Thursday, August 28, 2014

Massive Floating Drydock Arrives in Portland

By Mark Edward Nero

North America’s largest floating drydock, the Vigorous, has arrived in Portland, brought by one of the world’s largest ships, the 738-foot M/V Blue Marlin.

The drydock, used to lift vessels as large as cruise ships out of the water, was built in China by Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries. It arrived at the mouth of the Columbia on Aug. 25 and made its way up to Vigor Industrial’s Portland shipyard on the Willamette River.

The drydock is currently in three parts, but when fully assembled, it will be 960-feet long.

Vigor is investing more than $50 million to build and deliver the Vigorous, with the company saying that the drydock will allow Vigor to service vessels such as cruise ships, tankers and cargo ships.

It also frees the company to send another drydock from Portland to Seattle, expanding capacity there.

The new drydock is expected to allow the company to better serve a range of customers with large vessels at a time when total large-drydock capacity on the West Coast has been shrinking. Two large vessels, Maritime Administration cargo ships, are already booked for repairs when the drydock enters service in November.

“The Vigorous is a symbol of the resurgence of the maritime industry in Portland and the wider Pacific Northwest,” Vigor CEO Frank Foti said. “Back in 2000, the shipyard was struggling. Today, we’re growing across the region, and I’m proud and profoundly grateful that we’re in a place to make this kind of investment.”

The Vigorous is about the same size as a drydock Foti was forced to sell in 2001 in order to repay millions of dollars that the company owed lenders. The sale of the shipyard’s largest asset led some to speculate at the time that it signaled the end of shipbuilding in Portland. Since then, however, the company has grown from the single shipyard to nine locations from Portland to Alaska. Vigor says its overall workforce now includes over 2,000 people.

Former Jacobsen Pilot Service President Dies

By Mark Edward Nero

Richard J. Jacobsen, former president of Jacobsen Pilot Service at the Port of Long Beach, died Friday, August 22, at his home in the Los Angeles area. He was 82.

“We’re saddened to learn of the passing of Richard Jacobsen, this is a man who was a leader in the industry and most importantly, he is part of the Port of Long Beach family. He will be missed,” Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners President Doug Drummond said.

Richard “Dick” Jacobsen was born in San Pedro on Nov. 26, 1931. His parents were Capt. Jacob Andrew Jacobsen and Elise Gulbransen Jacobsen, both from Norway.

Jacobsen graduated from the California Maritime Academy in 1952 and then served in the US Navy where he reached the rank of lieutenant. He then he gained experience in merchant shipping, before he came to work with his father, Jacob Jacobsen, at the family business in the mid-1950s.

Jacobsen Pilot Service provides all port pilots for ships that call at the Port of Long Beach. Port pilots meet incoming ships outside the breakwater, and using their in-depth knowledge of the local harbor and wharves, guide the ships into berth and back out to sea.

Dick Jacobsen worked as a port pilot before he became president of the company in 1960, leading the company into the containerization era. Under his leadership, JPS pioneered the use of new safety-enhancing technologies that eventually became standard in the industry.

Jacobsen is survived by his wife of 57 years, Sandra; two daughters, Katherine Anderson and Linda Fester; and a son, Thomas Jacobsen, who is the pilot service’s current president. Dick Jacobsen also leaves behind seven grandchildren and a sister, Andrea Ulin.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the International Seafarers Center of Los Angeles/Long Beach, 120 S. Pico Ave, Long Beach 90802. And also the Assistance League of San Pedro-South Bay, 1441 W. 8th St., San Pedro 90732.

Storm Threat Halts POLB Terminal Ops

By Mark Edward Nero

Two cargo terminals at the Port of Long Beach suspended vessel operations for the day on Wednesday, August 27 because longshore workers were endangered by 10- to 15-foot high wave surges caused by Pacific Hurricane Marie.

Marie grew into a large and powerful Category 5 storm and moved west-northwestward off the Pacific coast of Mexico this week, causing dangerous conditions from the Baja California Peninsula up through Southern California.

Total Terminals International on Pier T, with two Mediterranean Shipping Co. container ships at berth, and Crescent Terminals on Pier F, with two break-bulk ships including an MOL roll-on, roll-off vessel at berth, stopped working the ships late Aug. 26. There was flooding reported at Crescent.

All other terminals at the port remained open for vessel operations, and trucking operations at all terminals, including at TTI and Crescent, also continued and were unaffected by the wave surges, according to the port.

The worst of the surges were at high tide just before 11 am on Wednesday, and again at 11 pm.
The surges were so powerful that two barges broke loose from their anchorage overnight Tuesday, and were later towed and docked at berths T136 and T134. A pleasure craft also had to be towed to safety.

Also on Tuesday night, heavy rocks from the Navy Mole breakwater were tossed onto a nearby roadway. Road damage was reported near the Sea Launch satellite-launch vessels, closing the roadway pending repairs. Sea Launch employees were being escorted through the nearby TTI terminal to get to their offices.

No wave-related injuries were reported.

Port Receives Table Made from Dredging Vessel Piston

By Mark Edward Nero

On Monday, August 11, the Port of Vancouver USA received a 300 lb. gift from the Port of Portland: a table made from a piston from the dredging vessel Oregon, which has been keeping the Columbia River deep enough for the ships that ply its waters since 1965.

The Port of Portland completed overhaul of the 49-year-old Oregon earlier this year, replacing its generators with smaller, more fuel-efficient engines, updated electrical equipment and replacing the main engine, pump and control systems. The Port of Portland says it expects the updates to reduce the Oregon’s carbon emissions by 88 percent and keep the vessel in service for many years to come.

To commemorate the Oregon’s service, the Port of Portland salvaged 15 pistons from its old engines, and working with local artist Juno Lachman, crafted each table with a hand-etched glass top showing the navigation channel from Astoria to Portland with the names of ports along the way.

Vancouver USA and Portland, as well as other ports, have worked together for decades to keep goods flowing on trade routes along the Columbia Snake River System.

The Port of Vancouver’s table has been temporarily placed in the port headquarters lobby so visitors can see it. An image of it has also been posted on the port’s website:

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

TOTE and LNG: Meeting the Challenge of Change

By Michael A. Moore

The IMO's Marpol Annex VI deadlines are rapidly approaching for ships operating in Emission Control Areas. The deadlines address the next phases of mandated drastic reductions in nitrogen and sulfur oxides, and shipowners are faced with three basic choices to bring their vessels into compliance.

The two most expedient and economical methods available are either switching to the use of low sulfur fuel or installing scrubbers and continuing to use current fuel. Those options appear attractive at first glance, but each has its drawbacks.

Compliant fuel costs 40 percent more than current fuel, and will probably be more in 2015.
Installing exhaust gas scrubbers uses current fuel with added costs, plus there are significant maintenance concerns as well as the problem of how to dispose the contaminated seawater generated by the process.

The third option is to switch to the use of liquefied natural gas – LNG – with its potentially lower fuel costs, and the fact that it meets current and future emissions requirements. The drawbacks are cost and lack of infrastructure at this time.

As far as one major US container and ro/ro ship owner and operator is concerned, the age of LNG has begun – and the shipping industry's shift from bunker fuel and diesel to liquefied natural gas is "as major as the shift from wind to steam," said Anthony Chiarello, the president and CEO of TOTE, Inc.

TOTE is a trailblazer in the leap to LNG – the company is the first US ship owner to convert its fleet to LNG. TOTE is building the world's first LNG-powered container ships for the company's Florida to Puerto Rico liner service, as well as performing diesel-to-LNG dual-fuel engine transplants on subsidiary Totem Ocean's two Orca class ro/ro trailerships that make weekly runs between Tacoma and Anchorage.

The significance of TOTE's making the leap to LNG – which provides a needed jump-start to widespread adoption of the gas as marine fuel – was recognized by the White House in May when Anthony Chiarello was named one of 2014's eleven "Transportation Ladders of Opportunity Champions of Change".

TOTE's decision to switch its fleet to LNG was not made overnight.

"We started having discussions in 2010 about how to fulfill the ECA requirements for the reduction of sulfur and nitrogen oxides," said Chiarello. "Our Totem Ocean ships never leave the ECA zone, they are never more than 200 miles from the West Coast.

"We put together a team from Totem Ocean that spent more than two years traveling the globe to investigate our options. Our Orca class ships were built in 2003, they were less than ten years old at the time, and powered by MAN diesel-electrics. MAN told us they did not make a conversion kit for LNG for those engines.

"We look at our ships as 40 year investments," he said. "We decided to install new engines in the Orcas instead of converting. We requested bids for new LNG dual-fuel engines from different manufacturers, including MAN. Wartsila was the winner."

TOTE's decision to convert the Orcas also paved the way for its decision to use LNG on the two new containerships the company was planning to build for its Florida to Puerto Rico weekly liner service. The fact that at least 40 percent of the Puerto Rico route passes through the North American Caribbean ECA underlined LNG's environmental benefits.

"Our ships in the Puerto Rico trade were of an age that we had to do something, they were 35 to 40 years old," said Chiarello. "What is interesting is that MAN won the contract to supply those two new vessels."

The commitment to use LNG as a vessel's primary fuel has been perceived to increase supply and safety risks.

"We are always looking to minimize risk as much as possible," said Chiarello. "The replacement of the Orca class vessels' engines will have less risk than conversion.

"The use of LNG as a marine fuel is not new. There are LNG fueled ferries in Scandinavia, and LNG carriers that have been using dual-fuel engines with the ability to burn off gas from their cargo have been around for quite some time. What we are doing is taking a known and tested technology from one platform and transferring it to another."

TOTE's decision to go with LNG powered new builds and the expensive change to LNG dual-fuel on the Orcas has triggered a chain reaction of interest and commitment from other critical potential players in the LNG revolution.

"Change is often fueled by challenge," said Chiarello. "The challenges posed to our company by the North American Emissions Control Area quickly became an opportunity to lead the industry to cleaner fuels beyond diesel. We've been bullish in our statements that we believe all new ships built for the US domestic trades will burn LNG as fuel.

"The response from other maritime companies has been nothing short of a tidal shift. Orders for LNG ship construction accelerated after we announced plans to convert our ships that serve Alaska and build new ships, the first container ships in the world to be powered by LNG, for Puerto Rico."

The fact that TOTE's ships are engaged in regular liner service between US ports plays an important part in reducing the risk of fuel availability.

"Our biggest area of uncertainty was the LNG supply side," said Chiarello. "As a Jones Act domestic carrier, we're uniquely positioned to create real change in the supply conundrum – availability of fuel is a big hurdle for most transportation sectors to change over to clean burning natural gas."

The regular service routes of TOTE and Totem Ocean create enough of a steady demand to entice fuel partners to build liquefaction plants in their ports of call – thus making LNG supply available to others in those markets. Supply in Jacksonville, Florida, and Tacoma, Washington, will serve the Southeast and Pacific Northwest with natural gas that can be used for ships, trucks, and rail.
"As more maritime and transportation companies move to natural gas, the benefits will grow exponentially," said Chiarello. "The impetus was improving air quality, but we also know that moving to a domestically sourced fuel will increase reliability for our critical supply chain and the environmental and operational safety record of LNG is unmatched."

This is not the first time that TOTE has decided to invest more than the minimum required and for the long term. Totem Ocean's two 839-foot Orca class ships, the M/V Midnight Sun and North Star, were specifically built as trailerships to service the Alaska trade. The ships were designed and built to withstand the rough winter seas of the passage as well as designed to optimize the loading and unloading of the 600 tractor-pulled trailers to meet eight-hour port turnaround times on each end.

TOTE's two LNG containerships are currently under construction in General Dynamics NASSCO's San Diego shipyard and will be ready in early 2016. The engine transplants on the two Orca class ships will take place in the successive winters of 2015 and 2016 to minimize any disruption of service – the shipyard has not yet been announced.
"Change of this magnitude requires strong support from partners and regulatory agencies," said Chiarello. "The EPA, helping to facilitate engine conversions; the US Coast Guard, working to create new regulations; Wärtsilä, designing new LNG engines for our ships; General Dynamics NASSCO, building a ship that's never been built before; partners creating fuel infrastructure; and our parent company Saltchuk, which is both able and willing to invest to 'do the right thing'."

ILWU Ratifies PNW Grain Agreement

By Mark Edward Nero

International Longshore & Warehouse Union members who load grain at Pacific Northwest export terminals have voted to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement with several multinational grain companies.

The vote included members of ILWU Local 8 in Portland, Oregon, Local 4 in Vancouver, Washington, Local 21 in Longview, Washington, Local 19 in Seattle and Local 23 in Tacoma, Washington, who collectively voted 88.4 percent in favor of a tentative agreement with Louis Dreyfus Commodities, United Grain Corp. and Columbia Grain that will be in effect until May 31, 2018.

The agreement between the union and Pacific Northwest Grain Companies was reached just before midnight on August 11 and the union conducted its membership vote in the following days.
According to the union, 1,475 of its members were in favor of the contract, while 193 voted against.

Negotiations for the new agreement began in August of 2012, involved 70 separate sessions and included lockouts at Portland’s Columbia Grain and Vancouver’s United Grain facilities. Exact terms of the agreement haven’t been revealed, but include work rule changes and wage increases over the life of the agreement.

In May 2013, Columbia Grain, which is owned by Japanese trader Marubeni Corp, locked out its unionized workforce, claiming that ILWU members were engaging in a work slowdown at its Port of Portland terminal. Similarly, United Grain indefinitely locked out its union dockworkers in February 2013.

However, with a contract now ratified, ILWU members are expected to resume their jobs at the locked-out facilities on Wednesday, August 27. All picketing has ceased, and the parties have agreed to drop all pending NLRB and other legal actions associated with the dispute.

“Bargaining was difficult, but in the end, both sides compromised significantly from their original positions, resulting in a workable collective bargaining agreement that preserves the work of the ILWU-represented workforce and fosters stability for the export grain industry,” the union said in a statement regarding the vote.

Navy, Scripps Christen Research Vessel

By Mark Edward Nero

The US Navy and Scripps Institution of Oceanography christened the first vessel in the national research fleet named for a female scientist on Aug. 9. A crowd of more than 150 dignitaries formally welcomed the R/V Sally Ride at the Anacortes, Washington shipyard where it is being built.

“This vessel is going to be a general purpose oceanographic research vessel operated through the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System, or UNOLS, for the benefit of entire US academic research community,” Scripps Associate Director Bruce Appelgate, head of Scripps Ship Operations, said.

The Neil Armstrong class of vessels, of which R/V Sally Ride is a member, features a suite of oceanographic equipment, acoustic equipment capable of mapping the deepest parts of the oceans, over-the-side handling gear to deploy and retrieve scientific instruments, emissions controls for stack gasses and new information technology tools both for monitoring shipboard systems and for communicating with land-based sites worldwide.

Substantial construction and outfitting of the 238-foot vessel remains, however. Scripps anticipates taking delivery of the vessel in mid-2015 and then spending at least six months field-testing it.

The R/V Sally Ride will be manned by a commercial crew and operated by Scripps under a charter-party agreement with the Office of Naval Research.

The US Navy now owns six of the nation’s largest oceanographic research ships, and the R/V Sally Ride is now the fifth ship currently serving the Navy to be named for an astronaut. Others include the recently christened R/V Neil Armstrong (AGOR 27), the mobile landing platform John Glenn (MLP 2) and dry cargo and ammunition ships Wally Schirra (T-AKE 8) and Alan Shepard (T-AKE 3).

The R/V Sally Ride was named after Sally Ride, the scientist, innovator and educator who was the first American woman and youngest person in space. Ride later served as director of NASA's Office of Exploration and the California Space Institute at the University of California, San Diego.


Port Metro Vancouver Approves Coal Facility

By Mark Edward Nero

Port Metro Vancouver on August 21 approved a proposed direct coal transfer facility at the Fraser Surrey Docks marine terminal.

The decision came after a two-year project review process and including extra measures taken to assess any potential environmental and human health risks. In granting the permit, Port Metro Vancouver requires the terminal to meet a strict set of conditions to ensure environmental and safety standards.

“Through our comprehensive project review process, stakeholder consultation, as well as third-party validated environmental and health studies, it was determined there are no unacceptable risks and the project could be permitted,” Peter Xotta, Port Metro Vancouver’s Vice President of Planning and Operations said.

The $15 million project is expected to provide 25 direct and 25 indirect full-time jobs. Once constructed by Fraser Surrey Docks, the facility is expected to handle up to four million metric tons of coal annually that would be loaded onto barges at the facility and transferred to ocean-going carriers at Texada Island.

The coal is to arrive at Fraser Surrey Docks via rail, and it is expected the project will result in one additional train per day along the BNSF railroad. Coal is the most heavily traded commodity at Metro Vancouver; the quantity to be shipped from Fraser Surrey Docks would represent about 10 percent of total coal shipments, according to the port.

In September 2013, the port announced new requirements for the proposed project, including the prohibition of on-site storage of coal and requirements for barges to take additional measures to prevent coal dust escaping during transit to Texada Island.

The port also asked the terminal to work with its rail provider to address issues of potential coal dust from rail cars. In May, BNSF announced it was adding a re-spray of a dust suppressant agent to the train cars before they enter Canada.

POLB Sets Up Bridge Construction Webcams

The Port of Long Beach is providing live web cameras for residents, commuters and bridge aficionados to safely view construction of the Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement Project.

The webcams offer 24-hour views of the Gerald Desmond Bridge construction area at

Through live cameras, viewers can see real-time activities, monitor bridge and roadway traffic and follow the bridge construction as it progresses.

“There is a tremendous amount of public interest in the construction of this new bridge,” Port of Long Beach Community Relations Manager John Pope said. “However, there is not a safe, accessible vantage point within the Port to view construction activities. These new webcams offer the best, safest way for everyone to experience the historic construction.”

A combination of live streaming video and high resolution cameras were placed at three locations: the World Trade Center rooftop facing west toward the bridge; at Pier A facing south; and at Pier T facing north. The viewpoints will allow viewers to follow along as the replacement bridge is being built and when the existing bridge is eventually demolished. Tools on the site allow users to control the cameras for a better view, including zooming in and out and selecting full-screen views. A special feature provides one minute time-lapse videos from still shots taken at noon each day.

The web cameras can also be accessed through the project smartphone app. To download the app, search for “LB Bridge” in Apple’s App Store, Google Play or Windows Phone Store.

The new bridge, which will rise adjacent to the existing Gerald Desmond Bridge, will be one of the tallest cable-stayed bridges in the United States and the first of its kind in California. The existing Gerald Desmond Bridge will be demolished once the new bridge is completed.