Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Nicaragua Breaks Ground on Panama Canal Rival

By Mark Edward Nero

The Central American country Nicaragua broke ground Dec. 22 on a new Chinese-backed shipping canal that aims to rival the Panama Canal. The $50 billion, 172-mile canal could be operational by the year 2020, according to the Nicaraguan government.

The Nicaragua Canal aims to connect the Caribbean Sea, and therefore the Atlantic Ocean, with the Pacific Ocean. The proposed route starts from the mouth of the Brito river on the Pacific Ocean side, passes through Lake Nicaragua, and ends in the Punta Gorda river on the Caribbean.

The proposed canal would be up to 1,706 feet wide and 90 feet deep. By contrast, the 48 mile-long Panama Canal is 110 feet wide, and 41.2 feet in depth.

Construction of the new waterway is to be run by Hong Kong-based HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co., commonly known as HKND Group; the company is run by Chinese telecom mogul Wang Jing.

“This moment will surely go down in history. I announce the start of work on the great canal of Nicaragua,” Wang Jing said during a Dec. 22 groundbreaking event, which was held on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast.

Despite the groundbreaking and the start of work on Dec. 29, excavation work isn’t scheduled to begin until the second half of 2015.

Although a Chinese company is managing the project, Nicaraguan officials have maintained that the Chinese government itself isn’t behind the project and that the canal is expected to receive international funding.

“The Chinese haven’t arrived in Nicaragua with occupying troops,” Nicaragua President Daniel Oretga said regarding the canal in a speech in late December.

Royal Caribbean Retrofitting 19 Ships

By Mark Edward Nero

Royal Caribbean Cruises says it will retrofit 19 of its cruise ships with exhaust gas scrubbers beginning early next year.

The systems, technically known as “advanced emissions purification systems,” or AEP, are expected to remove more than 97 percent of the sulfur dioxide emissions generated by the ships’ diesel engines, according to the cruise line.

Beginning in January 2015, installation will take place on 13 Royal Caribbean International ships and six Celebrity Cruises ships during scheduled drydockings and while ships are in service. While preliminary work has begun on several of the ships receiving AEP systems, most will take place between 2015 and 2017, according to the cruise line. Each installation is expected to take about eight months. Royal Caribbean says it is performing the work in order to stay in front of any forthcoming international emissions standards and also to be in compliance with existing standards.

The decision to install purification systems instead of switching to a fuel with a lower sulfur content will ensure that Royal Caribbean’s ships can be compliant everywhere they sail, according to the company.

Royal Caribbean Cruises has been involved in development, testing and planning for the use of advanced purification systems technology since 2010. Two newly built ships that entered into service in 2014, Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas and TUI Cruises’ Mein Schiff 3, were among the first cruise ships to be built with AEP systems installed during initial construction. Royal Caribbean International’s Liberty of the Seas has been operating one of its six engines with a retrofitted AEP system for two years.

AEP systems ‘scrub’ exhaust gases by injecting high volumes of water spray into the exhaust stream, removing more than 97 percent of sulfur dioxide emissions.

“AEP technology for maritime vessels is very new, and we expect that by utilizing multiple technological solutions to accommodate the differences among our ships, additional development will ultimately help industrialize AEP technology even more,” Royal Caribbean Cruises President and COO Adam Goldstein said in a statement.

New Towing Winch Design

By Mark Edward Nero

More than a decade ago, Seattle-based Western Towboat Co. purchased a new towing winch from another Seattle-based company, equipment developer Rapp Marine (formerly Rapp Hydema), for a new tugboat Western was building at the time, the Gulf Titan. Since then, Rapp Marine has manufactured several towing winches for Western Towboat and a long-term working relationship has been maintained. In recent years, Western Towboat has increasingly moved toward building its own tow winches, but earlier this year the company began working with Rapp Marine on a groundbreaking winch prototype.

The two companies began talking about the project about eight months ago, Rapp Marine Northwest engineering and production manager Dan Markovic said.

"We made a preliminary proposal and they liked it," he explained. "We offered to work together on it, and we applied both Western Towboat's and our solutions into our design and engineering."

What makes the prototype winch different is the level of expertise that both Rapp and Western Towboat are pouring into it, Markovic said.

"They told us what features they would like to have on the winch, so we basically used their experience as the end user alongside our experience as the manufacturer and designer of the equipment. We believe that we came up with a great product for the towboat market," he said.

Western Towboat differs from some other West Coast towing companies in that they build many of their own boats and other equipment, as well as perform much of the maintenance on that equipment, as opposed to other companies that send their equipment out for repairs and maintenance.

"The people here, the guys that build the boats and build the winches also do the maintenance on them once they're done, so it kind of makes things easier for everybody to be able to maintain it once it's done, rather than have something designed by a naval architect or something that way," the company's co-owner, Ric Shrewsbury, explained. "Our guys are able to do more and more of that type of thing and redesign things so that it's easier to maintain afterward."

Shrewsbury said that although the prototype winch will be new, it'll include elements of past winch designs.

"We're using their drive system on a winch that we have built in the past and we're building it as a double drum winch this time," he said. "We've kind of redesigned the back end of one of their winches and, between our people and their people, are kind of redesigning this winch a little bit."

Shrewsbury said that his company likes to "take the best of all worlds" and use what works, with one example being offset pins.

"We like the offset pins so that we can wrap our chain right up under a tow wire," he explained. "If the tug has to carry around a 90-foot piece of three and a quarter inch chain or three-inch chain they can just wind that right on top of the drum rather than have that all over the back deck."

Regarding the Rapp Marine prototype, the main drum capacity is more than 3,200 feet of two-and-a-quarter inch steel cable, with an additional 2,700 feet of two-inch cable stored onto the smaller drum. The pull at the first layer is rated at 25 metric tons.

The Rapp four-motor hydraulic drive is equipped with three speed steps, providing speed range from 30m/min up to 124m/min.

"For our winch division, this product is unique," Markovic said. "This is the first one, and is custom made for Western Towboat.

The project consists of a sole prototype, and once it is perfected, Rapp plans to open it for sale to other customers.

"This is a huge winch," he says. "It's quite a project."

Under the agreement with Western Towboat, although both companies are putting in resources, only one will retain ownership.

"This is a Rapp product. Western Towboat is working with us but this remains Rapp property, 100 percent," he said. "We hope that many other winches will follow."

Rapp Marine has not talked about the cost of designing and building the prototype, with Markovic saying that his company will wait until a later date.

"We are putting a lot of our time into this deal that we are not charging. In order to calculate the cost, I think you would have to wait until the project is finished and then we will see where we are standing with that," he said.

As far as the completion date, it's expected sometime in early 2015.

"We've been working on it for quite a while because we have time," Markovic said. "Since we did not have to rush, we wanted to make a complete, 100 percent product. You'll never get to 100 percent, but we want to get as close as possible."

He said that taking the time to get things right is something that's very important to the success of the company's products and the company as a whole.

Rapp Marine, which is headquartered in Norway, has had a presence in the Pacific Northwest since 1980. It has been most involved in equipment for fishing fleets, but the company has also delved into other fields, such as scientific winches, workboat winches and tug winches. Rapp has recently delivered deck machinery for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Alaska Region Research Vessels, and has become a supplier of winches and deck cranes for Coos Bay, Oregon-based towing company Sause Bros.

"We understand that the winch is a working tool for the vessel; if the winch does not operate, the complete vessel may be out of action," Markovic said. "We pride ourselves in being flexible regarding customer's needs, so we don't offer 'shelf' products. Each of our winches is customized in a way to meet specific customer's needs."

POLB Opens Temporary Container Depot

By Mark Edward Nero

A temporary empty container depot that is to be used to free up truck-trailer chassis and ease port congestion opened Dec. 29 on Pier S at the Port of Long Beach. The depot was approved by port officials in November.

The 30-acre site will be operated by Pasha Stevedoring and Terminals, a private company selected by the port. The depot is scheduled to close March 31, 2015, by which time the port expects the backlog in cargo to be cleared.

The temporary facility is designed to help put back into circulation more of the wheeled trailer-frames that trucks use to haul cargo containers. Because many terminals are congested and have little room to accept empty cargo containers, more space is needed to temporarily store those empties. The empty container depot is expected to free up the chassis for truckers to reuse to pick up new loads on the busy docks and speed up delivery.

“We are committed to providing our stakeholders with as much operational support as possible, and this temporary depot is one way we’re doing that,” Port of Long Beach Chief Executive Jon Slangerup said.

West Coast ports have been experiencing congestion due to the traditional increase in imports for the holiday shopping season. The congestion has been exacerbated by more cargo arriving faster on today’s giant ships, as well as a new chassis ownership system that has left some terminals and truckers without the equipment they need.

In addition to the empty container depot to free up chassis, Long Beach has enabled the introduction by private fleets of an additional 3,000 chassis into the local area and identified a plan for the port to operate its own chassis fleet for peak cargo shipping seasons and peak demand.

Industry stakeholders seeking more information about operation of the temporary empty container depot may contact Pasha Stevedoring Senior Vice President Jeff Burgin at Jeff.Burgin@psterminals.com.

POLA Public Works Projects Win Awards

By Mark Edward Nero

Two Port of Los Angeles projects have been named a “2014 Project of the Year” by the Southern California Chapter of the American Public Works Association. The projects include the Berth 100 Wharf South Extension and Backland Development initiative and the port’s LA Waterfront Downtown Harbor Landside and Rail Improvement project.

Additionally, trade industry publication Engineering News-Record announced that the Port of LA has won an “Award of Merit” for its Downtown Harbor project. The project won in the Landscape/Urban Development category of ENR’s “Best Projects” award program.

“We’re honored to be recognized for these exceptional, innovative port improvement projects,” LA Harbor Commission President Ambassador Vilma Martinez said.

The port’s Downtown Harbor Plaza and Town Square, which was unveiled in June 2014, is located on 1.2 acres between the Los Angeles Maritime Museum and Fire Station 112. Previously a parking lot, the space was transformed into a new harbor inlet for recreational vessels.

The Berth 100 Wharf South Extension and Backland development project included construction of a 325-foot reinforced concrete wharf and 14 acres of pavement backland. The port’s existing shoreside power system, which allows ships to plug into clean power while at berth, was expanded to the site to allow for an additional berthed vessel to connect to shoreside electrical power.

The Southern California Chapter of APWA presented the awards during the organization’s 15th Annual Public Works Awards Luncheon on Dec. 11.

Engineering News-Record, a weekly news magazine and website providing news and features about projects, products and people in the construction industry, presented its “Best Project” awards to winning teams in Southern California on Dec. 4 in Long Beach. The awards honor the most outstanding design and construction efforts throughout the US.