Friday, January 16, 2015

Young Bros. Sues Ex-Tug Capt. Over Grounding

By Mark Edward Nero

Hawaii-based freight handling and transportation company Young Brothers Ltd. has filed a lawsuit against the captain and first mate on one of its tugboats, alleging that the first mate’s inebriation led to the grounding of a tug and barge last Halloween.

The company, which is a subsidiary of Seattle-based Foss Maritime, filed the suit Jan. 7 in US District Court. It alleges that the captain of the tug Moana Holo knew that the first mate was drunk but still sailed out of Nawiliwili Harbor on Oct. 31, 2014. The tug and the barge Maka’ala became separated and struck a breakwater. Maka’ala’s hull was damaged and it lost a 30-by-15-foot skeg; the Moana Holo suffered a breach to its hull.

According to the lawsuit, members of the 10-person crew were ordered to take an alcohol test immediately after, but did not take the tests as required.

The captain and first mate were subsequently fired by the company, but thus far no criminal charges have been pursued against them.

The US Coast Guard says it cannot comment on the matter because it is still investigating the incident. Young Brothers also would not comment other than in a statement it issued Jan. 8.

“We are not able to comment on this pending lawsuit related to the incident at Nawiliwili Harbor last October,” Young Brothers Vice President Roy Catalani said in the prepared statement. “However, Young Brothers regrets that this incident occurred. We’re also grateful that no employees were injured, no customer cargo was lost or damaged, and no fuel or oil leaked from our vessels.”
Young Brothers has so far declined to state the amount of damages it is seeking from the two defendants.

PMA Halts Night Ops at LA-Long Beach Complex

By Mark Edward Nero

Operations at the adjoining ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are approaching “complete gridlock,” and crews will no longer be assigned to load and unload cargo ships overnight at the two ports, according to the Pacific Maritime Association.

The move is in response to actions set in motion by the International Longshore & Warehouse Union, the PMA said Jan. 12.

The PMA, which has been engaged in contract negotiations with the ILWU the past eight months, claims that the union has orchestrated a situation that is seriously exacerbating congestion problems at the largest ports on the West Coast.

“Since late October 2014, the ILWU has crippled what were fully productive terminals in the Pacific Northwest and Oakland, and exacerbated a difficult congestion issue at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach by intentionally withholding dozens of essential skilled workers each shift for the past 10 weeks,” the Maritime Association said in a statement.

On Jan. 5, the US Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service said it was joining the talks to help both sides reach an agreement, however the PMA says that even with federal help, talks have gone nowhere so far.

“Since the mediator joined the talks, no further agreements have been reached and ILWU work slowdowns have continued to the point where many terminals are in peril of complete gridlock,” according to the PMA.

The ILWU, however, contends that the congestion has been caused by “managerial mistakes,” including a lack of dock space for containers and shortages of chassis. The union also has criticized the cancelling night shifts and reducing bulk operations, saying it will do nothing to ease congestion.

“The PMA appears to be abusing public ports and putting the economy at risk in a self-serving attempt to gain the upper hand at the bargaining table, and create the appearance of a crisis in order to score points with politicians in Washington,” the union said in a Jan. 13 statement.

CA Fines Shippers for Air Violations

By Mark Edward Nero

The California Air Resources Board said Jan. 13 that it has fined four shipping companies a combined $146,719 for failing to switch from dirty diesel “bunker” fuel to cleaner, low-sulfur marine distillate fuel upon entering regulated California waters, within 24 nautical miles of the coast.

The four companies were fined for either failing to switch to cleaner fuel within, regulated waters, or for switching fuels in an untimely manner. However, they all took prompt action after being notified of the violations, according to the air board. The companies are:
Wealth Ocean Ship Management Co., Ltd. of China, which was fined $27,750 for violations by the vessel Uni Auc One.
China Shipping Container Lines, which was fined $35,719 for violations by the vessel Xin Mei Zhou.
Liberty One Ship Management of Germany, which was fined $53,000 for violations by the vessel BBC Arizona.
Kitaura Kaiun Co., Ltd. of Japan, which was fined $30,250 for violations by the vessel Ocean Seagull.

“State anti-pollution laws require shippers to do their part to protect air quality,” ARB Enforcement Chief Jim Ryden said.

CARB’s Ocean-Going Vessels Fuel Rule, which was adopted in 2008, was designed to reduce fine particulate pollution, oxides of nitrogen and sulfur oxide emissions from ocean-going vessels to improve air quality and public health in California.

“Our Ocean-Going Vessels Fuel Rule strives to protect residents throughout the state from the harmful impacts of ship pollution,” Ryden said.

Oakland Port Breaks Cargo Handling Record

By Mark Edward Nero

Cargo volume has reached an all-time high at the Port of Oakland, according to newly-released statistics. The port said Jan. 13 that it handled the equivalent of 2.394 million 20-foot freight containers in 2014. The amount breaks the record of 2.391 million boxes moved in 2006.

The Port of Oakland said overall container volume – imports and exports – increased two percent in 2014, while import volume alone for the year increased nearly 5.3 percent.

According to the port, three factors have contributed to the cargo surge: stronger US demand for Asian manufactured goods; its own marketing efforts; and cargo diversions from congested Southern California ports.

A freight backlog at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach has rerouted thousands of containers to Oakland, while a labor dispute between waterfront employers and dockworkers has magnified the slowdown.

A 20 percent surge in December loaded import containers also played a big role in the record performance, according to the port.

“An unprecedented series of events has brought us to this point,” John Driscoll, the port’s maritime director, said. “It’s our job now to efficiently manage the growth.”

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Ridgefield Named Washington Port of the Year

By Mark Edward Nero

The Washington Public Ports Association named the Port of Ridgefield the recipient of its annual Port of the Year Award at a December ceremony in Bellevue, Washington.

Ridgefield, in southwest Washington’s Discovery Corridor area, is a rapidly growing suburb of the Portland-Vancouver area. While the port’s nomination application included a host of development projects completed within the last year, totaling more than $9 million, WPPA cited the port’s extensive, multi-year, $90 million environmental cleanup of the Port of Ridgefield’s 41-acre waterfront site – Millers’ Landing – as the determining factor for the award. The site was cleared for development late last year.

This site on Ridgefield’s Lake River was the location of Pacific Wood Treating, which operated there for 30 years. When the company when bankrupt in 1993, it left the port with the problem of cleaning up the environmentally-significant site adjacent to a 5,500-acre national wildlife refuge, and just quarter-mile from the Columbia River.

WPPA executive director Eric Johnson said the port’s 20-year project is now winding down, with the final stages – the dredging and planting of adjacent Lake River and Carty Lake – currently in progress. Project completion is anticipated in late spring 2015.

“We have recognized the Port of Ridgefield for their extraordinary work in cleaning up and revitalizing the Ridgefield waterfront. This port took on a daunting challenge and saw it through to a successful conclusion,” Johnson said.

The WPPA has given the award each year since 1987 to recognize a member port that has demonstrated exceptional success in the industry. There are currently 75 member ports operating within Washington State.

Port of Ridgefield Executive Director Brent Grening, port commissioners Scott Hughes, Joe Melroy and Bruce Wiseman, and key staff members and advisors were on hand to accept the WPPA award.
“My fellow commissioners and I are proud and pleased to win this prestigious award,” Wiseman, the port commission chair, said. “It was working together over so many years on a project that were all passionate about that got us here.”

Grening, who has been at the port’s helm for more than sixteen years, voiced his appreciation for the recognition from his peers.

“Port staff and its commission, and many, many others, worked long and hard on this effort, with a successful project outcome. That the port industry recognized the good work we’ve done is very rewarding,” Grening said.

Grening also noted that next year marks the Port’s 75th anniversary, making the completion of the decades-long project especially timely.

“Instead of dealing with problems of the past, we now get to look forward to the work we can do as Ridgefield’s community port for the next 75 years,” he said.

Horizon Installing Scrubbers on Alaska Ships

By Mark Edward Nero

Horizon Lines Inc. said Jan. 9 that it has entered into a supply agreement with Dutch marine supplier Alfa Laval Aalborg Nijmegen BV for design and procurement of PureSox 2.0 exhaust gas cleaning systems (scrubbers) for is three D7-class vessels that operate in the Alaska trade.

The multiple inlet hybrid system, which would clean the exhaust gas from the main engine as well as the main generators, is the first system of its kind for a Jones Act container vessel. Horizon said it expects to incur a total of about $18 million of capital spending in connection with the three vessels.

Installation of the first system is planned to begin on the Horizon Kodiak in September 2015, and completion of the project is expected by December 31, 2016.

Horizon also says it has received a conditional waiver from the US Coast Guard and US Environmental Protection Agency allowing it to operate the three D7 ships in the North American ECA on low-sulfur heavy fuel while it pursues installation of the scrubbers.

Horizon says that the scrubber systems will be developed and installed in close coordination with Alfa Laval, the American Bureau of Shipping, and the US regulatory agencies.

In a news release, Horizon said it “values the partnership” with the EPA and the USCG in supporting the advancement of the exhaust gas cleaning systems project, and “looks forward to sharing the knowledge and experience gained during the evolution of this project with the maritime industry.”

Horizon Lines announced Nov. 11 that it has entered into a merger agreement under which Matson Inc. is to acquire the stock of Horizon, including its Alaska operations and the assumption of all non-Hawaii business liabilities.

The Boards of Directors of both companies have already approved the transaction; it is expected to close later in 2015.

LA Port Gets New CFO

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of Los Angeles has appointed Marla Bleavins as its Chief Financial Officer. She replaces Karl Pan, who retired last week after eleven years with the City of Los Angeles, including the last six at the port.

Bleavins, who began her duties Jan. 12, will report to Molly Campbell, the port’s Deputy Executive Director of Finance and Administration.

In her new role, Bleavins will oversee the port’s financial affairs, which include accounting, financial management, debt and treasury, risk management and audit functions, and will manage about 60 employees.

Bleavins most recently served as the Assistant General Manager for Finance and Administration at the City of Los Angeles Department of Convention and Tourism Development. Prior to that, she served as a Project Manager and Debt and Treasury manager at Los Angeles World Airports.

She began her career at the City of Los Angeles as a Budget Analyst and then as a Finance Specialist in the Office of the City Administrative Officer. During her tenure with the City, Bleavins managed close to $6 billion in bond financings that funded capital projects at Los Angeles International Airport and throughout the city.

“I’m very excited to join the port team,” Bleavins said in a prepared statement announcing the hire. “This position will not only provide me a unique opportunity to support the strategic vision of the port as a vital part of our regional economy, but also allow me to continue my commitment and career with the City of Los Angeles.”

Bleavins holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in public policy and political science from Stanford University. She earned her Master’s degree in business administration from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

“Marla brings an outstanding, results-oriented public finance track record to the port,” Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said.

Tacoma Port Commission Chooses New President

By Mark Edward Nero

Port of Tacoma commissioners on January 8 voted for Don Johnson to lead the Commission as president in 2015. Johnson, who was first elected to the Commission in November 2007, succeeds Commissioner Clare Petrich as president.

Johnson is the former vice president and general manager of Simpson Tacoma Kraft, a leading Tacoma pulp and paper producer, and serves on the Puget Sound Regional Council’s Transportation Policy Board and Goodwill’s Finance Committee. He chairs the Goodwill Foundation Board and is the immediate past chair of the MultiCare Health Care Foundation. He also serves as chair of the Port of Tacoma Audit Committee.

Johnson holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Washington.
In addition to his being voted in as president, the Commission chose member Connie Bacon as vice president; Dick Marzano as secretary; Don Meyer as first assistant secretary; and Clare Petrich as second assistant secretary.

All position assignments are for the 2015 calendar year.