Friday, March 7, 2014

MARAD Sued Over Anchorage Port Project

By Mark Edward Nero

The city of Anchorage, Alaska announced March 3 that it has filed a lawsuit in US Federal Claims Court against the Department of Transportation Maritime Administration (MARAD) regarding MARAD’s alleged mishandling of a project to expand the Port of Anchorage.

In the lawsuit, which was filed Feb. 28, the city seeks monetary relief as a result of what it calls MARADs breach of its contract regarding the expansion.

“We won’t throw a (specific monetary) number out just yet,” Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan said during a March 3 press conference.

The port expansion project, which has been in the works for more than a decade, was overseen by MARAD until the US Army Corps of Engineers took control in May 2012. The expansion was originally estimated to cost $360 million and was supposed to be complete by 2011. Instead, cost estimates have jumped to about $1 billion and climbing and completion isn’t expected for another decade.

“It is extremely important that all those responsible for the project not being completed in a timely and cost effective manner be held responsible,” Sullivan said. “The Port of Anchorage is too important for the economy of this entire state to accept the level of mismanagement that occurred.”

Three of four new sections built at the Port of Anchorage were not constructed correctly, and due to shifting land, could fail during an earthquake, according to a $2.2 million sustainability study that was conducted by engineering firm CH2M Hill on behalf of the US Maritime Administration and the Army Corps of Engineers.

The study, which was released in November 2012, was requested by the Corps after it assumed control of the Port of Anchorage expansion project from MARAD in 2012.

According to the study, the danger from the construction comes mainly from a foundation system called Open Cell Sheet Pile, or OCSP, where instead of building a traditional dock on piling, interlocking sheets of steel are hammered into the sea floor to form U-shaped cells, which are then backfilled with dirt and gravel.

The suitability study determined that the OCSP system is not adequately designed to meet global stability and seismic displacements based on the design criteria.

“The management of the project was not handled competently,” Sullivan said. “With a project as important as this, any of those involved with the project need to be held accountable for what their actions were.”

Engineering firm CH2M Hill, which conducted the sustainability study, has since been named project manager for the expansion and Sullivan said that the company is expected to begin work by the end of March on the development of a new project management plan.

The management plan is expected to take about 12 weeks to complete, according to the city.
The archived video of Sullivan’s press conference on the lawsuit can be watched in full at

Portland Longshoremen Twice Walk Off Job

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of Portland's struggling ICTSI terminal had its operations stalled for two days this week after longshore workers twice walked off the job, once to honor a picket line and once after a verbal altercation.

ICTSI’s Terminal 6 was hampered by separate walkouts March 4 and 5. The more recent incident was the result of a verbal battle between longshore workers and container yard employees. An ICTSI manager called 911 March 5 and reported that three longshoremen had made vague death threats against employees during an argument over a traffic cone. Portland Police Dept. officers responded to scene, but determined that no crime occurred, according to Police Department spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson.

The International Longshore & Warehouse Union local, however, maintain that it was ICTSI and port employees who issued the threats of physical harm. ILWU Local 8 responded to the incident by calling a work stoppage for the day due to “health and safety issues.”

Just one day before, the terminal had been shut down for hours after ILWU members decided to honor a labor action by Honduran dockworkers.

The Hondurans, who were claiming they’ve been denied jobs in Honduras by a subsidiary of ICTSI’s parent company, walked off the job the morning of March 4, followed by all other longshore workers at the terminal around midday, according to ICTSI.

However, an arbitrator hired by the longshore union and employers association ruled that a picket line that had been set up was a violation of contract terms and ordered the longshore workers to return to the job. Terminal 6 was up and running again during the evening shift, according to the port.

The two days of labor strife were just the latest in a years-long battle between the union and ICTSI over job assignments and worker productivity.

In December 2013, Oregon Gov. Kitzhaber announced that a two-year dispute over specific work at Terminal 6 had been resolved and that the job of plugging in and unplugging refrigerated ships at the terminal was being reassigned from International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers to ILWU Local 8 workers.

However, since then the terminal operator has multiple times accused the longshore union of conducting work slowdowns and decreased productivity.

Vancouver Shipyards Awarded Ferry Contract

By Mark Edward Nero

Canadian vessel design, construction and repair company Vancouver Shipyards has been awarded a $15 million contract for the construction of a new cable ferry to service a route between Buckley Bay and Denman Island for BC Ferries.

Vancouver Shipyards, a subsidiary of Seaspan Marine, received the contract award after a competitive procurement process that included three shortlisted shipyards – two in Canada and one in the United States.

The 257-foot cable ferry is expected to be built to accommodate up to 50 vehicles and 150 passengers. Construction is scheduled to start in June, 2014, with delivery of the vessel slated for the first quarter of 2015, with operation beginning by the summer of 2015.

“We are proud to partner with BC Ferries to build its first-ever cable ferry,” Seaspan Shipyards President Brian Carter said in a statement. “This cable ferry will allow us to fine-tune our skilled workforce as we prepare for efficient construction of the Offshore Fisheries Science Vessel (OFSV) for the Canadian Coast Guard this fall.”

Seaspan has a multi-year, multi-billion dollar opportunity to build up to 17 vessels for the Royal Canadian Navy and Canadian Coast Guard under the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS).

However, Seaspan is in the second year of a two-year, $200 million modernization project, scheduled for completion by early Fall 2014. After this, construction of the first NSPS non-combat vessel is expected to take place in October, 2014.

“Our capacity in the coming years will be consumed by this work and we look forward to opening up efficient commercial shipbuilding at Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards, including future BC Ferries new builds and mid-life upgrades, once the early NSPS vessels are successfully delivered,” Carter said.

Vigor Wins Tank Barge Construction Contract

By Mark Edward Nero

Vigor Fab, the industrial fabrication and new-build division of Vigor Industrial, has been awarded a contract to build two 83,000-barrel tank barges for Harley Marine Services.

Construction is expected to begin this month at Vigor’s 60-acre shipyard in Portland, which has an 800-foot buildway, a 600-ton gantry crane and 360,000 square feet of covered fabrication areas.

The 422-foot by 76-foot by 27-foot tank barges were designed by Elliott Bay Design Group and are to be among the largest vessels constructed for Harley Marine’s fleet. Vigor also built the Sixty-Five Roses tank barge, which is about the same size as the new barges and currently the largest vessel in Harley’s Portland fleet.

“These vessels will be the ninth and tenth we’ve built for Harley Marine,” Vigor Sales and Marketing Manager Bryan Nichols said. “We’re glad we could earn this opportunity to help Harley expand their fleet. There’s no higher compliment than repeat business.”

Keith Barnes, Harley Marine’s Director of Petroleum Barge Operations, said Vigor has been “an excellent partner” in barge building over the years.

“They consistently provide the quality craftsmanship we depend on to serve our customers,” he said.
The first tank barge is scheduled for delivery in spring 2015, according to Vigor, with the second barge set for delivery in the summer of 2015.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

March Fidley Watch: A Tale of Tunnels

By Chris Philips, Managing Editor

The keynote speaker at the California Maritime Leadership Symposium in Sacramento late last month was Leslie Blakey, Executive Director of the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors.

Ms. Blakey’s presentation touched on the sad state of the country’s interior infrastructure- notably its roads. She presented data from the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report, 2013-2014 showing that the US is 15th in the world in global infrastructure, behind frontrunners Hong Kong and Singapore but also behind Korea, Spain and Luxembourg.

Seattle provides us a stark example of why we are in our current state.

In 2001, an earthquake hit Seattle’s Alaskan Way viaduct, which survived virtually undamaged because of elegant design and competent construction. While the earthquake caused no lasting damage to the span, downtown interests, construction labor and other special interests used it as an excuse to tear down the viaduct to free up views to the bay.

After a decade of “Seattle Process”, construction on an underground tunnel began in July, 2013. While the viaduct had a capacity of 140,000 vehicles a day, and served as a major thoroughfare for traffic heading between Seattle’s north and south industrial areas, the tunnel currently under construction will have a capacity of 80,000 vehicles per day.

The tunnel project almost immediately began experiencing construction delays related to work stoppages and frequent problems with the massive $80 million tunnel boring machine.

The machine, nicknamed “Bertha,” has only completed a fitful 1,000 feet of the 2-mile tunnel, and currently sits idle while engineers devise a way to reach her clogged cutting head 130 feet below the streets of Seattle.

In stark contrast to the Seattle tunnel project is the Transbay Tube.

The Bay Area Rapid Transit System (BART) averages 400,000 riders a day. Half of those go through the trans-bay tunnel, connecting Oakland and San Francisco.

The 3.7-mile Transbay Tube sits in a trench excavated into the seabed as deep as 135 feet below the surface. It is protected by a covering layer of armor rock, or riprap, to keep errant ships’ anchors and other unexpected heavy objects from coming into contact with the tube, which has been operating as designed with no major incidents since it opened in 1974. In late January of this year, a 965-foot-long container ship lost power and dropped anchor to keep the ship from drifting, approximately 1,200 feet southwest of the Transbay Tube. Within a few minutes, power was restored to the ship, the anchor was retrieved and the vessel continued on to the Port of Oakland.

The Coast Guard said it did not appear the ship’s anchor hit the tube, but the transit agency stopped service in the tube briefly while the tube was inspected as a safety precaution.

No injuries were sustained on the ship, and the event was... uneventful, but it served to call our attention, briefly, to the Transbay Tube – a daring engineering project completed for $180 million 40 years ago, or about $1 billion in 2014 dollars. The Seattle tunnel, originally scheduled to open in 2015, is budgeted at more than $2 billion and the total viaduct replacement was estimated at more than $4 billion – before the current delay. The Port of Seattle has committted $300 million. Meanwhile, the Alaskan Way Viaduct continues to operate safely as designed, while Bertha sits idle for at least the next two months.

By the way: There’s already a tunnel under downtown Seattle. It’s a mile long and 30 feet wide, was built for $1.5 million ($40 million adjusted) and has seen continuous daily use since 1904. The Burlington Northern train tunnel was dug, as one Seattle Times columnist put it, “ 350 guys with shovels.”

Fuel Regulation Increases Pollution, Shipping Leaders Testify

By Mark Edward Nero

An incoming maritime fuel regulation from the Environmental Protection Agency could crowd roads and increase onshore air pollution, shipping industry leaders testified before a Congressional committee in Washington DC March 4.

At issue was a new rule requiring the use of high-cost, ultra-low sulfur fuels in ships operating within the 200 nautical mile boundary of the North American Emission Control Area, or ECA. The rule was discussed during a maritime transportation regulations hearing before the US House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.

Shipping industry leaders, including Rod Jones, President and CEO of the CSL Group, and Bill Terry of Eagle Rock Aggregates, testified that the new rule, intended to curb harmful emissions, could actually result in the opposite effect, while increasing shipping costs and clogging roadways.

The CSL Group operates throughout the Americas and globally, specializing in short sea shipping. Eagle Rock Aggregates, based in Richmond, California, relies on short sea shipping to transport the building materials it produces, which are used for the construction of roadways and buildings.

Jones’ testimony highlighted concerns that the EPA failed to consider all sectors of the shipping industry in setting this new standard, particularly vessels engaged in short sea shipping. The EPA calculated anticipated cost increases at three percent, but focused only on trans-oceanic shipping, whose vessels travel within the ECA for only a fraction of their voyage. For short sea shipping vessels, which spend nearly all of their time within the ECA, the new fuel requirement means cost increases 10 times that of the EPA’s estimates, in turn spelling higher shipping prices and a greater reliance on less environmentally-friendly land-based shipping modes, like truck and rail.

“CSL calculated that, on average, each ship would bear about $815,000 of additional annual fuel costs,” Jones said in his written testimony. “For CSL alone, the cost could exceed 14 million dollars per year.”

In his testimony, Terry described the new rule’s widespread impacts, saying that for construction companies such as his, increased shipping costs mean higher prices for construction materials.

“The ECA will now penalize our business model that by all accounts, is eco-friendly based on the favorability of marine transportation,” he said.

Jones and Terry recommended that the EPA adjust its policy so that short sea shipping vessels are required to use the new, more expensive fuel mandated by the rule up to 50 nautical miles from shore, instead of to the ECA’s boundary of 200 nm.

Foss Joins Hydrogen Fuel Research Project

By Mark Edward Nero

Seattle-based Foss Maritime and its Hawaiian subsidiary, Young Brothers Ltd., have launched a partnership with hydrogen researchers at Sandia National Laboratory in a project aimed at producing cleaner air and less costly fuel.

The partners revealed Feb. 26 that they’re building a portable, self-contained hydrogen fuel cell for testing at the Port of Honolulu beginning in 2015 for six months. The prototype, Foss says, can be installed on barges, provide power to refrigerated containers on the dock or be transported to wherever it’s needed to generate electricity.

In 2013, Sandia scientists completed a study confirming hydrogen fuel cells’ ability to provide additional power to docked or anchored ships.

“The entire maritime industry stands to benefit from the work we’ll be doing with Sandia’s hydrogen researchers,” Foss Maritime President and CEO Paul Stevens said.

“No one has ever built this kind of custom unit for this purpose,” Sandia’s Joe Pratt, who led the previous study and serves as project manager, remarked. The unit, he said, will fit inside a 20-foot shipping container and consists of four 30-kilowatt fuel cells, a hydrogen storage system and power conversion equipment.

The completed system is to be deployed by Young Brothers, which ships goods throughout the Hawaiian Islands. The unit is undergoing detailed engineering and design through mid-2014 and, after construction and an additional month of training for Young Brothers operators, is expected to be operational in a six-month test phase in early 2015, according to Foss. The Hawaii project is sponsored by the US Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and by the US Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD).

Two other companies are also involved in the project: Hydrogenics Corp., which will build the prototype unit and provide fuel cells; and Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, which will provide assistance with the availability of hydrogen. Pratt said that after the six-month deployment of the fuel cell system, the project team will analyze the project’s successes and challenges and that the best-case scenario would be continuous, reliable operation of the prototype fuel cell system at the pier and on a barge.

“All of the project partners believe in the commercial viability of this work and believe this will become much bigger than a one-off deployment,” Pratt said.

The long-range goal, he said, is to develop a commercial product that can be widely used at ports worldwide.

AltaSea Marine Research Center Appoints CEO

By Mark Edward Nero

AltaSea, a planned marine research center at the Port of Los Angeles, named environmental social entrepreneur and business leader Rachel Etherington its first chief executive officer on March 3.

The AltaSea facility, to be located at the site of a 10-year-old site at the Port of LA, involves about 35 acres of land and water at the port’s City Dock No. 1 site, Berths 56-60 and Berths 70-71.

In addition to the urban marine research center, the campus will house a business incubator and educational facility. It’s being developed through a public-private partnership that includes AltaSea, the Port of Los Angeles and several regional public and private universities.

The planned AltaSea campus is slated to feature circulating seawater labs, classrooms, lecture halls, support facilities, an interpretive center, a facility for marine-related commercial ventures, offices and development of the world’s largest seawater wave tank for studying tsunamis and rogue waves.

“AltaSea is a vision that must be built from the ground up, so we were searching for someone with strong leadership and development experience, business expertise, a global perspective, and most importantly, a passion for the environment and ocean,” Brad Jones, founding partner of Redpoint Ventures and a member of the AltaSea Advisory Committee and its CEO search committee, said. “We found that unique combination of skills and qualities in Rachel Etherington.”

Before officially taking the helm at AltaSea on April 1, Etherington will transition out of her duties as managing director of the BLUE Marine Foundation in the United Kingdom, a global foundation dedicated to ocean protection and preservation through public-private partnerships, public policy and awareness building campaigns.

Prior to her work with the BLUE Marine Foundation, Etherington founded and directed Fauna & Flora International Australia, one of the world’s oldest international conservation organizations.

“AltaSea represents a unique opportunity for a heavily urbanized city like Los Angeles to help lead and solve some of the most pressing global sustainability issues of our time,” Etherington said in a statement.

The entire project cost is estimated at more than $500 million, with completion over a 15- to 20-year timeframe. Funding commitments for Phase 1 of the project currently total $82 million, including $57 million in site-related capital investments by the port and a $25 million gift by the Annenberg Foundation. The first phase is estimated to cost $185 million and be complete in 2019.

Port of Woodland Exec Director Resigns

By Mark Edward Nero

Port of Woodland Executive Director Nelson Holmberg said March 3 that he’s stepping down in order to accept a position with a company that conducts consulting services for the maritime industry.

Holmberg has worked four years at the port, which is located on the Columbia River near the I-5 corridor between Seattle and Portland. His last day is expected to be March 14.

Holmberg, who lives in Vancouver, was formerly the communications director for the Port of Vancouver USA, and said he’ll be doing similar work at BergerABAM’s Vancouver office. His title with the Federal Way, Wash.-based firm will be senior public involvement project manager.

BergerABAM, which also has offices in Oregon, California, Nevada and Texas, is a consulting firm offering services in multiple areas, including planning, civil and structural engineering and environmental services.

Until this week, Holmberg had also been one of three finalists for the city manager job in Ridgefield, Washington. He was publicly interviewed with the other candidates Feb. 28 but withdrew his name upon accepting the position with BergerABAM.