Friday, February 7, 2014

Vessel and Navigational Safety

By Kathy A. Smith

In association with industry safety regulations, maritime transportation companies are working hard to cultivate company-wide safety cultures. No longer are captains alone responsible for safety on vessels, or safety departments alone responsible for monitoring safety. It’s everyone’s responsibility.

“There are a number of elements you need to foster safety in your working environment, and communication is essential,” says Jeff Slesinger, Director of Safety and Training for Seattle’s Western Towboat. “There must be communication from the deck plate to the wheelhouse, the deck plate to management, and the deck plate to engineering, as all have an effect on the safety of the fleet. Our owners are accessible 24/7 and are actively engaged, so there is always a direct communication link with them.”

Western Towboat is a member of the American Waterways Operators, and as a condition of membership, the company must subscribe to the Responsible Carrier Program, which is modeled after ISM. “It’s a safety management system that’s proven to be very effective for many towing companies, so that’s the structure we use.”

On a regularly-scheduled basis, Slesinger reports, the company carries out standard inspections and drills per industry regulations and every Thursday, they hold a safety conference call where safety feedback, topical issues, procedures and processes, incidents and lessons learned are discussed. The meetings also cover what the company calls “Doing it Right” where examples of crewmembers doing things correctly and going the extra mile are highlighted. “These calls give us a chance to communicate, not only from the fleet to the office, but also amongst the fleet so if there are immediate issues, we can cover those as well,” explains Slesinger. “It’s actually been one of the most effective tools we have for addressing safety issues. We got the idea from Gail Johnson at Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Corporation.”

Slesinger says the industry has been slowly moving from the SILO approach to safety, where the captain alone dispatches and monitors safety protocols, to one that in most cases is now a company-wide culture. Behavior-based training also helps in this regard as safety is about more than rules and regulations.

“As an industry, we have to figure out how to assist people to behave correctly in the workplace, and that’s where behavior-based training comes in,” says Slesinger. “If you want to have things change, you have to figure out a way to alter the culture. And that’s what our Thursday phone call is all about.”

The company also provides a lot of onboard on-the-job training. Depending on what the required skill set is, there are detailed checklists for specific positions, which may also list objective criteria for evaluating people.

Regardless of position, one of the essential skills is an eye for detail; it is a key element of maintaining situational awareness and operating safely. Slesinger gives an example of a deckhand/cook position. While working in the galley, sorting silverware seems a simple task. But if the worker just stows the silverware in a haphazard way and doesn’t demonstrate an eye for detail at this level, it will be difficult for the captain and crew to have faith in his or her ability to bring the focus and situational awareness required for more critical tasks such as deck work or helping in an emergency.

Additionally, when it comes to safety documentation and safety drills, Slesinger says just because someone reads about a procedure doesn’t mean they’ll remember it come the day they need to use it. “You have to embed that habit in your behavior,” he says. “But that behavior can’t just be utilized when there is an emergency drill, that eye for detail has to be used all the time. Few are born with it, but most of us can be trained on what to look for.” Through the American Waterways Operators membership, Western Towboat has also found camaraderie on safety issues. “I can guarantee that several injuries and incidents have been prevented through the open cooperative spirit among companies.”

At Harley Marine Services, everything is centered around the goal of zero injuries and zero incidents. “Personnel and operational safety has to come first no matter what the job is,” says Jonathan Mendes, Vice President, Health, Safety and Quality for the Seattle-headquartered company. We’re always thinking for safety, stopping for safety, learning for safety and we’re always sharing for safety.”

Under Goal Zero, the company tracks safety trends and measures itself consistently each year on its performance. The in-house Safety Incentive Program highlights the sharing of information such as safety tips, safety articles and participation in safety meetings. Each new hire goes through a safety quality and environmental orientation checklist. Once that is complete, when each employee gets aboard a specific vessel, they receive another safety orientation specific to that vessel. All these activities are centralized and recorded within a centralized database to ensure nothing is missed from a shoreside perspective. Additionally, employees attend an annual two-day seminar where they experience hands-on safety training and are exposed to various computer-based learning and training modules. “Together they’re combined to deliver the full compass of our company policy requirement, our regulatory requirements and our customer requirements, which we go above and beyond in all categories,” says Mendes.

Near miss reporting is encouraged throughout the entire company and employees have the opportunity to submit a near miss report, which is then consolidated and reviewed, extracting key indicators which has brought excellent results. Reports are circulated to the fleet each month.

Positive Deviation focuses on what happened or is happening and looks at those employees, those individuals who have excellent safety performance in order to highlight and target what they’re doing right. Harley Marine’s performance-based, non-monetary reward system recognizes strong performers. Employees are compensated with a variety of items such as PPE equipment and clothing they can choose from a catalog.

Senior officers in the wheelhouse are run through a simulation assessment program at PMI-MITAGS in Seattle where their on-the-water experience is supplemented by such topics as voyage planning. Officers are scored on their performance and Mendes says the company has participated in the program for the past three years, with very good results.

On the job, the company has a Stop Mechanism process. “Should there be an unsafe operation happening we stop it and evaluate the risk and mitigate the circumstances,” says Mendes. “That’s where we focus, throughout the company and the industry as a whole. Positive Deviation and the Stop Mechanism, when combined, will help us continue to see significant improvement in our safety culture.”

Harley Marine’s safety culture starts at the top, with Founder, Chairman and CEO Harley Franco. “It’s the only way you can continue to nurture and grow a safety culture,” adds Mendes. “Otherwise, it will not work.”

Safety is also a number one priority at Foss Maritime Company. “It’s at the heart of everything we do,” says Susan Hayman, Vice President, Health Safety Quality Environment (HSQE) & External Affairs. “Our safety culture is evolving. It’s a continuous improvement process that we take very seriously, and our goal is to send people home in the same shape they came or better.”

Hayman reports everyone at Foss from the CEO on down, is responsible for safety. “It’s everyone’s job to look out for everyone else whether shipmates or in the office. You have to continually look out for each other, and that’s what having a safety culture means.” Foss also provides several training programs for employees like their mandatory two-day safety program, run in conjunction with outside trainers, and the company carries out onboard drills and safety meetings. Safety training and awareness continues daily, weekly and throughout the year. Quarterly regional safety meetings are also held as well as specialized training such as for fall protection. For instance, in addition to providing non-skid coatings and marking hazardous work areas, ensuring workers are situationally-aware can also help prevent slips, trips and falls. The company also provides every employee the authority to be able to stop any work action that they feel is being performed in an unsafe manner.

“We carry out a lot of job safety analysis to ensure the right equipment is used for best practices but it’s also up to the master or who is in charge to have a safety conversation with the people doing the job in order to prevent injuries from happening,” says Hayman. “We also have a lot of videos, and we do a lot of training in our shipyards as well. New people go through a safety orientation and vendors in the shipyard also go through orientation. Everyone has to be well aware of what the requirements are for safe operation if they’re going to be in our facility or on our boats.”

Other company safety processes include near miss and hazardous reporting that Hayman’s department compiles and reviews lessons learned and to recognize trends. “We’re constantly asking ourselves if we’re doing the best we can,” says Hayman. “Sometimes there are physical changes that need to happen. Sometimes it’s policy and process changes. We also talk to our customers and look at other industry best practices.”

Over the past seven years, Foss has significantly reduced their incident rate. Behavioral consultants have also helped in this area. “If you can go one day without anyone getting hurt, you keep building on that and next thing you know, you‘ve gone a whole year,” says Hayman. “In some regions, we’ve gone multiple years without an incident. It’s part of the ‘yes, I can’ mindset. The toughest thing to get over is the mental hurdle. We’re still not at zero incidents but we’re working to get there every day.”

Safety is one of Seaspan’s three core values and it’s actively promoted and monitored through key performance indicators, with ongoing safety targets and goals. “As a company, we firmly believe that zero is achievable, and we have achieved it on individual vessels and on individual work sites for long periods of time,” says John Fowlis, Vice President, Fleet Maintenance. “What we haven’t done yet but we’re working towards is achieving it company-wide for a sustained, continuous period of time.”

When new hires come on board, Fowlis says they undertake safety training but it’s the individual’s supervisor’s responsibility to demonstrate the right safety behavior which is in addition to the prescriptive-type of procedures laid out in standard work-safe training. The company also trains office staff, accountants, dispatch workers, port captains as well as those who interface in their supply chain. “It’s really about awareness,” says Fowlis. “You can have a million procedures in place but that doesn’t actually prevent an incident. What prevents an incident is that individual, on that day’s approach to what they’re about to do.” Having everyone following the same safety protocols can be a challenge when you have a geographically diverse company that has work sites on Vancouver Island as well as the Lower Mainland in Vancouver. Out of about nearly 2,000 employees, Seaspan is working with 260 worksite managers, and the company has been putting on specific workshops to ensure these leaders understand, approach and promote safety in the same way.

“When we were inconsistent in our safety culture, we had a fractured safety record,” says Fowlis. “We had different safety records in different yards and on different boats because we were not addressing our culture in the same way. We were allowing it to become individualized, and this is one of the things that we’re trying to change.”

Fowlis is quick to point out that the work the company performs on the water and in the yards is not dangerous, that it’s an environment with a lot of hazards and risks that need to be recognized, addressed and mitigated. Accident prevention initiatives include job safety briefings on a daily basis for workers at their worksites with their direct supervisors and their co-workers, covering aspects such as physical hazard inspections. “We find that a lot of our incidents can come from something very minor but they still result in somebody being injured and not returning to work the next day for whatever reason,” he says. “A lot of it has to do with slips and trips and falls around the worksite or worksite cleanliness. Regular inspections focused on site safety can combat this.”

“One of the tools that we’re finding very effective is what is called a POWSA card,” says Fowlis. “On the boats, we call them a Deck Level Hazard Assessment Card. POWSA stands for Point of Work Safety Assessment. When you meet with your crew, just before you perform a task, or if there is some new aspect to the job or a procedure has changed, it gives you the ability to ask certain questions and have everybody focus on the task at hand and look at it from a safety perspective and then attack the job.”

Seaspan also uses a stop work process. Fowlis says a good example of this would be during a typical pre-job briefing, the supervisor and crew are encouraged to discuss not only how to perform the work safely and prepare for the work, but to also think of what conditions or changes during the job would be reason to stop the work, reassess and then restart.

In 2012, the company began to include behavior-based training. “It’s all about adjusting and changing people’s perceptions and behaviors and communicating,” says Fowlis. “Additionally, everyone is empowered to have safety conversations and that’s been a real game-changer.” “Safety culture is what you do every day, even when no one is looking, and that means that I have to do this every day for the rest of my life,” he adds. “I firmly believe that we are starting to see some changes within our culture, but by no means are we done.”

Great Northern Corridor Coalition Launched

By Mark Edward Nero

Representatives from seven states throughout the Pacific Northwest and the Midwestern US have formed a collective called the Great Northern Corridor Coalition to promote regional cooperation, planning and shared project implementation to improve the movement of rail freight.

In addition to BNSF Railway, coalition members include the Washington state ports in Everett, Grays Harbor, Longview, Pasco, Quincy, Seattle, Tacoma and Vancouver; the Port of Portland; the Washington Public Ports Association; the Port of Northern Montana; and the departments of transportation in Washington Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and Wisconsin.

The members are participating in a major effort to improve rail freight movement across the Great Northern Corridor, which spans the northern tier of the western United States to Chicago. The corridor traverses the Puget Sound area and Lower Columbia River and passes through Washington State, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Currently, more than 203 million tons of freight move annually over the corridor, which is a complex rail freight transportation network that directly serves 27 million people and traverses hundreds of miles of critical agricultural areas, like the Columbia Basin, Wenatchee Valley and Yakima Valley in Washington State.

Without the Great Northern Corridor, the more than 203 million tons of freight currently moved by rail would take about 4.8 million long-haul trucks annually to move.

“This interconnected system of rail, highways and ports is vital to shippers in Washington State and other states along the Great Northern Corridor,” Port of Quincy Commissioner Patric Connelly said.

In a prepared statement, the Great Northern Corridor Coalition says it will work to strengthen the corridor in order to promote economic growth for neighboring communities and “accommodate the demand for safe, efficient and environmentally sound transportation services.”

The first step of the Coalition’s process includes conducting a SWOT – Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats – analysis to identify opportunities to improve the operations and infrastructure along the corridor.

The study will be conducted by Olsson Associates, Parsons Brinckerhoff and The Beckett Group with funding through the Federal Highway Administration Multistate Corridor Operations and Management Program, as well as funding from coalition partners.

After the analysis is complete, the results would be used to develop viable strategies and projects to improve multimodal transportation system management and operations. The analysis is expected to be completed by fall 2014 with analysis of identified projects and initiatives beginning immediately thereafter.

Carnival Cruises Sets Monthly Sales Record

By Mark Edward Nero

Carnival Cruise Lines set a one-month reservations record last month, taking bookings for more than 565,000 guests between Jan. 1 and Jan. 31, 2014. The record number of reservations was 17 percent higher than the same one-month period a year ago, the company revealed Feb. 3.

Traffic to the cruise line’s website also reached an all-time high with 13 million visits during the one-month period, according to Carnival.

Carnival President and CEO Gerry Cahill attributed the record booking activity to a number of factors, including product enhancements being introduced across the Carnival fleet, promotions, support from travel agent partners and a new advertising campaign.

Among the new initiatives introduced over past several months was a guarantee that gives consumers the option of ending their voyage early and flying home at Carnival’s expense if they are dissatisfied for any reason.

“Now is the time of year when many people focus on their upcoming vacation plans and the cruise industry typically sees an escalation in booking activity,” Cahill said. “We are definitely observing a strong uptick in reservations.”

Cahill also pointed out that Carnival didn’t introduce any new ships in 2013 so added capacity would not account for the stronger booking activity.

The company says bookings were at unprecedented levels across the line’s 24-ship fleet, which operates three- to 23-day voyages from a range of North American homeports, which include Seattle, Los Angeles and Vancouver, British Columbia.

POLB Won’t Oust Fishing Business, Eateries

By Mark Edward Nero

A plan to add a new fireboat station and security facility at the Port of Long Beach won’t require displacement of a recreational fishing business and two eateries after all, the port announced Feb. 5. An analysis has found suitable alternative locations for the development of new firefighting and security facilities within the port, allowing the Berth 55 Fish Market & Seafood Deli, Queen’s Wharf Restaurant, Long Beach Sportfishing and charter boats based at Berth 55 to remain in their current locations, According to the POLB.

“Our study found that we can meet the port’s security and fire-protection infrastructure needs without asking the Berth 55 businesses to relocate,” the port’s Acting Executive Director, Al Moro, said. “And we’ve already established temporary facilities for Fire and Police operations displaced by the new bridge construction.”

The fireboat station is a replacement for Fire Station No. 20, which was in the path of the Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement Project. The security facility would serve port-based Long Beach Police Department officers.

In 2012, the port proposed placing a combined fire station/security facility at what is technically known as “Berth C55,” but agreed to reassess after the community questioned the need to displace the businesses there.

Despite the good news for some port-based businesses however, Long Beach maintains that other locations will have to undergo further environmental scrutiny to assess their suitability, and until that is complete, a final decision can’t be made on the locations for the new facilities.

BC Ferries Seeking Schedule Refinement Input

By Mark Edward Nero

Victoria, British Columbia-based BC Ferries is asking for public input regarding refinements of its vessel schedule brought on by the provincial government’s release of a summary report regarding service level reductions.

Needed service adjustments were outlined in the Coastal Ferries Consultation and Engagement summary report in the spring of 2013.

“In an effort to obtain as much meaningful feedback as possible on ferry schedule refinements from the communities affected, BC Ferries has committed to soliciting public opinion regarding sailing schedule options through online and telephone surveys,” the company said in a statement.

The draft options take into consideration previously gathered feedback, and will be designed to demonstrate feasible schedules that meet targeted savings for service reductions, according to BC.

“We want to work with the communities we serve on the sailing schedule refinement options," BC Ferries President and CEO Mike Corrigan said, "to ensure the optimal sailing times are determined while still achieving the net savings outlined by the Province."

BC says that based on online and telephone input on the draft schedules, it will meet with community leaders, including Ferry Advisory Committee members, to discuss the feedback received in order to implement the revised schedules.

Specifics of the online survey are to be announced in mid-February after details are finalized, according to BC, and that the revised schedules are planned to go into effect April 28.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

NASSCO Christens Navy’s Newest Ship

By Mark Edward Nero

A christening ceremony for the US Navy’s newest ship, the USNS John Glenn, was held the morning of Feb. 1 at the San Diego shipyard of build and repair company NASSCO.

The ship, which is named in honor of former Marine Corps pilot, Congressional Space Medal of Honor recipient and four-term US senator John Glenn, is the second of three Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) vessels designed and built by NASSCO.

The MLP is a flexible platform that provides capability for large-scale logistics movements, like the transfer of vehicles and equipment from sea to shore. It is expected to significantly reduce dependency on foreign ports and provide support in the absence of any port, making it particularly useful during disaster response and for supporting Marines once they’re ashore.

Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert was the principal speaker during the ceremony. Sen. Glenn’s daughter, Lyn Glenn, served as the ship’s sponsor and christened the vessel by breaking the traditional bottle of champagne against the ship’s hull.

“May this ship serve our country well and be strengthened with the legacy of our distinguished guest, the Honorable John Glenn,” General Dynamics NASSCO President Fred Harris said. “The USNS John Glenn carries with it the skill, dedication and the high regard for quality of the hundreds of men and women involved in its design and construction.”

The vessel’s expected to be delivered to the Navy sometime during the first quarter of 2014.

Vigor Industrial Buying Alaska Drydock Business

By Mark Edward Nero

The owner of Seward Ship’s Drydock, a full service shipyard and drydock facility in Seward, Alaska, has signed a letter of intent to sell the company’s assets to Vigor Industrial.

The two companies are currently negotiating the terms of the potential sale, and according to Vigor, expect the sale to be finalized “after satisfactory completion of environmental, financial and business due diligence,” as well as Seward Ship’s Drydock, Vigor and the City of Seward reaching a final agreement on certain unspecified details.

Under the terms of the tentative deal, the Seward shipyard would become a subsidiary of the company’s Vigor Alaska subsidiary. The acquisition, according to Vigor Industrial President and CEO Frank Foti, is expected to empower the yard to land more projects and larger-scale projects, and is part of a larger plan to improve the company’s service offerings in Alaska for existing customers in the fishing, oil and gas and marine transportation sectors.

Vigor also said that it expects the acquisition to increase overall capacity to meet expected increases in demand from arctic drilling and the revitalization of the commercial fishing fleets in the area.

“The purchase of this strategically located shipyard will expand our ability to provide the services our customers need, when they need them, where they need them,” Foti said.

In a statement, Seward Ship’s Drydock President James Pruitt said that in order to continue to grow and expand the business, additional capital was required, and that reason – along with a desire to further diversify his financial holdings – made him seek a buyer for the business. “Vigor Industrial has an impressive vision for Seward Ship’s Drydock and I am confident that I have made a decision which will leave the future of the business, and its employees, in safe hands,” Pruitt said.

Port of Seattle Annual TEUs Down Significantly

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of Seattle handled 1.57 million TEUs in calendar year 2013, a 16.5 percent drop since the Grand Alliance consortium of shippers began calling at the Port of Tacoma in July of 2012, according to newly-released data.

By comparison, the nearby Port of Tacoma handled 1.89 million TEUs in calendar year 2013.

The Port of Seattle maintains, however, that the addition of two new customers in the past year and an increase in grain export volumes in the last quarter of 2013, are signs that a turnaround is ahead.

United Arab Shipping Co. (UASC) and Pacific International Line (PIL) became new customers in 2013, joining the ANW1 string at Terminal 30 in partnership with China Shipping Container Lines’ (CSCL) existing joint service.

UASC began calling at the port last June, and PIL’s first boxes are expected later this month.

“The Port of Seattle has the cargo capacity and is big ship ready,” Managing Director of the Seaport Linda Styrk said. “New customers recognize that we have excellent intermodal infrastructure, a strong export market, and regional distribution facilities, along with a collaborative approach to working with businesses.”

On the grain side of the business, 21 vessels called at the Terminal 86 grain facility in 2013, with 17 calling in the last quarter alone, representing over 80 percent of the year’s volume, according to port data.

2013 Volumes Seesaw at Port of Portland

By Mark Edward Nero

It was an up and down year for traffic volumes at the Port of Portland in 2013, with imports and exports of a handful of commodities rising during the year, while others fell as much as double digits over the same time period.

According to data that was released Feb. 3, Portland had total throughput of almost 12 million tons during the 2013 calendar year, and saw more than 500 ship calls.

The total container volume – both import and export – was 178,451 TEUs, down 2.6 percent from 2012. Of that number, import containers represented 82,336 TEUs, which was an increase of 13.3 percent over the prior year, while the export container volume of 96,115 TEUs was an annual decrease of 11.5 percent.

Total volumes in other specific categories were as follows:
• Auto import and exports – 262,512, down 7.6 percent.
• Break bulk imports – 903,067, down 8.3 percent.
• Grain exports – 3,511,490 tons, down 12.7 percent.
• Mineral exports – 5,072,060, up 5.7 percent.

Portland is one of the top auto handling ports in the US, the largest mineral export gateway on the US West Coast and the largest wheat export hub in the US Although its total tonnage of 11.93 million in 2013 was down 3.4 from the previous year, it ended 2013 with one of the highest volume months in recent history with 1.3 million tons handled in December.

The port also posted fiscal year gains at the halfway point that it says bode well for 2014.