Friday, January 23, 2015

Puget Sound Ports Annual Container Volumes Flat

By Mark Edward Nero

Container volumes through Puget Sound’s two largest seaports were flat in 2014, according to numbers jointly released by the ports of Seattle and Tacoma Jan. 21. The joint numbers release is the first since the ports announced their plan to unify the management of their marine cargo terminals and related functions last fall.

The two ports announced in October 2014 plans to form a Seaport Alliance to unify management of marine cargo terminals and related functions. The strategy, currently in the due diligence phase, is in response to competitive threats and something the ports say will strengthen the Puget Sound gateway and create more economic opportunities.

“Reporting our combined cargo volumes demonstrates our commitment to the Seaport Alliance,” Port of Seattle Commission co-President Stephanie Bowman explained.

Puget Sound container volumes fell less than one percent in calendar year 2014 to 3.4 million TEUs, according to the ports. Tacoma and Seattle’s combined volumes have hovered near 3.5 million TEUs since 2010. Last year marked the second consecutive year of decline.

When the numbers for the ports are separated, the Port of Tacoma saw an increase in container traffic of about eight percent in 2014 compared to the previous year, while traffic through the Port of Seattle was down 11.3 percent year-to-year.

Larger vessels and shipping line alliances mean fewer vessels are calling at fewer ports, something that ports from Puget Sound to the San Pedro Bay have expressed concerns over. Together, Seattle and Tacoma comprise the third-largest container gateway in North America, but their share of the West Coast market has been falling over the past decade.

Containerized export volumes through the two ports dipped 1.6 percent in 2014 to 1.2 million TEUs, while imports fell 4.1 percent to 1.4 million TEUs. However, domestic container volumes grew 6.1 percent to 870,733 TEUs on the strength of Alaska trade.

In other 2014 cargo news: grain exports at the two ports rebounded, jumping 96.5 percent to 7.5 million metric tons following a bumper crop that helped return grain to normal volumes following 2013’s historic lows.

Also, petroleum volumes grew 26.6 percent to 997,977 metric tons and breakbulk volumes improved 1.3 percent to 253,377 metric tons on the strength of construction and heavy machinery imports.

Additionally, auto imports posted a 9.6 percent gain to 175,802 units as an improving economy and decreasing fuel prices drove new car sales, while log exports fell 28.9 percent to 276,628 metric tons, with decreasing demand in China cited as the main cause.

Longshore Workers Walk Off Job in Seattle

By Mark Edward Nero

A work dispute led to longshore workers walking off the job at a Port of Seattle terminal on Jan. 20, bringing it to a standstill, until returning a day later.

According to terminal operator SSA Marine, longshore workers at Terminal 18, one of the largest container facilities in the Pacific Northwest, walked off the job the morning of Jan. 20 after demanding that more labor be hired at Terminal 5.

SSA Marine Sr. Vice President Bob Watters told local media outlets that the workers’ request was outside the company’s jurisdiction, since the terminal is owned by the port and not operated by SSA Marine.

Terminal 5 has been shuttered since mid-2014 for renovations so that it may accommodate larger ships. As part of the plan, Eagle Marine Services, which operates Terminal 5, has temporarily relocated its cargo and breakbulk activities to Terminal 18. The port has said however, that it is looking to attract “interim uses” for the industrial facility.

Watters said that the reason Terminal 18 was closed for nearly a full day on Jan. 20 was that SSA Marine, when told that longshore workers would walk off the job for half a day, told the employees that if they left during the morning shift, they shouldn’t come back in the afternoon.

“Workers said to us ‘if you don’t hire more people for Terminal 5 we’ll walk off and might be back at noon,” he explained. “We said, ‘if you’re going to walk off, don’t bother coming back until tomorrow’.”

ILWU Local 19 has not responded to requests to comment on the walkout.

Nichols Bros. Building Landing Craft for American Samoa

By Mark Edward Nero

Freeland, Wash.-based Nichols Brothers Boat Builders has selected Elliott Bay Design Group of Seattle to provide the design and production engineering for the construction of a new freight and passenger vessel for American Samoa, an unincorporated territory in the southeast Pacific Ocean.

The proposed vessel, which is a 140-foot landing craft, is designed with a beam of 38 feet, depth of 13 feet, and to accommodate up to eight crewmembers overnight. The boat will be one of a small number available to transport local residents between the five Samoan islands. Until recently, most of those vessels served the immediate community, but the new landing craft, which will be able to carry a total of 149 passengers, will also be available for tourists.

This is not the first collaboration between the two Washington companies. Last year, Nichols Brothers Boat Builders contracted EBDG to complete the production engineering for the 150-foot-long landing craft, which the yard delivered late last year. The vessel is operated by Bowhead Transport in Alaska.

“We are very happy to be working with EBDG again on another landing craft project,” Nichols Brothers CEO Gavin Higgins said.

“We’re excited about this new project and to be working with (Nichols Brothers) once again,” Mike Complita, EBDG’s Vice President of Shipyard Services said. “We look forward to making this job a successful one.”

Port of LB Has 3rd Busiest Year Ever

By Mark Edward Nero

Despite issues with traffic congestion during the fourth quarter of the year, 2014 turned out to be a good year for cargo at the Port of Long Beach, according to data the port released Jan. 20.

Cargo container trade climbed 1.3 percent at the port in 2014 compared to 2013, bringing the port its third-busiest calendar year ever, behind the peak periods of 2006-2007.

Last year’s overall volume rose to 6.82 million TEUs. Imports increased 1.8 percent to 3,517,514 TEUs, according to port data, while exports declined 5.9 percent to 1.6 million TEUs and the number of empty containers being sent overseas to be loaded with cargo rose 8.2 percent to nearly 1.7 million TEUs.

In December 2014 alone however, the numbers weren’t so great. Port terminals moved 567,237 TEUs through the harbor during the month, a 2.6 percent decrease compared to December 2013. Also, imports dropped 5.1 percent to 276,516 TEUs and exports fell 11.2 percent to 131,496 TEUs. On the bright side, the number of empties rose to 159,225 TEUs, an increase of 11.5 percent.

Coincidentally, 2014 was also the third-busiest year ever for the adjoining Port of Los Angeles, according to data. Container volumes at the port increased six percent over the previous year, with total volumes reaching 8.34 million TEUs, just behind the 8.4 million TEUs moved in 2007 and 8.5 million in 2006.

The latest monthly cargo numbers for the Port of Long Beach can be seen at For additional details on the cargo numbers, visit

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

FMC: Port Congestion a Priority in 2015

By Mark Edward Nero

US Federal Maritime Commission Chairman Mario Cordero announced to staff on Jan. 13 that his priority for the Commission in 2015 is addressing congestion issues that are plaguing the nation’s ports.

Numerous ports across America have been affected by terminal congestion in 2014 and early 2015, most notably the adjoining port of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the two largest, busiest seaports in North America.

Terminal management for West Coast ports has blamed the backlogs in part on work slowdowns orchestrated by organized labor, but labor has stated that “managerial mistakes,” including chassis shortages and a lack of dock space for containers is to blame.

Last September, FMC commissioners began to lead public forums concerning port congestion and international supply chain efficiency issues. Cordero said that this focus is in keeping with the Commission’s 2014-2018 strategic plan, which was unveiled in November 2013 and includes in its goals maintaining “an efficient and competitive” ocean transport system.

“Among the Commission’s statutory goals is the assurance of an efficient ocean transportation system,” Cordero said. “The efficient operation of the nation’s ports is squarely within that mandate and paramount to the Commission’s responsibilities. As we move forward, I look forward to a thorough review of the issues and views that have been provided from various maritime industry stakeholders.”

Cordero also said the Maritime Commission would continue its role in “protecting the shipping public and addressing unreasonable or unjust practices by carriers or marine terminal operators.”

Jensen, Vigor Collaborate on SF Fireboat

By Mark Edward Nero

Crowley Maritime Corp. subsidiary Jensen Maritime has been selected to provide detail production engineering and construction management on an 88-foot by 25-foot Super Pumper NFPA Type II Fireboat for the San Francisco Fire Department. Jensen completed the fireboat contract-design for the city in 2012.

Vigor Industrial is slated to build the vessel at its 27-acre facility in Seattle. Due out in late summer 2015, the state-of-the-art workboat is expected to operate in the San Francisco Bay, San Pablo Bay and the Pacific Ocean within five miles of shore and the adjoining inland waterways.

The vessel is planned primarily for pumping, firefighting, rescue, emergency medical services and patrol. It will feature CBRNE (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, explosives) detection capabilities, as well as SCBAs (self-contained breathing apparatus) and local air supply ports to keep crews safe.

It was designed in accordance with NFPA 1925, the National Fire Protection Association’s standard detailing requirements for the construction of new marine fire-fighting vessels, and the American Bureau of Shipping’s rules for building and classing steel vessels less than 90 meters (295 feet) in length.

The boat will have two fire-fighting modes, according to Jensen. In normal mode, it will be able to pump 18,000 GPM of water at 150 PSI through two 3,000-GPM and two 1,500-GPM deck monitors and two 1,500-GPM under deck monitors and 18-by-3-inch and 10-by-5-inch manifolds.

In super-pumper mode, it will be able to pump 6,000 GPM of water at 150 PSI through the forward monitors, according to Jensen, and 8-by-3-inch manifolds and 6,000 GPM of water at 300 PSI through 10-by-3-inch and 10-by-5-inch manifolds.

“We have developed a good working relationship with Jensen,” San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said in a statement. “They have designed a state-of-the-art, multi-operational vessel for us and we are looking forward to getting our new fireboat into the San Francisco Bay.”

POLA Has 3rd Busiest Year in its History

By Mark Edward Nero

Container volumes at the Port of Los Angeles increased six percent in 2014 over the previous year, with total volumes reaching 8.34 million 20-foot-equivalent units, according to newly released port data.

2014 was the third busiest year in the port’s history, just behind the 8.4 million TEUs moved in 2007 and 8.5 million in 2006.

“The 2014 numbers are an encouraging indication that the national economy continues to improve,” port Executive Director Gene Seroka said, while also touching on congestion issues that plagued the port during 2014. “Beyond that, the second half of the year ushered in a mix of unprecedented challenges due to transformational changes in the shipping line business.”

“We are working hard to help our customers and supply chain partners overcome those challenges and urge them to work together with us to find solutions,” he said.

In December 2014, overall volumes increased one percent compared to December 2013. Total cargo for December 2014 was 658,567 TEUs, compared to 653,358 TEUs in December 2013.

Container imports last month rose 4.4 percent, from 322,500 TEUs in December 2013 to 336,674 TEUs in December 2014.

Exports however, declined 12 percent, falling from 172,261 TEUs in December 2013 to 152,112 TEUs in December 2014. US exports have been declining in recent months due to weaker demand abroad and a stronger US dollar, which makes US goods more expensive.

Combined, total loaded imports and exports fell 1.2 percent, from 494,761 TEUs in December 2013 to 488,786 TEUs in December 2014. Factoring in empties, which increased seven percent year over year, the overall December 2014 volume of 658,567 TEUs represented a one percent increase compared to December 2013’s 653,358 TEUs.

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

Olympia Port Welcomes New Terminal Director

By Mark Edward Nero

Leonard “Len” Faucher has joined the Port of Olympia as Marine Terminal Director. Jan. 12 was his first day on the job.

Faucher comes to the port with extensive experience in the maritime industry sector, the majority of it on the East Coast. From January 2007 to March 2014, he was an operations manager with Greenwich, Connecticut-based Charles R. Weber Co. Inc., one of the oldest and largest ship brokerage companies in the United States. In that role, Faucher managed a team that handled all vessel and cargo operations and related accounting for the company.

Previously, he spent five years with Hess Corp., where he was responsible for scheduling barging and shipping activities across 20 terminals in New York Harbor.

Faucher earned a BS in marine transportation from the US Merchant Marine Academy, an MBA from University of New Hampshire, and is said to be currently working on a Ph.D. in business administration.

He served in the US Naval Reserves as a commissioned officer and teaches business courses as an adjunct professor at St. Martin’s University, a Catholic university in Lacey, Wash.

“Len has demonstrated impressive leadership in cargo, vessel and terminal operations, international marketing and contract negotiations,” port Executive Director Ed Galligan said in a statement announcing the hire. “He has worked extensively with unions and has a history of activity in community groups as well as industry organizations.”