Friday, December 12, 2014

Long Beach Officials Approve New Port HQ Plan

By Mark Edward Nero

A plan that could place the Port of Long Beach headquarters in the city’s downtown for the first time ever was approved this week by the Long Beach City Council and Harbor Commission.

After several months of public meetings, study and debate, the Long Beach City Council on Dec. 9 unanimously selected Plenary-Edgemoor Civic Partners to build a new Civic Center. In addition to a new port headquarters building, the project includes a new main library, park, City Hall and new housing, retail and a hotel.

The city has said that retrofitting the existing facilities is prohibitively expensive and would be impossible without finding new financing through bonds or taxes.

“Partnering with this team to build a new Civic Center is the right decision, and provides an opportunity to add residential development and other uses to the site, and to create a modern, sustainable project that will last for generations, without additional cost to our residents,” Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said.

The port has been looking for a new home for years due to age-related problems with its former base of operations, located near the waterfront, south of downtown. In February, the port’s administrative staff of about 350 moved out of its 54-year-old, seven-story seismically deficient headquarters over to a 27-year-old, eight-story interim building located about a dozen miles inland.

On Dec. 8, the Long Beach Harbor Commission voted to participate in the nearly $358 million project. The approval means the city is authorized to begin negotiations on contract specifics with Plenary-Edgemoor.

“I want to thank our Harbor Department for partnering with us on this project,” Garcia said. “The port’s participation means savings for the city and greater efficiency from shared facilities. It also means our Civic Center – and downtown – will be that much more active thanks to their participation.”

Aegean Marine Petroleum Purchases OW Bunker Assets

By Mark Edward Nero

Marine fuel logistics company Aegean Marine Petroleum Network said Dec. 10 that it has agreed to acquire 28,567 metric tons of marine fuel and assume a storage contract with Vopak Terminal Los Angeles for a total purchase price of about $11 million at an auction of the assets of bankrupt ship fuel supplier OW Bunker.

“This transaction is aligned with Aegean’s strategy to opportunistically enter new markets,” Aegean Marine Petroleum Network President E. Nikolas Tavlarios said. “We have focused on building a strong and flexible financial position over the years, and as a result were able to act quickly on this unique opportunity to further strengthen and diversify our operating footprint.

Tavlarios also said that having a presence at the Vopak storage terminal in Los Angeles is expected to substantially broaden Aegean’s access to the marine fuel markets of the US West Coast, and in so doing, round out Aegean’s profile as a global marine fuel provider.

OW Bunker, which has three offices in the US, including one in downtown Long Beach, California, filed for bankruptcy in November, blaming the occurrence on falling fuel prices and mismanagement, among other factors.

Greece-based Aegean, which physically supplies refined marine fuel and lubricants to ships in port and at sea, says it expects to integrate much of the former OW Bunker operating infrastructure in Los Angeles-Long Beach into the Aegean organization and begin operations at the Vopak Terminal during the first quarter of 2015.

Currently, Aegean has a global presence in 27 markets, including Vancouver, Mexico and the US East Coast.

BC Ferry to Undergo $12 Million Upgrade

By Mark Edward Nero

The ferry Queen of Capilano will undergo a $12 million mid-life upgrade from Jan. 5 to May 5, 2015 to prepare the vessel for another 20 years of service, owner British Columbia Ferry Services said Dec. 5.

The refit work will be carried out at Esquimalt Drydocking Co. in Victoria, British Columbia. Highlights of the vessel’s extensive upgrade are to include the following safety, mechanical and customer service improvements:
  • Installation of gallery decks: increasing capacity from about 85 to 100 vehicles.
  • Installation of a new entrance/exit for walk-on passengers in the upper lounge.
  • Installation of a new evacuation system and replacement of the rescue boat.
  • Installation of a pet area.
  • Complete elevator system overhaul.
  • Upgrade of stairwell and disabled washroom.
  • Upgrade of the ship intercom and public address system.
“A significant upgrade such as the one the Queen of Capilano is undergoing allows BC
Ferries to operate a more efficient vessel for decades into the future,” Mark Wilson, BC Ferries’ Vice President of Engineering, said.

The vessel Bowen Queen is scheduled to provide service on the Bowen Island-Horseshoe Bay route for the duration of the upgrade.

Since the vehicle capacity of the Bowen Queen is lower than that of the Queen of Capilano, BC Ferries says it will provide additional services to help mitigate the potential for overloads, including a direct-to-downtown bus shuttle, discounted parking at Horseshoe Bay terminal, additional sailings and assured loading for high-occupancy vehicles during key afternoon commuter sailings to Bowen Island.

Royal Caribbean Promotes Two

By Mark Edward Nero

Royal Caribbean Cruises has named Michael Bayley president and CEO of Royal Caribbean Intl., a position that had been vacant since April, when Adam Goldstein was promoted to president and COO of RCCL, the parent company for a number of cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises.

As a result of Bayley’s promotion, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, formerly executive vice president of operations at Royal Caribbean Intl., is replacing Bayley as president and CEO at Celebrity Cruises. Both appointments are effective immediately.

Both appointees are Royal Caribbean veterans. Bayley worked his way up from an assistant purser's position aboard the Nordic Prince. Lutoff-Perlo’s career with the company began in its New England sales office.

“To recognize these two incredibly talented people with these vital leadership positions after years of dedication, effort and innovative thinking is gratifying for everyone here,” Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chairman and CEO Richard Fain said.

Before his Celebrity’s President and CEO, Bayley served in several senior roles at Royal Caribbean Intl., including Executive Vice President of Operations.

Lutoff-Perlo began her company career as a district sales manager in New England, and after a successful sales career, made her mark as a specialist at bringing new ships to market for both Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity.

In addition to the Quantum class, she played a key role in the launch of Royal Caribbean International's Voyager and Radiance classes, as well as Celebrity’s Solstice Class, according to Royal Caribbean.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

West Coast Pilots: New Ships, Old Challenges

By Kathy A. Smith

Pilots have been shepherding vessels in and out of harbors for centuries, but overall the job hasn't changed much. Hazards that have existed for millennia are still around. Most still have to face the unpredictability of an arduous climb up and down the ubiquitous pilot ladder, which is never an easy feat, whether in calm waters or rolling seas. And even with today's tough rules on rest, these expert navigators must keep their wits about them, despite the advent of technological advances designed to make their job easier.

Fog can be a huge menace when San Francisco Bar Pilots are at work handling all manner of vessels like large yachts, small bulkers and large tankers. Imagine taking a 1,200-foot containership to the Port of Oakland, where the turning basin is just 1,500 feet in diameter. Or to the Port of Redwood City, where these pilots are expected to expertly maneuver 750- and 800-foot ships in a 900-foot turning basin.

In fact, becoming a pilot is a Herculean effort in itself. Only master mariners can qualify to be pilots – the journey to master, is, in itself, a multi-year voyage. So if one wants to try out for the San Francisco Bar pilots, their passage begins by taking an initial exam given by the State of California. Master mariners need at least one year deep-sea command time with an unlimited master's license or two years of command time. They must also hold a 1,600-ton master's license while in command of a towboat that moves barges or vessels, either at sea or in inland waters.

Step two involves simulation training where these mariners will perform live-action ship-handling tasks with state-mandated evaluators assessing their performance. If the candidate is successful here as well, he or she will be ranked and begin to be called on as the state requires pilots and will observe senior pilots before taking the US Coast Guard pilotage exam.

"You get a piece of paper with the coastline and the bridges on it, and you fill in everything," says Capt. Raymond Ridens, a 24-year hawespiper who has been a San Francisco Bar Pilot for the last eight years. "You have to fill in all the underwater obstructions, all the routes, depths, and current flows in the Bay from memory. And for us in San Francisco, there are 15 different areas you have to draw and write. This is typically 10-12 pages of writing, and you repeat that 15 times."

Once the candidate receives their federal endorsement, he can begin driving ships under the observation of senior pilots. And after a period of about one to three years (average 18 months), as a candidate progresses through about 1,000 jobs, he'll be recommended to the State for licensure as a first-class pilot on San Francisco Bay.

SF Pilots, like most pilot organizations, attend a 6-day manned model training course given by the Grenoble Ship Handling School at Port Revel in Grenoble, France every five years, in addition to a 5-day training course at a training institute (also at a 5-year interval) which includes classroom work for Bridge Resource Management, simulation training, first aid, CPR, and ECDIS, etc.

The schedule for these Californian navigators is seven days on, seven days off. Working hours are long; even though a typical duty day is on average about eight hours, 12-hour shifts occur occasionally. While the pilots are expected to have 12 hours rest between jobs, they can still be called out on special assignment which is reported to the State via the monthly pilot commissioners meeting.

And there are the dangers of the ladder. "When I joined in 2005," says Capt. Ridens, "a pilot was disembarking and he got his foot crushed and he's on a cane now. I've seen pilots go into the water. It happens more than people realize."

In addition to getting on and off ships, weather, navigation and other challenges abound. The super-sizing of vessels, for instance. "Some of the ULCCs are so tall, they're getting close to the bottom of the Bay Bridge," adds Capt. Ridens. "But they can't be so deep that they can't get over the shoal. Those big ships pose both air draft and water draft issues."

These larger ships also require an additional pilot who comes aboard inside the Bay with stand-alone navigational equipment for gathering ship position and AIS data (Portable Pilot Units). This gives sub-meter accuracy and keeps the vessel at center at all times. The data helps the operational pilot do his job while the other is also monitoring tugboats, traffic, etc. "Even though the captain is present and mates at both ends, the two pilots know how to work together so there is no communication mishap."

In Western Canada, BC Coast Pilots have the responsibility of piloting foreign vessels on the 15,000 miles of BC coastline, from the Southern Canadian border to Alaska. But there are a number of inherent dangers here, too. Among several tricky waterways to navigate is the 3.1-mile portion of the Discovery Passage known as Seymour Narrows. Its narrow channel with 16 knots of tide is particularly treacherous, even in good weather. Specific pilotage guidelines have been developed for this region, but one can only imagine how difficult it must be to take a mega cruise ship through this very demanding transit.

Much like other pilot organizations, BC Coast Pilots go through a rigorous process to become licensed. After a candidate has acquired sea time as master and is confident with extensive local knowledge of all BC coast waterways, he sits a written and oral exam assessed by the industry authority and BC Coast pilots. The journey to an unrestricted pilot license will take seven years and involves the manned model and simulation training, hands-on apprenticeship under the guidance of senior pilots, as well as being continually assessed by the Pilot Training and Examination Committee.
But when it comes to boarding and de-boarding ships, this BC group has decided to let go of tradition and adopt what has proven to be a safer, cost-effective pilot transfer. "Using helicopters was originally proposed for the first arrivals of energy ships onto our coast but has since been expanded to the west coast of Vancouver Island, and it's looking now that it will move into the Southern Gulf," says Captain Roy Haakonson, BC Coast Pilots Vice President. "Besides fatalities, another consequence to using ladders has been early medical retirement due to serious and ongoing disabilities. The pilots work closely with Pacific Pilotage Authority to mitigate this risk."

With so much open ocean in their midst, BC Coast Pilots are no strangers to large ships. Some of the biggest vessels transiting BC waters include 10,000 TEU containerships; up to 350 meters long and 50 meters wide. "We have a large toolkit that includes the newest-designed tugs, we're trained in the newest escort maneuvers, and we use simulation and live ship trials to mitigate unexpected challenges in handling future large vessels to our coast," adds Capt. Haakonson.

With all the technology at their fingertips, Capt. Haakonson says there is a problematic situation developing in the training realm regarding the changeover to using e-nav officers. "If this growing phenomenon continues, it would create a control system with little human interface, which would lead to an e-nav officer with little or no understanding of pilotage duties," he says. "But pilots are committed to the art of pilotage and are safeguarding against any one reliance on any one aid. The BC Coast Pilots are committed to a safe and effective pilotage service."

Containerships, tankers and articulated oil barges largely dominate much of the work of Puget Sound Pilots. But they also handle diverse ships such as car carriers and cruise ships on the waterways between the Canadian border and Olympia.

These pilots work on a rotation of 15 days on, 13 days off and things can get interesting as the waterways where large containerships come into harbor were built for much smaller ships.

"We currently have ships that are more than 1,100-feet long by 149 feet wide coming into the Blair Waterway in Tacoma and the East Waterway in Seattle, and have tankers that are shorter but wider, and all indications are that those ships are going to continue to get larger," says Walter Tabler, Executive Director of the Puget Sound Pilots. "We're working now to get ready for 13,000 TEU ships in the Blair Waterway in Tacoma, and we've had an extensive number of sessions in the simulator, simulating different load and wind characteristics and other scenarios, modeling different ships alongside at various docks they sail by."

Whether navigating big or small ships, having to dance around ferry and recreational boater traffic is no easy task, particularly while gillnet season is in full swing. And the ladder is also a distressing challenge here. "Recently, a 12-pound magnet that was securing the pilot ladder to the side of a tanker, popped off and hit the pilot on the head, causing severe injury," reports Tabler.

The 54 Puget Sound Pilots who are licensed by the State of Washington carry out approximately 7,800 assignments a year. They are licensed after a series of examinations and an extensive training regime. "Depending upon an applicant's experience, they will be given a training program that could include hundreds of trips in various waterways in different types of ships," explains Tabler. "It's not until a pilot successfully completes five full years of piloting that he or she is fully authorized to operate any ship that comes into Puget Sound."

Foreign ships' crews pose their own challenges as language can be a barrier despite English being the default dialect. "Problems can arise if something goes wrong," says Tabler. "There could be two or three different languages being used aboard and if something goes wrong, the crew will have a tendency to speak in their native tongue which is likely not the pilot's."

Prior to entering the Columbia River Pilot training program, candidates must have significant experience on Columbia River tugs or have completed the Oregon Board of Maritime Pilots (OBMP) apprenticeship program. The entry and training requirements are set by the OBMP and the training program is two and a half years long. Trainees also attend classroom, simulator and scaled manned model training.

After an initial nine-month period, a pilot is issued a limited license and begins doing his or her own work on smaller vessels, while continuing to also perform training assignments with senior pilots. There are three grades of limited licenses which increase with vessel size. At the end of two and a half years, an unlimited license is issued by the OBMP. "All pilots must also hold a federal First Class Pilot Endorsement for the Columbia/Willamette pilotage grounds," says Captain Anne L. McIntyre, Vice President.

The group of 45 pilots navigate ships to all ports upriver from Astoria to Longview, St Helens, Kalama, Portland and Vancouver. The Columbia and Willamette Rivers Pilotage is a 600-foot wide, 85-mile narrow channel, however, mega ships do not call here due to the 43ft. draft restriction.
Still, some of the challenges faced by these busy river pilots are limited under keel clearance and shifting shoals, manoeuvring vessels in close proximity while underway, docking and anchoring, restricted visibility and the scope of expertise required to serve five different ports.

The use of technology like Portable Pilot Units is a boon. "We view new technology as an aid to what already exists," Capt. McIntyre explains. "The most important things are being able to pilot visually and pilot by radar. Then you layer the aids on top of that. AIS and Portable Pilot Units have significantly helped with traffic management."

As long as ships transit the world's ocean, the skills and experience of these seasoned, tenacious mariners will be required, despite the inherent dangers of the job. Even as 21st century vessel and technologies evolve to enhance the world of piloting, most pilots would agree that 'eyes out the window' is still the best defense.

Willard Marine Licenses Commercial, Military Boat Designs

By Mark Edward Nero

Anaheim, California-based watercraft design, engineering and manufacturing company Willard Marine has entered into an exclusive licensing agreement with Arkansas-based SeaArk Marine to build all of SeaArk’s commercial and military boat models, the company said Dec. 3.

“The exclusive licensing of SeaArk Marine boat designs better positions Willard Marine to do business with law enforcement and marine security professionals throughout the US,” Willard Marine president and CEO, Ulrich Gottschling, explained. “We can finally reach out to these new markets with relevant, proven boat designs that they know and like. To be more competitive, we must diversify our product portfolio, and this is one of many moves planned over the next two years to grow our business.”

SeaArk, based in Monticello, Ark., is family owned and was operated by the McClendon family beginning in 1959. In 2012, SeaArk’s military and industrial boat-building division closed due to lagging sales during the most recent recession.

SeaArk’s commercial division known for its Commander and Dauntless series of aluminum work-and-patrol vessels ranging in size from 28 feet to 65 feet; both models sport the deep-V hull form developed by the world renowned naval architecture firm C. Raymond Hunt & Associates, the same firm that created the hull designs that Willard Marine uses for its military and commercial rigid hull inflatable boats.

“The Willard Marine team was a respected competitor throughout SeaArk Marine’s 55-year history, “John McClendon, who served as president and CEO of SeaArk Marine for 16 years, said. “I know military and industrial customers around the world will be thrilled to learn they can have new boats built utilizing the wide variety of hulls and options that SeaArk Marine developed over the years.”

The arrangement with Willard Marine does not apply to SeaArk Boats, the Arkansas-based recreational boating division of SeaArk that has an independent dealer network.

Construction Beginning on Port of Everett Wharf

By Mark Edward Nero

IMCO General Construction is to begin work on a $2.55 million upgrade project at the Port of Everett’s South Terminal later in December to strengthen the wharf to support roll-on/roll-off cargo operations.

The major infrastructure investment, made possible through a grant from Washington state taxpayers, involves strengthening 140-feet of the 700-foot dock to create a ‘heavylift’ pad in the northwest corner of the wharf. Work is expected to be complete in May 2015.

The port says upgrading the South Terminal is vital in the port’s ability to support the machinery, heavy equipment and other breakbulk cargoes that are regularly imported and exported through the international terminal.

When combined with the port’s recent investment to construct a roll-on/roll-off cargo berth at South Terminal in 2013, the strengthened wharf is expected to have an immediate impact on the port’s ability to more efficiently load and unload cargo from some of the industry’s larger ro/ro vessels.

“It is critical that we continue to make necessary capital investments into our seaport to ensure our facilities are world-class,” Port of Everett Executive Director & CEO Les Reardanz said. “We are committed to meeting and adapting our facilities to support and grow our customer base.”

The wharf was originally constructed in the 1970s, with a working load capacity of 500 pounds per square foot (psf). The current project is expected to double the strength of the dock, bringing the working load capacity to 1,000 psf.

In addition to the wharf-strengthening project, the port has been working to develop its rail infrastructure to improve regional freight mobility and rail loading at the seaport. The port says that in 2015-2016 it will invest more than $10 million in rail upgrades to add 650 lineal feet of new rail track at the northern end of the seaport, rehabilitate and extend the South Terminal rail spur and construct a double rail siding of about 3,600 lineal feet of on-terminal track. This is expected to provide the capacity necessary to move more cargo out by rail rather than truck.

Metro Vancouver CEO Warns of Industrial Land Shortage

By Mark Edward Nero

Port Metro Vancouver President and Chief Executive Officer Robin Silvester is calling for the creation of an industrial land reserve, saying that the issue of a shrinking industrial land base in Metro Vancouver poses a serious threat to the local and national economies.

“Metro Vancouver currently has a supply of industrial land that is sufficient to meet demand for up to 15 years at most,” Silvester said during a Nov. 28 speech to the Vancouver Board of Trade. “If we don’t act now, we will face a serious and imminent shortage with significant consequences.”

Studies indicate that 2,300 additional acres of industrial land will be needed in the gateway by 2025 to meet increasing cargo demand.

On the same day Silvester addressed the trade board, Port Metro Vancouver released its updated Land Use Plan, a key priority of which is to protect the remaining supply of industrial land within Port Metro Vancouver jurisdiction. The plan is similar to a municipal official community plan and identifies the types of uses that are appropriate throughout the port, a jurisdiction that borders 16 municipalities.

“This is an important document,” Peter Xotta, the port’s Vice President of Planning and Operations, said. “It sets out how Port Metro Vancouver will manage the land in our jurisdiction over the next 15 to 20 years, in response to growth in Canada’s trade.”

The plan, which took nearly three years to devise, was developed in consultation with more than 1,000 people representing municipalities, government agencies, environmental organizations, businesses, industries, and members of the public.

The document, among other things, illustrates Port Metro Vancouver’s ability to accommodate future growth in a socially, environmentally and economically sustainable manner. More information about the plan is available at

Port of Kalama Appoints Economic Development Manager

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of Kalama said Dec. 8 that it has appointed Eric Yakovich to the position of economic development manager.

In the role, Yakovich will manage new and ongoing construction and community projects, assist port clients during development projects, participate in regional economic development initiatives and administer grants for port projects.

He will also oversee port records, reception, security and safety, as well as infrastructure. His initial projects include infrastructure development for the proposed methanol plant, extending walking paths, building demolition, warehouse construction and laying new railroad tracks.

Prior to his move to the Port of Kalama, Yakovich was Chief Executive Officer for Cowlitz County Guidance Association, a comprehensive community mental health center serving over 6500 people a year in Longview, Woodland, Kelso, Kalama and Castle Rock. He also previously worked at Columbia River Mental Health Services.

At the Port of Kalama, he replaces Jacobo Salan, who in July 2013 was appointed the port’s first-ever full-time economic development manager.

The Port of Kalama also said that it has appointed Russell Watts to the role of Field and Maintenance Operations/Facilities Technician. Watts brings 40 years’ experience working for municipal treatment plants in Vancouver, Gresham and North Bonneville.

Watts will assist the wastewater treatment operator with general operations, and assist the port maintenance crew with general upkeep, maintenance and repair of all port properties and facilities.