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Thursday, March 13, 2014

LNG as Marine Fuel – Opportunity for Partnership

By John E Graykowski

The recent conference in Seattle, co-sponsored by this publication and Sector Seattle, United States Coast Guard (USCG) entitled: "LNG as Fuel: Regulation, Policy and Technology: Next Steps" provided a glimpse of the bright future ahead for LNG. But it also conveyed some cautionary notes about the challenges that must be resolved if LNG is to achieve its full potential as a "game changer" for our industry.

Perhaps most telling was the fact that more than 200 people attended the conference, with others turned away due to a lack of space. The attendees spanned the entire breadth of the maritime industry and included operators, suppliers, ports, regulators and others with a direct interest in LNG as a marine fuel. Unlike many of these events, people stayed for the entire day, which is a testament to the range of topics, the quality of the panelists and the substance that was discussed. If one can extrapolate from this single event to the entire country, which I suspect is the case, then the concept of LNG has been transformed from an interesting possibility to a concrete reality in people's thinking about how to capitalize on the incredible opportunity that the shale gas revolution has provided.

On the positive side, a consensus exists among federal, state, and local regulators that the development of LNG as a transportation fuel should be encouraged; and this is a very positive sign. It is also apparent that agencies, most notably the USCG, are working diligently to keep pace with LNG developments in the industry. Vessel classification societies have moved quickly to gain knowledge on all aspects of LNG as a marine fuel and are assembling a large body of data that will be extremely valuable to all stakeholders. In 2014, we will see the introduction of the first LNG-fueled vessels in the United States and the establishment of LNG fuel infrastructure to support them, and by the end of 2016, ocean going vessels will be in operation with more to follow. So all of this is positive, and undercuts any argument that LNG may simply be a passing "fad" since hundreds of millions of dollars are now committed to its introduction and use in the industry.

It bears noting how fast this has transpired, since LNG has been a serious topic of discussion in the marine industry for only about two years and only about seven years ago most of the talk about LNG related to imports and the creation of the infrastructure to receive gas from foreign sources to supply US power needs. The accelerated pace of LNG adoption, however, is a major source of the challenges that may constrain the widespread deployment of LNG throughout the country.

The conference also conveyed a clear message that regulatory development is lagging behind the moves to build or convert vessels to LNG. This is a circumstance where the technology to produce and operate on LNG is well known and available, but it has never been used in the ways that we now contemplate for the marine industry.

There are no comprehensive, uniform, and clear regulations at any level of government that pertain specifically to LNG as a marine fuel. What federal regulations exist, for example USCG or Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration (PHMSA), are largely directed at large scale import and export facilities, which have entirely different risk profiles than small marine terminals. In addition, marine terminals and other small-to-medium scale LNG facilities will likely be required to undergo state and local permitting actions, largely separate from the federal actions. Without greater coordination among the various levels of government, there is a risk of delay, increase in cost and the imposition of regulatory burdens on LNG suppliers and users that will have a direct impact on acceptance and availability of LNG as a fuel.

The message that came from each of the regulators was "we need your help" in creating the regulatory structures that will govern LNG development. Industry needs regulatory certainty and uniformity to reduce costs and attract the large capital commitments necessary to construct the infrastructure. Think about it: Regulators are actually reaching out to the industry to solicit its views in designing LNG regulations. This is an incredible opportunity to form a genuine partnership with regulators and help to design a regulatory structure that works for everyone. There are no legacy regulations or practices that must be incorporated into marine LNG regulations, which makes this opportunity unique as well. In a real sense, we have a blank regulatory canvas and the industry is being handed the brushes to create the picture of the world that meets the goals of safety, security, and practicality. It seems that if we do not avail ourselves of this opportunity, then the ability for any of us to complain or object to the rules that are issued will be severely compromised.

I've been writing and speaking for some time that LNG's potential impact on our country is larger than any one industry and we are at a moment in our history where our actions can shape the future of the country. I believe strongly that LNG has the potential to transform the country in ways as significant as moving from coal to oil in the 19th Century. As such, I see a need for a national commitment by the Congress and this Administration to promote the rapid transition to LNG for all modes of transportation. The policy foundations for this are clear: energy security; economic benefits; environmental enhancement.

The way to do this is first by forming a genuine working partnership with regulators to create the necessary structures and second by engaging in a larger public outreach and effort as the marine industry, suppliers, ports and others to gain the attention of the Congress, the President and the public that LNG for transportation in general and the marine industry in particular is in the national interest.

So, the conference left me with a healthy dose of cautious optimism about the future of LNG for our industry. We see so many positive signs that it is taking root, but still wonder whether the growth is sustainable and will bear the enormous benefits that we all know are possible with this fuel.

Port Metro Vancouver Applauds
Free Trade Agreement

By Mark Edward Nero

The head of Canada’s largest and busiest port said March 11 that a newly announced free trade agreement between Canada and South Korea should be a boon for imports and exports.

The agreement, which is the first such pact between Canada and an Asian country, was announced by the two countries’ federal governments March 11, and is expected to go into effect within a year.

Once in place, the agreement is designed eliminate virtually all tariffs between the countries, with South Korea cutting 81.9 percent of duties upon the first day of the deal coming into effect, and Canada removing 76.4 percent of levies.

Upon the agreement’s full implementation, Canada is expected to eliminate 97.8 percent of its tariff lines for goods imported from South Korea, while South Korea would eliminate 98.2 percent of its tariff lines for goods imported from Canada.

In a statement on the matter, the head of Port Metro Vancouver said he believes the agreement is a significant development for the port in its role as a key link in the Asia-Pacific Gateway.

“This is an important step forward in the growing trade relationship between our two countries,” Port Metro Vancouver President and CEO Robin Silvester said. “South Korea is our port’s third-largest trading partner in Asia, with trade through Vancouver of more than 200,000 containers per year.”

South Korea has been a key market for Canada exports, with the top five commodities being thermal and metallurgical coal, wood pulp, lumber, ores and concentrates. Canada also imports through Vancouver goods and commodities that Canadians rely upon, including construction materials, metals, household goods, vehicles and parts.

There’s currently $10 billion in annual two-way trade between Canada and South Korea, according to port data. The trade agreement also ties into Port Metro Vancouver’s future growth plans, including a proposed Terminal 2 expansion. The project, once complete, is expected to provide an additional 2.4 million 20-foot equivalent unit containers of capacity at the port.

Port Angeles Exec Hire Now Official

By Mark Edward Nero

The hiring of former Port of Longview head Ken O’Hollaren as the new executive director at the Port of Port Angeles is now official. The hiring was approved during the Port Angeles board’s March 11 meeting, and goes into effect April 1.

He was the only candidate interviewed for the job.

O’Hollaren, who had been serving as the board’s interim executive director since last August, is to be paid $145,000 annually, which is nearly $10,000 more than O’Hollaren earned during his last year at the Port of Longview in 2012 and $7,000 more than his predecessor at Port Angeles made.

O’Hollaren takes the place of previous executive director Jeff Robb, who resigned under odd circumstances last June, but temporarily 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 “health issues” cited 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 eventually 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.

Robb later announced his retirement.

O’Hollaren, who still lives in Longview, which is about a three-and-a-half hour drive from Port Angeles, says he and his wife plan to relocate to an area closer to work. He is expected to receive up to $10,000 in relocation costs from the port.

San Diego Port to Host Hull Paint Expo

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of San Diego’s fourth annual free Eco-Friendly Hull Paint Expo is scheduled for 10 am to noon, Sat., March 22 under an enclosed tent at Driscoll Boat Works, 2500 Shelter Island Drive, San Diego, CA 92106.

The free event provides the boating community with information on eco-friendly hull paints that protect a boat’s hull while at the same time reducing the paint’s environmental impact.

The San Diego Bay boating community has been invited to see featured products, receive cleaning and maintenance advice and get information on grant funds that are available to Shelter Island boaters for repainting their vessels.

The grant program began in 2011 and was originally scheduled to expire in June 2014, but the port recently received a one-year time extension from the State Water Resources Control Board. Funding is now available until May 2015, or until the money runs out.

Among those expected to be at the expo to answer questions are paint manufacturers, representatives of San Diego Bay boatyards, hull cleaners and Port of San Diego staff members. Local boat owners and hull cleaners are scheduled to take part in a panel discussion on the use, cleaning, and maintenance of eco-friendly hull paints. The panel discussion’s slated to begin at 10:30 am.

Also, a new online calculator to help predict costs to convert boats to eco-friendly hull paints is expected to be showcased during the event.

Marine Wildlife Artist to Paint Cruise Ship

By Mark Edward Nero

Marine wildlife artist and ocean conservation champion Guy Harvey has been hired by Norwegian Cruise Line to design the signature hull artwork of the line’s largest ship to date, the Norwegian Escape, which is scheduled to debut in October 2015.

On March 12 in Miami, the artist revealed his custom design for Norwegian Escape’s hull, an underwater scene of marine wildlife. The ship, 1,065 feet long, is expected to have Harvey’s artwork span from the hull to the aft, featuring two blended undersea scenes.

“Guy Harvey is the perfect artist to design Norwegian Escape’s hull artwork because he is so passionate about the sea and his marine artwork is so life-like and well recognized,” Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Kevin Sheehan said. Harvey is not only an artist but also has a background as a marine biologist, diver, photographer and angler.

“I am deeply honored to be asked by Norwegian to paint the hull of the newest and largest ship in their fleet,” Harvey said in a statement. “The large scale mural demonstrates the concern and respect that Norwegian and I have for the marine environment through which this ship will travel over the years.”

The Norwegian Escape, a 4,200-passenger vessel, is expected to homeport in Miami during 2015-16.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Hanjin to Continue Calling at Portland

By Mark Edward Nero

Hanjin Shipping, which announced last fall that it would end its direct-call service to Port of Portland in 2014, reversed course March 10 and said that it would continue its weekly transpacific vessel call at the port’s Terminal 6.

“Hanjin has been a valued customer of the port for 20 years, and they have an important shipping franchise in this market,” Port of Portland Chief Commercial Officer Sam Ruda said. “We will continue to work closely with all stakeholders to ensure that the case remains for Hanjin and all carriers to keep cargo moving through Portland’s Terminal 6.”

In October 2013, Hanjin officials told the port and terminal operator ICTSI Oregon that low productivity and escalating costs needed to be addressed at the container terminal in order for the company to remain in the local market.

Even with the decision to stay, the port and shipping company have agreed that operational conditions and labor productivity need to stabilize and improve for container services calling Terminal 6 to be successful.

According to Hanjin’s notification to the port, the company will review operational performance on a quarterly basis.

Hanjin is the largest container carrier calling at Terminal 6; it represents nearly 80 percent of container throughput at the terminal, averaging about 1,600 containers per week.

Hanjin has shipping contracts with many of the area’s largest shippers, and also provides significant vessel capacity servicing Oregon and regional agricultural shippers.

The port has a 25-year lease with ICTSI Oregon, Inc. for operation of the container terminal, where Hapag-Lloyd, Hamburg Süd and Westwood Shipping also provide container service for imports and exports.

Hanjin’s announcement to stay comes as Terminal 6 is still grappling with labor issues that have led to reduced productivity. The issues revolve around a years-long battle between ICTSI and the International Longshore & Warehouse Union over terminal work assignments and productivity.

Just last week, longshore workers twice walked off the job, once to honor another picket line and once in response to a verbal altercation between three longshoremen and an ICTSI manager.

However, Ruda said that Hanjin’s decision is indicative that the shipper is committed to partnering with the port.

“With this decision, we are hopeful that all parties involved will work together to continue improving the competitiveness and reputation of the container terminal,” he said.

Union Truckers Launch Port Metro Vancouver Strike

By Mark Edward Nero

Following in the path of non-unionized truck drivers who began a work stoppage at Port Metro Vancouver in late February, hundreds of union truckers serving Canada’s largest and busiest port have gone on strike.

Starting at 7 am March 10, picket lines were set up at nine locations around the port as a result of a vote earlier this month by the Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers’ Association to authorize a strike.

The roughly 400 union truckers joined with several hundred members of the non-profit United Truckers Association of British Columbia, which 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.

The union’s main gripe is over wages: it says the average pay rate in the British Columbia area is $23 an hour, but that the average pay for truckers moving containers in and out of Port Metro Vancouver is $15.59 an hour.

Vince Ready, a mediator appointed by Canadian Transport Minister Lisa Raitt, has thus far been unable to hammer out an agreement between the various parties.

“The purpose of Mr. Ready’s appointment was to conduct a review of an industry that is clearly not functioning well for all stakeholders,” Port Metro Vancouver President and CEO Robin Silvester said in a statement. “We agree that truckers should be paid a fair wage, but bargaining relating to employment and contract relationships can only be done with the employer or the parties to the contract. Port Metro Vancouver is not the employer and is not party to the contract relationships.”

The non-union truckers’ primary complaint has been long wait times at terminals. The drivers, who are independent owner-operators and paid by the load, say they can sometimes wait two or three hours on port property before being able to pick up or drop off containers.

The strike has already had a “dramatic” effect on container movement, according to the port. An estimated 90 percent of truck traffic has been halted. The economic impact of truckers walking off the job, Silvester said, is about $885 million per week.

CSAV Fined for Illegal Agreements

By Mark Edward Nero

The Federal Maritime Commission on March 5 announced a compromise deal with vessel-operating common carrier CSAV regarding allegations that CSAV violated the Shipping Act by working with other ocean common carriers under unfiled agreements.

The allegations involved shipments of automobiles and other motorized vehicles on roll on/roll off (ro/ro) or specialized car carrier vessels in various US import and export trades. The shipping agreements had not been filed with the Commission or become effective under the Shipping Act, according to the FMC.

Commission staff says the practices persisted over a period of several years and involved numerous US trade lanes.

“The Shipping Act mandates that the Commission take responsible actions to protect the shipping public,” Maritime Commission Chair Mario Cordero said. “Carriers who fail to properly file with the Commission their agreements affecting carrier working relationships in the US trades are made liable for significant civil penalties, no matter the size of the trade or the market share of the carrier involved.”

CSAV (Compania Sud Americana de Vapores S.A.) is based in Chile. As a separate line of business, it operates ro/ro vessels in US inbound and outbound trades.

Under the agreement, the company wasn’t required to admit to violations of the Shipping Act, but agreed to pay a $625,000 civil penalty and to provide ongoing cooperation with other Commission investigations or enforcement actions with respect to its activities.

POLA Names ‘Healthy Harbor’ Grant Recipients

By Mark Edward Nero

The Los Angeles Harbor Commission has approved nine “Healthy Harbor Grants” totaling $550,000 to help promote health care, health education, community outreach and access to respiratory care in the San Pedro and Wilmington harbor communities.

The grants, which were announced March 6, are funded from a community mitigation trust fund and administered through the port’s partnership with San Pedro-based Harbor Community Benefit Foundation (HCBF), an independent non-profit organization created to mitigate the environmental impacts of port operations.

The HCBF was created in 2011 as a result of a legal settlement in which the port agreed to establish a community mitigation trust fund to support efforts to grow and green the port, and to alleviate the effects of environmental and public health impacts of its business operations on the community. The trust fund’s administered by the HCBF.

In 2012 and 2013, $800,000 was awarded in the first two rounds of Healthy Harbor grants. The third round of Healthy Harbor Grants awarded $550,000 to nine community organizations serving San Pedro and Wilmington. They include:

$125,000 to St. Mary Medical Center to bring a high-tech mobile care clinic and specialized staff into Wilmington for a minimum of six hours of clinic operation, one day per week.

$90,000 to The Children’s Clinic to support for a program which provides diagnosis and treatment for children, the elderly, and pregnant women suffering from respiratory illness due to port-related pollution.

$80,000 to Breathe California of Los Angeles County, which promotes clean air and healthy lungs through research, education and technology.

$70,000 to the Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma.

$67,000 to Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

$46,000 to the Robert F. Kennedy Training Institute. Grant funding will provide a health worker to disseminate education, enrollment services and resources to area residents suffering from respiratory illnesses.

$38,000 to Harbor Community Clinic, which provides no cost to low cost medical care to San Pedro patients who often have no other medical care access.

$22,000 to the Tzu Chi Medical Foundation, which serves communities in need by providing preventative education and medical and humanistic aid.

$12,000 to Rainbow Services, which seeks to end the cycle of family violence. Grant funding will provide respiratory health education and access to respiratory related services for San Pedro residents.

West Coast Shipyards

By Jim Shaw

Shipyards along the West Coast are looking forward with cautious optimism as several trends point toward additional work and more employment this year and next. Increasingly stringent environmental regulations are forcing vessel owners to examine new construction or retrofits to meet mounting environmental requirements. At the same time, the availability of new technologies capable of cutting operational expenses, particularly in regards to fuel cost, is persuading some owners to look at new construction or re-engining even before the normal service lives of their existing vessels or powerplants are over.

The availability of relatively low cost liquid natural gas (LNG) as a fuel has already spurred several projects, with more in the wings, as such operators as Washington State Ferries and BC Ferries examine potentially large retrofit projects. While the expansion of petroleum exploration off Alaska has been blunted somewhat following a recent decision by Shell, the sudden shale oil boom has increased demand for tanker and tank barge capacity.

In Canada, a new policy toward government work for shipyards, the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS), is expected to provide decades of work for British Columbia's Seaspan group and its various subcontractors but continual delays in the program are hurting some smaller yards. In the meantime, private Canadian owners are free to go overseas for their work and many are electing to build tugs and barges in Asia, with only a 25 percent duty faced when the vessels are imported to Canada.

NASSCO's Bulging Orderbook
The biggest news of this past year has been the ordering of a large number of ships for the Jones Act trade that will either be LNG-conversion-ready or propelled from the start by dual-fuel engines capable of burning LNG. San Diego's NASSCO yard will build nine of these ships, and possibly ten if an option held by Seabulk Tankers, a subsidiary of SEACOR Holdings, is taken up.

Currently in NASSCO’s order book are two 3,200-TEU container ships for TOTE, Inc., a subsidiary of Seattle’s Saltchuk Resources and a series of seven product tankers; four for American Petroleum Tankers, a company now coming under the ownership of Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, and three for Seabulk, plus the one option. All of the tankers will be of about the same general size, 50,000-dwt with a cargo capacity of around 330,000 barrels, and they will use an ECO-type design furnished by DSEC, a subsidiary of South Korea's Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering. This will see a highly optimized hull form employed in combination with a G-series MAN ME slow-speed main engine.

Construction of the first tanker is scheduled to begin later this year, with deliveries of the vessels beginning in mid-2016. NASSCO has also started construction of the future USNS Lewis B. Puller, the third ship in the US Navy's Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) series. This vessel, to be configured as an Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB), is scheduled for delivery next year. Besides new construction, NASSCO has also been working on a number of maintenance and repair contracts for the Navy while preparing to convert two of TOTE's trailerships on the Alaska run, the 840-ft twins Midnight Sun and North Star, over to LNG propulsion.

BAE Systems
Next door to the NASSCO yard, the BAE Systems' facility at San Diego has also been busy and by the end of last year had increased its employment to 1,450 workers, the highest the yard has seen in more than a decade. Although last year's "sequestration" forced a number of cutbacks at the BAE facility, with the Navy canceling or postponing a large number of overhauls, government business has since picked up to the extent that 300 temporary workers have been employed in addition to the yard's normal workforce.

Much of the new work centers around the modernization of naval units, including the destroyers Benford and Russell, the cruisers Mobile Bay and Princeton, the minesweeper Pioneer and the amphibious transport ship Green Bay. The company has also been collaborating with another San Diego yard, Continental Maritime, now a subsidiary of Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII), on the modernization of the destroyer Higgins.

While all the activity has been a boon for employment it has not been entirely welcomed by surrounding communities. Last year, the neighborhood of Barrio Logan, which fronts much of the shipyard property at San Diego, adopted new zoning regulations seeking to separate industrial and residential land uses by establishing a "buffer" zone between it and the shipyards. Shipyard officials fear the new regulations could drive industrial suppliers out of the area and raise their production costs. San Diego residents will vote on the matter this coming June.

Columbia Construction
To the north, the Columbia/Willamette River has become a strong center for tug and barge construction on the West Coast, and Portland-based Gunderson Marine, one of the Greenbrier Companies, was selected in January to build a new 578-foot articulated oceangoing oil and chemical tank barge for Houston-based Kirby Offshore Marine. The contract, which contains an option for a second unit, is expected to see work begin in June, with completion of the first barge within 2015. The hull will have a capacity of 185,000-bbls, making it the biggest ATB barge unit to be built on the coast to date. Gunderson, which has the largest side-launch platform on the coast, can build up to four such vessels per year.

The 10,000-HP ATB tug to be mated to the barge will be constructed by Nichols Brothers Boat Builders at Freeland, Washington and its delivery is also scheduled for mid-to-late 2015. According to Joe Pyne, Kirby chairman and chief executive officer, the new ATB set will cost between $75 million and $80 million to build and upon completion will be chartered out to a major customer.

Over the past year the Gunderson facility has been kept busy turning out the 380-foot by 96-foot deck barge Polar Trader for Seattle-based Northland Services and the 362-foot by 105-foot deck barge Columbia for Coos Bay, Oregon's Sause Bros. In addition, two 216-foot by 52-foot wood chip barges have been finished for Washington's Dunlap Towing and two 200-foot by 54-foot deck barges for Seattle's General Construction.

Vigor's New Drydock
Down river from the Gunderson facility the Vigor Industrial yard at Portland expects to have its new drydock in operation this summer following its completion by China's Daoda Marine Heavy Industry Company. The 960-foot by 186-foot dock will have a lifting capacity of 80,000 long tons and is expected to bring heavy drydocking business back to the river that was lost when an earlier 87,000-long-ton-capacity drydock was sold to the Grand Bahama Shipyard in 2001.

Once the new dock is fully operational it is expected to be used to prepare Vigor's largest existing drydock at Portland, a 330-foot by 140-foot unit with a lifting capacity of 30,000 long tons, for use at Vigor's Seattle yard. This will provide the Seattle facility with expanded capacity to service larger vessels in Puget Sound while the Chinese-made dock at Portland will allow Vigor to lift the US Navy's newest generation of Military Sealift Command dry cargo/ammunition ships as well as post-Panamax cargo and cruise vessels.

Late last year Vigor Fab, Vigor's Portland-based barge building division, delivered the 250-foot by 70-foot deck barge Iliuliuk Bay to Harley Marine Services for Alaska employment. This year, Vigor will deliver a 242-foot by 54.5-foot split-hull hopper barge with a capacity of 4,050 cubic yards to American Construction of Tacoma, Washington. Next up will be the construction of three 102-foot by 38-foot pushtugs for Vancouver, Washington-based Tidewater, with the first of the boats to be completed by December.

In the repair sector, Vigor has won a $6,655,679 firm-fixed-price contract for a 55-calendar day regular overhaul and drydocking availability of the Navy's fleet replenishment oiler USNS Yukon (T-AO 202). The contract includes options, which, if exercised, will bring its total value to $8,092,975.

Smaller Columbia Yards
Among smaller yards along the Columbia, the Diversified Marine yard at Portland delivered the 78-foot by 31-foot ship-assist tug Simone Brusco to Longview, Washington-based Brusco Tug & Barge late last year and expects to deliver a sister, Peter J. Brix, later this year. Both boats are Robert Allan designs and each makes use of a pair of Caterpillar 3512 Tier III engines powering Aquamaster 205 azimuthing stern drives. Across the river, at Vancouver, Washington, the JT Marine Shipyard has completed two ocean-going tugboats, the 120-foot by 35-foot Hawaii and Washington, for newly-formed Hyak Maritime, with both vessels now operating under charter to Crowley Marine Services. Hyak has announced a third boat in the series, Montana, also to be built at JT Marine, for delivery by the end of the year. These tugs make use of a pair of medium-speed General Electric 8L250 EPA Tier II diesels driving Schottel FP1515 azimuthing stern drives. The combination gives the twin boats a free running speed of 14.5 knots and a bollard pull of about 82 tons.

At Rainier, Oregon the Foss yard delivered the 116-foot by 45-foot aluminum ferry Sanpoil to the Washington State Department of Transportation in sections last year so that it could be moved overland by truck for assembly in Eastern Washington where it is now employed on the upper Columbia River. The Foss facility, which has recently been expanded, is currently working on the first of three 132-foot Arctic class tugs designed by Glosten Associates that will have ice-strengthened hulls and Caterpillar C280-8 main engines. Designed to achieve in excess of 100 metric tons of bollard pull, the first of the new boats will be delivered this December.

Puget Sound
In Puget Sound the West Coast's only other builder of large vessels, Vigor Shipyards at Seattle, is preparing to deliver the 144-car ferry Tokitae to Washington State Ferries (WSF) for employment starting this summer. A joint effort among several contractors, the 1,100-ton superstructure of the Olympic-class ferry was fabricated by Nichols Brothers Boat Builders on Whidbey Island while the hull ends were built by Jesse Engineering in Tacoma. Other involved parties included Greer Tanks of Lakewood, Washington and Performance Contracting and Eltech, both of Seattle. To mate the massive superstructure to its hull, heavylift contractor Omega Morgan was employed to lay 600 feet of track spanning the distance between the hull in one drydock and the house on another, both lined up end-to-end so that the two structures, by adjusting buoyancy, could be successfully joined. A sister ferry, Samish, to be delivered next year, has just completed the same process. According to Washington State Ferries,Tokitae is costing $137.9 million to build while Samish is a bit cheaper, at $126.45 million, when both shipyard and other costs are figured in.

Vigor Seattle has also won a $33 million contract covering repairs and alterations to the Navy's USS Moomsen (DDG 92), an Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyer based at Everett, Washington. Over the past year the yard has accomplished work on the Navy frigate USS Rodney M. Davis and the US Coast Guard's two icebreakers Healy and Polar Star.

Dakota Creek
North of Seattle the Dakota Creek Industries yard at Anacortes has been busy with the construction of a new Alaska longliner for Blue North LLC as well as two Auxiliary General Oceanographic Research (AGOR) vessels for the Office of Naval Research (ONR). The first of the AGOR vessels, Neil Armstrong (AGOR-27), is due to be delivered later this year while the second, Sally Ride (AGOR-28), will be delivered in early 2015. Both ships will support scientists with ongoing research projects, the first under the management of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on the East Coast and the second by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at La Jolla, California.

The Blue North longliner, developed specifically for the Alaskan cod fishery using a base design furnished by Skipsteknisk AS of Norway, has been running late because of steel supply problems but is now due to be completed by the first quarter of 2015. Its design features a moon pool on the center line which will allow crews to retrieve fishing lines without being exposed to weather conditions on deck. The boat is also being equipped with a diesel-electric twin propeller dual-azimuth propulsion system, which will place it among the first domestically-built fishing vessels to meet new Tier III emissions standards.

Nichols Brothers
On Whidbey Island the Nichols Brothers Boat Builders yard at Freeland has a full plate following the award of a contract to build the new 10,000-hp ATB pushtug wanted by Kirby Offshore Marine. The entire ATB set has been designed by Guarino & Cox of Covington, Louisiana, with Nichols to build the 136-foot by 44-foot tug while Portland's Gunderson will complete the 185,000-bbl capacity tank barge, with both units due out in 2015.

The tug, to be capable of pushing as well as towing in open ocean conditions, will be powered by two EMD 20-710G7C-T3 diesels with a continuous rating of 5,000 bhp @ 900 rpm each. These will be coupled to Reintjes WAF 5666 reduction gears feeding power to two fixed-pitched propellers. Construction is expected to start this summer, just about the time a smaller 100-foot by 40-foot ship-assist tug is completed for San Francisco's Baydelta Maritime.

The Baydelta boat is being powered by twin 3,400 HP Caterpillar 3516C diesels coupled to a Rolls Royce Z-Drive system, which will give the vessel a bollard pull of better than 90 tons. Another summer delivery will be a 150-foot by 50-foot Landing Craft being completed for Alaska's Bowhead Transport. Designed by Columbia Sentinel Engineering, the vessel is being powered by three Caterpillar C-18 DITA commercial EPA Tier 3 diesels, each rated 600 hp at 1,800 rpm, and driving through Twin Disc MGX5170 reduction gears.

Also under construction at Freeland is a 115-foot by 47.5-foot ferry for Washington's Wahkiakum County that is due out in early 2015. Designed by Seattle's Elliott Bay Design Group, the 8-knot ferry will operate across the Columbia River between Cathlamet, Washington and Westport, Oregon using twin Cummins QLS 9,285-hp engines driving two fixed-pitched propellers through ZF Marine reversing reduction gears.

British Columbia
Although British Columbia has lost a good amount of its commercial shipbuilding market, with even barges now being built overseas, Canada's National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS) is expected to preserve some capacity for government work on Canada's east and west coastlines. Developed in 2010 to rebuild the fleets of the Royal Canadian Navy and Canadian Coast Guard, the NSPS was originally expected to see some 165 vessels built over a 30-year period at a cost of more than C$50 billion. Under the plan, the East Coast's Irving Shipbuilding would build all combatant vessels while Vancouver's Seaspan Group would build the non-combat Navy supply ships as well as a new polar icebreaker and several fisheries and research vessels.

In October, the Canadian government announced that Seaspan would be gaining an additional C$3.3 billion in contracts to build 10 more non-combat vessels beyond the C$8 billion for seven ships contained in the original plan. Unfortunately, within weeks of this announcement Canada's Auditor-General, Michael Ferguson, said the federal government had "underestimated" how much the NSPS will cost overall, leaving some aspects of the program in doubt.

To date, under a preliminary contract of C$15.7 million awarded last year, Seaspan's Vancouver Shipyards has been doing engineering work on the first three Offshore Fisheries Science Vessels (OFSVs) it will build for the Canadian Coast Guard. However, these craft have already required some redesign work, which has set back their completion date by approximately one year. In the meantime, Seaspan has launched a C$200 million shipyard modernization and expansion program, which includes the installation of a new 300-ton capacity heavylift crane, to allow it to fulfill its various NSPS contracts.