Friday, March 20, 2015

Calif. Congressman Introduces Freight Infrastructure Legislation

By Mark Edward Nero

US Congressman Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) has introduced bipartisan legislation that he says would provide a dedicated revenue source to invest in rebuilding America’s aging freight infrastructure.

The bill Lowenthal introduced in the House on March 4 is H.R.1308, also known as the National Multimodal and Sustainable Freight Infrastructure Act. It would raise roughly $8 billion a year for freight-related infrastructure projects throughout the US, with a focus on multimodal projects and projects that help relieve the bottlenecks in the freight transportation system.

“Goods movement is one of the most powerful economic engines in our nation. And yet, the infrastructure this engine depends on is crumbling around us. We have the ability to fix it, make it stronger, and make it better, while also taking action to address the negative impacts of goods movement on our communities,” Lowenthal said. His bill would establish the Freight Transportation Infrastructure Trust Fund and be subsidized through a national one percent waybill fee on the transportation cost of goods. To invest the funds, the bill creates two freight specific grant programs.

The first is a formula system in which each state would receive funds each year based on the amount of existing freight infrastructure within that state. To be eligible, states would have to develop comprehensive state freight plans and also have, or form, state freight advisory committees, which are encouraged in the federal highway authorization enacted in 2012, MAP-21.

In addition, the state freight plans would contain environmental goals and strategies developed by state freight advisory committee members, in order to address and reduce the environmental and community impacts of goods movement.

A second funding mechanism would be a competitive grant program open to all local, regional and state governments.

“Congressman Lowenthal is right on the mark with this bill, which will help American industry grow and create jobs as it competes more effectively in domestic and international markets,” said Leslie Blakey, president and executive director of the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors. “Unreliable, congested, and inefficient goods movement infrastructure costs businesses, workers and consumers with a hidden tax that saps prosperity.”

In addition to Lowenthal, H.R. 1308’s original cosponsors are Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) and Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI). Representative Mark Takano (D-CA) is also a cosponsor.

POLA Monthly Volumes Down in February

By Mark Edward Nero

Cargo volumes at the Port of Los Angeles fell more than 10 percent in February 2015 compared to the same period last year, according to newly released data. The port attributes the decline to terminal congestion and supply chain challenges occurring during several months of labor negotiations.

The labor issues were resolved for the most part on Feb. 20, when the Pacific Maritime Association and International Longshore and Warehouse Union reached a tentative agreement on a new five-year contract.

The deal came too late to help drive up throughput numbers for the full month, however. Imports dropped 10.7 percent in February, falling from 284,812 TEUs in February 2014 to 254,225 TEUs last month. Also, exports declined 10.3 percent, from 146,925 TEUs in February 2014 to 131,806 TEUs in February 2015.

Combined, total loaded imports and exports fell 10.6 percent, from 431,738 TEUs in February 2014 to 386,031 TEUs in February 2015, according to data.

Factoring in empties, which fell nine percent, the overall February 2015 volume of 502,663 TEUs represented a decline of 10.2 percent from February 2014’s 559,786 TEUs.

“Cargo flow has improved since the end of February and throughout March,” Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said. “ILWU labor is back strong at our terminals.”

He also cited the Federal Maritime Commission’s late February approval of a working agreement between the adjoining Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, which he said is enabling the ports to convene stakeholders in the coming weeks to discuss additional solutions to the backlog.

For the calendar year-to-date, the port has seen 1.03 million containers, a 17 percent drop from the same two months in 2014. For the fiscal year-to-date, POLA terminals have seen 5.31 million TEUs, a 1.5 percent drop from the same eight months in FY 2014.

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

Vancouver USA Achieves Revenue, Tonnage Milestones

By Mark Edward Nero

Calendar year 2014 was the best revenue and tonnage year for the Port of Vancouver USA in its 103 year history, according to recently revealed data.

The port reported on March 10 that it saw a record $37.5 million in operating revenue in 2014, a 25 percent increase over 2013. In addition, tonnage – total import and export cargo – was 6.6 million metric tons during the year, a 47 percent increase over 2013.

“This was a banner year for the Port of Vancouver,” port CEO Todd Coleman said in a statement announcing the news.

Overall exports moving through the Port of Vancouver were up 37 percent in 2014. The port’s largest export by volume is grain: corn, soybeans and wheat. Combined, those commodities increased by 53 percent to 2.59 million metric tons. Corn exports increased by 115 percent, soybeans were up 89 percent and wheat was up 31 percent.

Also, overall imports were up 118 percent last year. Much of the increase, according to the port, was fueled by huge gains in steel and wind energy components. Steel slabs, a new commodity for the port in 2014, took total steel import tonnage to 590,170 metric tons – a massive increase of 495 percent over 2013. Wind energy components, such as towers and blades, were up 234 percent.

Additionally, Subaru of America imported 81,718 vehicles through the port in 2014, an increase of 18 percent over the previous year.

The port also says the current year looks very promising.

Tenants expanding in 2015 include Subaru of America, which is adding 15,000 square feet to its current facility to support new sales growth and future goals. Another tenant, Sunlight Supply Inc., plans to build a 285,000-square-foot facility at the port’s Centennial Industrial Park to consolidate its operations in Southwest Washington.

The port is also undertaking a historic development at Terminal 1, called the Waterfront Legacy Project. The development may include a mixed-use building, new hotel and public attractions on the waterfront. The port is currently working with consultants to determine feasibility and develop a master plan for the site.

Long Beach Cargo Count Slides in February

By Mark Edward Nero

Cargo terminals at the Port of Long Beach moved about 20 percent fewer containers in February 2015 than the same month last year, according to newly-released data. The port has blamed the significant slide on congestion issues faced for months by most West Coast seaports.

Port of Long Beach data show a total of 413,114 TEUs of containerized cargo were moved through the port in February. Imports were recorded at 204,462 TEUs, a 24.7 percent decrease from the same month last year, while exports fell 22.9 percent to 110,711 TEUs.

Additionally, empty containers saw a decline of 3.9 percent to 97,941 TEUs.

The congestion issues that worsened in February played the biggest role in Long Beach’s cargo declines, just as they did in January, which saw a 18.8 percent drop from January 2014.

However, according to the port, the outlook for the future is more promising because on Feb. 20, the Pacific Maritime Association and International Longshore & Warehouse Union reached a tentative agreement on a new five-year labor contract, which has helped improve cargo flow.

Also, in late February, the Federal Maritime Commission gave Long Beach and the neighboring Port of Los Angeles permission to collaborate on congestion relief.

For the calendar year-to-date, Long Beach terminals moved a total of 413,114 TEUs during the first two months of 2015, a 20.1 percent drop from the same period in 2014. For the fiscal year, Long Beach has so far seen a 7.2 percent drop in cargo traffic compared to FY 2014.

Long Beach’s latest monthly cargo numbers are available at More details on the cargo numbers can be found at

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Puget Sound Cargo Volumes Down

By Mark Edward Nero

Following a down month in January, container volumes through the ports of Seattle and Tacoma continued to struggle last month, dipping more than nine percent compared to the same month in 2015, according to newly-released data.

In February, the ports saw a combined total of 227,258 TEUs, compared with 242,902 TEUs in February 2014, a 6.4 percent decrease.

During the first two months of 2015, container terminals at Washington state’s two largest ports handled 457,620 TEUs, according to the data, compared to 504,266 TEUs combined during January and February of last year, a drop of 46,646 containers, or 9.3 percent.

For the first two months of the year, containerized imports fell nearly 16 percent year to date to 181,864 TEUs, while exports were down eight percent to 159,124 TEUs, the data shows.

Domestic volumes to Alaska and Hawaii grew one percent, however, to 116,623 TEUs, while grain exports grew 13 percent to 1.7 million metric tons and breakbulk volumes improved 11 percent to 42,972 metric tons.

The released data does not include information on how each port performed individually during the month.

In January, the ports saw a 13 percent dip in cargo traffic, something that they partially attribute to the prolonged contract negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Pacific Maritime Association. Normal operations resumed at Seattle and Tacoma terminals Feb. 21 when the two parties reached a tentative agreement.

The ports say they’re working to quickly clear the backlog of cargo and ships that built up during the nine months of contract negotiations.

Detailed information about the ports’ 2014 and 2015 traffic volumes is available at:

POSD Planning Terminal Modernization

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of San Diego said March 12 that it has issued a notice of preparation for a draft Environmental Impact Report to study the potential effects of a proposed modernization plan for the 96-acre, eight berth terminal.

The proposed plan would create three terminals within the existing footprint, plus bring additional cargo through the terminal, particularly the types within the port’s specialties of break-bulk cargo, military and energy parts, refrigerated containers for fresh produce and clean bulk cargo used in construction.

Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal is currently home to one of only two on-dock cold storage facilities on the West Coast. The refrigerated space handles 185 million Dole bananas each month; every Dole banana sold west of the Rocky Mountains, from Mexico to Canada enters through the terminal.
The proposal includes the removal of obsolete infrastructure and facilities upgrades in order to handle more cargo in an efficient and environmentally responsible way.

“The proposed plan will optimize the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal as a vital, global gateway for imports and exports and boost San Diego’s role as a true global city of the 21st Century,” Port of San Diego Maritime Director Joel Valenzuela said in a statement.

Issuing the notice of preparation gives agencies, the public and other interested parties the opportunity to comment on possible environmental impacts of the project. Comments will be accepted until 5 p.m. Tues., April 14, 2015 and should be e-mailed to They may also be mailed to the San Diego Unified Port District, Environmental & Land Use Management Department, 3165 Pacific Highway, San Diego, CA 92101.

In addition to providing comments by mail and e-mail, the public will have the opportunity to provide input at a scoping meeting for the project’s EIR. The meeting is planned for 5:30 pm Wed., March 18 at the San Diego Unified Port District Administration Building, Training Room, 3165 Pacific Highway, San Diego, CA 92101.

New Program Expediting Cargo, POLA Says

By Mark Edward Nero

A new program that speeds up cargo traffic by streamlining container moves is expediting operations at the Port of Los Angeles, the port says.

The “Peel Off” program, launched Feb. 25, has added a new operational model to the port to clear the current backlog of containers and improve the flow of cargo going forward.

The port created the program months ago with Pasha Stevedoring, harbor trucking firm Total Transportation Services Inc. (TTSI), several marine container terminal operators and a core group of major retailers. The program involves "peeling off" containers of high-volume customers to a near-dock yard where they are sorted for destination to inland distribution centers.

Under “Peel Off,” import containers loaded with goods belonging to high-volume shippers are stacked together in a block upon arrival at the port. The terminals expedite TTSI trucks through their gates to retrieve the containers and deliver them to the near-dock yard less than a mile away where they’re sorted. The same trucks loop back to the terminals for the next inbound container.

The trucks keep boxes moving by delivering outbound containers on the return leg.

“The trucks are doing exactly what everyone needs them to do – make more turns every day,” TTSI President and CEO Vic La Rosa said. “This single step eliminates multiple inefficient moves so cargo flows faster and more reliably.”

“We have found an efficient way to get containers to their destination that is beginning to pay off,” Port of LA Executive Director Gene Seroka said. “While the program is geared for high-volume shippers, all customers benefit. Increasing terminal productivity has a positive ripple effect for everyone moving cargo through our port.”

The “Peel Off” yard is located at Navy Way and Reeves Avenue on port property, and is open from 7 am to 3 am six days a week. Currently, 17 acres are available for staging up to 500 containers. As demand grows, the facility could operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week and accommodate up to 650 containers, according to the port.

“We’ve created something that’s going to work for years to come,” Pasha Stevedoring Senior Vice President Jeff Burgin said. “We’re prepared to expand this model throughout the harbor.”

Crowley Receives Washington Ecology Dept. Award

By Mark Edward Nero

The State of Washington’s Department of Ecology on March 13 honored Crowley Maritime’s petroleum services division with the Exceptional Compliance Program, or ECOPRO, award in recognition of excellence in marine safety and environmental stewardship.

The ECOPRO program, which was founded in 1999, is a non-regulatory environmental protection program for tank vessels, recognizing operators that demonstrate exceptional compliance with the program’s strict criteria. Crowley is one of the largest independent operators of tank vessels in the US.

Ecology Department Deputy Director Polly Zehn, representing the State’s Department of Ecology Spill Prevention, Preparedness and Response Program, presented the award to Crowley during a ceremony at Seattle’s Odyssey Maritime Discovery Center. Crowley’s West Coast marine operations director, Capt. Mark Homeyer, accepted the award on behalf of the company before an audience of US Coast Guard and Maritime Administration attendees.

“We are proud to be among the companies representing the leading edge of operational excellence in petroleum transportation in the world today,” Homeyer said. “Our business is built on a strong commitment to environmental protection through safe and reliable petroleum transportation.”

Crowley-operated tankers and articulated-tug-barges regularly trade in Puget Sound and transport and deliver petroleum to terminals up and down the West Coast. The company Crowley first received the ECOPRO award in 2005 for its ATB division.