Friday, May 8, 2015

Action Alert: Port of Seattle Commission

The City of Seattle has issued a notice to the Port of Seattle that a lease with Foss Maritime at Terminal 5 needs additional permits to moor and load rigs bound for the Arctic this summer. The Seattle Port Commission will discuss its next action with the public on Tuesday, May 12 at a regular hearing. The Washington Maritime Federation notes there are great pressures on the Commission to rescind the lease, which could cost hundreds of direct maritime jobs, thousands of jobs in the region, and seriously affect future business opportunities at the Port.

In order to remind the Commission about the importance of Washington State’s maritime industry and the dangerous precedent rescinding the lease would set, local maritime professionals are asked to attend the Port Commission meeting in person and write/email the Port Commissioners.

The meeting will take place on Tuesday, May 12, 2015 at 1:00 PM (Please arrive by 12:30) at Pier 69, in the Commission Chambers. Joshua Berger, Coordinator of the Washington Maritime Federation, urges maritime leaders and their employees to email the Port Commissioners and urge them to keep their lease with Foss. Please copy

BC Ferry Back in Service After Upgrade

By Mark Edward Nero

The 23-year-old BC Ferries vessel Queen of Capilano recently completed a $12 million midlife upgrade that began Jan. 5 and ended May 5. The ship returned to service in time for a May 6 afternoon sailing from Horseshoe Bay to Bowen Island.

The refit work was carried out at Esquimalt Drydocking Co. in Victoria, British Columbia. Highlights of the vessel’s extensive upgrade include numerous safety, mechanical and customer service improvements, such as:

• Installation of gallery decks, increasing capacity from about 85 to 100 vehicles.
• Installation of a new entrance/exit for walk-on passengers in the upper lounge.
• Installation of a new evacuation system and replacement of the rescue boat.
• Installation of a pet area.
• Update to stairwell and disabled washroom.
• Update to the ship intercom and public address system.

The 314-foot-long Queen of Capilano has room for 85 vehicles and 451 passengers and crew members. It runs between Bowen Island and Horseshoe Bay. While it was being serviced, B.C. Ferries provided other services, such as a shuttle bus and more sailings, while the smaller Bowen Queen filled in.

“These significant improvements were made to provide a better traveling experience for our customers and prepare the Queen of Capilano for another 20 years of safe and reliable service,” said Corinne Storey, BC Ferries’ vice president of customer services. “We thank customers for their patience while the vessel underwent this necessary work and a smaller vessel provided the service.” BC Ferries, under contract to the Province of British Columbia, is the service provider responsible for the delivery of ferry service along coastal British Columbia.

Oil Fire Damages Tacoma Port Terminal

By Mark Edward Nero

An oil fire began around 7 a.m. on May 6 in a chimney stack at the Port of Tacoma’s US Oil and Refining Co. terminal after a tube that carries crude oil through a heat source that separates the oil began to leak.

The fire, which sent huge plumes of black smoke across the sky, burned for about two hours Wednesday but according to the company, no injuries were reported and all employees were accounted for.

The Tacoma Fire Department and US Oil & Refining employees ran water on the lower stack while the fire burned off, reducing the risk of a collapse, according to company spokesman Dan Yoder. But although terminal workers quickly turned off the valve to stop the flow, oil that was still in the tube caught fire and sent black smoke up the tall stack. Instead of trying to put out the fire, they let it burn off for safety reasons, Yoder said, explaining that from a safety perspective, it was better to isolate the fuel and let it burn off and that there were no concerns about an explosion occurring.

The major concern was over by 9:15 am, Yoder said.

The refinery processes crude oil and turns it into transportation products, including gasoline, jet fuel and asphalt primarily for the south Puget Sound market. Before the fire, the facility had a refining capacity in excess of 39,000 barrels per stream day and storage capacity exceeding 2.7 million barrels.

Metro Vancouver Plans New Container Terminal

By Mark Edward Nero

Port Metro Vancouver, Canada’s largest seaport, has filed an Environmental Impact Statement for a proposed new container terminal at Roberts Bank in Delta, BC on Canada’s west coast.

The new Roberts Bank Terminal 2, along with expansion of the Port of Prince Rupert and other container terminals in Vancouver, would provide needed space for growth, according to the port. Forecasts have shown that demand for goods shipped in containers is growing and it’s expected container terminals on B.C.’s coast will be at capacity by the early 2020s.

“The region is running out of room to manage growing Canadian trade with Asia,” Robin Silvester, President and Chief Executive Officer of Port Metro Vancouver said in a statement. “The Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project will ensure demand can be met while providing important economic benefits to B.C. and Canada. We look forward to the upcoming review of our environmental assessment by an independent panel.”

The Roberts Bank Terminal 2 project would provide 2.4 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of container capacity to meet forecasted growth in Canadian export and import trade. It has three main components:

• Development of land and construction of a deep-sea marine terminal adjacent to the existing Roberts Bank terminals

• Widening of the existing Roberts Bank causeway to accommodate road and rail infrastructure and

• Expansion of the existing Roberts Bank tug basin to accommodate the existing and an additional tug boat contractor.

The Environmental Impact Statement documents four years of scientific study and consultation with regulators, Aboriginal groups, local government and the public to assess the potential environmental, economic, social, heritage and health effects of the terminal’s construction and operation. The conclusion: effects of the project, following the implementation of mitigation, are not expected to significantly affect the environment.

The EIS now becomes the subject of a federal environmental assessment, including a review by an independent review panel, and includes multiple opportunities for public comment.

Construction could begin in 2018 and would take about five-and-a-half years to complete, according to the port. The project would be funded entirely by Port Metro Vancouver and the private sector and would require no tax dollars. The construction phase will create 12,700 person-years of employment, and its operation would support approximately 12,400 full-time jobs on an ongoing basis.

Crowley Tug Crew Commended by USCG

By Mark Edward Nero

Capt. Rodney Layton and his crew aboard Crowley’s Prevention and Response tugboat Alert were recently recognized by US Coast Guard (USCG) Capt. Paul Mehler III, sector commander captain of the port, for their “professionalism, courage, and flawless performance in extreme conditions” during the emergency rescue tow of the drill barge Kulluk off the southern point of Kodiak Island in late 2012.

Capt. Mehler was joined in late April by other USCG members during a public commendation ceremony in Valdez, Alaska, attended by five of Alert’s crewmembers. In addition to the Alert commendation, the USCG also recognized the crew of Crowley’s Invader class tugboat, Guardsman, for its assistance in providing logistical support during the incident.

The 10,192-horsepower Alert, which is typically used for tanker escorts to and from the Alyeska Valdez Marine Terminal, departed Valdez in response to the Unified Command’s request for assistance and arrived on scene to find Kulluk adrift at 4.5 knots in rough weather and sea conditions. The crew of Alert was able to catch a trailing line from Kulluk, despite having their deck awash by 30-foot seas, and proceeded to tie off and commence tow. The crew slowed and re-oriented the Kulluk’s drift so that the original towing tugboat could secure a connection to the drilling rig. However, with increasing heavy weather the original towing tug connection parted after about 10 hours.

Once attached, Alert remained tethered by emergency towline to the Kulluk and continuously maintained tow. With 54-foot seas and 40 to 50 knot winds, the Alert was being pushed backwards up to two knots toward the Kodiak Island shore. A day later, the Alert released the tow wire after being directed by Unified Command.

Crowley’s Valdez operation includes personnel and specialized tugs to help protect the environment through a contract with Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.’s Ship Escort/Response Vessel System (SERVS). As part of the commercial partnership, the company provides tug escorts for tankers traveling through Prince William Sound to and from the Valdez Marine Terminal, and also provides secure docking and undocking operations at the oil product loading terminals. Primary tugs in the area include both Alert and Prince William Sound class vessels, all of which were specifically designed for tanker escort and assist work in the region.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

City of Seattle Blocks Port Terminal Lease

By Mark Edward Nero

A lease that the Port of Seattle signed months ago to house seasonal moorage of a drilling rig and accompanying tugboats at Terminal 5 is not valid and has to be reworked, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said May 4.

The mayor’s statement came the same day that the Seattle Department of Planning and Development (DPD) released an interpretation regarding the proposed use of Terminal 5. The DPD concluded that an additional use permit is required for the proposed seasonal moorage of a drilling rig and accompanying tugboats. Reports have indicated that two drilling rigs are destined for Seattle: the Polar Pioneer and the Noble Discoverer. The information provided by the port indicates that just one, the Polar Pioneer, would moor at Terminal 5.

Under the terms of the lease, Foss would have been able to use the premises specifically as a transport facility in which quantities of goods or container cargo are stored without undergoing any manufacturing process, are transferred to other carriers or are stored outdoors in order to transfer them to other locations.

On Feb. 9, the port signed the two-year lease with Foss Maritime, giving 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.

On March 2 however, a coalition of five environmental groups filed a challenge against the port’s lease on the grounds that the lease would change the use of Terminal 5 by converting it into a homeport for Shell’s Arctic drilling fleet.

The mayor made the lease denial announcement during the Climate Solutions annual breakfast.

“I expect the port to obtain all required city permits before any moorage or work begins at T5 on off-shore oil drilling equipment. While requiring a new permit may not stop the port’s plans, it does give the port an opportunity to pause and rethink this issue,” Murray said. “I urge the port to consider: is this really the right use of Terminal 5, even for the short term? Does this use reflect the businesses of the future we want in Seattle?”

“This is an opportunity for the port and all of us to make a bold statement about how oil companies contribute to climate change, oil spills and other environmental disasters – and reject this short-term lease,” the mayor said.

Federal Grand Jury Indicts POLA Police Chief

By Mark Edward Nero

On April 30, a federal grand jury in Los Angeles indicted the chief of police for the Port of Los Angeles on corruption and tax charges. The corruption charges in the indictment relate to an alleged scheme in which authorities say the chief stood to financially benefit from the development of a social networking program that would become the official smartphone app for the port and would then be marketed to other law enforcement agencies.

Port Police Chief Ronald Jerome Boyd, 57, had just been named to his position at the port in January. He is now charged in a 16-count indictment that accuses him of corruption, lying to FBI agents, failing to file federal corporate tax returns for a private security company he created, and tax evasion.

At the center of the case are four wire fraud charges that accuse Boyd of executing “a scheme to defraud the citizens of the City of Los Angeles and the Harbor Department … by means of bribery and kickbacks, materially false and fraudulent pretenses and representations, and the concealment of material facts,” according to the indictment.

The corruption scheme centers on a program called Portwatch, which was developed to provide information to the public and to allow citizens to report criminal activity at the port.

In 2011, Boyd and two business partners formed BDB Digital Communications, a company that entered into a revenue-sharing agreement with the unnamed company developing Portwatch. The parties involved with BDB intended to generate revenues by marketing and selling a similar app – called Metrowatch – to other government agencies.

“Under the terms of this agreement, defendant Boyd would receive approximately 13.33 percent of all gross revenues generated by the sale of the Metrowatch application throughout the United States,” according to the indictment.

The revenue-sharing agreement was contingent upon Boyd’s assistance in securing the Portwatch contract for the unnamed company. Over the course of a year beginning in October 2011, Boyd took steps to benefit the unnamed company with respect to the Portwatch contract. The indictment alleges that his actions included hosting a private meeting with the unnamed company for the purpose of disclosing confidential information, meeting with Los Angeles officials that included the city attorney and the mayor and editing the scope of work for the Portwatch contract so that he could personally monitor the app’s development.

The indictment goes on to allege that Boyd lied to the investigators in October 2014 when he was interviewed by FBI special agents about the matter.

If he is convicted of all 16 counts in the indictment, Boyd would face a statutory maximum sentence of 124 years in federal prison. According to the US Attorney’s Office, Boyd is expected to surrender to federal authorities this week.

Port of LA Executive Director Gene Seroka said Boyd was being put on administrative leave until further notice.

“Deputy Chief of Port Police Thomas Gazsi will assume Boyd’s responsibilities,” Seroka said. “The City and Port of Los Angeles will fully cooperate in the investigation of this matter.”

PMSA Moves from SF to Oakland

By Mark Edward Nero

The Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, an independent, not-for-profit association focused on global trade, has moved its Northern California office from San Francisco to Oakland. As of May 1, the new NorCal headquarters for the organization is at Jack London Square, one block from the Port of Oakland’s headquarters.

The Port of Oakland owns the Square, which is a mixed-use complex at the edge of the Oakland Estuary.

PMSA represents some of the largest container shipping lines and marine terminal operators serving West Coast US ports. It had been based in San Francisco until the move to Jack London Square.

The PMSA’s arrival puts two big players in West Coast container shipping on the same side of San Francisco Bay. The Pacific Maritime Association is headquartered in San Francisco, but also has offices in both Oakland and San Francisco. In addition to its new Oakland digs, the PMSA also has offices in Seattle and Long Beach.

The port is not a PMSA member, but in a statement, Port of Oakland Executive Director Chris Lytle indicated that that might change.

“We’ve worked well with the association on issues of importance to our industry and global trade,” Lytle said. “Now that we’re neighbors, we’ll seek new opportunities to collaborate and raise the profile of this region as a trade gateway.”

The address for the PMSA’s new location is: 70 Washington St., Suite 305 Oakland, CA 94607. The main phone number is (510) 987-5000.

Final Panama Canal Gate Installed

By Mark Edward Nero

A key milestone in the Panama Canal Expansion Program has been reached with the installation of the 16th and final gate for the new locks on the Pacific side of the Canal. The Panama Canal Authority said April 28 that the installation process began at noon Panama time on the south end of the Canal’s Pacific locks, which connect directly to the ocean.

The final gate is one of the heaviest and weighs 4,232 tons, or roughly 8.5 million pounds. It measures 57.6 meters (189 feet) wide by 10 meters (32.8 feet) long and 33 meters (108 feet) high, according to the Panama Canal Authority.

“Today’s installation is a key milestone in the Expansion Program and another important step forward for the Canal,” Administrator Jorge L. Quijano said. “Once finished, the expanded waterway will provide new possibilities for world maritime trade and further position the Canal as a reliable route to the industry.”

The new gates, which were built in Italy, first arrived in Panama in four staggered shipments starting in August of 2013. With the installation of the final gate in the Pacific, another important stage begins with the electro-mechanical work, which connects the gates with the other structures in the new locks.

The installation of all eight gates on the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal was completed on April 1, according to the Authority. With all 16 gates now installed, the next milestone for the expanded Canal will occur when the lock chambers are flooded.