Friday, February 28, 2014

Southern California Marine Exchange
Celebrates 90 Years

By Mark Edward Nero

Although there are several other Marine Exchanges on the West Coast and elsewhere in the United States, the one serving the greater Los Angeles area is unique for a couple of reasons. For one, the Marine Exchange of Southern California is now 90 years old, making it easily and by far more established than any other Exchange in the Golden State. Founded in 1923, it’s been around since the days when the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach were much smaller and far less bustling than they are today.

Another thing making the SoCal marine exchange unique is its Vessel Traffic Service, or VTS. There are other, smaller-scale vessel tracking services around the United States, but the VTS of Los Angeles-Long Beach, which celebrates its 20th anniversary in March, is a one-of-a-kind government and private sector joint-venture partnership. The facility, which provides vessel operators with information about other marine traffic, as well as vessel safety advice and recommendations, is jointly operated by the Marine Exchange and the US Coast Guard. Commercial ships and other designated vessels are mandated by law to use the VTS.

“All the commercial ships that come in and out, your tankers, your cargo ships, your ferries, we monitor them similar to what air traffic controllers do with airplanes,” explained Exchange General Manager Reid Crispino. “We line them up, bring them in, and bring them out safely.”

The LA-Long Beach VTS was established on March 1, 1994, to meet new federal and state vessel safety regulations that were enacted in the wake of the Exxon Valdez oil tanker running aground in Alaska in 1989. At the time the ship, which was on its way to Long Beach, was carrying about 55 million gallons of oil; between 10 and 11 million gallons of it spilled into Prince William Sound; it was one of the worst man-made environmental disasters of the 20th Century.

The mishap eventually led to the US government deciding to place Vessel Traffic Systems around the country, run by the Coast Guard, with a combination of active duty and civil service members. However, at the time, the USCG did not think the LA-Long Beach port complex was large enough to warrant its own VTS. California disagreed and began working on setting up a VTS.

“California thought it would take the Coast Guard too long to put it in, so almost immediately, they created a voluntary system,” SoCal Marine Exchange Executive Director Capt. Kip Louttit said. “But it had no federal authority.”

Over the next five years, from 1989 to 1994, the Exchange managed to get federal Captain of the Port authority by having active duty Coast Guard members assigned to the facility. The presence and participation of the military personnel at the VTS provides authority to enforce federal navigation and safety regulations as well as to enforce port security and homeland defense procedures and policies.

And to this day, the Marine Exchange of Southern California operates its system as an agent of the State of California and in partnership with the US Coast Guard. Additionally, the VTS advises and coordinates commercial vessel traffic operating within an Area of Responsibility (AOR), which includes all waters outside the federal breakwaters – San Pedro Bay, Santa Monica Bay, Newport Bay and Santa Catalina Island – extending 25 nautical miles from where the Exchange sits on Point Fermin in the San Pedro area of Los Angeles.

Prior to the VTS, “the Marine Exchange was basically a private company that just kept statistics of the ships coming and going inside the ports,” Crispino, a retired Coast Guardsman who’s worked at the Exchange for 20 years, said. “With our public-private partnership, we became more integral in ship navigation, safety and security.”

Capt. Louttit, a retired high-ranking Coast Guard officer who was hired to run the Exchange upon the April 2013 retirement of former executive director Capt. Dick McKenna, agrees.

“These are the top two container ports in the entire nation... and that’s just talking containers,” said Louttit. “Then there’s the oil and the cars, the cruise ship industry, all the different types of vessels that come in and out of here. The public-private partnership means that we work with the agents every day getting the schedule to come in and then we work with the Coast Guard for their security piece and then we lash those up, So the ships can come in and out as much as possible exactly when they want to. We’ve got an ability to keep the synchronicity going between the ships and the shore.”

Although the LA-Long Beach Exchange utilizes the services of Coast Guardsmen to monitor vessel traffic, much of the administrative work regarding the vessels is performed by a team of civilian information specialists.

“There are Marine Exchanges around the country at all the major ports, but they predominantly do what (our civilian) Marine Information Specialists do, which is all the ship arrival/departure kind of information,” Louttit explained. “The other dozen VTSs are completely run by the Coast Guard with a combination of active duty or civil service members.”

At the Marine Exchange of Southern California, the Marine Information Specialists input data on the ship arrival and departure information, but also do much more.

“We’re in contact with the agents for the vessels that are going to come into LA, Long Beach, El Segundo, Port Hueneme and San Diego,” information specialist Porsha Abrons explained. “We’re looking for where the vessel is coming from, where it goes when it leaves the port, what berth it’s going to while in port, the activity while its in port, the cargo, their ETA, and the ETD. We put that into our database and we retrieve that information by calling the agents directly. Some of the agents send over a vessel schedule every day, and we also get a notice or arrival report from the Coast Guard every morning.”

Information is sent out to about 100 paying customers daily via various means, including electronically and via mail and fax. Information is also posted on the Exchange’s website,, where it’s updated every 10 minutes. The VTS is a nonprofit entity, and was fully funded without taxpayer money and remains financially self-sufficient through VTS user fees – which are mandated by state law and required by port tariff – to cover the costs of ongoing operating expenses.

The services offered have attracted a wide variety of customers.

“We’ve got lawyers, flower delivery services, laundry delivery services,” Abrons said. “It’s not just your average maritime professional that needs the information that we provide. We’ve got government agencies, Customs & Borders, the Coast Guard, OSPR (California state Office of Spill & Prevention Response); we’ve got a wide range of customers that rely on our information on a daily basis.”

User fees also originally paid for six uniformed US Coast Guard personnel assigned to the VTS as vessel traffic specialists and who stand watch alongside the Exchange’s civilian staffers. However, in 1999, the Coast Guard agreed to absorb the cost for providing the VTS the billets.

“We’re a non-profit, so the only money we cost the government is personnel costs for the Coast Guardsmen assigned here,” said Chesser.

Currently, the VTS monitors and facilitates about 27,000 vessel transits each year on deep sea commercial ships and local vessels passing through the AOR, according to Exchange data, which is something that the Marine Exchange’s founders probably never could have imagined would occur during the service’s humble beginnings more than 90 years ago.

Back in the 1920s, when the entity that eventually became known as the Marine Exchange of Southern California was founded to represent local maritime interests, the San Pedro Bay was a large open area with steamships and sailing ships calling at a handful of wharves and piers.

To watch for arriving vessels, ship owners and agents dispatched people on horseback to lookout posts on the coast and hilltops in the area.

The lookouts, known as “runners,” would use binoculars and telescopes to identify ships by their rigs, names or stack markings, as the ships made their final approaches into the San Pedro Bay. After identifying arriving vessels, the runners would then ride back to their offices to alert pilots, tugs, stevedores, terminals, government agencies and others.

Eventually, steamship agent and customhouse broker W.H. Wickersham formed the Maritime Exchange and Sailing Club of the Port of Los Angeles, and hired professionals to replace the runner system. For a fee, Wickersham’s organization provided ship arrival information for the maritime industry.

The professional “lookouts,” some of whom were retired Navy or Coast Guard quartermasters and signalmen, stood watch atop a newly-built warehouse at the Port of Los Angeles in the Outer Harbor, equipped with signal lights, flags, binoculars, megaphones, telescopes and telephones in order to communicate with arriving ships and alert people ashore.

Although Wickersham’s operation was popular it wasn’t profitable, and so in 1923, the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce took over the operation at the behest of the waterfront business community and titled it the Marine Exchange of Los Angeles.

Since that point, the Exchange has kept a detailed record of every vessel arrival and departure from the area, from 1923 to the present.

In 1946, the Exchange was incorporated as a nonprofit trade organization under the name Marine Exchange of Los Angeles-Long Beach Harbor.

The forerunner to today’s Vessel Traffic Service – which was called the Vessel Traffic Advisory Service (VTAS) – was inaugurated in 1981 as an informal, non-regulated, voluntary system for monitoring ship traffic at LA/LB Harbor. It enhanced vessel navigation safety through participation in this USCG-endorsed program by the vast majority of vessels calling at LA/LB Harbor.

Another milestone in the Marine Exchange’s history occurred in 1989, when, driven by the need to enlarge and modernize the VTAS, the Exchange moved to its current site in Angel’s Gate Park, which overlooks Point Fermin. The ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles helped finance construction of a building to house the Exchange and its VTAS and the Coast Guard offered free use of land where the structure was built.

“We’ve got 270 degrees of coverage here,” Exchange office manager Steven Chesser said of the hilltop location’s visibility.

In January 1996, the Exchange, by its request, was released from its affiliate status with the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, leaving the Exchange to operate freely on its own terms and conditions. Currently, it is governed by a 15-member board of directors, who represent a wide spectrum of constituencies throughout the maritime industry and now has a staff of 19 full-time employees, one part-timer and seven VTS-assigned uniformed Coast Guard personnel.

“There’s always one in the building, 24 hours a day,” Louttit said of the Coast Guardsmen. In addition to vessel monitoring and information gathering and distribution, VTS staffers also attend meetings of boating groups, marina organizations and yacht clubs to give presentations on how the VTS system works, and how it can help them to operate more safely on Southern California’s waterways.

The outreach is an example of how the 90-year-old Exchange and 20-year-old VTS are proactive in making sure the highly trafficked waters of the San Pedro Bay stay as incident-free as possible.

“There hasn’t been a collision between two moving vessels in many, many years,” Louttit said, “and that’s something that we’re very, very proud of.”

This story has been corrected from its original form.

Port Metro Vancouver Truckers
Launch Work Stoppage

By Mark Edward Nero

Members of the United Truckers Association of British Columbia began a work stoppage and set up a blockade at Port Metro Vancouver on Feb. 26 in protest of long wait times at port terminals.

An estimated 1,300 container trucks clogged the port in a protest over the wait times to pick up and drop off containers. UTA representatives have said the waits can sometimes be hours long.

“We’re sitting out on their property two, three hours,” Manny Dosange of the UTA said. “The employers have done their part: they got the work, they got us the container, they got us the appointment to be somewhere with that container, but it’s the receiving end of it that’s not prepared to take it on.”

The port has blamed recent issues with delays at terminals on extreme weather conditions in eastern and central North America, which have resulted in trains being shortened and slowed so they could operate safely. Also, ship delays have been blamed on storms in the Pacific Ocean.

Although the truckers are represented by the non-profit UTA, they’re not officially represented. Another labor organization, Unifor, represents about 400 unionized drivers at the port.

Several hundred trucks not participating in the work stoppage were able to access the port the first day of the strike, Port Metro Vancouver officials said in a statement regarding the labor issues, but acknowledged there have been problems. “We have heard reports of violence and verbal intimidation towards drivers at varied locations outside the port and at port entrances with some truck drivers deciding to turn away,” according to the statement.

The statement goes on to encourage trucking companies to work with truckers to reach common ground on the pay issue. However, Unifor is expected to have a vote on March 1 regarding whether or not to join the non-unionized truckers’ work stoppage. If the strike measure is approved, the union workers would be required to give 72 hours’ notice before walking off the job.

Port of Port Angeles Picks New Top Exec

By Mark Edward Nero

Former Port of Longview Executive Director Ken O’Hollaren has been chosen to fill the same role at the Port of Port Angeles. During its Feb. 25 business meeting, the Port of Port Angeles Commission publicly confirmed that it wishes to hire O’Hollaren to permanently take the place of previous executive director Jeff Robb, who resigned under odd circumstances last June, but remained on the payroll in a newly-created position.

O’Hollaren, who retired at the Port of Longview at the end of 2012 after a 32-year career, was brought on to be the Port of Port Angeles’ interim executive director in July 2013. His hiring came about after the sudden resignation of Robb in June 2013, with him citing “health issues” as the reason.

However, immediately after the resignation, the three-member commission appointed Robb to the newly-created position of director of environmental affairs, a job paying the same salary as when he held the executive director post.

Port Commissioner John Calhoun later revealed that Robb was given the job because the port feared the potential of a lawsuit over a dysfunctional relationship between Robb and senior staff members.

A formal vote on O’Hollaren’s hiring is expected to come during the board’s March 11 meeting. If hired, he would be paid $145,000 annually, which is $7,000 more than Robb made in the job, and nearly $10,000 more than O’Hollaren made during his last year at the Port of Longview.

Crowley Names New VP

By Mark Edward Nero

Crowley Maritime Corp. announced Feb. 26 that Scott Hoggarth has been promoted from general manager of ship assist and escort services to vice president, West Coast harbor ship assist and tanker escort services.

Hoggarth has assumed new overall responsibilities for marine operations and engineering functions and commercial results for Crowley’s tug services at major US West Coast ports.

He is expected to remain based in Seattle and continue to report to Rocky Smith, the company’s senior vice president and general manager of petroleum distribution and marine services.

Hoggarth, who joined Crowley in 1987 as a tug dispatcher, has held numerous positions with the company during his career. The company’s harbor ship assist and tanker escort business, which has been under his direction since 2007, is currently undertaking a fleet renewal program to improve the tugs’ capabilities while reducing environmental impacts.

Hoggarth has had a large role in Crowley’s ecology initiatives during the past several years. In 2013, Crowley was again awarded the Environmental Business of the Year award at the 62nd Annual Maritime Festival in Seattle.

Crowley has also received special recognition by several environmentally focused organizations including the Chamber of Shipping of America’s Jones F. Devlin Awards for Safety, the US Coast Guard's William Benkert award for environmental excellence, the Washington Department of Ecology’s Exceptional Compliance Program (ECOPRO) Award, the Pacific States/British Columbia Oil Spill Task Force’s Legacy Award, and the San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan Air Quality Award.

Port of Portland Hires New Counsel

By Mark Edward Nero

Former Nike attorney Daniel Blaufus has joined the Port of Portland as general counsel and will lead the port’s 15-person legal team.

“Dan has the depth of experience and the outside perspective that position him well to serve the diverse needs of the port’s business lines and activities,” port Executive Director Bill Wyatt said in a statement.

From 2000 to 2010, Blaufus served in various legal capacities at Nike, including emerging markets counsel, Americas regional counsel and assistant general counsel.

Blaufus began his legal career in 1993 at Tonkon Torp, LLP, Portland. Before attaining his Juris Doctor from Lewis and Clark Law School, Blaufus taught high school and middle school English and Social Studies in Oregon and coached basketball and track. He received a Master of Arts in Teaching from Lewis and Clark College and a Bachelor of Science in Education from Western Oregon University.

Most recently, he was senior vice president and general counsel at Borden Dairy Co. in Dallas, Texas.

He takes the position formerly held by Krista Koehl, who was killed in a motorcycle accident in September 2013 while vacationing in Italy. She had been appointed the port’s general counsel in December 2012 after serving in other roles at the port, including assistant general counsel, since 2004.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Jensen Maritime to Design LNG Bunker Barges

By Mark Edward Nero

Naval architecture and marine engineering company Jensen Maritime, a Seattle-based subsidiary of Crowley Maritime Corp., has been awarded a contract to design some of the first liquefied natural gas (LNG) bunker barges in the US.

Crowley will perform the work for LNG America, a Houston-based LNG fuel supply and distribution company. Currently, there are no LNG bunkering barges in operation in American waterways; these vessels will be among the first to be developed and built, marking a significant step in LNG America’s build-out of LNG bunkering infrastructure.

“The significance of this agreement is not only incredible news for the marine industry, which struggles with whether to develop LNG infrastructure or vessels first, but also for companies along the US Gulf that hope to replace their traditional vessels with cleaner, more efficient LNG-powered ones,” Jensen Vice President Johan Sperling said.

The vessels, which are expected to be delivered in late 2015, have an initial planned capacity of up to 3,000 cubic meters of LNG. Once in operation, the bunker barges will move LNG from LNG America’s Louisiana supply source to coastal-based storage and distribution terminals and in directly bunkering large ships.

Jensen says it first produced prototype designs for LNG vessels in 2008 and that it has also developed designs for a 100-foot by 40-foot LNG tugboat, and is currently working on several other prototype designs of LNG bunker vessels, harbor tugs, ATBs, container ships and tankers, along with inland vessels.

LNG America was formed in July 2013 to develop LNG distribution infrastructure to serve the marine market as well as the burgeoning use of LNG in the oil and gas, rail, mining and heavy-duty trucking markets. The markets have emerged because of the fuel’s price competitiveness as a result of an abundance of US natural gas reserves.

“LNG America sees the demand for marine LNG to be robust as long as LNG can be made available to the maritime industry on a reliable, dependable and cost-competitive basis,” LNG America CEO Keith Meyer said.

Seattle Monthly Container Volumes
Down 5 Percent

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of Seattle’s overall container volume was 140,832 TEUs in January 2014, a five percent drop compared to the 148,500 TEUs that were moved during same month last year, according to newly-released data.

Although full containerized imports were up about five percent during the month, exports were relatively flat, down one percent, according to the data, which were released Feb. 24.

The Port of Tacoma did, however, benefit from its diversified cargo mix in January, as container volumes got off to a slow start while other cargo categories posted gains. Auto imports improved 63 percent year-to-date in January.

The port attributed the auto imports surge to a year-end inventory push from Korean automakers that coincided with the end of the fiscal year. Volumes are expected to moderate in February.

Break bulk cargo, grain and log exports also grew last month. Break bulk was up 15 percent compared to January 2013, while grain and logs grew over 6 percent.

The port said the slight dip in exports was expected due to the timing of Lunar New Year, which fell in late January. Factories in China close their doors for one to two weeks for the holiday, so demand for such raw material exports as steel and paper traditionally drops during that time.

Last year the holiday, which is also known as Chinese New Year, was in mid-February.

POSD Completes Shore Power Installation

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of San Diego held a ribbon cutting ceremony on Feb. 24 to commemorate its successful switch to a new shore-power system at the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal.

Construction on the $4.25 million project began in mid-2013 and was funded by a port capital improvement program. The contractor was San Diego-based NEWest Construction.

The shore power installation can help improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by allowing cargo vessels to plug into shoreside electricity rather than run their diesel engines while in port.

Expected environmental benefits include an over 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions – more than 2,000 metric tons – per year; and a 95 percent reduction in nitrogen oxides (NOx) per year, or about 70 tons. “By offering shore power, we not only improve air quality for communities nearby, but we also reduce our impact on the planet,” Board of Port Commissioners Chair Bob Nelson said.

Speakers at the ribbon cutting ceremony included US Rep. Scott Peters (D-La Jolla), City of San Diego Interim Mayor Todd Gloria and Stuart Jablon, vice president of Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal tenant Dole Fresh Fruit, which imports about 185 million bananas through the Port of San Diego each month.

The project fulfills a mandate set forth by the California Air Resources Board requiring California ports and terminals to provide shore power to container, passenger and refrigerated-cargo ships. The Port of San Diego’s already equipped to provide shore power to cruise ships that berth at the B Street Pier Cruise Ship Terminal and Broadway Pier.

IBIA Calls for Greater ISO 2010 Specs Adoption

By Mark Edward Nero

In a bid to improve bunker quality across the marine fuel supply chain, the International Bunker Industry Association has begun calling on marine fuel suppliers to adopt the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 2010 specifications for bunkers.

Despite being introduced four years ago to improve bunker standards, it is estimated that only 25 percent of bunker suppliers currently supply in accordance with the 2010 specifications, according to the IBIA.

While addressing 1,127 attendees from the shipping community at the annual IBIA dinner at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel on Feb. 17, IBIA Vice Chair Jens Maul Jorgensen said that state-of-the-art ‘eco-vessels’ are now entering the market equipped with engines that are more sensitive than ever before.

“The ISO specs were agreed upon four years ago because there was a real need for them. Yet only 25 percent of suppliers are supplying in accordance with these specs,” he said. “Something is wrong.”

The IBIA says it is working to address the problem and has submitted a paper to the International Maritime Organization calling for clarity and transparency in the marine fuel supply chain.

The paper recommends, among other things, a process of data collection from bunker suppliers; a process for authorities and inspectors to report non-compliance with Annex VI; regulations to minimize the risk of non-compliant fuels arising from fuel blending activity; enforcement procedures to ensure that ship operators can have a greater degree of confidence in their suppliers; and the collection of data from fuel suppliers, fuel testing companies and shipping companies to identify the root cause of fuel quality problems.

IBIA Chief Executive Peter Hall said that the IBIA would be engaging with ship owners directly at a series of forums around the world held in conjunction with other shipping organizations and associations. The forums will be disseminating practical advice about fuel quality standards and avoiding problems. The first of these forums takes place March 10 at the International Parcel Tanker Association/Navigate Chemical & Product Tanker conference in London.