Friday, June 6, 2014

D-Day Craft

On this 70th anniversary of the Normandy invasion, while we're remembering the brave men who risked everything to liberate Europe, let us also take a moment to honor Andrew Higgins, the man President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in a 1964 interview, said “…won the war for us.”

Andrew Higgins built wooden workboats in Louisiana. Once the war broke out, he anticipated a need for thousands of small boats for the US Navy, and he knew steel would be in short supply. In 1939 he bought the entire crop of mahogany from the Philippines and stored it himself.

As the war progressed, Higgins tried to convince the Navy of their need for small wooden boats, and was finally given a contract to develop his LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel).

The “Higgins boats” were 36 feet by 11 and, powered by a 225-HP diesel engine, could maintain a speed of 12 knots. They carried two .30-caliber machine guns and a platoon of 36 combat-equipped infantrymen, a Jeep and a 12-man squad or 8,000 pounds of cargo.

The boat could land on the beach, lower the bow ramp, disembark men and supplies and be back out to sea in 3 to 4 minutes.

Higgins and other American factories had produced more than 23,000 Higgins boats by the end of the war. As one USMC Colonel put it, "It is impossible to overstate the tactical advantages this craft gave US amphibious commanders in World War II.”

If Higgins had not designed and built those LCVPs, according to Eisenhower, "…we never could have landed over an open beach. The whole strategy of the war would have been different.”

Seaspan, Unions Agree to Federal Mediation

By Mark Edward Nero

Vancouver, British Columbia-based shipbuilder Seaspan has apparently averted a strike by its tugboat crewmembers, at least for the time being, by agreeing to enter federal mediation/arbitration.

Following extensive discussions with the Canadian Labor Minister Kellie Leitch, Seaspan announced June 3 that it has signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Canadian Merchant Service Guild, agreeing to enter mediation.

This announcement comes after more than eight months of collective agreement negotiations between Seaspan and the Guild, which began Oct. 21, 2013.

Seaspan has also been negotiating with International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents deckhands and cooks on Seaspan tug crews.

As part of the agreement, Seaspan says it will also defer unilateral implementation of a new collective agreement, which was scheduled to take effect June 9. However, the membership of the Guild, which consists of about 200 captains, mates and engineers on Seaspan tugs, went ahead with a previously planned June 4 strike vote, with a “very clear majority” casting ballots in favor of a strike, according to Capt. Mike Armstrong, the Guild’s western branch president.

That being the case though, the Guild hasn’t served Seaspan with a strike notice and has told its members to continue performing their duties as usual for the time being.

“The Negotiation Committee is in favor of continuing to explore the use of mediated arbitration to resolve this dispute,” Armstrong said in a memo to Guild members following the strike vote.

The new seven-year contract would give tug crew members annual one percent pay increases the first four years, followed by 1.5 percent raises the next three years. But among the sticking points, the union says, are Seaspan’s desire to gain more flexibility to contract work out, the ability to revise shift schedules and to slash benefits costs by more than half.

On June 3, ILWU Local 400 voted unanimously in favor of striking, however the local’s president, Terry Engler said he was hopeful that discussions with the labor minister and Seaspan would lead to an agreement.

Vancouver Council Opposes Port Crude Oil Facility

By Mark Edward Nero

At its June 2 meeting, the Vancouver, Washington City Council approved a resolution opposing a proposed crude oil handling facility despite urging port leaders to let the project make its way through the environmental review process before taking a vote of any kind on it.

The project in question, the Vancouver Energy Distribution Terminal, is a joint venture between the port’s longtime tenant Tesoro and logistics company Savage.

The two would bring North American crude oil by rail to the port where it would then be loaded onto marine vessels and shipped to US West Coast refineries in Alaska, Washington and California.

The port’s Board of Commissioners approved a 10-year lease Oct. 22, 2013.

The Council’s five-to-two vote against the project followed seven hours of testimony offered by more than 100 people, including both project supporters and opponents, about 38 of whom were industry representatives.

Testimonies by port representatives focused on the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council review currently underway and asked the Council to allow that process to complete its work, which includes determining what needs to happen to ensure that the facility can operate safely.

Port CEO Todd Coleman said the city’s resolution ignores that crude oil trains are already traveling through the community and “asks us to overlook the realities of crude oil transport and pretend that by ‘just saying no’ we can make it all go away.”

Coleman also said “a more productive approach would be for all of us to work collectively to ensure the safe transit of these types of commodities, putting appropriate regulations and robust government oversight in place to protect our communities and the environment.”

Port Metro Vancouver Releases Sustainability, Financial Reports

By Mark Edward Nero

Port Metro Vancouver on June 3 released its fourth annual Sustainability Report and 2013 Financial Report. Both reports together cover the period of Jan. 1, 2013 to Dec. 31, 2013 and provide a summary of the port’s overall performance.
Among the things spotlighted in the 2013 Financial Report were Metro Vancouver’s commitment to financial self-sufficiency and the reinvestment of profits to improve port facilities, infrastructure, and services as well as to enhance environmental programs. Key accomplishments outlined in the report include:
Re-affirmation by Standard & Poor’s of the port’s AA credit rating, for the fourth consecutive year.
A 12 percent increase in overall consolidated revenue, from $189 million in 2012 to $212 million in 2013.

The purchase of the former Fraser Wharves auto terminal in Richmond for $56 million.

The completion of the South Shore Elevated Road Structure, on time and on budget.

The 2013 Sustainability Report, Metro Vancouver says, was designed to provide greater transparency and accountability in how Port Metro Vancouver conducts business, and to offer a platform for sharing performance and receiving feedback.

Key accomplishments outlined in the 2013 Sustainability Report include:
  • Port Metro Vancouver completed 198 environmental reviews on proposed projects and activities to identify and mitigate effects on land, air and water.
  • A 12 percent increase in participation in the port’s EcoAction program, which promotes emission reduction measures by offering discounted harbor rates to shipping lines.

Eighty-two cruise vessels successfully connected to shore power at Canada Place, enabling ships to shut off their diesel powered engines thereby reducing gas emissions by more than 3,000 tons.

Key topics discussed in the report include the industrial land shortage in the Lower Mainland; the movement of coal; noise in proximity to residential areas; trucking; tanker safety; and major port-related infrastructure projects.

The sustainability and financial reports are both available on the port’s website:

Port of Chehalis Hires New Director

By Mark Edward Nero

Randy Mueller, the director of business development at the Port of Ridgefield since April 2007, has been hired as the next executive director of the Port of Chehalis.

Mueller leaves the Port of Ridgefield after a little over seven years. At the port, he was the lead employee responsible for management of infrastructure and economic development projects, including real estate acquisition and development, transportation. He was also responsible for building the port’s real estate portfolio, and negotiated legal agreements and completed permitting and entitlements.

From May 2004 to February 2012, he owned his own community development and consulting business, spent seven months in 2003 as a legislative assistant with the Washington State Senate.

The Port of Chehalis, which was formed in 1986, is located in Lewis County, Washington halfway between Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon.

Mueller replaces former Executive Director Jim Rothlin, took the top administrative post at the Port of Bremerton in late 2013. Ex-Lewis County Public Utilities District manager Dave Muller was named the port’s interim director last December, but was not a finalist to serve in the job on a permanent basis.

Mueller is expected to begin his new job at the Port of Chehalis on June 23.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Fidley Watch - Red Tape

In Canada, a Singapore company has signed a Letter of Intent with the government of British Columbia to build a gas liquefaction and export facility, to be the first LNG export terminal on the British Columbia coastline, at Squamish, northeast of Vancouver. The facility, which would export about 2 million tons of LNG annually, is just one of 13 natural gas liquefaction and export terminals proposed for British Columbia. ILWU Canada stands to add hundreds of new jobs in the process.

Stateside, a joint-venture in Washington between Tesoro Petroleum and supply chain management company Savage Services to construct a new crude oil transshipment center has been delayed as the two firms wait for the State of Washington to provide them with requirements for an environmental impact study. With the bureaucratic delay, the cost of the terminal, expected to handle around 300,000 barrels of crude per day moving between rail and ship, is expected to increase from from an initial estimate of $100 million to as much as $190 million.

In April of 2005, the port of Prince Rupert, BC announced it would develop an intermodal container terminal to compete with US West Coast terminals. Less than three years later, with a capacity of 500,000 TEUs and full on-dock rail, the terminal’s first phase opened for business with the arrival of the 5,400-TEU COSCO Antwerp and the addition of 900 new jobs.

The Port of Los Angeles, by comparison, just recently finished deepening its main channel to a 53-foot depth – a project that was started more than 15 years ago, and posted a final cost of a whopping $370 million.

Even in the face of increasing competition from our neighbors to the north, progress at US West Coast ports continues to be mired and wrapped up in red tape and stifled by the endless environmental review process, which adds years of busywork to even the most mundane development project.

As noted in this issue, the Gulf Coast ports are gearing up for the inevitable market uptick, as are East Coast ports. At press time the US House of Representatives had just passed legislation authorizing the deepening of the Port of Savannah, Georgia, by a vote of 412 to 4.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and the State General Assembly have committed $266 million to the project, only awaiting congressional authorization to begin construction.

The project would deepen the Savannah River from 42 feet to 47 feet, to accommodate larger container ships expected to call from Asia through the Panama Canal, and in February of 2016, the Port of Savannah will take delivery of four additional super post-Panamax container cranes and 20 new rubber tire gantry cranes – an $86 million order.

This will give the Georgia Port Authority a total of 20 super post-Panamax cranes and nine post-Panamax cranes.

While our competitors move forward into the 21st century with terminal expansion projects, we on the West Coast continue to face endless environmental nuisance suits, redundant permit requirements and miles of red tape costing the US West Coast its competitive advantage – and jobs. 

Last month, contract negotiations began between West Coast longshoremen and waterfront employers in advance of the July 1 contract deadline. ILWU sources say the most important issue unions face today is retention of jurisdiction as automation eliminates jobs. That may be, but automation won’t be the reason waterfront jobs are lost to more efficient ports.

These contract negotiations would be a good opportunity for West Coast employers and West Coast labor to show solidarity of purpose by calling attention to the stifling gridlock of red tape, and pledge together to hold their elected representatives responsible for the bureaucratic dysfunction that’s hurting West Coast port competitiveness.

Judge: ILWU Engaged in Work Slowdown

By Mark Edward Nero

A National Labor Relations judge on May 30 ruled that the International Longshore and Warehouse Union intentionally slowed down work at the Port of Portland as part of a labor dispute at the port’s Terminal 6.

In his 18-page decision, Administrative Law Judge Jeffrey Wedekind said there was plenty of evidence confirming that the ILWU engaged in work slowdowns between September 2012 and June 2013. Among the union’s actions during the time period were driving trucks slowly, refusing to hoist cranes in bypass mode, and refusing to move more than one 20-foot container at a time on older trailers, according to Wedekind.

In a statement, the union said its members were simply operating with safety in mind, not engaging in a slowdown, and called the judge’s findings “absurd and wrong.”

“The ruling, either by ignorance or by total indifference to safety on the docks, puts longshore workers in the position of having to either perform work in a manner that puts lives at risk or be accused of hard timing ICTSI; it’s an absurd outcome,” ILWU Local 8 Secretary-Treasurer Troy Mosteller said.

The ILWU says it will file exceptions to the ALJ decision, which is considered preliminary until adopted by the NLRB.

The decision was the second of two recent proceedings alleging unlawful secondary conduct by the ILWU and its Locals 8 and 40 in support of their labor dispute with the Port of Portland over the assignment of dockside “reefer” work.

The disputed work involves plugging, unplugging, and monitoring refrigerated containers after they are unloaded from vessels at Terminal 6. The union contends that the work should be assigned to the Local 8 longshoremen, who are employed through the union hiring hall by ICTSI Oregon, which operates the terminal under a 25-year lease agreement with the Port of Portland, rather than the electricians, who are directly employed by the port and are represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 48.

When the port transitioned control of terminal operations to ICTSI Oregon in 2011 under a 25-year lease, continuation of the IBEW work was included in the lease terms. However, the ILWU intervened, saying that its contract with the Pacific Maritime Association required the terminal operator to hire longshore workers.

In December 2013, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber announced that the two-year dispute had been resolved and that the work was awarded to the ILWU.

Mexico Shipyard Revives Construction

By Mark Edward Nero

Port of Veracruz-based shipyard Talleres Navales del Golfo (TNG) on May 26 announced the ‘reactivation of the Mexican shipbuilding industry’ as part of a keel laying ceremony for the ASD tug C-130 for state-owned petroleum company Petróleos Mexicanos.

“In the shipbuilding industry, the keel is the most important piece of a vessel structure,” Talleres Navales del Golfo General Manager Jose Antonio Sardina said. “I’m sure that this big moment represents the keel of a new era for TNG and Mexico.”

TNG is the first Mexican Shipyard to begin the building of one of seven tugs assigned to Mexico by the Mexican Navy and Petróleos Mexicanos, commonly known as Pemex. TNG’s mission includes cutting the steel plates to be used in the construction of the seven vessels, as well as the full construction of four of the tugboats. The project also includes the shotblasting, shop primer and the bevel of more than 1,500 steel plates with a weight close to 3,000 tons.

TNG is expected to deliver the C-130 to Pemex by June 2015. The vessel is designed to have a length of 103 feet and breadth of 36 feet, with a bollard pull of 50 tons, a draft of almost 14 feet, and 12 knots of speed.

The tugboats have been designed especially for sea and port operations, such as towage at port and coastal areas; towing at sea; firefighting services with a water and foam pump; rescue work; and hydrocarbons collection jobs.

San Diego Port to Develop Bayfront

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of San Diego said June 2 that it would seek bids this month for a plan to develop more than 500 acres of waterfront property. A convention-oriented hotel and resort fronting the San Diego Bay will be the centerpiece of the project, the port says.

According to the port, a Request for Qualifications will be issued seeking a developer for a convention destination resort hotel as part of the Chula Vista Bayfront. The project will, according to the port, “transform 535 acres on San Diego Bay into a world-class destination for domestic and international visitors alike.”

Respondents to the RFQ will need to demonstrate their skills and ability to finance, design and construct a large-scale environmentally sustainable convention-oriented destination hotel and resort.

“The port’s investment in this important new waterfront destination will truly transform the City of Chula Vista and San Diego’s South Bay region,” Port Commissioner Ann Moore said.

A recent report by the San Diego Tourism Authority estimates that San Diego’s overnight visitor volume is expected to increase nearly two percent annually over the next four years. The port says the bayfront project will provide the necessary infrastructure for convention demand.

Also included in the plan are marina improvements expected to create an active commercial harbor with retail shops, restaurants and public space at the water’s edge.

“Chula Vista and the port have cleared the way to create a shovel-ready project on prime bayfront property,” Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox said.

More information about the project is available at

Port Metro Vancouver Names Environmental Awardees

By Mark Edward Nero

On May 29, Port Metro Vancouver honored 13 shipping lines and three cruise lines with a Blue Circle Award for 2013. The award recognizes and rewards vessel operators for actions that reduce air emissions.

As part of Port Metro Vancouver’s EcoAction Program, shipping lines can benefit from a discount of up to 47 percent on harbor dues by choosing a variety of eligible fuels, technology options and environmental management practices. Vessels that qualify are eligible to receive the Blue Circle Award, a recognition reserved for the highest level of participation in the EcoAction Program.

“We are committed to balancing growing demand for trade with the need to protect our environment and maintain the quality of life of our neighbors,” Port Metro Vancouver President and CEO Robin Silvester said. “The Blue Circle Awards allow us to honor shipping lines for their environmental stewardship and commitment to cleaner air.”

The shipping lines that were recipients of 2013 Port Metro Vancouver Blue Circle Awards are:
APL; COSCO Canada; CMA CGM; Eukor Car Carriers; Grieg Star Shipping; Hapag-Lloyd AG; Hyundai Merchant Marine; “K” Line; Maersk Line; Mitsui OSK. Lines; Mediterranean Shipping Co.; Orient Overseas Container Line; and Westwood Shipping Lines.

The three cruise lines receiving the award were: Disney Cruise Line; Holland America Line; and Princess Cruises.