Friday, May 2, 2014

Saltchuk Land Purchase Deal Falls Through

By Mark Edward Nero

Seattle-based shipping and logistics company Saltchuk Resources has terminated a purchase and sales agreement with Kimberly-Clark for the purchase of a 66-acre property on the Everett waterfront, the company revealed April 30.

The location, formerly home to Kimberly-Clark’s pulp mill and tissue plant, was potentially going to be developed by Saltchuk into a new shipyard for its Foss Maritime subsidiary. The existing Foss Maritime yard in Seattle, located inside the Ballard Locks, isn’t accessible to larger ships and is too small for future expansion, something that initially made the larger, saltwater site in Everett an attractive long-term option.

However, the purchase agreement fell apart over environmental concerns with the land. Unsafe levels of petroleum, dioxins and other unsafe substances had been previously found in the waterway next to the mill site. Kimberly-Clark had previously said it expected to continue cleaning up the former plant, which closed in April 2012, and hoped to further accelerate its work with the Department of Ecology to develop the final remediation plan for the site.

“Despite the fact both sides worked diligently, they were unable to agree on the allocation of risks and responsibilities related to certain soil stability, seismic and environmental conditions as they relate to Saltchuk’s proposed use of the property as a ship yard and terminal,” a statement issued by Saltchuk regarding the matter said in part.

With the sale and purchase agreement falling through, work on current Foss shipbuilding projects in Seattle is expected to continue at the current location for at least the next several years, according to the company.

Royal Caribbean CEO Honored
for Environmental Efforts

By Mark Edward Nero

Royal Caribbean Cruises Chairman and CEO Richard Fain, has been selected by the chair of the Federal Maritime Commission to receive an Earth Day Award for environmental efforts, the Commission announced April 30.

The FMC Chairman’s Earth Day Award highlights technologies, programs, or practices of the maritime transportation industry that benefit the environment. Fain and Caribbean have sought to increase environmental stewardship, the Maritime Commission says, through innovations in vessel technology, onboard practices and an ongoing partnership with the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS).

“As a corporate leader, Mr. Fain is engaged in the technical innovations that Royal Caribbean is utilizing to set aggressive environmental goals for emissions, wastewater treatment and recycling,” Cordero said in a statement announcing the award.

Cordero highlighted Fain’s support of Royal Caribbean’s work with RSMAS scientists to advance bilge water treatment technologies and the cruise line’s recent progresses in reducing their greenhouse gas footprint, as well as a 19 percent reduction in fuel consumption since 2005. Cordero also recognized the establishment of the Ocean Fund by Royal Caribbean, which since 1996, has given over $12 million to more than 70 organizations around the world for projects that relate to ocean science, marine species preservation, and innovative technologies. The Ocean Fund also provides for the direct support of oceanographic and meteorological observation systems onboard Royal Caribbean vessels.

LA Mayor Suggests Port ‘Integrate’
with Long Beach

By Mark Edward Nero

On the heels of a report by an independent commission that urged the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to merge, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti this week expressed his desire that the adjoining ports work together much more closely.

“We are a single entity, and it is part of my leadership quest to make sure we start acting as a team in the region,” Garcetti said. His comments came April 29 in LA during an annual luncheon put on by the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association.

The Port of LA is the larger, busier of the two ports and the most trafficked port in North America. Long Beach is the second-most trafficked. Combined, they’re one of the five busiest port complexes in the world.

“We need to talk about ways we hopefully can integrate more with the Port of Long Beach,” he said. “Not a merger, but an integration where we can look at how we can invest our needs.” Garcetti’s remarks came a few weeks after the early-April release of a report by the LA 2020 Commission, an independent, private commission formed to study and report on fiscal stability and job growth in Los Angeles.

Among the recommendations in the 2020 Commission report is that the ports merge.

“Los Angeles and Long Beach should parlay their individual successes into a combined port to enhance their overall competitive position,” the 21-page report states in part, citing a five percent lost market share over the past 10 years and a need for more tax revenues and regional jobs as the reasons.

Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster previously slammed the report, saying it was “disrespectful” that the 2020 Commission never bothered getting his city’s input before making the recommendation. He also rejected the report’s merger recommendation, saying the status quo should remain in place.

However, Foster’s second and final term as mayor is set to expire this July. On the same day he addressed the PMSA gathering, Garcetti endorsed Long Beach Vice Mayor Robert Garcia, who is set to face real estate developer Damon Dunn in a June 3 runoff in the race to be Foster’s replacement.

Truckers Stage 2-Day Picket SoCal Container Terminals

By Mark Edward Nero

Dozens of truck drivers serving the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach returned to work April 30 after a 48-hour unfair labor practice strike that marked an escalation in the nonunion drivers’ fight for employee rights.

The picketing began at 6 am April 28 at the Long Beach Container Terminal at the Port of Long Beach and later spread to other locations throughout the port complex, including the Evergreen and Yusen terminals at the Port of LA.

Drivers from three trucking companies – Rancho Dominguez-based Green Fleet Systems and Total Transportation Services Inc., and Pacific 9 Transportation of Carson – participated in the picket.

The strike was organized by the Teamsters union, which has been trying for years to get the truckers, who are classified as independent owner-operators, reclassified as employees and thereby eligible to join the union.

On the strike’s first day, roughly 100 International Longshore & Warehouse Union dockworkers refused to cross the truckers’ picket lines, but were eventually ordered back to work about five hours into the picket by an independent arbitrator citing the ILWU’s collective bargaining agreement. The same arbitrator, however, ruled that the truckers were allowed to continue with their picket.

“I spent nearly 48 hours on the picket line,” Dennis Martinez, a port truck driver who works for Total Transportation Services said. “Our resolve has never been stronger. We will not tolerate any form of retaliation, harassment, or intimidation in our fight to have our rights as employees – and our right to form a union – recognized.”

Fred Potter, the Teamsters’ International Vice President and Director of the Port Division, said the picket was “highly successful” and that it sent a strong message to the trucking companies, their shipper clients and the terminal operators.

“The era of port truck driver exploitation is over,” he said.

In response to the strike, the Harbor Trucking Association, a coalition of LA/Long Beach intermodal carriers, issued a statement decrying the labor action, saying that it was unnecessary because numerous drayage companies in the harbor area already offer employee status to their drivers.

“There are literally hundreds of unfilled vacancies for company drivers throughout Southern California,” HTA Executive Director Alex Cherin said in the statement. “If a driver wants to become an employee, rather than an independent contractor, he or she can do so.”

This week’s labor action at LA/Long Beach was just the latest act of defiance by drayage truck drivers at West Coast ports. In February and March, more than a thousand union and nonunion truck drivers launched separate strikes at Port Metro Vancouver in British Columbia over wages and other issues. The strike was settled in late March.

Also, last December, drayage truck drivers at the Port of Oakland set up pickets at four terminal gates for a day in protest of new statewide environmental rules requiring that older, more polluting trucks undergo significant retrofitting in order to continue operating at the port.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

German Shipper Fined for Oil Leaks at POLB

By Mark Edward Nero

A German shipping company has been sentenced to pay a total of $1.25 million in fines and penalties after pleading guilty to two felony environmental charges related to a cargo ship that entered the Port of Long Beach last year with an open crack in its hull that may have caused oil to leak into the port.

On April 24, ship owner Herm, Dauelsberg GmbH & Co. KG pleaded guilty to a felony count of failing to maintain accurate records relating to the overboard disposal of fuel oil and to a felony count of failing to report a hazardous condition aboard the container ship M/V Bellavia to the United States Coast Guard.

After its plea, the company was fined $1 million by United States District Judge George H. Wu, plus ordered to pay an additional $250,000 to support environmental causes.

The US Attorney’s Office says this case was initiated after four members of the M/V Bellavia crew provided “significant information” to the United States Coast Guard, including pictures and videos of discharges from a fuel tank into the ocean. Wu, under a federal law that allows a federal judge to award up to half of any criminal fine to whistleblowers who provide information concerning certain environmental crimes aboard vessels, ordered that the four crewmembers receive a total of $500,000 from the $1 million fine.

The M/V Bellavia is a 960-foot-long, Panamax-size ship that normally transports cargo between European, Central American and North American ports. In 2011, it sustained cracks in its hull while transiting through the Panama Canal. On an unknown number of occasions over the past three years, the hull cracks opened to such an extent that seawater could enter one of the ship’s fuel tanks, according to the US Attorney’s office. As a result of the damage, the US Attorney says, bunker fuel could have been released from the fuel tank into the sea.

Herm Dauelsberg admitted in legal documents that the M/V Bellavia hit the side of the Panama Canal again in September 2013 and sustained a crack that passed through the ship’s hull into a fuel tank. The company also admitted that after sustaining the crack, the ship’s crew used a pump to discharge nearly 120,000 gallons of oil-contaminated seawater from the ship’s fuel tank directly into the ocean and that the discharge was not done using the ship’s oil-water separator, which is supposed to filter oil out of water that is pumped overboard. The ship’s crew then failed to properly record the discharge in the ship’s records and didn’t disclose it to the Coast Guard – both of which are required by federal law – when the ship arrived in the Port of Long Beach in October 2013.

The company also admitted that it failed to notify the Coast Guard about the crack that passed through the ship’s hull into the fuel tank.

In addition to the $1 million fine, the company was ordered to pay $250,000 to the Channel Islands Natural Resources Protection Fund, which is administered by the National Park Foundation. The payment is to be used to fund environmental projects, enforcement efforts and initiatives designed for the enforcement of environmental and public safety regulations.

Shore Power Commissioned at Port of Hueneme

By Mark Edward Nero

On April 25, the Port of Hueneme utilized the Hamburg Süd cargo vessel M/V Cap Palmerston during a ribbon cutting ceremony to introduce and test the port’s recently installed grid-based shore power system.

The process tested the vessel’s ability to synchronize with and connect to the port’s grid-based system. Hamburg Süd, Chiquita, Ports America, Southern California Edison, project engineers, system developers, contractors, and port technical personnel were all involved to make certain protocols were in place and the inaugural plug-in ran safely and functioned properly.

The port has said the initial test of ‘plugging in’ a vessel is critical to assessing the performance of the new very-high voltage shore power system, and to ensuring all trained personnel including longshore workers and ship operators become comfortable with operating the gear.

The successful test was the second major milestone for the shore power system, following a load bank test in December 2013 that demonstrated the system’s capability to provide a reliable, steady source of shore power for ships at berth.

The ceremony was part of Hueneme’s Earth Week celebration.

“Green is no cliché for the Port of Hueneme. We take action and make environmental sustainability a top priority in our business plan,” Port Commission President Mary Anne Rooney said. “This project represents perhaps the single largest reduction in air emissions by one project in the history of (Ventura) county.”

By connecting to the shore power system, refrigerated vessels calling at the port can run their auxiliary marine engines on shore power instead of diesel fuel and dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Speaking on behalf of Hamburg Süd, senior vice president Mike Wilson said his company was happy and proud for being able to deliver such environmental benefits to the region. “Hamburg Süd has mounted a major effort to minimize our environmental impact, with fuel efficiency and energy saving measures that are achieving significant emission reductions,” he said. “Hueneme’s on-shore power connection facility is a big step forward in this regard and we applaud the initiative.”

Port of Hueneme CEO and Director Kristin Decas said the project is anticipated to reduce particulate matter by 92 percent, nitrogen oxides by 98 percent and greenhouse gases by 55 percent over the next 30 years.

E-Nav Data as Evidence

By Michael A. Moore

The e-navigation revolution is making waves in more places than the bridges of commercial vessels – electronic technology leaves trails of data and has become accepted in courtrooms as evidence.

Most definitions of e-nav focus on the hardware – the use of an electronic display or ECDIS, that shows electronic navigation charts as a replacement for paper charts.

The US Committee on the Marine Transportation System’s e-Navigation Task Team shifts the focus away from hardware and states that e-nav is not about equipment, but about the integration of information.

There is and will be no such thing as an “e-navigation system,” nor will there be a carriage requirement for an “e-navigation box”, according to the CMTS. Eventually, equipment and systems may be required to be “e-navigation compliant” but such requirements are yet to be developed.

Maritime insurers, courts and attorneys see e-nav from an entirely different perspective – they define it in terms of risk and evidence.

The primary purpose of the transition to electronic charts is to improve navigational safety and reduce the risk to crews, vessels, cargo and the marine environment, according to the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO).

However, UKHO recognizes that “electronic data is increasingly used as evidence following maritime accidents, thanks to the wealth of data recorded by ECDIS, Automatic Information Systems and GPS about a vessel’s movements and status.

“The traditional reliance on paper log books and eyewitness accounts suffered from limitations when it came to assembling a correct account of the course, speed and navigational maneuvers of the vessels concerned. By contrast, electronic navigation systems provide a more accurate record and courts appear increasingly willing to accept its reliability, in part because of well-established carriage requirements.”

Electronic navigation systems such as GPS, Electronic Chart Displays (“ECDIS”), and Automatic Information Systems (“AIS”) record a wealth of data about a vessel’s movements and status in the moments before an accident, points out Alan Weigel, an attorney with Blank and Rome who specializes in maritime law.

“The Voyage Data Recorder (“VDR”) was specifically designed to collect data from various on board sensors for use in accident investigations,” said Weigel. “As a result of this capability, electronic navigation data is now frequently presented as evidence in the litigation that often follows maritime accidents.

“ECDIS is accepted as conclusive evidence of vessel position and the VDR is accepted as the maritime equivalent of the aircraft black box. E-Nav data is fundamentally changing maritime litigation,” he said.

Weigel states that courts have accepted the reliability of electronic navigation data largely because the carriage requirements for electronic navigation systems are well established – their use is widely accepted by the maritime industry; and the systems are generally seen as an extension of existing technology.

Another factor in the acceptance of electronic navigation data for evidence is that the lawyers have become comfortable with the technology. They have learned how to present e-nav evidence effectively and are able to explain it to judges and juries in simple and convincing ways.

The transition to e-nav evidence did not happen overnight. Maritime cases were traditionally presented through paper logbooks and mariners’ eyewitness testimony. There are inherent limitations, however, in the reliability of the testimony of even the most truthful eyewitness.

Witnesses often give conflicting versions of events, said Weigel.

“In the confusion that usually attends a maritime accident, it is not expected that witnesses will exactly concur in their descriptions of what they observed,” he said. “Thus, it is not uncommon for mariners – said to be traditionally loyal to their vessel – to give irreconcilable testimony with respect to the courses and speeds their vessels were on during the navigational maneuvers preceding every collision at sea or other maritime accident.”

The advantage of e-nav data is that it can resolve disputes involving uncertain or conflicting eyewitness testimony. The use of e-nav data as evidence frequently results in early and often-favorable resolutions while avoiding the costs of litigation.

Producing data from electronic navigation systems may also be critical to meeting a party’s obligation to preserve evidence, said Weigel. This is absolutely necessary if e-nav data is to be used as reliable courtroom evidence.

“The most fundamental problem is data preservation. Some systems automatically preserve all data, and in others it is retained only until it is overwritten with new data,” Weigel said. “Counsel and the vessel owner must often work cooperatively at the earliest point in the investigation to preserve critical evidence.”

Preservation of the data’s chain of custody is critical if e-nav data is to be accepted as valid evidence.

“It may often be necessary to hire electronic technicians to retrieve data who may not be familiar with the legal requirements for preserving evidence,” said Weigel. “The electronics technician and computer forensics expert may need to work together to avoid later questions about the data’s reliability and accuracy.”

“It may be necessary to correlate data sources and find an adequate explanation for anomalies. Different sensors may record the same data with differing accuracy and often will be running on different time standards. Reconciling these differences is necessary to satisfy the court that the data is reliable.”

The allision of the CSL Dolphin with mooring dolphins is a case that illustrates Weigel’s point about the value of preserving evidence – especially VDR evidence – in a timely manner, before it is altered or destroyed.

On May 26, 2007, the M/V CSL Acadian, a large bulk carrier, was attempting to align itself alongside a row of mooring dolphins at Santa Rosalia in Baja California. It was a couple of hours after sundown and the weather was clear. The seas were normal and somewhat above mean low tide.

The 804-foot by 106-foot Acadian somehow allided with a large mooring dolphin. The exact circumstances of the allision ended up a matter of dispute as to the exact cause of the accident.

The plaintiffs made an animation of the accident based on the GPS information that survived.

At trial, CSL made much of the shortcomings in the opposing animation, particularly as to the course and speed of the vessel. However, the CSL ship captain destroyed a wealth of additional information that would have been probative. Within twelve hours of the event, he was supposed to have pushed the “save button” on the SVDR system to save a treasure trove of voice and engine controls, course data and other information (akin to a black box on an airplane). He did not save the evidence. This meant that it was later overwritten.

For example, the voice recorder might have revealed frantic commands and responses and confirmed the radio report of the pilot that the currents “had f----d him.” This destruction warrants an adverse inference (and the Court so infers) that the evidence so destroyed would have cast the captain and its control in an unfavorable light. And, it should be said again that the Court has only relied on the most incontrovertible aspects of the animation, mainly the underlying GPS data that did survive.

“The master failed to save the VDR data,” said Weigel. “There was an alleged lack of training and no set procedures.” The court turned that captain’s omission into destruction of evidence, which resulted in a complete inability to defend the case.

“Electronic navigation is not simply a computer “animation” in the sense that it attempts to recreate what a witness thinks he remembers seeing,” said Weigel. “ It is actual data recorded on board the vessel at the time of the accident and, thus, a true visual representation of what the witness experienced. Properly presented, electronic navigation evidence can be an extremely powerful persuasive tool that can make the difference between winning and losing a case.

eNavigation Conference 2014, November 12 & 13, 
Seattle, WA,

POLA to Award $1 Million in Community Grants

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of Los Angeles says it will soon make available $1 million in community grants to support initiatives, programs and events benefiting Los Angeles Harbor communities and the LA Waterfront, under its second ever Community Investment Grant Program endowments.

The grants, which are being issued in fiscal year 2014-15, combine port community grant making into one program. Grant awards will focus on initiatives that benefit the local community and help promote the port’s goals related to international trade, the environment and sustainability, and public safety and security.

The port also says it will look for programs that promote the LA Waterfront and surrounding coastal areas as visitor destinations, as well as ideas that highlight the area’s rich maritime history and traditions.

The new grant system follows a 2013 pilot program, which awarded a smaller portion of grants through a “test” competitive process.

“By using a competitive process, we can assure a more open and transparent award process, while also spurring creativity and supporting the best programs possible,” Cynthia Ruiz, the port’s Deputy Director for External Relations, explained.

Funding for the 2014-15 fiscal year will be made available in three categories: small grants under $5,000, up to a total of $75,000; medium grants between $5,000 and $99,000, up to $125,000 total; and large grants over $100,000, up to $800,000 total.

To help local organizations prepare grant applications, the port plans to host two Community Investment Grant Program workshops.

The first is scheduled for 6 pm Tues., May 6 at the Harbor Department Administration Building Boardroom, 425 S. Palos Verdes Street in San Pedro. The second workshop is planned for 6 pm Wed., May 7 at Banning’s Landing Community Center, 100 E. Water St. in Wilmington.

Grant applications are due by 5 pm Mon., June 2.

Organizations must be nonprofit with 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status to apply for grants, and funds must be spent between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015, unless an extension is granted. A grant committee comprised of port, City of Los Angeles and community representatives will review and approve all grant applications.

Potential applicants who need additional information or have questions may call the port’s public relations department at (310) 732-3508.

Seattle Reschedules Port Trucker Meeting

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of Seattle has rescheduled a meeting with drayage truckers regarding the port’s new Truck Scrapping & Replacement Program, known as ScRAPS 2. The meeting, originally planned for April 17, is now scheduled for May 15.

Starting in January 2018, all drayage trucks accessing the Port of Seattle are required to have engines that are model-year 2007 or newer, or that meet 2007 federal emission standards. The May 15 meeting will take a look at the guidelines and application requirements for the ScRAPS 2 program, as well as provide an outlook on Seattle’s 2014 cargo business.

An open house is scheduled for 5:30 pm May 15 at the Georgetown campus of South Seattle Community College, 6737 Corson Ave. South, Seattle. The open house will be followed by a 6 pm presentation on ScRAPS 2 and a question-and-answer session. Validated parking and light refreshments will be provided, according to the port.

Seattle is expected to launch ScRAPS 2 later this spring. The program, partially funded by federal and state grants, is expected to provide up to $20,000 to owners who scrap old drayage trucks and replace them with trucks with model-year 2007 or newer engines. The current level of funding is anticipated to provide incentives for about 180 trucks.

The project is expected to run through mid-2015 or until funds are depleted. The port says the program and application processes are still in the design stages.

More information about the meeting and the ScRAPS 2 program is available on the port’s website:

Monday, April 28, 2014

Port of Woodland Picks New Executive Director

By Mark Edward Nero

During a special meeting on April 22, the Port of Woodland Board of Commissioners selected Jennifer Keene, an economic development planner with Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Council of Governments, as the port’s new executive director.

She will replace former Executive Director Nelson Holmberg, who on March 3 resigned to accept a position with a company that conducts consulting services for the maritime industry. Holmberg worked for the port for four years; his last day before leaving for a position with consulting firm BergerABAM, was March 14.

Keene's salary with the port is expected to be $61,000 per year.

Keene has been with the CWCOG since 2008 and prior to that worked for the city of Vancouver, Washington’s Community Development Block Grant program. She also previously held positions with the Oregon cities of Hillsboro and La Grande. During its month-long search for a replacement for Holmberg, the commission had said it was looking for someone who was able to take care of tenant needs, help the port grow and run a profitable business. In her role with the CWCOG, Keene had helped assist local governments with planning and grant applications, and had worked with the port on several projects over the years.

In some of her first remarks after being hired, Keene said she was “looking forward to the new adventure.”

“It is exciting and also terrifying at the same time,” she said.