Friday, March 13, 2015

Labor Dispute Closes Oakland’s SSA Terminal

By Mark Edward Nero

Just days after the Port of Oakland declared that it was making significant progress on clearing a cargo backlog that built up during months of labor unrest, operations at a container terminal came to a halt on March 11 due to labor issues.

According to the port and the International Longshore & Warehouse Union, yard and gate operations at Oakland International Container Terminal, which is operated by SSA Terminals, were ceased around 10:30 am Wednesday morning due to a dispute.

SSA Terminals said that it has dismissed longshore workers after they refused to work due to a dispute over staffing levels. The ILWU claims that 45 dockworkers were fired and sent home.

In a statement issued on SSA’s behalf, the Pacific Maritime Association said the incident was caused by the ILWU local refusing to adhere to standard operating protocol.

“The terminal in question follows standard industry practice of hiring two workers for every yard crane – the same as at every other terminal at the port,” the statement reads in part. “Yet, ILWU Local 10 is refusing to allow yard cranes to operate unless that number is increased to three.”

The PMA’s statement also says that the three-person demand was something that Local 10 made, but then dropped during the nine months of negotiations between the union and PMA that ended in February with a tentative five-year contract for workers and management at 29 West Coast seaports.

The Maritime Association claims Local 10 has also refused to allow longshore utility workers to lock and unlock connecting devices between chassis and containers, something that the PMA calls a “longstanding practice at every terminal in the port.”

All marine terminals were open and active as of 8 am on March 12, according to the port.

On March 6, the Port of Oakland touted its success in reducing a cargo backlog caused in part by the nine months of labor unrest, saying that signs of progress included a declining vessel backup; decongested terminals; improved transaction times; and better terminal productivity.

Longview Port Commission Rejects Terminal Proposal

By Mark Edward Nero

On March 10, the Port of Longview’s three-person commission voted to go against the recommendation of the port’s CEO and reject a proposal to place a propane and butane terminal at the port.

In March 2014, the port entered a one-year exclusive negotiating period with Haven Energy Terminals, during which Haven was allowed to evaluate the feasibility of a terminal at the port.

Haven Energy, a subsidiary of Houston-based natural gas-related infrastructure company Sage Midstream, had proposed an export facility to move propane and butane currently being flared in the Midwest to energy markets around the Pacific Rim. The company was looking at building a unit train-accessible rail unloading facility, storage tanks and ship loading area at the port with the ability to load marine vessels with a capacity of up to 550,000 barrels. The proposal called for the cargo to be railed to the port from North Dakota and South Dakota, then refrigerated and stored on site before being loaded to vessels for export to Hawaii, Mexico and Asia.

The port commission’s unanimous decision to kill the possibility of building the terminal came after several discussion meetings and after the port received hundreds of emails and other comments from the community about the proposal.

Port Chief Executive Officer Geir Kalhagen had recommended that the port consider the lease based on its economic benefits.

“Based on the revenue it would bring to the port and how we could leverage this project as a stepping stone for future development, I recommended the Board of Commissioners consider the lease,” Kalhagen said.

However, the port commission said they decided not to enter into the lease agreement for several reasons, including that the project was better sited elsewhere and provide too few jobs to justify the risks presented.

“While the Commission doesn’t feel this particular project is a good fit, we’re confident additional opportunities are on the horizon,” Port Commission President Bob Bagaason said in a statement.

LB Port Extends Temporary Chassis Depot

By Mark Edward Nero

A temporary storage container facility that opened at the Port of Long Beach in December 2014 to help deal with an ongoing congestion problem, won’t close at the end of March as originally planned. Instead, it will stay open at least several more months, according to the port.

The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners this week unanimously approved an extra six months of operation for the temporary container storage facility on the port’s undeveloped Pier S terminal.

The action temporarily extends the life of the existing 30-acre storage depot and also allows for the storage of loaded cargo containers and chassis in addition to the empty containers already permitted there.

Pasha Stevedoring & Terminals will continue to operate the storage depot, and the port says it will monitor traffic for any issues.

The temporary facility, which was approved during a period of high congestion at the port, is designed to help put back into circulation more chassis, the wheeled trailer-frames that trucks use to haul cargo containers. Because many terminals are congested and have had little room to accept empty cargo containers, more space was set aside to temporarily store those empties.

During its two-and-a-half months in operation, the empty container facility has freed up chassis for truckers to reuse to pick up new loads on the busy docks and speed up delivery.

Although congestion has eased in the past two weeks, the port says terminals are still in need of additional space as they try to eliminate a backlog of cargo that built up over the past several months.
Companies and individuals interested in using the depot must first contact depot operator Pasha Stevedoring at (310) 233-2005 or

POSD Says Its Regional Impact is Over $7 Billion

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of San Diego plays a critical role in San Diego County’s economic rebound by pumping more than $7.6 billion a year into the region from employment, sales, and purchases of goods and services, according to a newly-issued report.

The analysis, completed by Economic and Planning Systems, a nationally recognized land economics consulting company, breaks down the economic impact into two categories, direct impact and secondary impact, the latter including both indirect and induced effects.

The direct economic impact of the port is derived from sales, employment, and operating expenditures, i.e. purchases of goods and services, occurring on port-managed property. The report is based on 2013 data, the most recent year for which information is available.

According to the data, the port’s direct economic impact grew eight percent and jobs grew nine percent in two years.

More than 33,000 jobs are located on tidelands, according to the report, generating over $4 billion in direct economic output and representing an eight percent increase in direct economic impact over the previous analysis completed using 2011 data. The number of jobs has also increased to 33,356 in 2013, a nine percent gain.

The report also shows if all jobs on Port of San Diego tidelands were aggregated and compared to the largest employers in San Diego County, the port would rank second only to the State of California and have a larger economic impact than major San Diego organizations like the University of California at San Diego and Sharp Healthcare.

The types of jobs the port helps generate are diverse, such as working with heavy industrial equipment, like ship repair and cargo/container processing; providing professional services like vessel insurance brokers, boat brokers, marketers and attorneys; conducting manual labor such as loading and unloading cruise passenger luggage.

An interactive summary and full copy of the report can be found at

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

USCG Detains Containership in Seattle

By Mark Edward Nero

On March 5, US Coast Guard personnel detained the containership MOL Precision in Seattle due to numerous alleged violations found during an inspection.

The MOL Precision, a 13-year-old, 962-foot cargo ship, was conducting cargo operations in Seattle at the time of the exam. Its last port of call was Busan, South Korea.

The violations, according to the USCG, included defective oil bilge line filtering equipment. The line filtering equipment, which is required to be maintained so that the ship doesn’t discharge bilge oil overboard, had a non-functional alarm and intermittently operating meter.

Other violations included missing security training records, and not sending required ballast tank information to the National Ballast Information Clearinghouse prior to entering a US port. The NBIC collects, analyzes and interprets ballast water management data to reduce the likelihood of exotic species invasions.

Also, records of the security drills could not be provided for an eight-month period in 2014.

Officers from Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound discovered the violations during a port state control exam of the Panamanian-flagged ship, which, according to the Coast Guard, is expected to remain in Sector Puget Sound’s Captain of the Port zone until the violations are corrected.

“The Port State Control program holds foreign-flagged vessels to internationally agreed-upon standards to ensure the safety of life at sea and to prevent damage to the global and local environment,” Lt. James Tynan, chief of the Sector Puget Sound Port State Control Branch, said. “We are continuing to monitor the MOL Precision and are working with the crew and Panamanian representatives to correct these deficiencies.”

NASSCO Lays Keel for Tanker

By Mark Edward Nero

On March 6, the General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard in San Diego hosted a keel laying ceremony for the first Jones Act ECO tanker in a series of five being built for Kinder Morgan’s American Petroleum Tankers (APT) subsidiary.

During the ceremony, the wife of San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer authenticated the keel of the first ECO tanker for APT by welding her initials onto a steel plate. The steel plate with her initials will be permanently affixed to the ship’s keel and remain with the vessel throughout its time in service.

During a September 2014 ceremony marking the vessel’s start of construction, Mayor Faulconer cut the first piece of steel used to build the ship.

The 50,000-dwt, ECO tankers are built to a new design by DSEC, a subsidiary of Busan, South Korea-based Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering. The design incorporates improved fuel efficiency concepts through several features, including a G-series MAN ME slow-speed main engine and an optimized hull form.

The tankers are also designed with dual-fuel-capable auxiliary engines and the ability to accommodate future installation of a liquid natural gas fuel system.

“NASSCO is pleased to continue our commitment as good environmental stewards by building the most energy-efficient tankers in the Jones Act fleet and in helping to sustain and grow highly-skilled jobs right here in San Diego,” General Dynamics NASSCO Vice President and General Manager Kevin Graney said.

Oakland: Port Gaining on Cargo Backlog

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of Oakland says that efforts to eliminate a cargo backlog are meeting with success, with signs of such including a declining vessel backup; decongested terminals; improved transaction times; and better terminal productivity.

The operational update is Oakland’s first since the tentative approval of a new West Coast waterfront labor contract on Feb. 20. The cargo backup, which should clear within two months, according to the port, is a byproduct of nine months of labor negotiations between the International Longshore & Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents terminal operators.

According to the Port of Oakland’s status report:
As of March 6, five ships were anchored in San Francisco Bay or navigating outside the Golden Gate Bridge awaiting berths at the port, down from a high of 20 vessels in mid-February. The vessel logjam is expected to disappear within 10 days.

Also, marine terminals that were overflowing with import cargo awaiting pick-up have cleared out the backlog. The port says its two largest terminals are operating at 50-to-60 percent of container yard capacity and have room to handle more volume.

The port also says that marine terminals have cleared out the backlog of imports that had been stranded in container yards, and that as they’re discharged from ships, imports are available for immediate pick-up, which is in stark contrast to previous months when cargo owners waited weeks to collect loaded containers.

However, there is still a delay in discharging imports that are stowed on ships at anchor: those containers can be held up several days while vessels await berths. The condition is expected to clear up within weeks as the vessel backlog disappears.

Some labor shortages in vessel operations are being reported at Oakland and other West Coast ports, which Oakland attributes to extraordinary demand created by the vessel backup. On average, 10 ships a day are being loaded and unloaded in Oakland. Typically that number would be three to five ships.

The gantry cranes that load and unload ships are moving 25-to-30 containers per hour, near Oakland’s historic average of 30-to-35 moves. Vessels that are normally worked in one day still require several days for loading and unloading, according to Oakland, but the port says the turnaround time has dropped significantly in the past two weeks.

“There’s still a great deal of work to do,” Oakland Maritime Director John Driscoll said. “But we’re seeing good collaboration between labor, terminal operators and harbor truckers.”

Port of Anchorage Sees Annual Tonnage Increase

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of Anchorage saw an increase in overall tonnage in 2014, the first time in three years such an occurrence has taken place, according to the port.

Last year, containerized cargo and vehicle tonnage across the dock was up four percent over 2013 numbers, based on business numbers reported by the port’s two resident ocean carriers, Horizon Lines and Totem Ocean Trailer Express.

Also, a total of 15 fuel tankers called on the Port of Anchorage in 2014 compared to only five in 2013, according to Port Director Steve Ribuffo. The total related quantity represents a 59 percent increase in fuel delivered over the dock when compared to 2013, according to the port.

“We’ve had a steady flow of fuel traffic at the Port of Anchorage in 2014 and so far in 2015,” Ribuffo said. “Essentially, there had been at least one tanker here offloading petroleum every month and we don’t see the surge letting up anytime soon.”

The fuel arrives by tanker or barge and travels through one of the nine petroleum offload headers on the two dedicated petroleum docks.

In 2013, 4.2 million barrels of fuel entered the port from domestic and foreign suppliers; that number jumped to 6.7 million barrels in 2014.

“While there’s a real and serious need to modernize our dock infrastructure, it's very clear from a business perspective that we can successfully support more tonnage within the same footprint,” Ribuffo said.