth of 30 feet by mid-2015.

The ongoing projects in Oakland, San Francisco and Redwood City serve as examples of the role diversity of the San Francisco Bay ports, as each has its focus on a different market from the others.

"The San Francisco area has such diversity in cargo mix: we have containers that go to Oakland, we have passenger ships that come to San Francisco, we have tankers that go up to the Richmond area, and car ships that go up to Benicia and Richmond, and then the break bulk ships that go up to Stockton and Sacramento," Capt. Lynn Korwatch, executive director of the Marine Exchange of the San Francisco Bay Region said.

"Unlike LA and Long Beach, which are really kind of competing for the same business, in our area, each one of the ports really has kind of established its own little cargo niche," Korwatch said. "I don't want to say there's no competition, because there is some to some degree, but San Francisco gets all the passenger traffic, they get no container traffic. San Francisco gets no container ships that come in their way, Oakland gets no tanker ships."

Although some Bay Area ports are expanding their footprint, the Port of West Sacramento is actually seeing its shrink. In October 2014, the City of West Sacramento began a 10-week project to demolish six concrete, 180-foot high silos as part of a waterfront revitalization project under which retail and residential development is planned.

"This is an important step forward in the ongoing revitalization of the waterfront, the de-industrialization of the waterfront," West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon said during an Oct. 28 ceremony at the demolition site.

The Port of West Sacramento, located about 80 nautical miles from San Francisco, is among the more low-profile ports in the region. It was taken over by SSA Marine, in July 2013, becoming one of the few municipal-owned ports whose cargo facilities are completely leased and operated by a private company.

It was also involved in one of the few less successful ventures for Bay Area ports in 2014: the failure of a new "marine highway" barge service operating between West Sacramento and the Stockton and Oakland ports to take off.

The project's underwriter, the Port of Stockton, had high hopes for the service, which it dubbed the M-580, a reference to the congested Interstate 580 that it paralleled. The barge service was expected to help take freight traffic off the I-580 by offering shippers an option to move cargo along the waterways between the ports of Oakland, Stockton and West Sacramento. It even received a $30 million grant from the US Department of Transportation, as well as $5 million from local sources.

But on Sept. 1, 2014, after just 15 months, the M-580 was downgraded from a weekly service to an 'as-needed' service due to financial difficulties.

"During this initial period, we learned that the time it takes to build sustainable volumes was longer than anticipated," Stockton Port Director Richard Aschieris said.

But the failed venture also stands as an example of Bay Area ports' willingness to cooperate with one another since they're typically not directly competing against each other.

"Each one of the port regions has kind of carved out its own little specialty," Marine Exchange Executive Director Lynn Korwatch said. "I think in a lot of ways, that sort of takes away the burden of having to compete. Instead, I find them very collaborative."

Port of Hueneme Sets Fiscal Record

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of Hueneme has set yet another earnings record, according to its fiscal year 2014 audit, a draft report of which was submitted to the port’s Board of Harbor Commissioners during their Dec. 8 business meeting.

The port realized its strongest fiscal numbers in history at about $14.3 million in total gross revenue, according to the report, which was delivered to the board by port CEO Kristin Decas and CFO Andrew Palomares.

“This year’s cargo performance sets a significant new milestone for the port, a record driven by our customers and business development teams,” Decas said. “We commit to continued partnerships and strategic planning to maximize the social and economic benefit the port brings to our community and industries served.”

The financial year end draft report indicates that Hueneme’s net assets grew by 6.2 percent in FY 2014, which is only about half of the previous year’s 12.7 percent. However, the report also shows that the port realized a significant financial recovery in FY 2014, realizing its second best year in volume and highest year in revenue since inception in 1937.

The port mainly attributes the growth to two factors: a nationwide economic rebound as the country continues to climb its way out of the recession; plus a diversification of cargo handled at the port.

The port saw 1.42 million metric tons of cargo in fiscal year 2014, a one percent decrease from FY 2013’s 1.42 million metric tons. Revenue, however, was up 7.5 percent, climbing from $13.3 million in FY 2013 to $14.3 million in FY 2014, which ended June 30.

Commission President, Mary Anne Rooney said the numbers tell a positive story about the port’s financial performance.

“Our team has worked very hard to keep expenses low as we continue to work through hard financial times,” she said. “Over the past few years, everyone made sacrifices working through budget cuts without jeopardizing productivity. We will continue to endorse policies that ensure we run a tight ship.”

Decas acknowledged the year’s performance with a note of cautious optimism.

“We are proud of our record and most pleased to see the uptick in revenues, but recognize that we are still facing financial challenges in making the critical infrastructure investments to move us forward including wharf upgrades and harbor deepening projects,” she said. “We will remain vigilant in our effort to watch expenses and balance the budget.”

The port’s fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30.

BAE San Francisco Wins Overhaul Contract

By Mark Edward Nero

BAE Systems San Francisco Ship Repair said Dec. 14 that it has been awarded a $15.23 million firm-fixed-price contract for a 60-calendar day shipyard availability for the regular overhaul and drydocking of the USNS Matthew Perry.

The work was contracted out by the US Navy’s Military Sealift Command in Washington, DC.

According to BAE, work on the vessel is to include: a main engine overhaul; HVAC support; degaussing system repairs; deck non-skid renewal; ballast tank preservation; cylinder head and liner overhaul; annual lifeboat certification; galley ventilation system cleaning; docking and undocking; propeller system maintenance; bow thruster maintenance; overhauling sea valves; and underwater hull cleaning and painting.

The contract includes options that, if exercised, would bring the total contract value to $15.29 million. Work is to be performed in San Francisco and is expected to be completed by March 15, 2015.

The USNS Matthew Perry, which was christened in 2009, is a 16,446-ton dead weight, 689 foot long military dry cargo ship. It has a maximum dry cargo weight of 5,910 long tons and a maximum dry cargo volume of 783,000 cubic feet.

BAE San Francisco provides maintenance, alterations, and repairs to cruise liners from Alaskan and Mexican trade routes, trans-Alaska pipeline tankers, military vessels, local bay traffic and foreign and domestic bulk carriers and container ships.

The yard’s floating dry dock, which is certified by the U.S. Navy, is among the largest drydocks on North America’s West Coast.

POLB Approves Pollution Control Incentive Program

By Mark Edward Nero

The Long Beach Harbor Commission on Dec. 9 approved a new incentive program to reward shipping lines for taking part in the testing of new air pollution-control technology for vessels.

The first to benefit from the new incentive are vessel operators participating in a Port of Long Beach demonstration of a barge-mounted emissions-capture system for ships at berth.

The port says that by waiving the dockage fee, the new incentive program encourages vessel operators to participate in the testing of the barge-mounted system and other similar technology.

A barge-based Advanced Maritime Emissions Control System, or AMECS, is currently undergoing testing at the port. The AMECS uses a 115-foot-high tower mounted on a barge to connect to a ship and vacuum up emissions. The gases are sent through filters and scrubbers remove pollutants. The developers of the system are seeking approval from state regulators to qualify as an alternative to shore power for container ships and will also be tested on other types of cargo ships.

“This incentive will allow more ships to participate in these important demonstration projects, so we are very happy to offer it,” Harbor Commission President Doug Drummond said. “The Port of Long Beach is committed to being a leader in air pollution reduction and elimination. We’ve made great strides in that area, but we’re far from finished.”

The port estimates 40 vessel calls annually will be eligible for the incentive over the next two years.

Cargo Imports Trending Up at Oakland Port

By Mark Edward Nero

Through the first 11 months of 2014, cargo imports are up four percent at the Port of Oakland compared to the same time a year ago, according to statistics released by the port Dec. 15.

The port saw 771,454 TEU import containers in the first 11 months of 2014, up from 741,662 containers during the same period in 2013.

For the month of November alone, imports increased 2.97 percent, the third straight month of gains over 2013’s numbers, according to port data.

“Our objective is to make imports a bigger percentage of the cargo mix in Oakland,” port Maritime Director John Driscoll said. “We’re progressing and the challenge now is to step up the pace in 2015.”

The port has attributed the increase to aggressive marketing, greater consumer demand and cargo diversions from congested Southern California ports. Through the peak shipping season, which concluded in November, thousands of imports rerouted to Oakland.

Overall volume at the port – imports and exports – is up 1.5 percent in 2014; however exports have dropped four percent, something the port attributes in part to a strong US dollar, which makes American goods more expensive overseas.

Oakland says that for the first 11 months of 2014, exports accounted for 54 percent of its cargo volume, bolstered by a strong agricultural market.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Long Beach Officials Approve New Port HQ Plan

By Mark Edward Nero

A plan that could place the Port of Long Beach headquarters in the city’s downtown for the first time ever was approved this week by the Long Beach City Council and Harbor Commission.

After several months of public meetings, study and debate, the Long Beach City Council on Dec. 9 unanimously selected Plenary-Edgemoor Civic Partners to build a new Civic Center. In addition to a new port headquarters building, the project includes a new main library, park, City Hall and new housing, retail and a hotel.

The city has said that retrofitting the existing facilities is prohibitively expensive and would be impossible without finding new financing through bonds or taxes.

“Partnering with this team to build a new Civic Center is the right decision, and provides an opportunity to add residential development and other uses to the site, and to create a modern, sustainable project that will last for generations, without additional cost to our residents,” Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said.

The port has been looking for a new home for years due to age-related problems with its former base of operations, located near the waterfront, south of downtown. In February, the port’s administrative staff of about 350 moved out of its 54-year-old, seven-story seismically deficient headquarters over to a 27-year-old, eight-story interim building located about a dozen miles inland.

On Dec. 8, the Long Beach Harbor Commission voted to participate in the nearly $358 million project. The approval means the city is authorized to begin negotiations on contract specifics with Plenary-Edgemoor.

“I want to thank our Harbor Department for partnering with us on this project,” Garcia said. “The port’s participation means savings for the city and greater efficiency from shared facilities. It also means our Civic Center – and downtown – will be that much more active thanks to their participation.”

Aegean Marine Petroleum Purchases OW Bunker Assets

By Mark Edward Nero

Marine fuel logistics company Aegean Marine Petroleum Network said Dec. 10 that it has agreed to acquire 28,567 metric tons of marine fuel and assume a storage contract with Vopak Terminal Los Angeles for a total purchase price of about $11 million at an auction of the assets of bankrupt ship fuel supplier OW Bunker.

“This transaction is aligned with Aegean’s strategy to opportunistically enter new markets,” Aegean Marine Petroleum Network President E. Nikolas Tavlarios said. “We have focused on building a strong and flexible financial position over the years, and as a result were able to act quickly on this unique opportunity to further strengthen and diversify our operating footprint.

Tavlarios also said that having a presence at the Vopak storage terminal in Los Angeles is expected to substantially broaden Aegean’s access to the marine fuel markets of the US West Coast, and in so doing, round out Aegean’s profile as a global marine fuel provider.

OW Bunker, which has three offices in the US, including one in downtown Long Beach, California, filed for bankruptcy in November, blaming the occurrence on falling fuel prices and mismanagement, among other factors.

Greece-based Aegean, which physically supplies refined marine fuel and lubricants to ships in port and at sea, says it expects to integrate much of the former OW Bunker operating infrastructure in Los Angeles-Long Beach into the Aegean organization and begin operations at the Vopak Terminal during the first quarter of 2015.

Currently, Aegean has a global presence in 27 markets, including Vancouver, Mexico and the US East Coast.

BC Ferry to Undergo $12 Million Upgrade

By Mark Edward Nero

The ferry Queen of Capilano will undergo a $12 million mid-life upgrade from Jan. 5 to May 5, 2015 to prepare the vessel for another 20 years of service, owner British Columbia Ferry Services said Dec. 5.

The refit work will be carried out at Esquimalt Drydocking Co. in Victoria, British Columbia. Highlights of the vessel’s extensive upgrade are to include the following safety, mechanical and customer service improvements:
  • Installation of gallery decks: increasing capacity from about 85 to 100 vehicles.
  • Installation of a new entrance/exit for walk-on passengers in the upper lounge.
  • Installation of a new evacuation system and replacement of the rescue boat.
  • Installation of a pet area.
  • Complete elevator system overhaul.
  • Upgrade of stairwell and disabled washroom.
  • Upgrade of the ship intercom and public address system.
“A significant upgrade such as the one the Queen of Capilano is undergoing allows BC
Ferries to operate a more efficient vessel for decades into the future,” Mark Wilson, BC Ferries’ Vice President of Engineering, said.

The vessel Bowen Queen is scheduled to provide service on the Bowen Island-Horseshoe Bay route for the duration of the upgrade.

Since the vehicle capacity of the Bowen Queen is lower than that of the Queen of Capilano, BC Ferries says it will provide additional services to help mitigate the potential for overloads, including a direct-to-downtown bus shuttle, discounted parking at Horseshoe Bay terminal, additional sailings and assured loading for high-occupancy vehicles during key afternoon commuter sailings to Bowen Island.

Royal Caribbean Promotes Two

By Mark Edward Nero

Royal Caribbean Cruises has named Michael Bayley president and CEO of Royal Caribbean Intl., a position that had been vacant since April, when Adam Goldstein was promoted to president and COO of RCCL, the parent company for a number of cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises.

As a result of Bayley’s promotion, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, formerly executive vice president of operations at Royal Caribbean Intl., is replacing Bayley as president and CEO at Celebrity Cruises. Both appointments are effective immediately.

Both appointees are Royal Caribbean veterans. Bayley worked his way up from an assistant purser's position aboard the Nordic Prince. Lutoff-Perlo’s career with the company began in its New England sales office.

“To recognize these two incredibly talented people with these vital leadership positions after years of dedication, effort and innovative thinking is gratifying for everyone here,” Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chairman and CEO Richard Fain said.

Before his Celebrity’s President and CEO, Bayley served in several senior roles at Royal Caribbean Intl., including Executive Vice President of Operations.

Lutoff-Perlo began her company career as a district sales manager in New England, and after a successful sales career, made her mark as a specialist at bringing new ships to market for both Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity.

In addition to the Quantum class, she played a key role in the launch of Royal Caribbean International's Voyager and Radiance classes, as well as Celebrity’s Solstice Class, according to Royal Caribbean.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

West Coast Pilots: New Ships, Old Challenges

By Kathy A. Smith

Pilots have been shepherding vessels in and out of harbors for centuries, but overall the job hasn't changed much. Hazards that have existed for millennia are still around. Most still have to face the unpredictability of an arduous climb up and down the ubiquitous pilot ladder, which is never an easy feat, whether in calm waters or rolling seas. And even with today's tough rules on rest, these expert navigators must keep their wits about them, despite the advent of technological advances designed to make their job easier.

Fog can be a huge menace when San Francisco Bar Pilots are at work handling all manner of vessels like large yachts, small bulkers and large tankers. Imagine taking a 1,200-foot containership to the Port of Oakland, where the turning basin is just 1,500 feet in diameter. Or to the Port of Redwood City, where these pilots are expected to expertly maneuver 750- and 800-foot ships in a 900-foot turning basin.

In fact, becoming a pilot is a Herculean effort in itself. Only master mariners can qualify to be pilots – the journey to master, is, in itself, a multi-year voyage. So if one wants to try out for the San Francisco Bar pilots, their passage begins by taking an initial exam given by the State of California. Master mariners need at least one year deep-sea command time with an unlimited master's license or two years of command time. They must also hold a 1,600-ton master's license while in command of a towboat that moves barges or vessels, either at sea or in inland waters.

Step two involves simulation training where these mariners will perform live-action ship-handling tasks with state-mandated evaluators assessing their performance. If the candidate is successful here as well, he or she will be ranked and begin to be called on as the state requires pilots and will observe senior pilots before taking the US Coast Guard pilotage exam.

"You get a piece of paper with the coastline and the bridges on it, and you fill in everything," says Capt. Raymond Ridens, a 24-year hawespiper who has been a San Francisco Bar Pilot for the last eight years. "You have to fill in all the underwater obstructions, all the routes, depths, and current flows in the Bay from memory. And for us in San Francisco, there are 15 different areas you have to draw and write. This is typically 10-12 pages of writing, and you repeat that 15 times."

Once the candidate receives their federal endorsement, he can begin driving ships under the observation of senior pilots. And after a period of about one to three years (average 18 months), as a candidate progresses through about 1,000 jobs, he'll be recommended to the State for licensure as a first-class pilot on San Francisco Bay.

SF Pilots, like most pilot organizations, attend a 6-day manned model training course given by the Grenoble Ship Handling School at Port Revel in Grenoble, France every five years, in addition to a 5-day training course at a training institute (also at a 5-year interval) which includes classroom work for Bridge Resource Management, simulation training, first aid, CPR, and ECDIS, etc.

The schedule for these Californian navigators is seven days on, seven days off. Working hours are long; even though a typical duty day is on average about eight hours, 12-hour shifts occur occasionally. While the pilots are expected to have 12 hours rest between jobs, they can still be called out on special assignment which is reported to the State via the monthly pilot commissioners meeting.

And there are the dangers of the ladder. "When I joined in 2005," says Capt. Ridens, "a pilot was disembarking and he got his foot crushed and he's on a cane now. I've seen pilots go into the water. It happens more than people realize."

In addition to getting on and off ships, weather, navigation and other challenges abound. The super-sizing of vessels, for instance. "Some of the ULCCs are so tall, they're getting close to the bottom of the Bay Bridge," adds Capt. Ridens. "But they can't be so deep that they can't get over the shoal. Those big ships pose both air draft and water draft issues."

These larger ships also require an additional pilot who comes aboard inside the Bay with stand-alone navigational equipment for gathering ship position and AIS data (Portable Pilot Units). This gives sub-meter accuracy and keeps the vessel at center at all times. The data helps the operational pilot do his job while the other is also monitoring tugboats, traffic, etc. "Even though the captain is present and mates at both ends, the two pilots know how to work together so there is no communication mishap."

In Western Canada, BC Coast Pilots have the responsibility of piloting foreign vessels on the 15,000 miles of BC coastline, from the Southern Canadian border to Alaska. But there are a number of inherent dangers here, too. Among several tricky waterways to navigate is the 3.1-mile portion of the Discovery Passage known as Seymour Narrows. Its narrow channel with 16 knots of tide is particularly treacherous, even in good weather. Specific pilotage guidelines have been developed for this region, but one can only imagine how difficult it must be to take a mega cruise ship through this very demanding transit.

Much like other pilot organizations, BC Coast Pilots go through a rigorous process to become licensed. After a candidate has acquired sea time as master and is confident with extensive local knowledge of all BC coast waterways, he sits a written and oral exam assessed by the industry authority and BC Coast pilots. The journey to an unrestricted pilot license will take seven years and involves the manned model and simulation training, hands-on apprenticeship under the guidance of senior pilots, as well as being continually assessed by the Pilot Training and Examination Committee.
But when it comes to boarding and de-boarding ships, this BC group has decided to let go of tradition and adopt what has proven to be a safer, cost-effective pilot transfer. "Using helicopters was originally proposed for the first arrivals of energy ships onto our coast but has since been expanded to the west coast of Vancouver Island, and it's looking now that it will move into the Southern Gulf," says Captain Roy Haakonson, BC Coast Pilots Vice President. "Besides fatalities, another consequence to using ladders has been early medical retirement due to serious and ongoing disabilities. The pilots work closely with Pacific Pilotage Authority to mitigate this risk."

With so much open ocean in their midst, BC Coast Pilots are no strangers to large ships. Some of the biggest vessels transiting BC waters include 10,000 TEU containerships; up to 350 meters long and 50 meters wide. "We have a large toolkit that includes the newest-designed tugs, we're trained in the newest escort maneuvers, and we use simulation and live ship trials to mitigate unexpected challenges in handling future large vessels to our coast," adds Capt. Haakonson.

With all the technology at their fingertips, Capt. Haakonson says there is a problematic situation developing in the training realm regarding the changeover to using e-nav officers. "If this growing phenomenon continues, it would create a control system with little human interface, which would lead to an e-nav officer with little or no understanding of pilotage duties," he says. "But pilots are committed to the art of pilotage and are safeguarding against any one reliance on any one aid. The BC Coast Pilots are committed to a safe and effective pilotage service."

Containerships, tankers and articulated oil barges largely dominate much of the work of Puget Sound Pilots. But they also handle diverse ships such as car carriers and cruise ships on the waterways between the Canadian border and Olympia.

These pilots work on a rotation of 15 days on, 13 days off and things can get interesting as the waterways where large containerships come into harbor were built for much smaller ships.

"We currently have ships that are more than 1,100-feet long by 149 feet wide coming into the Blair Waterway in Tacoma and the East Waterway in Seattle, and have tankers that are shorter but wider, and all indications are that those ships are going to continue to get larger," says Walter Tabler, Executive Director of the Puget Sound Pilots. "We're working now to get ready for 13,000 TEU ships in the Blair Waterway in Tacoma, and we've had an extensive number of sessions in the simulator, simulating different load and wind characteristics and other scenarios, modeling different ships alongside at various docks they sail by."

Whether navigating big or small ships, having to dance around ferry and recreational boater traffic is no easy task, particularly while gillnet season is in full swing. And the ladder is also a distressing challenge here. "Recently, a 12-pound magnet that was securing the pilot ladder to the side of a tanker, popped off and hit the pilot on the head, causing severe injury," reports Tabler.

The 54 Puget Sound Pilots who are licensed by the State of Washington carry out approximately 7,800 assignments a year. They are licensed after a series of examinations and an extensive training regime. "Depending upon an applicant's experience, they will be given a training program that could include hundreds of trips in various waterways in different types of ships," explains Tabler. "It's not until a pilot successfully completes five full years of piloting that he or she is fully authorized to operate any ship that comes into Puget Sound."

Foreign ships' crews pose their own challenges as language can be a barrier despite English being the default dialect. "Problems can arise if something goes wrong," says Tabler. "There could be two or three different languages being used aboard and if something goes wrong, the crew will have a tendency to speak in their native tongue which is likely not the pilot's."

Prior to entering the Columbia River Pilot training program, candidates must have significant experience on Columbia River tugs or have completed the Oregon Board of Maritime Pilots (OBMP) apprenticeship program. The entry and training requirements are set by the OBMP and the training program is two and a half years long. Trainees also attend classroom, simulator and scaled manned model training.

After an initial nine-month period, a pilot is issued a limited license and begins doing his or her own work on smaller vessels, while continuing to also perform training assignments with senior pilots. There are three grades of limited licenses which increase with vessel size. At the end of two and a half years, an unlimited license is issued by the OBMP. "All pilots must also hold a federal First Class Pilot Endorsement for the Columbia/Willamette pilotage grounds," says Captain Anne L. McIntyre, Vice President.

The group of 45 pilots navigate ships to all ports upriver from Astoria to Longview, St Helens, Kalama, Portland and Vancouver. The Columbia and Willamette Rivers Pilotage is a 600-foot wide, 85-mile narrow channel, however, mega ships do not call here due to the 43ft. draft restriction.
Still, some of the challenges faced by these busy river pilots are limited under keel clearance and shifting shoals, manoeuvring vessels in close proximity while underway, docking and anchoring, restricted visibility and the scope of expertise required to serve five different ports.

The use of technology like Portable Pilot Units is a boon. "We view new technology as an aid to what already exists," Capt. McIntyre explains. "The most important things are being able to pilot visually and pilot by radar. Then you layer the aids on top of that. AIS and Portable Pilot Units have significantly helped with traffic management."

As long as ships transit the world's ocean, the skills and experience of these seasoned, tenacious mariners will be required, despite the inherent dangers of the job. Even as 21st century vessel and technologies evolve to enhance the world of piloting, most pilots would agree that 'eyes out the window' is still the best defense.