Friday, August 1, 2014

Ports America Buying 30 Percent of ITS

By Mark Edward Nero

Terminal operator and stevedore company Ports America said July 31 that it’s purchasing a 30-percent stake in Long Beach-based container terminal operator International Transportation Service (ITS) through a strategic partnership with Japanese transport company “K” Line.

ITS, a wholly-owned subsidiary of “K” Line, has operated container terminals in Long Beach and Tacoma for more than 40 years.

New Jersey-based Ports America is the largest terminal operator and stevedoring company in the United States, and provides stevedoring services to “K” Line in Oakland for containerships and in Jacksonville, Newark, Brunswick and Charleston for car carriers.

“We are pleased to extend our relationship with “K” Line through this investment,” Ports America President/CEO Michael Hassing said in a statement announcing the deal. “Ports America realizes the significance of innovation and the need for continued capital improvement and expansion.”

The date of the transfer is expected in late August 2014, after regulatory approvals. The two companies say that upon receiving the partnership approval, they plan to work together by introducing and utilizing Ports America’s expertise, technology and safety programs in ITS’ gate, yard and vessel operations at the Port of Long Beach.

Ports America also says its management team will apply its own business development and market growth strategies to expand the container terminal’s business.

Study Examines Potential Gateway Pacific Terminal Impacts

By Mark Edward Nero

There would be increases in train traffic, but also benefits to the region if the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal coal handling facility is built in the region, according to a new report by the Puget Sound Regional Council.

The study, which was released July 24, found that the cities of Everett, Auburn, Algona, Pacific and Fife would be affected by more trains servicing the proposed terminal, but also pointed out that as the regional economy grows, demand for more freight and passenger rail service would increase, even if the proposed terminal isn’t built.

“If our trade-dependent economy is going to generate more family wage jobs and if we’re going to keep the jobs we have now, our state and the railroads need to invest in critical rail improvements,” said Port of Seattle Commissioner Bill Bryant, who sits on the Puget Sound Regional Council executive board.

SSA Marine subsidiary Pacific International Terminals has proposed the terminal, which would be a dry bulk commodity export-import facility at Cherry Point, Washington, about 100 miles north of Seattle. The terminal is expected to primarily transfer coal to ships for export.

The proposed terminal would result in an expected additional 18 trains per day, each about 1.6 miles long, between the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming through Washington state.
The study found that most of the proposed terminal’s direct economic benefits would accrue to Whatcom County and that much of the direct costs to King, Pierce and Snohomish counties would be related to increased train traffic – traffic delays at rail crossings and infrastructure improvements. Other findings include:

  • Gateway Pacific Terminal traffic impacts due to increased times for passing trains would vary on the BNSF Railway mainline by an increase of 41 percent in Steilacoom to 147 percent in Marysville, with a regional average 65 percent increase.
  • The amount of additional time roads could be blocked by Gateway Pacific Terminal trains would range from 38 minutes to one hour and 26 minutes per day.
  • Thirty-four of 101 rail crossings within the region could potentially benefit from mitigation related to Gateway Pacific Terminal impacts.
  • Grade separation projects would likely cost between $50 million and $200 million each.
  • The study also identified 21 crossings in the region where additional waits for trains could impact the delivery of emergency response service due to close proximity to fire stations or emergency medical facilities.

Study: Fisheries Face Ocean Acidification Risk

By Mark Edward Nero

Ocean acidification is driving changes in waters vital to Alaska’s valuable commercial fisheries and subsistence way of life, according to new research that was led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and published in Progress in Oceanography.

Many of Alaska’s marine fisheries are located in waters that are already experiencing ocean acidification, and will see more in the near future, the study shows. Communities in southeast and southwest Alaska face the highest risk from ocean acidification because they rely heavily on fisheries that are expected to be most affected by ocean acidification, and have underlying factors that make those communities more vulnerable, like lower incomes and fewer employment opportunities.

Ocean acidification describes the process of ocean water becoming more acidic as a result of absorbing a third of atmospheric carbon dioxide. The study says this change in ocean chemistry is affecting marine life, particularly the ability of shellfish, corals and small creatures in the early stages of the food chain to build skeletons or shells.

Studies show that red king crab and tanner crab, two important Alaskan fisheries, grow more slowly and don’t survive as well in more acidic waters. Alaska’s coastal waters are particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification because of cold water that can absorb more carbon dioxide, and unique ocean circulation patterns, which bring naturally acidic deep ocean waters to the surface.

The new study is the first published research by the Synthesis of Arctic Research program, which is supported by an inter-agency agreement between NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Alaska Region.

“We went beyond the traditional approach of looking at dollars lost or species impacted; we know these fisheries are lifelines for native communities and what we’ve learned will help them adapt to a changing ocean environment,” said the co-lead author of the study, Jeremy Mathis, Ph.D., an oceanographer at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, who’s also the director of the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences Ocean Acidification Research Center.

The study recommends that residents and stakeholders in vulnerable regions prepare for this environmental challenge and develop response strategies that incorporate community values and needs.

In Alaska, the fishing industry supports over 100,000 jobs and generates more than $5 billion in annual revenue. Fishery-related tourism also brings in an estimated $300 million annually.
Go to for the full report.

Crowley Opens Singapore Location

By Mark Edward Nero

Crowley Maritime Corp.’s solutions group has expanded its presence in the Asia Pacific market by opening a new project management office in Singapore, the company said June 30.

The company says the expansion should allow it to better support customers in the oil and gas mining; engineering, construction and procurement management (ECPM); and engineering, procurement, installation and commissioning (EPIC) industries.

Crowley project manager William Hill has relocated from the company’s Anchorage office to Singapore where he has assumed the position of business development director and will manage the project support office. Hill has been with Crowley for more than six years as projects director, projects and business development director in Alaska, working various sealift and marine projects for major oil, gas and EPCM customers.

“We’ve seen an increase in customers requiring service in the region and ... we decided that a physical location with local personnel in Singapore was necessary,” Hill explained. “It will allow us to not only have in-person management of our assets in the area, but will also provide better, more timely communication with our current and potential customer base.”

In addition to the newly opened solutions office in Singapore, Crowley subsidiary Titan Salvage also maintains a presence in the area with a 45,000 square-foot site west of the city.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Protesters Plan Oakland Ship Blockade

By Mark Edward Nero

A group of activists say they plan to prevent two ships from docking at the Port of Oakland on Aug. 2 in order to send a political message to Israel.

According to a Facebook page for the “Block the Boat for Gaza” event, protesters plan to meet around 5:30 a.m. at the Port of Oakland and block two Zim Integrated Shipping commercial vessels at Berth 57, which is run by SSA Terminals. Zim, Israel’s biggest cargo shipping company, is 32 percent owned by the country’s government.

According to Zim, the Liberia-flagged Zim Savannah and German-flagged Ever Conquest are the two container ships slated to arrive at the port Aug. 2 and within 24 hours set sail for China.

The protest organizers, which include the Bay Area Labor Committee for Peace & Justice, say the blockade is being conducted in solidarity with Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip who are directly affected by a recent wave of violence in the region.

“We need to send a clear message that we don't want Israel Corp, or its subsidiary Zim Shipping in our port,” a statement on the event’s Facebook page says in part.

Organizers say that the International Longshore & Warehouse Union has not endorsed the blockade and is not expected to take part, but that the protesters have been communicating with the union to keep it informed about its plans.

Port of San Diego CEO Fired

By Mark Edward Nero

Wayne Darbeau, who had been the Port of San Diego’s CEO for almost four years, was ousted late last week following a months-long investigation into allegations that he abused his power by asking for port tenants’ help in securing a job for his son.

During a special July 25 meeting, the San Diego Board of Port Commissioners voted 6-1 to terminate the employment of Darbeau. Port Commissioner Robert Valderrama cast the sole vote against.

According to a San Diego Unified Port District statement, Darbeau has been placed on paid administrative leave through the end of this year, after which, he’ll no longer be employed by the port.

At the same time as Darbeau’s ouster, the port board appointed Harbor Police Chief John Bolduc to the role of acting port CEO until a permanent replacement for Darbeau is named. Chief Bolduc joined the Harbor Police Department in May 2010 and prior to that, served in municipal policing in Minnesota for 23 years, including about 13 years combined as police chief for the cities of Brainerd and Mora. He also served as a patrol, investigations, training and tactical operations officer in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

The port commission had been looking into Darbeau’s actions since the spring, after he emailed the president of the San Diego Port Tenants Association, asking if the group’s members could help find his son a summer job. It was later publicly revealed that Darbeau’s son and a friend of the son worked for a major port tenant, Pasha Automotive, during the summer of 2012.

After his email to the Port Tenants Association came to light, Darbeau defended his actions by saying that in reaching out to business connections, he was merely doing what many parents do to help their children find employment.

Darbeau had been with the San Diego Unified Port District since 1998 and had held key leadership positions during his tenure, including Vice President of Administration. He was appointed President/CEO of the port in December 2010, and prior to that, was acting as the port’s interim President/CEO after the previous President/CEO, Charles Wurster, abruptly resigned without explanation in September 2010.

Prior to his ouster, Darbeau was also president of the California Association of Port Authorities and sat on the Board of Directors of the American Association of Port Authorities. The AAPA has acknowledged that Darbeau is no longer on its board, while the CAPA is expected to also announce something regarding his status in the coming days.

Darbeau’s firing means that all four of California’s major ports have seen their CEOs or executive directors resign or be fired in less than two years. Port of Oakland Executive Director Omar Benjamin retired under pressure following a spending scandal in November 2012; in May 2013, Port of Long Beach Executive Director Chris Lytle was hired to replace Benjamin.

In late 2013, Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Geraldine Knatz retired. In June 2014, veteran shipping industry leader Gene Seroka and former FedEx exec Jon Slangerup were named as the new executive directors of the Port of LA and Port of Long Beach, respectively.

PMA, ILWU Take Break in Contract Talks

By Mark Edward Nero

The Pacific Maritime Association and International Longshore & Warehouse Union are taking a weeklong break in contract negotiations, the parties said July 25.

“After several days of productive contract talks, both parties concluded negotiations,” a joint statement by the two sides said. ‘No talks will take place from July 28 to Aug. 1 so that the ILWU can resume unrelated contract negotiations in the Pacific Northwest.”

In addition to the PMA talks, the union is negotiating with three PNW grain export terminals – Louis Dreyfus Commodities, Marubeni-Columbia Grain and Mitsui-United Grain – that are not PMA members. The Pacific Maritime Association, which represents management, and the ILWU, which represents labor, say they expect to resume contract negotiations Monday, Aug. 4 in San Francisco.

The two sides began talks regarding a new labor contract on May 12. The previous six-year labor pact, which covered almost 20,000 longshore workers at 29 ports up and down the West Coast, expired June 30, but although no contract extension has been ratified, both sides have agreed to keep operating under the provisions of the recently expired contract for the time being.

Although there are no signs of a union strike or management lockout looming, there’s a history of contentious talks between the PMA and the ILWU, which represents dock workers in California, Oregon and Washington.

Neither the 2008 or 2002 talks were resolved until after the contracts’ expirations, and in 2002, the PMA launched an employer lockout that shut down the West Coast ports for 10 days and resulted in an estimated $1 billion-per-day loss to the industry.

Cargo Handling is a Hot Topic for Ports

By Michael A. Moore

As newly built fleets of megaships get ready to set sail, Pacific Coast port operators are scrambling to dramatically increase their productivity and decrease unloading and port turnaround times to accommodate the quantum increases in the number of containers a single ship can bring into their facilities.

Throughput is the name of the game and technology provides the tools to win. However, not all tech is high tech – and dramatic improvements in productivity can result from simple changes to existing equipment.

The humble head block is an example of a conventional technology where an improvement not only provides a dramatic increase in productivity, but impacts the need to upgrade post-quay handling systems and technology to keep the containers moving.

“The latest thing in spreader tech is the Stinis split headblock for double-twin operation,” said Frank Hegan, president of Crane Tech Solutions. “Stinis came up with the idea of being able to pick up two containers fifteen years ago. This is the next step in that evolution – the split headblock can pick up four 20-foot containers or two 40 or 45 footers at once. The new headblock can nearly double the number of containers that can be handled in a given time. It’s all about how to get more productivity out of current assets.”

The faster the containers can be handled the more the terminal must ensure the cranes and docks are able to handle the additional capacity to prevent a back up on the quay.

“You have to think holistically,” said Hagen. “The terminal must review how they move containers to and from the water front and to and from the stacks. The next step is to analyze the steps the terminal uses in the stacks and how its Terminal Operating System (TOS) will perform monitoring the containers on terminal.

“The next phase is to review the movement of containers from the gates to/from the stacks,” he said. “For instance, does the terminal have a means to control the number of containers in the stack to prevent the possible occurrence of not having enough space to store the necessary containers. The gates must also be designed to handle the increased container traffic. The primary focus in the overall analysis must be to minimize and eliminate potential bottlenecks on the terminal.”

The technology that helps the port keep the containers moving is becoming increasingly high tech and data-centric. Crane operators running remotely controlled STS cranes with joysticks have moved from the cramped crane cab in the sky to an ergonomic office environment. Cameras on board the cranes allow the operators to monitor the crane operation with views better that the ones they had from the crane cabin. Without the operator onboard, the crane can run faster, resulting in shorter ramp and cycle times.

Containers are precisely tracked and located by means of position information systems that use a combination of GPS, gyros and motion sensors on the cargo handling equipment, including rubber tired gantry (RTG) cranes equipped with wi-fi that constantly communicate their every move, twist and turn to the terminal operation system (TOS) that is programmed with a 3-D matrix of the terminal.

Each cell of the matrix has a set of global position coordinates. When a crane operator puts a container into that cell, crane park position, position of the spreader, and the height are read by sensors and communicated wirelessly into the RTGs system and linked to the terminal operation system. On the release of the twist lock, all this gives the container a precise location on the yard. When the crane comes to pick up the container, the system automatically recognizes the location. After picking it up, the system registers the dispatch.

The size of container ships continues to increase exponentially, from Panamax ships with capacity up to 4,000 TEUs, to today’s Malaccamax giants of 18,000 TEU’s, outrunning the efforts of ports to keep up, much less get ahead of the mega-sizing of container ships.

Improvements in technology have moved beyond the GPS, sensors and wi-fi – the cargo handling equipment of the near future will incorporate three-dimensional lasers and even more data stream analysis and artificial intelligence. Beyond that are automated ports utilizing autonomous cranes, stackers, gantries and loaders – machines that work 24/7/365, only taking breaks for maintenance that is mandated by halfway around the world controllers that continuously monitor every aspect of the machines.

Autonomous trucks, drills and trains are already in use in copper and iron mines but it may be a while before they make their presence known in US ports in any significant way.

“There will be autonomous machines in the ports in the not too distant future,” said Alan Peterson, who heads up global sales for TMEIC Corporation, a joint venture of Toyota and Mitsubishi Electric Systems. TMEIC provides motor, drive and automation systems as well as develops advanced technology for the manufacturers of the intelligent cranes, gantries, stackers and other port cargo handling equipment.

“No one is ready to build autonomous key cranes yet,” he said. “The capability is there, but you can’t control the human factor. There are too many people in the work zone.

“People want remote controlled key cranes, where you get the driver out of the crane. ABB did it in 2007 in Panama – they were able to move 27 boxes an hour. Speed is the key. The goal is 36 to 40 boxes an hour – no one is doing that yet.”

The obstacle to higher speeds is the ability to control sway, which is still an elusive goal for remote controlled cranes.

“The driver in the cab has the physical feel and feedback to control the sway,” said Peterson. “TMEIC does not feel it will be a big problem, we have developed a prototype system and will soon be testing it on a working crane. The pieces are all there – what TMEIC is doing is putting them together to make the Beta Crane work.”

TMEIC has also developed a system for eliminating stack topples. “For yard cranes, 82 percent of the cost of insurance claims is caused by stack collisions” says Laurence Jones, Director of Global Risk for specialty maritime and transport industry insurer TT Club. The problem is simply a spreader or a container under the spreader colliding with the stack. The resulting damage and/or injuries caused by such accidents amounted to “339 claims costing $42 million over the last 7 years.”

TMEIC’s Maxview Smart Move™ system uses LIDAR, or laser imaging detection and ranging technology that measures properties of reflected infrared laser light to dynamically determine position of containers and spreader (loaded or unloaded). The system utilizes an industrial-grade laser scanner and sophisticated Maxview® system software modules to anticipate the movements of the spreader in flight as compared to the stack profile so as to prevent contact between the two.

The system is designed to be active in the background at all times but without intervention until collision avoidance requires it. One can liken this to the reverse motion sensors available on many modern automobiles: operation is only restricted when a collision is imminent.

Automated rail car landings are another area where TMEIC is pushing the envelope.

“Our customers want twin 20 automatic pick and landing,” said Peterson. “The goal is to accurately map the first landing position on the railcar using the 3D laser as a topographical mapping tool. We take a picture with the scanning laser to establish the four points for the landing.”

There may not be an abundance of autonomous machines operating in port terminals, but there are automated terminals. Automated container terminals are defined as those that use container-handling equipment that require no human interaction, according to a CH2M Hill report. Automated terminals automate at least one component of the terminal system.

There are more than a dozen semi or fully automated terminals in use throughout the world at this time. As of 2012, there is one automated terminal in the US located in Portsmouth, Virginia and two automated terminals planned in the Port of Los Angeles.

The Port of Los Angeles (POLA) published a draft study of terminal automation in March that stated, “most automated terminals that are under development worldwide are focused on Automated Stacking Cranes (ASCs) designs.” ASCs are rail mounted gantry cranes (RMGs) that are generally aligned perpendicular to the berth and interface with the terminal at the ends of the stacks.

The report says the ASCs both lift and carry loaded containers along the row to their destination within the row. Each ASC row typically has two ASCs running on the same set of rails: one for stevedoring work, and one for landside (gate and rail) work. ASC terminals are the current world standard for automated container terminals.

“ASCs do most of their duty cycle with no human interaction and can be driven remotely as needed,” the report says.

In ASC facilities, a stacking height of 1-over-5 has become the industry standard. The taller stacks may be possible, but pose more of a challenge for precisely level stacking areas, and also result in delay in retrieving local imports from tall stacks. The current range of ASC stack length varies from 36-59 total ground slots (TGS) (770 to 1260 feet). While these are not necessarily hard limits, stacks that are too short make poor use of expensive ASCs, and stacks that are too long may not allow for sufficient crane capacity to place or remove containers to make full use of them.

Finally, the report notes that ASC based terminals also have the advantage of allowing street trucks to turn off engines while waiting for service after backing into an ASC buffer; this results in significantly reduced trucks emissions.

CH2M Hill sees ports of the future employing intelligent containers, fully automated STS cranes, Mag-Lev replacing AGV and the TOS using quantum computing.

West Coast Ports, Terminals Awarded Security Funding

By Mark Edward Nero

More than two dozen ports and marine terminal operators throughout Washington, Oregon and California have been awarded a total of millions of dollars in grant funding from the US Department of Homeland Security through the Fiscal Year 2014 Port Security Grant Program, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said July 25.

The security grant funds go toward helping protect critical port infrastructure from terrorism, enhancing maritime domain awareness, improving port-wide maritime security risk management and maintaining or reestablishing maritime security mitigation protocols that support port recovery and resiliency capabilities.

Among the larger grant recipients for FY 2014 were the Port of Long Beach, which received about $4 million; the Port of San Diego, which was awarded $2 million; and the San Francisco and Oakland ports, which received $1.4 million and $1.3 million, respectively.

Numerous other grant recipients received between $100,000 and $600,000, including the Long Beach Container Terminal, the Marine Exchange of Los Angeles-Long Beach, Pasha Stevedoring, the Port of Everett, the Port of Port Angeles, the Port of Tacoma, the Port of Grays Harbor and the Port of Astoria. Also among the awardees is the Port of Hueneme, which is to receive $409,410.

“This funding comes at a critical time as we continue to partner with our community law enforcement partners to ramp up security and maximize the safety of the citizens we serve,” Port of Hueneme CEO & Port Director Kristin Decas said.

In all, the FY 2014 Port Security Grant Program provided about $100 million for transportation infrastructure security activities throughout the United States. A full list of the grant recipients and amounts is available at

Monday, July 28, 2014

Kvichak Delivers Tender Vessel

By Mark Edward Nero

On Friday we mis-identified the classification Society that certified the vessel in the following story. We have edited the story to reflect the correct information. 

Seattle-based Kvichak Marine Industries recently delivered a multi-mission 66-foot, all-aluminum shallow draft crab and salmon tender to the Norton Sound Economic Development Corp. of Anchorage, Alaska. The vessel was christened the Paul C. Johnson during a ceremony at Fisherman’s Terminal in Seattle.

Designed by Kvichak to the NSEDC’s mission specifications, the 66-foot by 25-foot vessel is intended for very shallow draft crab and salmon tendering operations in the Norton Sound region, and will draw just 4’-6” when fully loaded. The vessel is powered by twin Cummins QSM11 marine diesel engines each rated for 450 BHP at 2100 RPM and coupled to ZF 360 transmissions driving NiBrAl 4-blade propellers.

The vessel is also equipped with six smooth-sided internally insulated fish holds with a refrigerated hold capacity of 111,000 pounds featuring a product elevator, Effer crane and Transvac fish pump system.

Kvichak says the Paul C. Johnson is the first of its kind tender vessel built to classification society rules applicable to tender vessels of this type and holds a class certificate per the Italy-based ship classification and certification company Registro Italiano Navale.