Friday, March 6, 2015

Vigor Industrial Absorbing Kvichak Marine

By Mark Edward Nero

Aluminum workboat design and build company Kvichak Marine Industries is becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of ship building and repair company Vigor Industrial, the two companies confirmed March 3.

Under the terms of the merger, Kvichaks current owners, Jim Meckley, Brian Thomas and Keith Whittemore, are joining Vigor as shareholders and members of the leadership team.

Sharing best ideas and practices across companies will make us even more competitive and create a more stable business base for our workers, Whittemore, Kvichaks president, said. Vigor shares our values and our commitment to providing long term opportunity to our people.

Kvichak, pronounced Kweejack, was founded in Seattle in 1981, and has extensive experience in the commercial fisheries of Alaska building gillnetters, seiners and tenders.

Kvichak brings amazing fabrication talent to our company and some of the best customer relationships in the industry, Vigor CEO and owner Frank Foti said. Infusing those fabrication genetics into our broader operations is what industrial evolution is all about. What could be better than creating a team that allows most new fishing boats to be built where they workin the Pacific Northwest and Alaska?

This transaction builds on the Vigor and Oregon Iron Works (OIW) merger in 2014, which expanded Vigors reach into highly complex industrial products in marine, renewable energy, aerospace, nuclear containment, transit, defense, hydroelectric, bridge building and other commercial construction industries.

With Kvichak on board, we also see enormous opportunity to strengthen our role in supporting offshore oil and gas operations in the Arctic, Foti said. The synergy between Vigor, OIW and Kvichak provides the ability to fabricate larger and more complex components and expand our offerings for building offshore support vessels, oil spill response vessels and systems, modules, rigs, terminals and related structures.

The combined company is expected to employ about 2,500 people in Alaska, Oregon and Washington.

Port Metro Vancouver Experiences Chemical Fire

By Mark Edward Nero

A shipping container caught fire at Canadas largest port on the afternoon of March 4, resulting in an evacuation of the area due to dangerous, potentially toxic fumes. More than a dozen people were hospitalized due to smoke inhalation.

Port Metro Vancouver says it received reports of the container fire about 1:40 pm Wednesday at the Centerm Container Terminal, located on the south shore of Burrard Inlet. Vancouver Coastal Health later confirmed the material inside was a hazardous organic compound - trichloroisocyanuric acid - a possible eye and skin irritant that is commonly used to chlorinate pools.

The chemical, according to Vancouver fire Chief Dan Wood, is an oxidizer, meaning it produces oxygen that adds to a fire. Although the four-alarm blaze was confined to a single shipping container, it forced the shutdown of much of the port as well an advisory for those living east of the area to stay indoors with their windows closed due to the smoke and potential for release of toxic substances into the air.

At least 10 fire trucks and more than two dozen firefighters responded to the blaze and a pair of fire boats were also battled the blaze from the north end of a pier.

The Centerm terminal and nearby port properties were evacuated for about four hours during the incident, and all port operations along the south shore of Burrard Inlet shut down, including rail and truck access.

Thirteen people were hospitalized at two local hospitals for smoke inhalation, according to the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, but were released within hours.

Oakland Port Head Calls for Industry Change

By Mark Edward Nero

Disruptions from waterfront labor negotiations have waned, but dont expect a return to business as usual at West Coast ports, the Port of Oaklands executive director said during a March 4 meeting of the Waterfront Coalition in Long Beach, Calif.

The old methods wont work any longer, Port of Oakland executive director Chris Lytle told the Coalition, which is based in Washington, DC and consists of business interests representing shippers, transportation providers and other stakeholders within the transportation supply chain.

We cant go back to the way it was; thats not acceptable, Lytle said during a 90-minute roundtable discussion that also included the heads of the Los Angeles and Long Beach seaports. We have to do a better job for our customers if we want to hold onto our market share.

Lytle also addressed the aftermath of nine months of labor-management disputes on the waterfront. The longshore contract impasse ended Feb. 20 with a new five-year contract for 29 ports along the US West Coast.

Ports are currently digging out from a cargo backlog, and during the roundtable, Lytle called for a number of improvements to reshape his industry as recovery from the labor dispute gets underway.
His suggestions included reduced transaction times for harbor truck drivers, who sometimes spend more than two hours inside marine terminals picking up cargo; better measurement of terminal operating performance; and a new labor-management relationship.

We need a new mindset for negotiating, Lytle said. What we just went through was the worst experience in my professional career. I don't want to go through that again.

Lytle also said theres an opportunity for ports to play a greater role in labor relations by working with labor and management for greater collaboration. Although ports dont hire longshore labor terminal operators and shipping lines in the Pacific Maritime Association do -- Lytle said the port will meet with local labor officials and encourage them to take part in talks with shippers who rely on the Port of Oakland to move their cargo.

Better understanding of shipper needs can lead to better outcomes in future bargaining, he said.
The port will also work with leasing companies to improve the availability of truck chassis used to haul cargo containers, he added, indicating that the Port of Oakland will work toward a common pool of the trailers to prevent shortages from recurring.

Containerization Award Nominees Sought

By Mark Edward Nero

The Containerization & Intermodal Institute (CII), a non-profit promoting awareness of the containerization and intermodal industry, is seeking nominations for its 2015 Connie Awards, which are being held later this year in Long Beach, Calif., and the New York area.

The Connie Award, which is named for the shipping container, has been presented every year since 1972 to industry leaders making extraordinary contributions to the containerization and intermodal industry, as well as trade and transportation.

The Long Beach, Calif. Connie dinner is planned for Sept. 29 at the Renaissance Long Beach hotel. The deadline for nominations is May 1. Nominations are also being sought for the Connie luncheon on Dec. 7 in Newark, NJ, which have an Aug. 1 deadline for nominations.

The criteria of Connie recipients are those who have made outstanding contributions to the containerization and intermodal industry, including those involved with rail, shipping, ports, importers and exporters, 3PLs, technology, government officials and the media.

Those wishing to nominate a person or company may contact CII Executive Director Barbara Yeninas, at, or call (732) 817-9131 with a brief justification of the nomination.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Environmental Groups Sue Port of Seattle

By Mark Edward Nero

On March 2, a coalition of environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the Port of Seattle and its board of commissioners to challenge the port’s approval last month of a lease that opens a container terminal to an Arctic drilling fleet.

On Feb. 11, the port revealed that on Feb. 9 it had signed a two-year lease with Foss Maritime that gives Foss the right to short-term moorage and vessel operations along 50 acres at the port’s 156-acre Terminal 5, which is currently undergoing renovation.

The lawsuit charges that the lease will change the use of Terminal 5 by converting it into a homeport for Shell’s Arctic drilling fleet. Earthjustice filed the challenge in King County Superior Court on behalf of Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, the Sierra Club, the Washington Environmental Council and the Seattle Audubon Society.

The lawsuit says, “The lease would allow Shell’s drill ships to be housed at the port, including the Noble Discoverer which was the subject of eight felony convictions and over $12 million in fines and community service last December, including for discharging oil-contaminated water in violation of water pollution laws.”

The environmental groups allege that the port has violated its long-range plans and its shoreline permit, which designate Terminal 5 as a cargo terminal, not a homeport, and say that the port needed to conduct a public review of the environmental and community impacts of making the change.

“By making a secret deal to house Shell’s Arctic drilling fleet in Seattle, the port shut out the public and subverted laws that are designed to foster an informed public assessment of controversial proposals like this one,” Earthjustice Managing Attorney Patti Goldman said.

In a Feb. 11 letter to stakeholders, Port of Seattle CEO Ted Fick said the lease is for short-term moorage and vessel operations along 50 acres at the port’s 156-acre Terminal 5, which is currently undergoing renovation, and that the deal would represent no change of use from the activities of the previous tenant.

The environmental groups disagree.

“Protecting the health of our waterways begins with transparency in significant decisions made by our public officials,” Chris Wilke, executive director of Puget Soundkeeper Alliance said. “Unfortunately the port missed this mark by a huge margin while ignoring its own stated goals of sustainability. The Commission’s failure to inform the public about this back room deal amounts to a breach of trust.”

Under the lease, Foss is to pay $550,000 a month, or $13.17 million, over the full two years. The lease, which includes two one-year extension options, is part of a push by the port to find an interim use for the land and keep revenue coming in.

Cargo operations at the terminal were relocated in July 2014 as part of a modernization program under which stronger piers, deeper berths and other improvements are to be constructed. The terminal’s expected to reopen in 2018.

Maritime Commission Okays LA, LB Ports’ Pact

By Mark Edward Nero

On Feb. 26, the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles received approval from the Federal Maritime Commission to cooperate on finding new ways to prevent congestion and cargo delays, improve the transportation network and enhance air quality.

The FMC’s decision now allows the ports to pursue joint projects that they say will strengthen the ports’ ability to remove bottlenecks and move cargo faster and more efficiently.

The newly expanded agreement specifies that the two ports can exchange information on “projects” and “programs” in addition to rates, charges, operating costs, practices and regulations related to marine terminal, trucking, rail and vessel operations.

“With this discussion agreement, the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles can now focus on working together to improve the speed of cargo flow throughout the supply chain,” Port of Long Beach Chief Executive Jon Slangerup said in a prepared statement. “The ports are in a perfect position – and indeed have an obligation – to bring all industry stakeholders together to identify and implement continuous improvements.”

The harbor commissions that oversee the adjoining ports asked the FMC in December to expand existing working agreements in an effort to find long-term solutions to the congestion that had slowed the movement of cargo shipped through Long Beach and Los Angeles in recent months.

Although major ports around the globe have grappled with the same problems, the difficulties have been magnified at LA-Long Beach, which is the busiest harbor complex in North America and handles nearly 40 percent of US cargo. A tentative contract agreement reached Feb. 20 by longshore labor and management has helped however, and the ports are working through the backlog of containers.

Seattle Port Undergoes Organizational Realignment

By Mark Edward Nero

On Feb. 24, Port of Seattle CEO Ted Fick presented to his port commission a series of organizational changes that he said are part of the initial phase of a series of measures to help aid the port’s growth strategy.

“During my first five months on the job I’ve recognized that we have many opportunities to grow our already significant impact on the region’s economy, to increase revenue, and to boost our operational excellence and effectiveness,” Fick said.

The announced realignment aims to grow operations and increase jobs throughout the region and state by promoting economic development, Fick said, as well as advancing the port’s Century Agenda, a 25-year strategy for building a sustainable regional economy through targeted business initiatives and partnerships with public and private sectors.

Organizational changes include the creation of an Office for Strategic Initiatives to provide a launch pad for good ideas and process improvements; a new Economic Development office that will encompass a number of existing functions such as Real Estate, Office of Social Responsibility, Tourism Development; and a new small business ‘incubator’ to become a primary economic growth driver for the port.

Also, a new Maritime Division will include all remaining water-borne businesses – cruise, fishing, and recreational boating. There will be an increased number of executive staff reporting directly to the CEO, including Labor Relations. Seattle’s Airport Division will remain structured as-is.

“By flattening the organization, it will give me a more focused opportunity to make a direct impact on the organization, such as Labor Relations and Economic Development,” Fick said. “This is just the first phase of a reorganization that will continue for a couple of years as we grow the business.”

POLB Hires Two New Managers

By Mark Edward Nero

The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners last week appointed port industry veterans Michael Christensen and Glenn Farren to newly created management positions to enhance cargo flow and service at the port.

Christensen, who most recently was Deputy Executive Director at the Port of Los Angeles, was appointed Long Beach’s Senior Executive for Supply Chain Optimization, reporting directly to Chief Executive Jon Slangerup.

Farren, who was General Manager for Hapag-Lloyd America, will be Long Beach’s Director of Tenant Services and Operations, a new position created to emphasize the importance of relations with port tenants.

With the Port of Long Beach, Christensen will be responsible for working collaboratively with industry stakeholders to find new ways to increase communication and cooperation among the links of the supply chain. At the Port of LA, he had been the No. 2-ranked executive since 2006. 
Previously, he was Vice President for the Parsons Transportation Group in Irvine, and before that he was Vice President and Managing Principal for Nolte and Associates in Walnut Creek. He started his new job Mon., March 2.

Farren has more than 20 years of experience in managing marine terminals. At Hapag-Lloyd, he was General Manager for Southern California Operations. Previously, he worked for shipping companies Maersk, Sea-Land and APL. He begins his new job this month, and will report to Long Beach’s Managing Director of Commercial Operations/Chief Commercial Officer, Dr. Noel Hacegaba.