Friday, August 8, 2014

Ethics Board Dismisses Grain Inspector Escort Complaint

By Mark Edward Nero

The Washington State Executive Ethics Board on Aug. 6 dismissed a complaint filed by a State Senator who maintained that Gov. Jay Inslee broke the law when he revoked authorization for state troopers to escort grain inspectors past picketing longshore workers at the Port of Vancouver.

State Sen. Don Benton (R-Vancouver) had sent a letter to the Ethics Board on July 30, arguing that by removing the security escort, the governor was “forcing” terminal operator United Grain Corp. to negotiate with the longshore union.

But in an Aug. 6 letter, the ethics board’s acting director, Kathryn Wyatt, said that the governor’s actions “do not appear to violate the substantive provisions of the Ethics in Public Service Act,” but also added that the board didn’t have jurisdiction over the matter.

Benton has 20 days from the Ethics Board’s ruling to request that the ruling be reviewed, but has not yet indicated whether he intends to do so.

The labor dispute between United Grain Corp. and the International Longshore & Warehouse Union workers has been ongoing at the port for 17 months and law enforcement escorts of the grain inspectors dates back to September 2013.

The escorts began in response to an incident the prior month when one inspector filed a police report saying that they were verbally harassed while crossing the picket line. The inspectors are state employees.

The escorts by troopers went on for several months, but on July 7, Inslee halted the practice, and his office said it had been previously made clear that the escort was only a temporary measure meant to give United Grain Corp. time to hammer out a labor contract with the ILWU.

In response to the pulling of the escort, inspectors have refused to enter the terminal, citing safety concerns, leading United Grain to halt grain shipments and effectively shutter operations at the terminal for the time being.

United Grain says it had been scheduled to ship 17 million bushels in August, and that the grain-shipping season is expected to ramp up in September. The company says it was able to get waivers on the inspections for two shiploads of grain, equal to about three million bushels of product, but that ships were delayed up to 11 days while undergoing the waiver process.

Cruise Line to Add New Ship

By Mark Edward Nero

Princess Cruises, a Los Angeles-area subsidiary of Carnival Corp., said July 30 that it has reached an agreement with the Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri to build a new ship, which will enter service in 2017.

The as-yet unnamed 143,000-ton vessel is expected to be built at an all-in cost of about 600 million euros, equivalent to $801 million US dollars. The ship is designed to carry 3,560 passengers, and is expected to feature a design platform introduced by sister ships Royal Princess in 2013 and Regal Princess which entered service in May 2014.

The new ship is expected to include signature elements that have become standard on Princess Cruises vessels, including a central atrium hub with multiple dining, entertainment and retail venues; the adults-only Sanctuary; a cinema; and staterooms with balconies.

Princess Cruises also says the ship will include some brand-new innovations, but declined to give specifics, stating only that specific features and amenities for the ship, along with deployment details, would be revealed in the coming months.

“We are incredibly excited to add this fabulous new ship,” Princess Cruises President Jan Swartz said. “We’re very pleased that this new ship order is an indication of the confidence that our parent Carnival Corp. has in the future of the Princess brand.”

The new vessel, Swartz said, is the only new order Carnival Corp. anticipates for 2017.

Mexican, Chinese Companies Sign Shipbuilding Pact

By Mark Edward Nero

Mexican shipping company Naviera Petrolera Integral SA de CV has signed a contract with Shanghai, China-based Sinopacific Shipbuilding Group for the construction of three SPP17A platform supply vessels.

Privately-owned Sinopacific says the vessels are to be built at the company’s Zhejiang Shipyard and are set for delivery before the end of 2015. They’re expected to be used by Pemex, Mexico’s largest government-owned oil company, in support oil and gas development projects in the Gulf of Mexico.

Naviera Petrolera Integral, founded in 1997, says it currently has 33 vessels in its fleet, 19 of which are fast supply vessels.

The contract marks the first entry into the Mexican market for Sinopacific’s “SP” brand of offshore support vessel designs. SP brand vessels are designed by Shanghai Design Associates, a branch of Sinopacific that specializes in the design of offshore supply vessels.

The SPP17A, which features an electric DP II propulsion system, is a small platform supply vessel with an overall length of 203 feet, molded breadth of 46 feet, molded depth of 19 feet, dead weight of 1,700 tons, design draft of 14 feet, and accommodations for 24 people. Sinopacific says the design has previously been ordered by a number of European ship owners.

Vancouver USA Welcomes Vessel’s Maiden Voyage

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of Vancouver USA welcomed the chemical/oil carrier Nord Geranium, commanded by Capt. Kim Aarup of Denmark, during her first voyage to the United States on July 29.

Capt. Aarup and his 22-member Danish and Filipino crew were welcomed to Vancouver by Aaron Flett, terminal manager with NuStar Energy Corp.; Gary Martinke, a vessel agent with Inchcape Shipping Services; and Mike Schiller, the Port of Vancouver’s business development manager.

The July 29 visit in Vancouver was the Nord Geranium’s maiden voyage, after being launched on June 25, 2014. The tanker was built in China in 2014, and is owned and operated by Danish shipping company Norden A/S Dampskibsselskabet. The 601-foot-long vessel has a deadweight capacity of 39,826 metric tons.

The Nord Geranium arrived at the Port of Vancouver USA from Mailiao, Taiwan. Once at the port, she discharged about 20,000 tons of sodium hydroxide. Sodium hydroxide, commonly known as lye, is used in many industries, including as a base in the manufacture of pulp and paper, textiles, soaps and detergents.

After discharging the lye at Vancouver, the Nord Geranium sailed to the Port of Long Beach to discharge additional cargo before departing for Russia on Aug. 6.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

US Congressman Introduces LNG Shipping Bill

By Mark Edward Nero

On July 30, U.S. Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA) introduced H.R. 5270, the Growing American Shipping Act, which Garamendi said would promote revitalization of the US maritime industry through the export of liquefied natural gas.

The legislation would modernize current laws by authorizing the Secretary of Transportation to develop and implement a program to promote the export of liquefied natural gas on US-flagged vessels and requiring the Secretary to give priority processing of export applications for deepwater port terminals that would utilize US-flagged vessels.

Existing law authorizes the Secretary of Transportation to develop and implement a program to promote the transport of imported liquefied natural gas on US-flagged vessels. Under the Deepwater Ports Act, the Secretary is also required to give top priority to the processing of licenses for LNG import facilities that utilize US-flagged vessels.

“The export market for LNG, a strategic national asset, is ready to take off,” Garamendi said. “Our nation must take the bull by the horns. When it is deemed appropriate to export LNG, it should be on American-flagged vessels.”

Garamendi is the ranking Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure’s Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee. The Subcommittee’s chair, Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA), joined the legislation as an original cosponsor.

“This legislation will help strengthen this industry by promoting LNG export opportunities on US flag vessels,” Hunter said.

Deck Machinery

By Mark Edward Nero

When it comes to barges and tugboats, what makes for quality deck equipment? What are the attributes and features that make some types of winches, lines and affiliated equipment, as well as deck cranes, stand out? Pacific Maritime Magazine asked these questions, and others, to seven tug and barge operators in the Pacific Northwest and California, and all had definite opinions regarding the subject. For most, quality equipment is defined as machines that are both durable and reliable. And although there were numerous manufacturers cited by representatives of the various operators, a few were mentioned over and again as standing out, particularly when it comes to deck winches.

“We have all different kinds of brands (of winches) on our boats, most recently we’ve been using a lot of Markey winches on our new-built construction, but we certainly have Intercon (Marine) winches, we have Almon Johnson, we’ve got a wide assortment of deck machinery on board our vessels,” said Scott Merritt, the vice president of harbor services for Foss Maritime, with more than 80 boats in its fleet. “Most recently, there’s probably been a little bit of an emphasis, a move toward Markey because the design and application of the winches just fit with the new construction that we were doing at the time. They’re very knowledgeable about their product and they’re continually innovating, and with the advent of the variable frequency drives, we’ve really gone from a lot of hydraulics of our boats to the electric drive winches.”

Merritt said the company doesn’t have any cranes on its vessels that are used for serving ships or large operations, and that a lot of Foss’ harbor service boats have a single winch, depending on the vessel’s application. The definition of a quality winch, he said, depends on what it’s used for.

“You really look for a piece of gear that first can perform in the application you desire, that meets your mission specifications,” he said. “And then from there, we look at quality of the machine, does it meet the needs? Is it going to stand up to the rigors of the environment? Is it designed to work in the environment we want?”

“And we want it to be cost competitive; we want to give our customers a quality product at a price they can afford,” he explained. “Part of that is looking for the most cost effective piece of equipment. But that value has to be there; you just can’t go with the cheapest, you gotta look for the piece of machinery that’s going to last and be low maintenance; you want something that’s going to hold up to the rigors of the job.”

Ric Shrewsbury, co-owner of Seattle-based Western Towboat said his company is now starting to build its own tow winches, and has been building headline winches for quite a while. The company, which doesn’t use any hydraulic cranes, has three Canadian winches, plus five or six Rapp Hydema winches and two that were built by Western Towboat itself. But the majority of its deck equipment was made by Nordic Machine, which went out of business several years ago.

“We were happy with what Nordic Machine was building and we were also happy with Rapp Hydema,” Shrewsbury said. “I think the biggest issue that we run into is when these things spend their entire life bathed in saltwater, you have to relax some of the tolerances, just because of the abuse they take being out in the weather all the time. The tolerances were just so tight that once they spend two or three years out in saltwater, things started getting pretty tight from corrosion and that kind of stuff.”

Shrewsbury said that over the years, his company has increasingly done its own manufacturing.

“We have specific requirements that we work around, and it was just easier to just do it ourselves here,” he said. “We’ve seen enough built and we know what we want, and we have the facilities here to do it, so we’ve just kind of taken that on with everything else we do. We get exactly what we want that way.”

Fred Harding, a port captain with Portland-based Shaver Transportation said his company has a total of 12 tugs company-wide and at least four winches per boat, for a total of close to 50 winches onboard, including Markey Manufacturing and Burrard Iron Works devices for ship assist work, and deck winches by Patterson Manufacturing, DB Marine and Wintech Winches.

“The Markey winches have been very good,” he said. “Mainly it’s the durability. It’s necessary to have winches work well for us all the time, and with the deck winches, they seem to work very well. Most of our winches, even the ship winches, are electric, rather than hydraulic. We have a couple that are hydraulic, but most crews don’t enjoy using the hydraulic ones, they’re not as strong, they don’t put out as much torque as the electric ones, especially if they’re deck winches.”

Scott Manley, a marine operations director for Harley Marine Services says his company, which has 60 boats, uses various brands of deck equipment, including Markey and Almon Johnson.

“The various winches that we have, normally that’s what came with the boat when we bought it,” he explained. “The boats that we’ve built, we’ve put on Markey winches. Markey is the big one; they’re standard for us at this time.”

Why Markey?

“They make a solid product, they have a good name and they have very good customer service, they stand behind their products,” Manley said. “They make a lot of different models that fit our needs.”

He also said his company has three deck cranes, which aren’t used much.

“Two boats came with them when we bought them, the other boat we put it on for service up in Alaska, it’s just a convenience,” he explained.

Gordon Taylor, a vice president and operations manager with Dunlap Towing said that out of the company’s 26 tugs, there’s just one deck crane, which is on a rescue boat, and all but the small in-harbor assist boats have a variety of winches.

“I’ve got quite a few of the Markey machines, single drum and double drum machines; we’ve got probably six or seven of the Intercons, we’ve got a few even of the Almon Johnson winches that have been refurbished on some of our older vessels,” Taylor said. “We’ve got a couple Canadian ones on our small boats from Burrard, out of Canada. They make a good little machine, too.”

When asked what makes for a good winch, Taylor said durability and capacity of wire.

“On a lot of our bigger horsepower tugs, we’re using two-and-a-quarter inch diameter wire and trying to get as much footage, around 3,000 feet of wire on the main drum,” he said. “Most of our larger horsepower vessels, above 3,000 horsepower, we try to do a double drum-style fill machine.”

“On some of our new vessels, we’re using line handling winches now from Markey,” he said. “The quality’s there. It’s probably the Cadillac of the winch industry, is the Markey, at least in our part of the world here, on the Pacific Ocean.”

Willy Brown, a port engineer with Brusco Tug & Barge’s operation at Port Hueneme in Southern California, said his company operates two ship assist tugs and one standby tug, a line haul boat, for emergencies. None of the vessels have deck cranes, but both the ship assist tugs have Markey electric winches on them. He said a number of factors go into the making of a good winch.

“You have the design of the winch, barrel width and line capability, as far as how much line you can actually store on the drum (and) the structure of the winch,” he said. “The Markey winches are extremely well built, they use real heavy steel when they build them, there’s nothing light duty on them at all. And the redundancy in the systems that they design and put in there, it’s almost fail-proof.”

Johan Sperling, Vice President, Crowley Maritime subsidiary Jensen Maritime, a naval architecture firm, said that since Crowley is such a large company and has so many different variations of tugboats, a substantial variety of deck equipment – including winches, lines and deck cranes -- is used on the company’s vessels.

“We have two winches on most of our tugs. It’s as important as the engines, as important as being able to float, it’s really the key to the boat when you do towing, is a good tow winch,” he said.

“Some tugs will have larger cranes, some will have a very small crane. And yes, the lines, depending on what exact type of operation the vessel does, it’s different. If you do line towing, it’s a certain type of line, if you do escort or ship assist, it’s a different type of line.”

Just about every tugboat in the Crowley fleet has some sort of crane, Sperling said, whether it’s a small articulated crane that moves around the lifeboat, or a larger crane onboard the bigger vessels.

“It totally depends on the purpose of the vessel, how big it is, where it’s operating and all those things,” he explained. “We don’t have a lot of large cranes on our type of vessels because we don’t have too many supply boat-type of tugboats or anchor-handling type of vessels.”

Sperling said the company uses equipment from various manufacturers and some manufacturers’ products tend to stand apart.

“I think we do have opinions about who we like better than others; I think we keep them to ourself to be honest,” he said. “We tend to have our preferences, but we wouldn’t want to put it in public. Especially when you’re constantly negotiating with them, you don’t want to tell them they’re the best.”

Wash. Sen. Slams Stoppage
of Port Inspector Escorts

By Mark Edward Nero

Wash. State Sen. Don Benton has sent a letter to the state’s Executive Ethics Board alleging that Gov. Jay Inslee broke the law when he halted the practice of state troopers escorting grain inspectors past picketing longshore workers and into the Port of Vancouver.

In his June 30 letter, Benton (R-Vancouver), argues that by removing the security escort, the governor is “forcing” terminal operator United Grain Corp. to negotiate with the union.

“Gov. Inslee has unlawfully involved himself in a labor dispute,” Benton wrote in the letter. “He has also failed in his basic obligation to ensure the safety of public employees in the performance of their duties. By his failure to act, he has jeopardized a multibillion dollar industry in our state.”

Law enforcement began escorting the grain inspectors, who are state employees, in September 2013. The escort’s origins date back to when one inspector filed a police report in August 2013 saying that they were harassed while crossing the picket line.

Inslee pulled the escort on July 7, and his office said it had been previously made clear that the escort was only a temporary measure meant to give United Grain Corp. time to hammer out a labor contract with the International Longshore & Warehouse Union.

In response to the pulling of the escort, inspectors have refused to enter the terminal, citing safety concerns, leading United Grain to halt grain shipments and effectively shutter operations at the terminal for the time being.

United Grain says it had been scheduled to ship 17 million bushels in August, and that the grain-shipping season is expected to ramp up in September. The company says it was able to get waivers on the inspections for two shiploads of grain, equal to about three million bushels of product, but that ships were delayed up to 11 days while undergoing the waiver process.

Elliott Bay Design Wins Ferry Contract

By Mark Edward Nero

Seattle-based naval architecture and marine engineering firm Elliott Bay Design Group has been selected by the New York Department of Transportation to design a new class of ferries that will operate between Staten Island and Manhattan.

The project scope consists of a complete design package, including contract drawings, specifications and other documents for vessels to replace the existing Barberi and Kennedy Class ferries. Also included in the scope are modifications to the existing Molinari Class ferries to retrofit a new propulsion system, something the city says is necessary to establish consistency between the new ferries and those that will remain in the fleet.

“We’re excited to get the project underway,” EBDG Project Manager Matt Williamson said. “We’re looking forward to developing a vessel design that meets the need of the Staten Island Ferry on all fronts – economical to construct, efficient to operate and providing safe and reliable service to the people of New York.”

EBDG previously served as sub-contractor as part of a KPFF consulting engineers project team that performed a preliminary design investigation to ascertain the needs of a future ferry fleet. The results determined that reconstructing the fleet's older classes of boats wasn’t economically feasible. Instead, the investigation recommended the design of new double-ended ferry boats with overall passenger capacity of 4,500 and cycloidal propulsion.

US Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) has said that in the wake of damage from Superstorm Sandy in 2012, ferries are a key part of a more modern and resilient regional infrastructure because of their ability to begin service immediately after a storm, given the proper landing equipment.

NYC DOT is expected to apply for a $267 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration Sandy Resilience Program to help pay for the ferries, which will cost an estimated $309 million to build.

Fuel Companies Apply for Alaska LNG Project

By Mark Edward Nero

Alaska LNG, a partnership of oil and gas companies ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and BP, applied to the US Department of Energy on July 18 for permission to export liquefied natural gas for 30 years from a $45 billion to $65 billion development that includes a pipeline across Alaska and an LNG plant in the Nikiski area.

The 212-page filing seeks permission to export up to 20 million metric tons a year of LNG, the equivalent of about 2.5 billion cubic feet a day of natural gas.

The project would be the largest integrated gas/LNG project of its kind ever designed and constructed, the application states.

The three oil and gas producers are working with the state of Alaska and pipeline company TransCanada to develop the Alaska LNG export project. The development team has started preliminary front-end engineering and design work, with a decision anticipated late next year whether to proceed to full engineering, design and permitting.

In the application, Alaska LNG asks that the export authorization’s 30-year clock start with the date of the LNG plant’s first shipment, or 12 years from the date permission is granted, whichever comes first.

The application asks for two levels of export permission. The first involves exports to any of the 18 countries with which the United States has free-trade agreements covering natural gas. Under federal law, such permission is automatically and quickly given because the trade is considered to be in the national interest.

The second level of permission seeks authority to export to non-free-trade countries, which include such big customers as Japan and China.

Much stricter laws apply to exports to these countries; in such cases, the Energy Department opens a proceeding to consider whether the exports would be in the national interest.