Thursday, June 25, 2015

Sierra Club Sues to Stop Stockton Rail Expansion

By Mark Edward Nero

Environmental organization the Sierra Club is suing to stop the Port of Stockton from moving forward with a $7.4 million rail expansion project that would double the port’s freight capacity. Weeks after the port’s May 4 approval of a contract, the Sierra Club has filed a lawsuit against the deal in San Joaquin County Superior Court in Central California. Earthjustice, a nonprofit law group in San Francisco, is representing the Sierra Club in the legal action.

The contract was awarded to engineering and construction company Industrial Railways to build 22,000 feet of new track - enough to allow the port to double its capacity from six bulk unit trains per week to 12.

The port says the increased capacity is needed because the port’s rail operations are so busy that they’re operating at 120 percent of capacity. The port says it saw about 97,000 rail cars in 2014, an average of more than 265 a day.

The lawsuit states that rail shipments of coal and emissions of coal dust from the open-topped freight cars could cause “impaired lung function, cardiovascular disease and developmental disorders.” The suit requests that a full state environmental review be conducted.

The port, however, has maintained that a full review isn’t required because the project consists primarily of replacing existing rail and California’s environmental rules provide exemptions for repair or maintenance of existing facilities.

The Sierra Club maintains that exemptions don’t apply in this case, since the project would add new rail lines and associated infrastructure, thereby expanding the port’s rail capacity and increasing the scale of the port’s operations.

Vancouver Shipyards Hosts Ceremonial Steel Cutting

By Mark Edward Nero

Vancouver Shipyards, a Seaspan company, has begun construction on the first ship being built under Canada's National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS), a Canadian Coast Guard offshore fisheries science vessel (OFSV).

On hand June 24 for the ceremonial steel cutting were Diane Finley, Canada’s Minister of Public Works and Government Services and Parliament members Andrew Saxton and John Weston.

It was also announced that the first ship is being named CCGS Sir John Franklin in honor of the Arctic explorer whose expeditions nearly 200 years ago laid the foundations of Canada’s claims of Arctic sovereignty.

The steel-cutting event follows the recent award of an incentive-based build contract to Vancouver Shipyards for the construction of three OFSVs, which are to be delivered together under a ceiling price of $514 million before the end of 2017. Following the completion of the OFSVs, Seaspan is expected to then build one Offshore Oceanographic Science Vessel (OOSV), two Joint Support Ships (JSS), one Polar Icebreaker (PIB) as well as up to five Medium Endurance Multi-Tasked Vessels (MEMTV) and up to five Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV), with more opportunities to follow in the future.

“Seaspan is changing the course of shipbuilding history on the west coast of Canada, and today's ceremony marks the most significant milestone yet for the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy,” Seaspan Shipyards President Brian Carter said. “Today is day one of many years to come of planned ship production at Vancouver Shipyards for the Canadian Coast Guard and the Royal Canadian Navy.”

Oakland Port Emissions Down Significantly

By Mark Edward Nero

Port of Oakland efforts to cut diesel emissions are producing dramatic results, according to research results revealed June 24.

A University of California expert recently presented research showing a 76 percent drop in black carbon emission from harbor trucks, and a day later, Chinese officials from Tianjin, the world’s fourth-largest port, visited Oakland to find out how it’s done.

UC Civil and Environmental Engineering Prof. Robert Harley said state and port programs have modernized Oakland’s harbor truck fleet. The result: not only are black carbon emissions plummeting, but nitrogen oxides, which create ozone, are down 53 percent. Prof. Harley’s Oakland research, conducted between 2009 and 2013, was shared at a state Environmental Protection Agency webcast in Sacramento.

According to the port, its truck programs eliminated 14 tons of diesel particulate emissions between 2005 and 2012. During the same period, it eliminated another 151 tons of particulate matter from vessels. Further reductions have been achieved since then, the port said.

The port is on target to reach an 85 percent overall reduction in diesel emissions by 2020.

Port officials demonstrated Oakland’s vessel clean-up initiative to a five-member Tianjin delegation. The port’s shoreside power program connects vessels at berth to the landside power grid. By relying on shoreside electricity, vessels can switch off diesel generators formerly used to power their systems in port.

Tianjin, situated on North China’s Bohai Bay, is a commercial gateway to Beijing. It handles the equivalent of 13 million TEUs annually.

Crowley Vessels Receive Award

By Mark Edward Nero

A total of 65 Crowley Maritime Corp. vessels were recently recognized for their participation in the Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue (AMVER) program, a voluntary global ship reporting system used by search and rescue authorities to arrange for assistance to persons in distress at sea.

The awards were given during the U.S. Coast Guard’s NAMEPA Safety at Sea Seminar dinner, an event designed to bring industry and government leaders together each year in Washington DC.

The 65 Crowley vessels were given a certificate of merit for participation, with eight company vessels receiving additional pennants for their continuous, long-term dedication to the program. AMVER pennants for dedication to the AMVER program are given to vessels that are consistently eligible for enrollment. They are color-coded and given on milestone years, including first, fifth, tenth and beyond. Crowley vessels Ocean Wind and Siku received blue pennants for completing their first full years; tugs Gauntlet, Endurance, Guardian, Sea Breeze and Stalwart each received gold pennants for completing five consecutive years; and the Resolve received a purple pennant for completing its tenth consecutive year.

The AMVER system, which finds its roots in the Titanic disaster in 1912, has more than 22,000 vessels enrolled. Awards are given to vessels that send position reports and are available to divert a minimum of 128 days per year. The company receives a letter of appreciation while the ship receives a Certificate of Merit.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Anti-Labor Slowdown Bill Introduced

By Mark Edward Nero

A Port of Portland-based maritime shipping terminal has helped craft legislation in the US Senate that could help prevent the type of maritime labor slowdowns at West Coast ports that disrupted domestic and international trade earlier this year.

The Preventing Labor Union Slowdowns Act of 2015 (PLUS Act) was introduced in the Senate June 18 by Republican Idaho Senator James Risch. It was the result of efforts by ICTSI Oregon, the terminal operating company for the Port of Portland’s Terminal 6, to focus congressional attention on the ongoing problem of maritime labor slowdowns.

The measure would amend the National Labor Relations Act to make intentional slowdowns by maritime unions an unfair labor practice. Offending labor organizations would be subjected to federal court injunctions against slowdowns as well as damage claims to injured parties.

“If enacted, the PLUS Act will help ensure that a small number of workers cannot engage in unfair labor practices that threaten our nation’s economic prosperity and hold our economy hostage,” ICTSI Oregon CEO Elvis Ganda said.

ICTSI Oregon representatives recently made trips to Washington, DC to propose and build support among congressional lawmakers and trade associations for reasonable maritime labor law reform, and the company says it has worked closely with Sen. Risch and his staff to finalize the PLUS Act for Senate consideration.

ICTSI has been locked in a battle for about three years with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which the terminal operator has accused of intentionally slowing down productivity by about 47 percent in 2014 as part of a labor dispute.

“This legislation represents an important change to maritime labor law that will go a long way toward ensuring a more stable work environment at West Coast ports, one in which innocent parties are not subjected to severe economic damage by unfair union slowdown tactics,” Ganda said.

The PLUS Act has been referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. More about the bill can be read at

Kvichak Building Research Catamaran

By Mark Edward Nero

Seattle-based Vigor Kvichak Marine Industries, a subsidiary of Vigor Industrial, has been awarded a contract to design and build a 48-foot all-aluminum foil-assisted research catamaran for the King County, Wash. environmental Laboratory.

The vessel is expected to operate in Puget Sound, the Straits of Juan de Fuca and adjoining inland waterways. Its purpose is to conduct water-sampling research along with marine buoy calibration, maintenance and retrieval, tours and shoreline surveys, dive and remotely operated underwater (ROV) operations.

This will be the 13th foil-assisted catamaran Kvichak has built since 2000. Delivery is scheduled for the summer of 2016.

“King County’s environmental lab serves a mission to help protect and enhance water quality in the Puget Sound region so our citizens can continue to enjoy it for years to come,” said Keith Whittemore, Vigor’s executive vice president of business development. “That’s definitely a mission near and dear to our hearts.”

The vessel will be powered by Cummins Tier 3 engines, Hamilton waterjets and Twin Disc gears. Other features include a full-service water quality lab, chemical storage locker, 36-by-36-inch moon pool on the aft deck, AirMar weather station 200WX system, two staterooms with one berth each and full galley with settee.

Additional features include an overall length of 48 feet; a beam of 18 feet 8 inches; a HamiltonJet modular electronic control system; a marine crane with 2,200-pound capacity winch; and a Furuno NavNet navigation system.

Puget Sound Ports’ Container Volumes Flat

By Mark Edward Nero

Container volumes through the Puget Sound’s two largest ports grew moderately in May, despite a drop in vessel calls, according to data released June 17 by the ports. 312,174 TEUs were moved last month, compared to 312,716 during the same month in 2014.

Vessel calls at the ports of Seattle and Tacoma fell five percent year-to-date in May, with the ports attributing the occurrence to the trend of larger vessels bringing additional cargo through the ports.
Container volumes improved nearly two percent year-to-date in May to 1,428,057 TEUs. Containerized exports improved two percent year to date to 499,620 TEUs, while imports remained flat, up just one percent to 579,029 TEUs.

Domestic volumes were up three percent to 349,408 TEUs.

In other year-to-date cargo news, breakbulk volumes were down three percent to 117,305 metric tons; grain exports fell three percent to 3,426,768 metric tons; and auto imports grew five percent to 75,254 units.

The figures are for both ports combined; individual data for each port was not made available. The ports of Seattle and Tacoma began reporting joint data six months ago after announcing a plan last fall to form the so-called Northwest Seaport Alliance, which they say would strengthen the Puget Sound gateway and attract more cargo to the region.

Together, Seattle and Tacoma comprise the third-largest container gateway in North America; however, their share of the West Coast market has been falling over the past decade.

POSD Signs Terminal Development Agreement

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of San Diego says that as part of its efforts to increase cargo business, it has entered into a conditional agreement with Mitsubishi Cement Corp. for potential future operations at Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal.

The conditional agreement, which was approved by the Board of Port Commissioners June 11, allows the port to conduct a project review under the California Environmental Quality Act in anticipation of Mitsubishi Cement’s potential operations at the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal on San Diego Bay.

The port says the agreement facilitates Mitsubishi Cement’s potential development, lease and operation of a cement transfer and storage facility at the terminal. The conditional agreement envisions contributions by Mitsubishi Cement toward modernizing the terminal.

“The agreement with Mitsubishi Cement Corp. is a key step in the long term redevelopment and modernization of the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal and helps us build momentum for increasing volume in one of our three core cargo areas: breakbulk, refrigerated containers and bulk,” Maritime Director Joel Valenzuela said. “This partnership supports our efforts to realize the potential of Tenth Avenue.”

Mitsubishi Cement, which was formed in 1988, manufactures all major and specialty cements used in California and Nevada.