Friday, December 19, 2014

Willard Marine Acquires Crystaliner Design Rights

By Mark Edward Nero

Anaheim-based watercraft design, engineering and manufacturing company Willard Marine has acquired the rights to design and manufacture Crystaliner boats, a line of surf and rescue vessels that have been based on the West Coast for nearly six decades.

Crystaliner was founded in Southern California in 1956 by John Norek and they specialized in fiberglass recreational and commercial boats that were particularly popular with lifeguards, harbor patrol, and rescue operations.

Crystaliner is credited with building the molds for the Navy’s first 16 foot fiberglass lifeboat and in 1959, the first fiberglass boat to win the Miami Nassau Race. Although the company closed its doors in 2012, Crystaliners are still being used by law enforcement and lifeguard divisions in California coastal cities, such as Long Beach. It’s estimated that more than 100 boats were sold throughout the company’s history.

Financial terms of the acquisition have yet to be revealed.

“Crystaliner is an iconic brand with a long, reputable history and loyal customer following,” Willard Marine President and CEO Ulrich Gottschling said. “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.”

Lewis Page, who served as general manager at Crystaliner for 14 years, and spent 34 years building their boats and tooling said in a statement that Willard Marine is “unequivocally” the best boat builder today to carry on the Crystaliner legacy “of making high-quality, top-performing boats specific to lifeguards and rescue operations.”

“I am proud to collaborate with Willard’s highly skilled and experienced team to produce a new lineage of Crystaliners that first responders can depend upon for many decades,” Page said.

Monthly Volumes Down, Yearly Ones Up at POLA

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of Los Angeles released its November 2014 containerized cargo volumes Dec. 17 and according to the data, overall volumes decreased three percent in November 2014 compared to November 2013.

Total cargo for November was 663,346 TEUs, compared to 683,849 during the same month last year. Container imports decreased 2.7 percent, falling from 342,247 TEUs in November 2013 to 333,153 TEUs in November 2014, according to the data.

Meanwhile, exports declined 16 percent, from 179,176 TEUs in November 2013 to 150,568 TEUs in November 2014. The port attributes the decline in US exports during 2014 to weaker demand abroad and a stronger US dollar, which makes American goods more expensive.

Combined, total loaded imports and exports fell 7.2 percent last month from 521,423 TEUs in November 2013 to 483,721 TEUs in November 2014. Factoring in empties, which increased 10.6 percent year over year, overall November 2014 volumes (663,346 TEUs) declined three percent compared to November 2013 (683,849 TEUs).

For the first 11 months of calendar year 2014, the overall volume of 7.68 million TEUs represented a 6.5 percent increase compared to the same period in 2013, 7.21 million TEUs.

For the fiscal year to date, the cargo terminals at LA’s port have seen a total of 3.62 million TEUs, a 3.5 percent increase from the 3.5 million units shipped during the previous fiscal year, which ended June 30.

Current and past data container counts for the Port of Los Angeles can be found at

POLB Monthly Cargo Volume Up Slightly

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of Long Beach’s overall cargo volume saw growth of just two percent in November 2014 compared to the same month last year, but the modest rise was enough to mark the busiest November since 2007.

According to data released Dec. 16 by the port, a total of 581,514 TEUs moved through port terminals in November, compared to 569,999 TEUs in November 2013. The rise is primarily due to a surge in empty containers imported and exported during the month. Long Beach moved 157,570 empty TEUs in November, an increase of 30.2 percent.

However, exports saw a 14.5 percent decrease to 129,960 TEUs, while imports were recorded at 293,984 TEUs, down 0.9 percent from last year.

The overall result is that cargo numbers were flat in November at the port, something that Long Beach says is attributable to retailers having shipped the majority of their goods for the year in early autumn to be prepared for the busy holiday shopping season that’s currently underway.

Last year, against which 2014 is being compared, was the third-busiest year in port history with a total of 6.73 million TEUs. Through the first 11 months of the calendar year, the port saw a 1.7 percent increase in cargo.

For the fiscal year to date, the port has seen just 1.16 million TEUs, compared to 1.14 million during the same period in FY 2013, representing a 1.6 percent increase in traffic during the period, which began Oct. 1.

Tacoma Monthly Volumes Drop Sharply

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of Tacoma says that productivity issues plaguing it and other US West Coast ports the past few months resulted in Tacoma’s container volumes to drop eight percent in November compared to the same month in 2013.

It marked the end of eight consecutive months of growth at the port, according to data released Dec. 18.

Tacoma handled 140,218 TEUs in November, bringing calendar year-to-date volumes to 1.9 million TEUs. For the year, Tacoma’s container volumes are up 9.3 percent.

Tacoma says that grain exports experienced a bumper crop this year and are returning to normal following last year’s historic lows. Grain exports are up 53 percent year to date to 3.9 million short tons according to data.

Auto imports, intermodal lifts and breakbulk cargo also posted gains, while log exports continued to decline, something the port says reflects decreased demand in China.

Although full containerized imports have grown 12.8 percent year to date through November to 713,047 TEUs, most of those gains occurred earlier in the year. Exports for the year have increased 4.2 percent to 496,686 TEUs, and domestic volumes have improved 3.8 percent to 426,816 TEUs, port numbers state.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Bay Area Ports Offer Diversity and Cooperation

By Mark Edward Nero

The five seaports in the San Francisco Bay Area may be overshadowed in the public eye by their two massive competitors in Southern California, but that doesn't mean they're inert or sitting idly by.

In fact, the ports in Oakland, Redwood City, Richmond, Sacramento and San Francisco have all in the past year engaged in or completed infrastructure improvements geared to help bring in more revenue.

The largest rival in the Bay Area to the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports as far as container traffic goes is the Port of Oakland. The term "rival" may be stretching it a little, however, since Oakland's five terminals moved 2.3 million TEUs in 2013, while LA moved about eight million TEUs last year and Long Beach terminals saw 6.7 million over the same time period.

That said, the Port of Oakland had its busiest month in more than a year in October 2014, with total volume increasing 2.87 percent compared with the same month last year, while imports were up 7.1 percent over the same time period.

And Oakland is trying to increase its market share. Currently, the port is working to turn a 185-acre plot of nearby land into a global trade and logistics center, which would include, among other things, a new intermodal rail terminal, 30 acres of truck parking and two million square-feet of warehousing.

The multi-phase project, called the Oakland Global Trade & Logistics Center, has been in progress since October 2013. Phase 1 consists of building a new railyard to accommodate growth by increasing capacity from 17 cars to 200 cars at a time.

Also included are 29,000 feet of new track, which would allow the facility to handle two 7,000-foot-long trains daily; and a million square feet of new warehouse space.

As many as 200,000 additional cargo containers could pass through the waterfront annually and two million metric tons of bulk product would move in and out by rail once the facility's up and running, according to the port.

The project's second phase includes a new intermodal terminal; 15 acres of designated drayage truck parking; additional warehouse and logistics space; and a new grade separation.

The first phase is expected to cost $500 million to build, while the project as a whole is estimated at $1.2 billion. Construction of Phase 1 began in 2013 and is scheduled for completion by fall 2015. The schedule for Phase 2 is contingent upon the completion of Phase 1.

The project is expected to utilize over $400 million in state, local and private funding, as well as a $15 million federal grant. In November, Alameda County voters approved a half-cent sales tax hike to fund $7.8 billion worth of transportation infrastructure improvements, including improvement of highway connections to the Port of Oakland as well as upgrades of roads that connect to the port's intermodal terminal.

Even as the improvements are in progress, the port has experienced an increase in traffic volumes as a result of congestion at the LA/Long Beach port complex.

"Yes, customers have shifted some of their discretionary cargo over to Oakland due to the congestion issues they are facing in Southern California," a port spokesman told Pacific Maritime Magazine. "We're aggressively marketing Oakland as a key hub for West Coast and intermodal cargo."

Meanwhile, in September, the Port of San Francisco completed its largest maritime infrastructure project in decades: a new cruise ship terminal.

San Francisco has a very different focus from other Bay Area ports; while Oakland's main maritime revenue stream is container traffic, San Francisco's is passenger traffic. The port currently handles 60 to 80 vessel calls each year and 200,000 passengers annually, numbers that are expected to increase due to the opening of the James R. Herman Cruise Terminal at Pier 27 in September 2014.

The $100 million project includes a new terminal building, mobile passenger boarding bridge, shoreside electrical power, three-acre provisioning area, three-acre ground transportation area, and a three-acre public park. On non-cruise days, Pier 27 is used as a facility for conferences, trade shows and special events, while the existing two-berth terminal, Pier 35, remains in service for multiple-ship days.

Although passenger traffic is San Francisco's bread and butter, the port does also have a hand in the bulk and breakbulk industry. Not only is it the Bay Area's only breakbulk cargo port, it is considering expanding its bulk cargo operations.

"The port's dry bulk business has been steady for more than 10 years, with over one million tons of aggregate imported annually from Canada," Port of SF Deputy Maritime Director Peter Dailey told Pacific Maritime Magazine. "We are investigating the feasibility of establishing a bulk export facility for shipping iron ore to Asia, which would be a major boon to our cargo portfolio."

While the Port of Oakland focuses on bulk cargo and the Port of San Francisco dominates the passenger market, the Port of Redwood City's niche is in a different area altogether: aggregates.
The Port of Redwood City, located 18 nautical miles south of San Francisco, is the only deepwater port in the South San Francisco Bay. It specializes in bulk, neo-bulk and liquid cargoes. Fiscal year 2014, which ended June 30, 2014, was good to the port, with increases in both tonnage and vessel calls.

The fiscal year's total tonnage was almost 1.8 million metric tons, a 19 percent increase over the previous FY. About 75 percent of that dry bulk cargo was construction aggregates – sand and gravel – from British Columbia, 1,352,000 metric tons worth, according to the port.

"Demand for this material is expected to continue to grow as the increase in construction continues from San Francisco to San Jose, in other words the greater Silicon Valley," Port of Redwood City Executive Director Michael Giari told Pacific Maritime Magazine.

"You could do a whole separate story on the millions of tons of construction aggregates from British Columbia being brought into SF Bay Area ports on large self-unloading ships," Giari said.

In April 2014, the port completed a $17 million wharf modernization program under which a wooden dock from the 1940s was replaced by a new 430-foot by 60-foot concrete structure that is used to dock Panamax-sized dry bulk ships and handle aggregates as well as other dry bulk cargos.

And this past fall, the port began a $12.8 million dredging project under which its navigation channel was dredged to 28 feet between October and December. It is also set to be dredged to its fully authorized depth of 30 feet by mid-2015.

The ongoing projects in Oakland, San Francisco and Redwood City serve as examples of the role diversity of the San Francisco Bay ports, as each has its focus on a different market from the others.

"The San Francisco area has such diversity in cargo mix: we have containers that go to Oakland, we have passenger ships that come to San Francisco, we have tankers that go up to the Richmond area, and car ships that go up to Benicia and Richmond, and then the break bulk ships that go up to Stockton and Sacramento," Capt. Lynn Korwatch, executive director of the Marine Exchange of the San Francisco Bay Region said.

"Unlike LA and Long Beach, which are really kind of competing for the same business, in our area, each one of the ports really has kind of established its own little cargo niche," Korwatch said. "I don't want to say there's no competition, because there is some to some degree, but San Francisco gets all the passenger traffic, they get no container traffic. San Francisco gets no container ships that come in their way, Oakland gets no tanker ships."

Although some Bay Area ports are expanding their footprint, the Port of West Sacramento is actually seeing its shrink. In October 2014, the City of West Sacramento began a 10-week project to demolish six concrete, 180-foot high silos as part of a waterfront revitalization project under which retail and residential development is planned.

"This is an important step forward in the ongoing revitalization of the waterfront, the de-industrialization of the waterfront," West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon said during an Oct. 28 ceremony at the demolition site.

The Port of West Sacramento, located about 80 nautical miles from San Francisco, is among the more low-profile ports in the region. It was taken over by SSA Marine, in July 2013, becoming one of the few municipal-owned ports whose cargo facilities are completely leased and operated by a private company.

It was also involved in one of the few less successful ventures for Bay Area ports in 2014: the failure of a new "marine highway" barge service operating between West Sacramento and the Stockton and Oakland ports to take off.

The project's underwriter, the Port of Stockton, had high hopes for the service, which it dubbed the M-580, a reference to the congested Interstate 580 that it paralleled. The barge service was expected to help take freight traffic off the I-580 by offering shippers an option to move cargo along the waterways between the ports of Oakland, Stockton and West Sacramento. It even received a $30 million grant from the US Department of Transportation, as well as $5 million from local sources.

But on Sept. 1, 2014, after just 15 months, the M-580 was downgraded from a weekly service to an 'as-needed' service due to financial difficulties.

"During this initial period, we learned that the time it takes to build sustainable volumes was longer than anticipated," Stockton Port Director Richard Aschieris said.

But the failed venture also stands as an example of Bay Area ports' willingness to cooperate with one another since they're typically not directly competing against each other.

"Each one of the port regions has kind of carved out its own little specialty," Marine Exchange Executive Director Lynn Korwatch said. "I think in a lot of ways, that sort of takes away the burden of having to compete. Instead, I find them very collaborative."

Port of Hueneme Sets Fiscal Record

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of Hueneme has set yet another earnings record, according to its fiscal year 2014 audit, a draft report of which was submitted to the port’s Board of Harbor Commissioners during their Dec. 8 business meeting.

The port realized its strongest fiscal numbers in history at about $14.3 million in total gross revenue, according to the report, which was delivered to the board by port CEO Kristin Decas and CFO Andrew Palomares.

“This year’s cargo performance sets a significant new milestone for the port, a record driven by our customers and business development teams,” Decas said. “We commit to continued partnerships and strategic planning to maximize the social and economic benefit the port brings to our community and industries served.”

The financial year end draft report indicates that Hueneme’s net assets grew by 6.2 percent in FY 2014, which is only about half of the previous year’s 12.7 percent. However, the report also shows that the port realized a significant financial recovery in FY 2014, realizing its second best year in volume and highest year in revenue since inception in 1937.

The port mainly attributes the growth to two factors: a nationwide economic rebound as the country continues to climb its way out of the recession; plus a diversification of cargo handled at the port.

The port saw 1.42 million metric tons of cargo in fiscal year 2014, a one percent decrease from FY 2013’s 1.42 million metric tons. Revenue, however, was up 7.5 percent, climbing from $13.3 million in FY 2013 to $14.3 million in FY 2014, which ended June 30.

Commission President, Mary Anne Rooney said the numbers tell a positive story about the port’s financial performance.

“Our team has worked very hard to keep expenses low as we continue to work through hard financial times,” she said. “Over the past few years, everyone made sacrifices working through budget cuts without jeopardizing productivity. We will continue to endorse policies that ensure we run a tight ship.”

Decas acknowledged the year’s performance with a note of cautious optimism.

“We are proud of our record and most pleased to see the uptick in revenues, but recognize that we are still facing financial challenges in making the critical infrastructure investments to move us forward including wharf upgrades and harbor deepening projects,” she said. “We will remain vigilant in our effort to watch expenses and balance the budget.”

The port’s fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30.

BAE San Francisco Wins Overhaul Contract

By Mark Edward Nero

BAE Systems San Francisco Ship Repair said Dec. 14 that it has been awarded a $15.23 million firm-fixed-price contract for a 60-calendar day shipyard availability for the regular overhaul and drydocking of the USNS Matthew Perry.

The work was contracted out by the US Navy’s Military Sealift Command in Washington, DC.

According to BAE, work on the vessel is to include: a main engine overhaul; HVAC support; degaussing system repairs; deck non-skid renewal; ballast tank preservation; cylinder head and liner overhaul; annual lifeboat certification; galley ventilation system cleaning; docking and undocking; propeller system maintenance; bow thruster maintenance; overhauling sea valves; and underwater hull cleaning and painting.

The contract includes options that, if exercised, would bring the total contract value to $15.29 million. Work is to be performed in San Francisco and is expected to be completed by March 15, 2015.

The USNS Matthew Perry, which was christened in 2009, is a 16,446-ton dead weight, 689 foot long military dry cargo ship. It has a maximum dry cargo weight of 5,910 long tons and a maximum dry cargo volume of 783,000 cubic feet.

BAE San Francisco provides maintenance, alterations, and repairs to cruise liners from Alaskan and Mexican trade routes, trans-Alaska pipeline tankers, military vessels, local bay traffic and foreign and domestic bulk carriers and container ships.

The yard’s floating dry dock, which is certified by the U.S. Navy, is among the largest drydocks on North America’s West Coast.

POLB Approves Pollution Control Incentive Program

By Mark Edward Nero

The Long Beach Harbor Commission on Dec. 9 approved a new incentive program to reward shipping lines for taking part in the testing of new air pollution-control technology for vessels.

The first to benefit from the new incentive are vessel operators participating in a Port of Long Beach demonstration of a barge-mounted emissions-capture system for ships at berth.

The port says that by waiving the dockage fee, the new incentive program encourages vessel operators to participate in the testing of the barge-mounted system and other similar technology.

A barge-based Advanced Maritime Emissions Control System, or AMECS, is currently undergoing testing at the port. The AMECS uses a 115-foot-high tower mounted on a barge to connect to a ship and vacuum up emissions. The gases are sent through filters and scrubbers remove pollutants. The developers of the system are seeking approval from state regulators to qualify as an alternative to shore power for container ships and will also be tested on other types of cargo ships.

“This incentive will allow more ships to participate in these important demonstration projects, so we are very happy to offer it,” Harbor Commission President Doug Drummond said. “The Port of Long Beach is committed to being a leader in air pollution reduction and elimination. We’ve made great strides in that area, but we’re far from finished.”

The port estimates 40 vessel calls annually will be eligible for the incentive over the next two years.

Cargo Imports Trending Up at Oakland Port

By Mark Edward Nero

Through the first 11 months of 2014, cargo imports are up four percent at the Port of Oakland compared to the same time a year ago, according to statistics released by the port Dec. 15.

The port saw 771,454 TEU import containers in the first 11 months of 2014, up from 741,662 containers during the same period in 2013.

For the month of November alone, imports increased 2.97 percent, the third straight month of gains over 2013’s numbers, according to port data.

“Our objective is to make imports a bigger percentage of the cargo mix in Oakland,” port Maritime Director John Driscoll said. “We’re progressing and the challenge now is to step up the pace in 2015.”

The port has attributed the increase to aggressive marketing, greater consumer demand and cargo diversions from congested Southern California ports. Through the peak shipping season, which concluded in November, thousands of imports rerouted to Oakland.

Overall volume at the port – imports and exports – is up 1.5 percent in 2014; however exports have dropped four percent, something the port attributes in part to a strong US dollar, which makes American goods more expensive overseas.

Oakland says that for the first 11 months of 2014, exports accounted for 54 percent of its cargo volume, bolstered by a strong agricultural market.