Friday, February 27, 2015

Port Metro Vancouver Breaks Annual Cargo Record

By Mark Edward Nero

Port Metro Vancouver, Canada’s largest seaport, had record-breaking cargo volumes in 2014, marking the second straight year it broke its own annual volume record, according to 

Port terminals saw 2.9 million TEUs during calendar year 2014, compared to 2.8 million in 2013 and 2.7 million in 2012.

Annual bulk volumes increased by 5.3 percent over 2013, according to the port, with substantial increases in grain exports, plus strong international demand spurring an 18-percent jump in exports of wheat and 31-percent increase for canola. Also, bulk coal volumes remained strong as volumes increased in several emerging markets from more traditional markets. Bulk potash reached a new record of 7.5 million tons, a 14-percent rise from the previous year.

Additionally, container volumes continued to grow, with a 3.1-percent increase over 2013, despite reduced volumes in the month of March due to a container trucking dispute.

The port’s terminals handled 140 million tons of cargo in 2014, up three percent from 2013. Import cargo rose 4.1 percent to 29 million tons, and exports rose 3.3 percent to 111 million tons.
Robin Silvester, the port’s president and chief executive officer said in a statement that the record year for cargo volumes illustrates “the demands created by a growing Canadian economy and increasing international desire for Canadian trade.”

The news wasn’t all good, however: auto volumes at Metro Vancouver declined in 2014 largely due to a shift in vehicle production from Asia to North America. Breakbulk volumes also fell slightly due to a decrease in log exports. Cruise passenger numbers remained strong, however; Port Metro Vancouver saw 812,095 passengers throughout the 2014 season, virtually the same number as the year before.

Port Metro Vancouver, which handles 19 percent of the value of Canada’s total trade in goods, is the third-largest North American port, after those in Los Angeles and Long Beach. By comparison, the Port of Los Angeles saw 8.3 million TEUs last year, and the Port of Long Beach 6.8 million, more than double Metro Vancouver’s 2.9 million TEUs.

LA Port Monthly Container Volumes Drop

By Mark Edward Nero

Container volumes at the Port of Los Angeles dropped a whopping 22.7 percent this past January compared to the same month last year, according to newly-released data. January 2015 cargo volumes totaled 529,427 20-foot equivalent units, compared to 685,549 TEUs in January 2014.

The port has blamed the decrease on a number of factors, including terminal congestion, protracted contract negotiations and other supply chain issues that have affected US West Coast ports for months.

Imports dropped 28 percent, from 360,036 TEUs in January 2014 to 259,206 TEUs in January 2015, according to the data, while exports declined 23 percent, from 161,938 TEUs in January 2014 to 124,365 TEUs in January 2015.

Combined, total loaded imports and exports fell 26.5 percent, from 521,975 TEUs in January 2014 to 383,571 TEUs in January 2015. Factoring in empties, which fell 10.8 percent, the overall January 2015 volume of 529,427 TEUs represented a 22.7 percent decline.

Earlier this month, the adjoining Port of Long Beach revealed that its monthly cargo volumes were down a total of 18.8 percent last month compared to January 2014, something it also partially blamed on labor unrest, an issue that was settled last week with a new five-year contract between the International Longshore Warehouse Union and Pacific Maritime Association.

“The (cargo) numbers aren’t a surprise to us, and last week’s announcement of a tentative labor agreement between the (ILWU and PMA) is a major step forward in terms of getting our cargo volumes back on track,” Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said in a Feb. 26 statement. “We’re working with our stakeholders to develop short-term solutions that resolve our present cargo backlog, in addition to longer-term solutions that focus on achieving higher levels of operational efficiency –especially in terms of servicing the larger ships deployed through carrier alliances.”

Current and historical data container counts for the Port of Los Angeles are available at

Victoria Shipyards Names New VP/GM

By Mark Edward Nero

Joe O’Rourke has joined Victoria Shipyards as its new vice president and general manager, the company said Feb. 19. O’Rourke is replacing long-serving vice president and general manager Malcolm Barker, who’s retiring this spring after more than 21 years with the company.

O’Rourke has nearly 30 years of experience in positions of leadership and senior management throughout North America. He joins Seaspan after most recently serving as a senior vice president with Vigor Industrial in Oregon.

In his new role, he’ll be responsible for the company’s operation, as well as building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships with customers and suppliers throughout the shipbuilding and ship repair industry, according to the company.

“Joe’s diverse experience and track record of proven leadership across diverse sectors of the North American marine transportation industry will be an asset,” Seaspan Shipyards President Brian Carter said. British Columbia-based Victoria Shipyards is a Seaspan company.

The retiring Barker, who began his shipbuilding career at the age of 16, has been in the marine industry for about 40 years, including the last 21 years with Victoria Shipyards.

“Malcolm has been instrumental in successfully building Victoria Shipyards to the thriving organization it is today and words cannot express the sincere gratitude we have for his leadership and accomplishments,” Carter said. “Throughout Malcolm’s tenure, Victoria Shipyards has grown steadily and earned a reputation for its quality work in new construction, major ship upgrades and ship repair.”

O’Rourke and Barker are expected work closely in the coming weeks to ensure a thorough and seamless leadership transition process, according to Seaspan.

Robert Allan Ltd. Names New President, VP

By Mark Edward Nero

Vancouver, British Columbia-based naval architectural and marine engineering firm Robert Allan Ltd. has named a new president and senior vice president.

The company announced Feb. 17 that senior management member Mike Fitzpatrick is its new president, replacing Ken Harford, who’s retiring after eight years. Harford has said he intends to leave the company in June 2016, but will remain in the role of managing director during the transition process.

“I am honored to be offered this opportunity to help lead Robert Allan Ltd. into the future,” Fitzpatrick, who joined the company in 2003, said. “If I retire at the age of 66, it will be the 100th anniversary of this incredible company. One of you will be sitting in the president’s chair when this occurs but my goal for the coming years will be to ensure the company is even stronger on its 100th anniversary than it is now.”

In addition, the company has named Rollie Webb to the newly-created position of senior vice president.

Webb has been with Robert Allan Ltd. since 2008, serving in the role of senior project director. He previously served in senior management positions in shipyards in both Canada and the United States. From 1993 to 2003, Webb was president of Seattle-based Todd Pacific Shipyard Corp. Just prior to joining Robert Allan Ltd., he was shipyards president with Washington Marine Group in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

PMA, ILWU Reach Contract Agreement

By Mark Edward Nero

After nine months of sometimes-contentious talks, the Pacific Maritime Association and International Longshore & Warehouse Union have agreed in principle to the terms of a five-year contract, the two sides said Feb. 20.

“We are pleased to have reached an agreement that is good for workers and for the industry,” said PMA President James McKenna and ILWU President Bob McEllrath in a joint statement. “We are also pleased that our ports can now resume full operations.”

During the first month of 2015, most of the West Coast’s major seaports reported that cargo volumes were down significantly compared to the same month the previous year, with most blaming the decline in productivity on the ongoing labor negotiations.

The new five-year contract covers tens of thousands of longshore workers at all 29 West Coast ports. The deal was reached with assistance from US Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, who joined negotiations early last week, and Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Deputy Director Scot Beckenbaugh, who joined negotiations in January after the two sides had been talking for eight months with no sign of a deal apparent.

The previous six-year deal expired July 1, 2014.

The new contract is subject to ratification by both the union rank and file and well as the PMA; both sides have said they are not yet prepared to publicly release details of the agreement.

News of the deal was greeted with a sigh of relief by leaders at major West Coast ports, which had seen productivity decline as negotiations became more contemptuous.

“This will go a long way toward helping to move cargo efficiently through the nation’s busiest container port, Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said. “More than ever, we need labor and management working together with all our stakeholders to solve today’s industry challenges.”

“We thank the ILWU and PMA and look forward to everyone getting back to business as usual starting immediately,” Port of Long Beach Chief Executive Jon Slangerup said. “We know that the marine terminal operators, longshore workers, truckers, railroads and others will be extremely busy as they work to clear out the massive backlog of cargo at all of the West Coast ports, including Long Beach. All of us will be working together to make this happen as soon as possible, but once again, we are extremely pleased with today’s news.”

At the Port of Oakland, officials said that it could take six to eight weeks for it and other West Coast ports to recover from the cargo backlog that built up during the dispute.

“Cargo movement should improve soon, but it will take time to restore full productivity,” the port said in a prepared statement.

Davie Wins Shipyard Award

By Mark Edward Nero

Davie Shipbuilding, Canada’s largest shipbuilder, which is also known as Chantier Davie Canada, was named North American Shipyard of the Year at the Lloyd’s List North American Maritime Awards 2015, which took place Feb. 18 in Houston, Texas.

The runner-up in the category was San Diego-based General Dynamics NASSCO, the US naval shipbuilder. Shipyards from throughout North America were evaluated on their “ability to deliver quality vessels on time, to meet the needs of all stakeholders and to showcase innovative designs while adhering to high environmental standards.”

The panel of judges included chairmen and presidents of the marine industry's leading governing bodies and trade associations.

“I am proud to accept this award on behalf of the men and women of Davie shipbuilding, company Chief Executive Officer Alan Bowen said in his acceptance speech. “We are honored that this panel of respected judges has chosen Davie as North America’s No. 1 shipbuilder. Over the past two years, Davie has sealed its place in the global specialized shipbuilding, ship repair and ship upgrade markets.”

The company, which was founded in 1825, has invested significantly in new systems and new equipment in the past few years. In 2014 it delivered the most complex commercial vessel ever built in North America, and later this year is expected to deliver the first LNG-fueled ferries ever built on the continent.

Ex Employees Sue Astoria for Millions

By Mark Edward Nero

Two recently fired Port of Astoria employees on Feb. 17 sued the port for millions of dollars, claiming they were retaliated against after blowing the whistle on misdeeds at the port.

Former ex finance manager Colleen Browne and former port facilities manager Tami Herman each allege in separate lawsuits that the port engaged in whistleblower retaliation against them and aided and abetted retaliation by others against them.

Browne was Astoria’s financial manager and personnel manager from April 2007 until being fired in November 2014; Foster worked in the port’s finance department from June 2012 to November 2014.
During their time in the finance department, the port dealt with major financial trouble, including operational losses in excess of $1 million per year. The women say they were scapegoated for the troubles.

Among the other allegations against the port are:
  • Unauthorized disclosure of a whistleblower’s identity.
  • Breach of employment contract.
  • Defamation of character.
  • Postemployment retaliation.

Browne is seeking a combined $2.75 million in damages, while Foster seeks $2.65 million.
Listed as a defendant in both lawsuits along with the port is Michael Weston, Astoria’s director of business development and operations.

LA, LB Mayors Confirm Ports’ Partnering

By Mark Edward Nero

During a Feb. 23 joint press conference, the mayors of Los Angeles and Long Beach officially confirmed what the heads of the cities’ two ports have been hinting at for weeks: that the two entities are joining forces in a number of areas while still remaining business competitors.

“It’s time for our twin ports to work together more strategically to operate more efficiently and reduce congestion,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said during the afternoon press conference, held on the deck of the USS Iowa floating museum.

Garcetti said the two ports recently requested permission from the Federal Maritime Commission to work together on a wide range of issues, including chassis supply and storage, vessel calls and truck turn times. They also plan to work more closely to collaborate on marketing, environmental issues, security and legislative advocacy, he revealed.

“To be clear, we will still vigorously compete with each other.” Garcetti told Long Beach and Los Angeles that neither city was trying to “absorb” the other, “But we can do great things together to attract more ships that move more goods to put people to work across the supply chain throughout the Southland and our nation. We’re turning the page so that the proximity to each other can be a strength.”

“The shipping industry continues to change and we will change with it, to sharpen our competitive edge, to make sure that cargo and jobs continue to flow into Southern California,” Garcetti said.

In speeches earlier this year, the Port of Long Beach's chief executive and the Port of LA's executive director each acknowledged that they would work together more closely in the future, but the Feb. 23 joint press conference was the first time the cities’ mayors confirmed and expanded upon previous remarks.

“For Long Beach to succeed, Los Angeles has to succeed. For Los Angeles to succeed, Long Beach has to succeed,” Garcetti’s counterpart, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said. “And so we’re committed, along with our port executive teams and our commissions, to ensure that we begin this new era of cooperation between the two ports and that we work together in the areas that are appropriate to ensure that we’re bringing business back to Long Beach and to LA, and to increase the supply we already have here in place.”

“I think we’re both excited,” Garcia said, “about the future of our two ports together.”