Friday, January 24, 2014

Vigor to Build 3 Tidewater Tugs

By Mark Edward Nero

Vigor Industrial said Jan. 22 that its large-scale metalworking division has been awarded a contract with Vancouver, Wash.-based Tidewater Barge Lines to build three new tugboats. Vigor Fab is expected to start construction Jan. 24 at the company’s Portland facility.

Although Tidewater has rebuilt and repowered several vessels in its fleet over the years, the tugs will be the first newly built vessels for the company in nearly three decades. Delivery of the first tug is expected in December 2014, with the other two to follow in 2015.

“We are eager to start our new build program and be able to put these tugs to work for our customers,” Tidewater President & CEO Bob Curcio said in a statement. “These tugs are a welcome addition to the growing Tidewater fleet. We are excited to make the investments necessary to address the needs of our customers.”

The state-of-the-art vessels were specially designed by CT Marine of Edgecomb, Maine, to service the Columbia River market. The tug engines are expected to be EPA Tier III compliant and provide upgraded environmental standards for cleaner emissions and a lower environmental impact. The design also features ergonomic accommodations and comforts proven to minimize fatigue and reduce injuries amongst crew.

The vessels are all designed with a length of 102 feet, a width of 38 feet and a draft of 11 feet. Each will have two Caterpillar 3516 Tier 3 Engines, with 4,500 horsepower total.

“Vigor will put its considerable experience to work building these new tugboats,” Vigor Industrial sales manager Bryan Nichols said. “These new builds are evidence of how we are inspiring confidence in our customers and growing our shipbuilding business.”

Thursday, January 23, 2014

eNav 2013: Big Data Dead Ahead for the Bridge

By Michael A. Moore

A tsunami of data is headed straight for the bridge of every commercial vessel above 500 GT around the world – and the deadline is looming to figure out how to deal with that data overload in a way that makes navigation safer instead of more dangerously complex.

The electronic navigation data tsunami started out simply enough – the intention was to provide up to date and accurate data by means of electronic charts to navigators and pilots – the goal was to make commercial shipping safer and more efficient.

That simple idea has grown exponentially to the point where the scope of electronic navigation has become “to establish an integrated information environment that reaches beyond the shipboard environment,” said Michael Sollosi, chief of the Coast Guard’s Office of Navigation Systems, in the opening statement to Pacific Maritime Magazine’s eNavigation Conference 2013. Some of the best minds and top decision makers in the industry gathered in Seattle for the mid-November conference to share information and experiences about the current state of electronic navigation implementation, regulations, technology, and its legal implications. The rapid rate and complexity of change confronting the transition from paper to cyber and how different stakeholders are dealing with those challenges were the underlying themes in every presentation and panel of the conference.

The Coast Guard – charged with writing regulations plus adapting its entire system of navigation aids to meet the challenges posed by the new technology – views electronic navigation as an integrated system that will do more than provide position information. “The new technologies will incorporate new ways of providing navigation and situational information to the bridge as well as shoreside stakeholders without leaving older mariners and vessels that are not integrated with the system too far behind,” said Mike Sollosi. “Shore organizations will be able to deliver more information to the mariner,” he said. “That information will include virtual visual aids where there is a time or environmental constraint.”

Sollosi cites Arctic ice and tropical coral as environments where an ECDIS chart could show virtual visual aids that would be difficult if not impossible to physically install. “We are replacing physical visual aids with electronic wherever possible,” said Sollosi. “However, physical visual references – such as buoys and lights – will be with us for a long time to come.” An integrated ‘aids to navigation’ system will have to contain enough visual references to operate independently of any electronic system.

User involvement in the evaluation process is critical before making changes in the aids to navigation system, he emphasized.

“Before the Coast Guard deployed their first set of synchronized flashing buoys in the San Francisco bar channel, they tested the different possible configurations with the San Francisco Bar Pilots on the California Maritime Academy’s simulator,” he said. “That not only allowed us to implement the optimal buoy configuration, it saved a lot of money.”

Sollosi mentioned numerous other examples of how virtual visual aids to navigation can be used to help the Coast Guard make the nation’s waterways safer to navigate while keeping costs under control. The Coast Guard has felt the pinch of the federal budget cuts – the trend is to reduce costs and maintain service while traffic volume remains steady.

The Coast Guard’s goal that the regulations and technology of electronic navigation advance together is proving to be elusive, as the technology of the different components of electronic navigation systems leave the slow pace of regulation in the virtual dust.

The regulatory environment of electronic navigation needs to move faster, said Sollosi. He points out that the Coast Guard and other agencies charged with formulating the regulations must take into account the economic and operational aspects of any new regulations before they are put into effect.

The annual July deadlines for successively larger vessel ECDIS implementation are flying by as the final July 2018 date approaches. At the same time, the move toward integrated navigation and bridge control systems is accelerating.

That total integration of data, situational awareness and control integration is rapidly approaching the point where shore side managers can monitor – and conceivably control – the ship’s situation in real time. However, the Coast Guard does not see electronic navigation as an enabler of shoreside control of a ship, said Sollosi.

The Coast Guard may not see electronic navigation as an enabler of shoreside control, but conference speaker Alan Weigel, a specialist in maritime law with Blank Rome, actively warns against it.

Weigel’s perspective on big data’s assault on the bridge via integrated systems is from the risk management standpoint.

“The fundamental question is – as shipboard technology improves to the point of giving owners the ability to monitor the performance of shipboard systems and the actions of watch keepers in real time – will owners essentially have ‘continuous’ privity and knowledge of the conditions on their vessels?” he said.

“If yes, the vessel is now continuously under an owner’s control and the owner is now obligated to use communication capabilities to correct unseaworthy conditions and negligent actions as they occur. That obligation to use due diligence will apply even when the vessel is not in port.”

Weigel recommends that owners leave real-time access to the bridge to the captain and crew – and focus on limiting their liability as much as possible by ensuring the ship has the best possible information, equipment and properly trained crew.

“Now is the time for the shipping industry to force the insurers to take a close look at their equipment. The incentive to implement electronic navigation best practices is the savings in insurance and legal costs,” he said.

“The courts are now more familiar with and accepting of electronic navigation – they actually expect that kind of data in court. We call it the iPhone effect – eNav data is fundamentally changing maritime litigation.”

The legal status of AIS has progressed from a “notable development,” but “not conclusive evidence” to “the authenticity and accuracy of the VTS/AIS recording was not disputed.” “ECDIS is now accepted as conclusive evidence of vessel position, and the voyage data recorder (VDR) is accepted as the maritime equivalent of the aviation black box,” he said. The new technology can expand an owner’s legal obligations, but it can also be an invaluable tool to manage risk before accidents happen. The VDR is perhaps the most useful – and potentially damning in case of litigation – of the new shipboard electronic tools, according to Weigel. He sees a parallel in the aviation industry’s use of the black box for pro-active risk reduction.

“The maritime industry can use the VDR the same way aviation uses the flight data recorder (FDR),” said Weigel. “The International Civil Aviation Organization calls for gathering and analyzing data recorded during routine flights to improve flight crew performance, operating procedures and flight training.

“The problem for the marine industry is that most VDRs only record 12 hours of data, plus they are not checked on a regular basis.”

Weigel notes that the Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF) has published a set of guidelines on the pro-active use of the VDR, and calls for the development of a low-cost approach to extend recording duration as well as for the regular download of stored data. “The legal implications for this use of the VDR are no different than a log book review,” he said. “But this cannot be just a paper exercise. The first data analysis should take place on board to ensure quality – then it is transmitted to the owner or manager for in-depth events analysis. Where I have a problem are the proposals to download the data to shore in real time.”

Training is major point of weakness in the implementation and use of the VDR and other electronic navigation tools, said Weigel.

“There are ECDIS training requirements under the SOLAS Manila Amendments,” he said. “But being certified does not mean you are competent. The current training requirements don’t meet that standard.”

Weigel cites the case of the CSL Acadian, which collided with mooring dolphins at excess speed, as an example of what can happen without proper training in the competent use of the new technological tools. “The master failed to save the VDR data,” said Weigel. “There was an alleged lack of training and no set procedures. The CSL ship captain destroyed a wealth of additional information that would have been probative.

“Within twelve hours of the event, he was supposed to have pushed the ‘save button’ on the SVDR system (like a black box on an airplane). He did not save the evidence. This meant that it was later overwritten.”

The court turned that captain’s omission into destruction of evidence which resulted in a complete inability to defend the case.

The Paperless Solution
The importance of proper training – and updated training on a regular basis – is a lesson that has not been lost on SeaRiver Maritime, according to Christian Hempstead of Hempstead Maritime Training. “The training objective is simple – show me safe navigation using ECDIS,” he said. Sea River has decided that a major factor in making electronic navigation safe is to rapidly phase out their use of paper charts as backups for ECDIS.

“SeaRiver has decided that the best way for them to go is totally paperless,” said Hempstead. “The concern with hybrid practices, at least at SeaRiver, is that neither the paper-based navigation nor the ECDIS-based support is being done thoroughly.”

There are apparent gaps occurring in both, and the gaps vary across the population of watch officers. Management sees this as raising the probability of a safety-critical incident. In 2014 SeaRiver Maritime will take delivery of two new Aframax tankers fitted with fully integrated bridges including ECDIS/planning networks. These new ships, the S/R Liberty Bay and S/R Eagle Bay, will replace two older tankers, and join one other presently fitted with only a single ECDIS meant to support paper-based navigation.

To develop and rehearse paperless navigation procedures and skills, SeaRiver management intends to take on ECDIS refresher training in a 5-year cycle.

“Considering what is in store for the advancement of ENC data transfer standards, such refresher training will likely gain a relevance not seen before in the maritime profession,” said Hempstead.

That transition to paperless navigation received a big nudge in October when NOAA announced the agency would no longer publish navigation charts – that paper charts will still be available through private print-on-demand partners.

“We look on the elimination of paper charts as an opportunity to get more information to the public much faster than was possible with the print cycle,” said Captain Shepard Smith, NOAA’s marine chart division chief. “The print cycle controlled the information flow – it presented a big structural barrier to updating.

“E-charts contain more information, they allow for more precise positioning of critical features, and better support for water level integration with charts to manage under keel clearance risk.”

Electronic pdf’s of paper charts are available for free at least through January 22, 2014, from NOAA at – these are raster versions of the paper charts and the resolution has been increased from 250 to 400 dpi, which improves legibility.

The next big leap in electronic charts will be from the current S-57 standard to S-100. “In S-57, the data model is embedded with the file format and updating a transfer mechanism would interfere with data structure and content,” said Christian Hemsptead. “S-100 provides the framework for the development of the S-101, next generation of ENC products and other digital hydro-graphic and marine geo-spatial information –in 5-7 years the transition will begin from S-57 to S-101.”

“NOAA is working on bathymetric overlays using S-100,” said Shepard. “Working with the USACE and our own hydrographic team, we are developing a high resolution bathymetric overlay for dynamic areas.

“We are excited about the opportunities offered by the web, and embrace new computer technologies, such as tablet computers – ECDIS is a 1993 protocol. The web will allow us to host ENC’s as a layer – boundaries, traffic and other information will be available as overlays.”

The data tsunami may be headed for the bridge, but NOAA and Captain Shepard Smith are getting out their surfboards.

Over the next few issues, Pacific Maritime Magazine will be publishing a series of articles covering various aspects of electronic navigation and bridge integration and the impact of the new technologies on navigation, safety and ship operations.

Tacoma Port Handled Nearly 2 Million Containers in 2013

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of Tacoma on Jan. 22 said that it handled 1.89 million TEUs in 2013, approaching the two million container cargo mark that it first reached in 2005, and ahead of the 1.57 million TEUs moved at the neighboring Port of Seattle last year.

Double-digit growth in imports and exports, along with 16 percent more vessel calls, contributed to Tacoma’s 10.5 percent gain, according to the port. Full containerized exports improved nearly 16 percent for the year to 529,255 TEUs, and imports were up 14 percent to 695,748 TEUs.

Growth in 2013 import container volumes mostly reflected the addition of the Grand Alliance shipping consortium from the Port of Seattle midway through 2012. The Alliance consists of three of the world’s largest shipping lines –Hapag-Lloyd, Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL) and NYK Line – along with associated carrier ZIM Integrated Shipping.

Intermodal lifts at the port in 2013 mirrored the growing container volumes, posting a nearly 11 percent gain on the year. Auto imports and log exports also performed well, according to port data, improving eight percent and 17 percent, respectively.

The news wasn’t all good however; break bulk cargo volumes finished the year down 21 percent, something the port says was expected as cargo volumes slowed down after two years of record-breaking volumes.

Grain exports also declined 43 percent in 2013, impacted by increased competition from South America and severe weather conditions in the U.S. Midwest. However, grain exports through Tacoma did improve significantly in the fourth quarter of 2013, suggesting a rebound.

All 2013 cargo stats for the port can be seen at

Ocean Carrier PIL to Begin Seattle Port Calls

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of Seattle, which saw its container volumes drop in 2013 due to the loss of three major shippers in mid-2012, says it expects to become the primary Pacific Northwest port of call for Pacific International Lines in the next few weeks.

According to the port, PIL’s new Asia Pacific Northwest Service will begin calling at Terminal 30 in February partnership with China Shipping Container Lines’ and United Arab Shipping Co.’s existing joint service.

The service is expected to have a port rotation of Nansha, China; Hong Kong; Yantian, China; Ningbo, China; Shanghai; Pusan, South Korea; Seattle; Vancouver, British Columbia; and back to Nansha.

PIL, which was incorporated in 1967, is headquartered in Singapore. It operates container liner services covering the North American West Coast, the East Coast of South America, New Zealand, Australia, Africa, the Far East, Europe, the Black Sea, the Indian sub-continent and the Red Sea.

It is ranked 14th among the top containership operators in the world and offers container liner and multi-purpose services at over 500 ports and other locations in 100 countries worldwide.

FMC Opens Earth Day Award Nominations

By Mark Edward Nero

The Federal Maritime Commission has opened nominations for its 2014 Chairman’s Earth Day Awards, which honors members of the maritime transportation industry for innovations and successes in developing environmentally sustainable shipping practices.

Specifically, the award highlights technologies, programs and practices of the maritime transportation industry that benefit the environment through efficiency or innovation.

The Chairman’s Earth Day Award is open to participants that meet certain requirements, including:
• Nominated private entities must be incorporated in and maintain a primary place of business in the United States.
• Nominated individuals, whether participating singly or in a group, must be citizens or permanent residents of the US.
• Nominees cannot be a federal entity or federal employee acting within the scope of their employment.

The submission period is from Jan. 13 to March 10. At the end of the period, eligible submissions are to be evaluated based on:
• Programs or practices that provide an environmental benefit or reduction in environmental harm, including but not limited to, efforts that encourage a reduction in emissions or pollutants.
• Programs or practices that are sustainable and also serve as models for others to follow or replicate.
• Efforts that increase the public’s awareness of the maritime transportation industry’s efforts to protect the environment.

Submissions should include a title and a description of the program or practice in a document of up to five pages or a presentation of up to 10 slides. Optional material includes a link to additional information on the program, as well as videos or pictures.

Submissions can be emailed to Mary Hoang at or mailed to: Mary Hoang, Federal Maritime Commission, 800 North Capitol St. NW, Washington, DC 20573.

More information about the FMC and the Chairman’s Earth Day Award can be gained by contacting Mary Hoang at (202) 521-5733 or visiting

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

California Maritime Leadership Symposium

The 14th Annual California Maritime Leadership Symposium (CMLS) is scheduled for February 19 -20th, 2014 at the Sacramento Convention Center. The annual event focuses on briefing Sacramento’s policymakers on key matters related to the entire Maritime Transportation System. The symposium is a comprehensive forum for port executives, commissioners, and other stakeholders across the state to seek resolution to the growing challenges the Maritime Transportation System faces. Hosted by a broad-based Coalition of the maritime industry, CMLS is headed up by the California Association of Port Authorities, California Marine Affairs and Navigation Conference, California Marine and Intermodal Transportation System Advisory Council, California Maritime Academy, Harbor Association of Industry and Commerce, and the Propeller Club of Los Angeles - Long Beach.

Event Details: 
Dates: Wednesday, February 19 – Thursday, February 20, 2014
Location: Sacramento Convention Center
For more information:
To register:

What Were They Thinking?

By Marilyn Raia

Sometimes when researching a topic for my column, I come across a case that makes me question the thought processes of the person who brought it and his lawyer. To start the new year, following are a few recently discovered cases in which the parties and their counsel attempted and failed to put a new spin on well-established maritime law applicable to seamen.

Practicing Alchemy Not Part of Seaman’s Duties 
McClendon v. OMI Offshore Marine Services, 807 F.Supp. 1266 (E.D. Tx 1992), involved a personal injury sustained by McClendon while he was acting as a caretaker of a tug in a dry dock undergoing repairs. McClendon decided to practice alchemy while waiting for the tug to be able to return to service. He obtained an ounce of mercury from a friend and placed it in a potato which he then baked in a very hot oven in the tug’s galley, intending to turn the mercury into gold. Instead, McClendon sustained an injury by breathing the mercury vapors escaping from the oven.

McClendon hired a lawyer who reasoned that because McClendon was a seaman injured on a tug, he was entitled to compensation. The court disagreed. Under federal law, a crewmember injured while working aboard a vessel in navigation due to the unseaworthiness of the vessel or the negligence of the vessel owner, is entitled to compensation for his injury. However, the court denied a recovery to McClendon because the tug was in a dry dock undergoing repairs and not in navigation at the time of the injury. Moreover, the court noted it had not been able to find, and Mr. McClendon’s lawyer did not cite, any case holding the practice of alchemy was within the duties of a seaman acting as a caretaker of a vessel in a dry dock.

Bar Fight Does Not Entitle Seaman to Maintenance and Cure
Seamen who are injured in the service of a vessel in navigation are entitled to recover “maintenance and cure” from their employers. “Maintenance” is a daily living allowance and “cure” is the payment of bills for medical treatment necessitated by the injury. Whether a seaman was injured in the service of a vessel has been the subject of creative, but not always successful, legal arguments.

In Bilozur v. Royal Daiquiri’s Inc., 2007 AMC 685 (E.D. La 2007), Bilozur was an employee of Edison Chouest Offshore. He joined the M/V Seacor Reliant on May 5, 2005 and signed off the vessel on June 7, 2005. After Bilozur signed off, he could do what he wanted. He chose to stay in a nearby dormitory where ECO employees could stay for free if space were available. From June 7-10, 2005, Bilozur participated in a training course at the ECO facility. Completion of the course was a condition of Bilozur’s employment. He could take the course for free at the ECO facility or for a fee at any Coast Guard facility.

After the course was over, Bilozur went to a restaurant/bar to have dinner and plan a fishing trip with a friend. After drinking four beers and liquor, Bilozur noticed a hostile environment at the restaurant/bar and left. Another patron believed Bilozur was asked to leave because he had been harassing others.

Bilozur backed his car into another car in the parking lot. He went back into the bar/restaurant and learned the car was owned by a woman with whom Bilozur had trouble earlier in the evening. The police were called and charged Bilozur with reckless operation of a vehicle. Instead of leaving the scene, Bilozur chose to stay. Some time later he was hit from behind in the neck. When he awoke, his neck was twisted. He was transported to the hospital where his neck was found to have been broken, rendering him a quadriplegic. Bilozur sued ECO for, among other things, maintenance and cure, arguing he was in the service of the vessel at the time of his injury. He argued other ECO employees were in the bar/restaurant in the course and scope of their employment and contributed to the injury. He also argued ECO benefitted by his presence in the area while taking the course because he could fill in if another employee failed to report for work. The court did not find Bilozur’s arguments persuasive. It reasoned even if Bilozur were in the service of the vessel when he took the course, the course had ended before Bilozur went to the bar/restaurant. Moreover, the court said Bilozur’s time “was his own and ECO should not have to pay for the consequences of his actions.”

Willful Self-Inflicted Injury Precludes Recovery of Maintenance and Cure
A seaman’s right to recover maintenance and cure is not dependent on his employer’s fault. However, the right to receive maintenance and cure may be forfeited under certain circumstances, such as when a seaman intentionally injures himself.

In Discovery Sun Partnership, Ltd. v. Kapsomenakis, 2000 AMC 2402 (S.D. Fla 2000), Kapsomenakis was fired from his position as a seaman aboard the vessel Discovery and was asked to leave. Instead of leaving, he stood on freshly painted stairs inside the engine room. An oiler then observed him holding onto the handrails and dragging his feet down the stairs. After his feet were on the deck, Kapsomenakis struck his head against a door frame. He also attempted to pull a fire extinguisher from the wall onto himself.

Kapsomenakis’s employer moved for summary judgment. It argued Kapsomenakis was not employed by the company at the time of the injury and even if he were, it had no obligation to pay him maintenance and cure because the injury was intentionally self-inflicted. The district court held the plaintiff’s “blatantly willful conduct” precluded him from recovering maintenance and cure. Because of that finding, the district court did not need to rule on whether Kapsomenakis was actually an employee at the time of the injury.

Intoxication May Bar Recovery for Seaman’s Injuries
In Park v. Alakanuk Native Corporation, 1995 AMC 377 (D. Ak. 1994), Alakanuk hired Park to be the caretaker of its vessel which was awaiting disposal. Park’s duties included checking lines, checking bilges, and maintaining the ship’s generator. Park received a daily stipend and groceries, and was allowed to live aboard the vessel. He was warned against the use of alcohol and instructed not to leave the vessel unattended while the generator was running.

Alakanuk authorized Park to hire someone to assist him with the installation of a compressor. Park hired an 18 year old, Schwin, who remained on board with Park after the compressor was installed to help keep watch over the vessel. Park had responsibility for the vessel 24 hours per day.

One day after spending many hours working on the vessel’s generator, Park and Schwin left the vessel unattended and drove in Park’s truck to a bar and restaurant approximately eight miles away. They spent many hours there socializing and drinking. Park admitted having consumed multiple beers. The bar would not serve alcohol to Schwin because he was underage. However, Schwin had a bottle of whiskey in the truck, which Park knew about. Schwin left the bar to go outside from time to time during the evening. He and Park also smoked marijuana.

Both Park and Schwin were intoxicated when the bar closed at 5 AM. They argued about who should drive the truck back to the vessel. Park allowed Schwin, who did not have a driver’s license, to drive. Park then sat in the passenger seat, buckled his seat belt, and fell asleep. Shortly after leaving the bar, the truck left the road and came to rest upside down in a used car lot. Park and Schwin were seriously injured.

Park sued Alakanuk for injuries suffered in the car wreck on negligence and unseaworthiness theories. He also sought maintenance and cure, unearned wages, and punitive damages. Park did not win and was required to pay Alakanuk’s costs.

The district court held Park was not “in service of the ship” or in the course of his employment at the time of the injury, prerequisites to recovering maintenance, cure and unearned wages. The court recognized a seaman might, under certain circumstances, be in the course of employment while engaged in recreation ashore. However, it held Park was not in service of the ship while he was in the bar with Schwin. Nor was he acting in the course of his employment doing the work ordered by his employer while in the bar with Schwin. The court also held Park could not recover for his injuries because they were caused by his own breach of duty and choice to proceed on an unsafe course of action. Finally, the court held that although a seaman may recover from his employer for injuries caused by a co-worker’s negligence during the course of his employment, Park could not base a claim on Schwin’s negligence because Schwin was not in the course of his employment when the accident happened.

US law is quite favorable to seamen who are injured while in the course of their employment on a vessel. However, seamen who make poor decisions and put themselves in peril lose the benefit of the favorable law and must bear the consequences of their actions.

Marilyn Raia is of counsel in the San Francisco office of Bullivant Houser Bailey. She has been certified as a specialist in admiralty and maritime law by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization. She can be reached at

BNSF Penalized for Hazardous Spill Near LA Port

By Mark Edward Nero

BNSF Railway has agreed to plead no contest and pay a fine to settle charges that it failed to report a June 2012 hazardous spill near the Port of Los Angeles, LA City Attorney Mike Feuer said Jan. 13. The spill resulted in a dangerous leak that lasted for days.

BNSF pled no contest to failing to report the release of a hazardous material and creating a public nuisance, and agreed to pay over $140,000, which includes criminal penalties, medical expenses and lost wages to a Port Police officer affected by the incident, plus reimbursement for costs borne by local agencies, as well as a donation to the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium.

BNSF is also required under the agreement to conduct hazardous materials training for designated employees, including an employee at the corporate level who will oversee hazardous materials issues.

The Environmental Justice and Protection Unit of Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer filed the criminal charges against BNSF Railway in June 2013 in response to the spill. The case marks the first time BNSF has pled to criminal charges in California. “Businesses dealing with hazardous materials have a responsibility to protect the public and safeguard the environment,” Feuer said.

According to Feuer’s office, several drums containing hazardous materials including phenol, cresylic acid and other corrosives that cause inhalation hazards leaked from barrels being transported in a cargo container under the control of BNSF bound for China between June 23 and June 29, 2012.

Port Police were eventually alerted to the spill while investigating a report of an abandoned container at the location. The responding Port Police officer was overcome by fumes and later hospitalized.

Ex-ILWU Treasurer Ordered to Repay
Stolen $1.69 Million

By Mark Edward Nero

The former secretary-treasurer of International Longshore & Warehouse Union Local 502 in British Columbia has been ordered by a judge to repay $1.69 million that was stolen from the union over the course of about six years.

Former union official Robert Victor Eric Ford, who was secretary-treasurer of Local 502 from October 2003 until August 2012, was issued the order on Jan. 17, 2014 by British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Affleck.

Affleck said Ford was able to get away with the embezzlement for so long because of lax accounting practices at the union local. According to the judge, the local often gave Ford blank checks, and that Ford took advantage of the procedure by essentially writing checks to himself and using various means to cover up his misdeeds.

Union leaders became aware of Ford’s actions in August 2012, according to court documents. Ford, who has blamed the theft on gambling debts, resigned from his position with the union Aug. 20, 2012.

Union attorney Howard Mickelson said that although he was pleased with the judge’s decision, he’s not hopeful that the money will be repaid. “He probably gambled most if not all of the money away, so there’s very little left for the union to recover,” Mickelson said.

Local 502 represents about 850 members in the Metro Vancouver area.

Seattle, Tacoma Ports to Share Operating Info

By Mark Edward Nero

The ports of Seattle and Tacoma say they intend to share information with one another that will allow them to “gather and share information to identify potential options for responding to unprecedented industry pressures.”

In a discussion agreement that was filed Jan. 17 with the Federal Maritime Commission, the ports said that the move is necessitated in part by strong global competition. The agreement allows the ports, with appropriate legal oversight, to share information about their respective operations, facilities and rates. Both ports say they’ve agreed that a change in governance, such as a merger, will not be part of the discussions.

“These discussions are aimed at increasing our collective market share and generating more container cargo moving through Puget Sound,” a joint statement by the ports regarding the discussions reads in part. “We must leverage our strengths in the face of continued soft demand and increasing competition.”

The statement also goes on to say that Seattle and Tacoma face “fierce competition” from ports throughout North America and must “adjust to shifts” in the global maritime industry, such as global shipping lines responding to losing millions of dollars each year by investing in larger vessels with more capacity, sharing those vessels, consolidating terminals and reducing the number of ports at which they call.

The seven-page agreement, which is dated Jan. 16, 2014 and is signed by Port of Tacoma CEO John Wolfe and Seattle Deputy CEO Kurt Beckett, can be read or downloaded at or at

2013 Was POLB’s Third-Busiest Year Ever

By Mark Edward Nero

Cargo volumes at the Port of Long Beach rose 11.3 percent last year to 6.73 million TEUs, making 2013 the port’s third-busiest year ever, behind only 2006 and 2007, according to newly released data.

In 2013, imports were up 12.8 percent to 3.45 million TEUs, while exports rose 10.7 percent to 1.7 million TEUs and empties were up 8.8 percent to 1.57 million TEUs, according to port numbers.

Shipping container volume rose in part because major shipping lines – CMA CGM and Mediterranean Shipping Co. – began increasing service to Long Beach at the end of 2012, according to the POLB.

December 2013 saw a slight dip in imports, but overall finished with a four percent increase over the same month in 2012, according to data. The overall number of containers increased to 582,443 TEUs during the month, while imports were down 1.4 percent to 291,434 TEUs. Exports were up 9.3 percent to 148,150 TEUs compared to the same month the year before, and the number empty containers moved rose 10.8 percent to 142,859 TEUs.

“Our economy is getting better, and the port is providing a shot in the arm for Long Beach and all of Southern California,” Al Moro, the port’s Acting Executive Director, said.

More details on Long Beach’s cargo numbers are available at