Friday, September 11, 2015

Water Seepage Could Delay Panama Canal Project

By Mark Edward Nero

During stress testing of new locks for the Panama Canal, water seepage was detected in a specific area of the new Pacific Ocean-side locks in a section that separates the middle chamber and lower chamber, the Panama Canal Authority revealed Sept. 7.

This development means that the opening of the canal expansion, which has had a handful of delays already and is currently planned for spring 2016, could be pushed back again.

The Panama Canal Authority said it is now awaiting a formal report from the construction contractor, which will be issued following detailed inspections. The report is expected to include a root cause analysis, as well as the recommended repair methodology.

Upon evaluating the report's findings, the Canal Authority says, it will assess and communicate if the project’s completion timeline will be affected in any way.

The Authority also says it has designated two independent external structural engineers to conduct an objective evaluation of the reasons for seepage and assess the construction contractor’s solution.

Despite the setback, the expansion project has now reached 93 percent completion and work continues in other areas of the project, according to the Authority. Updates are expected to be issued by the Canal Authority as information becomes available.

The $5 billion Panama Canal expansion, which is expected to allow post-Panamax ships to travel through the canal en route to East Coast terminals, thereby bypassing the US West Coast, was initially scheduled to be completed in 2014 to coincide with the 100-year anniversary of the opening of the existing canal, but snafus have delayed the completion by nearly two years so far.

POLB Record Cargo Numbers Continue

By Mark Edward Nero

For the second straight month, the Port of Long Beach has broken its own record for monthly cargo volume. In what the port says is a clear sign of customer confidence, overall cargo volume grew by 22.8 percent in August compared to the same month last year, according to newly released data.

Cargo volume reached 703,652 TEUs last month, an amount that beats July’s cargo volume and marks two consecutive months of record-breaking volumes. A total of 690,244 TEUs moved through the port in July, which was an 18.4-percent increase compared to July 2014.

A total of 1,393,896 TEUs moved through the Port of Long Beach in July and August combined.
“Our partners once again have expressed their confidence in the Port of Long Beach and we thank them for their business,” Port of Long Beach CEO Jon Slangerup said in a statement. “We have not seen volume like this in our entire 104-year history, and that is the clearest sign that consumers are buying.”

Not only did imports climb to 358,262 TEUs, or a 19.1 percent increase over last year, but exports grew 9.4 percent to 138,765 TEUs. Empty containers, meanwhile, rose 42.1 percent to 206,625 TEUs.

Through the first eight months of 2015, Long Beach cargo numbers are growing faster than the overall economy and are up 5.4 percent compared to the first eight months of 2014.

For the fiscal year, which began in October 2014, the port has so far moved 6.4 million TEUs, a 3.9 percent increase over the 6.1 million units moved during the same 11 months during FY 2014.
More details on the cargo numbers are available at

WPPA Accepting Annual Award Nominations

By Mark Edward Nero

The Washington Public Ports Association is accepting nominations for its annual awards, which salute individuals and ports whose efforts are seen as deserving special recognition.

The WPPA is accepting nominations in three categories: Port of the Year, the Life Member Award and the Outstanding Service to the Industry Award.

The Port of the Year Award is to recognize a member port that has demonstrated exceptional success in the industry. The recipient will receive an individual plaque, plus the port’s name will be added to a plaque in the WPPA office. The award will be presented during the WPPA’s annual business meeting, Nov. 20 at the Renaissance Hotel in Seattle.

Regarding nominations for Honorary Life Members, nominees must have served as an officer or committee chairman or employee of the WPPA.

The intent of the “Outstanding Service to the Port Industry” award is to provide recognition to commissioners and staff, who upon retirement or departure have provided “a significant and meaningful contribution to the success of a public port district or the public port industry,” according to the WPPA.

Nominations may be made by any port to either nominate itself or another WPPA member. The Ports Association asks that nomination letters be limited to four pages at most, and that letters explicitly describe the reasons for the nomination.

Nominations must be received by the Association’s office by 3 pm Sept. 29 to be eligible. The mailing and street address is 1501 Capitol Way S., Suite 304 Olympia, WA 98501.

The Executive Committee will review all applications for each award and forward its recommendations to the Board of Trustees. For more information on the nomination and awards process, call the WPPA at (360) 943-0760.

Cruise Season Begins at POSD

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of San Diego’s cruise season kicked off Sept. 9 with the arrival of Celebrity Cruises’ Infinity. The 2,170-passenger vessel stopped at San Diego harbor as part of a nine-night Pacific coastal cruise that began and ends in San Francisco. The cruise also visits Monterey, Santa Barbara, Catalina and Ensenada.

Last year, the Port of San Diego completed a $31 million project that completely redesigned its North Embarcadero area, adjacent to where the cruise ships berth. Improvements encompassed an area from the Midway Pier to the B Street Cruise Ship Terminal. Widened esplanades, public seating areas, jacaranda groves and public art now greet cruise guests as they embark or disembark, creating a grand first impression of San Diego for cruise visitors.

The port’s cruise season runs from September through May. Currently, 65 vessels are scheduled to arrive, a number that could change as the season progresses, according to the port.

The port’s homeported lines are Disney Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Holland America Line and Celebrity Cruises. On average, each homeported cruise has an economic impact of $2 million to the region, according to the port, with that impact coming from passenger spending, businesses servicing the vessel, transportation services, crew spending and more.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Trains Collide at Port of Tacoma

By Mark Edward Nero

One person was injured and later hospitalized and four cars were derailed after a moving Tacoma Rail train crashed into a BNSF train that was idling on the same tracks on the morning of Sept. 3.

The crash happened around 7 am near Lincoln Avenue and Port of Tacoma Road. An inbound BNSF train loaded with containers of general freight was idle on the track when it was struck by a Tacoma Rail train, according to a BNSF spokesman.

According to Tacoma Rail, the train was traveling at under 10 MPH when the incident occurred.

Tacoma Rail spokesman Chris Gleason said the Tacoma train was making an attempt to couple with the BNSF train when it accidentally collided with the train instead. The Tacoma Rail train operator was taken to a local hospital but was soon released; the BNSF driver was not hurt.

No cargo spilled and equipment was brought in to place the four derailed Tacoma Rail cars back on track. The rail line, which is used by an estimated 50 trains a day, was not affected by the accident, according to both companies, but a section of road in the area was temporarily closed by police.

Willard Marine Awarded Patrol Boat Contract

By Mark Edward Nero

The US State Department has awarded a contract to Anaheim, California-based Willard Marine to provide the Philippine National Police Maritime Group with patrol vessels equipped to conduct search and rescue operations along Philippine maritime borders.

The contract, which was announced Sept. 3, marks the third time Willard Marine has been chosen to provide military vessels to the Philippines. Willard has also developed boats recently for international military use by the Ukrainian Navy and Nepalese Army.

“For 35 years, Willard Marine has built strong, dependable vessels for American and international military agencies around the world,” Willard Marine President Ulrich Gottschling said. “We are confident that the Philippine National Police will get tremendous use of their new Willard patrol boats for many years, and we hope to provide them with additional vessels as their mission requirements grow and evolve over time.”

Under the contract, Willard Marine will provide the Philippine National Police with 30-foot aluminum patrol boats with twin 480-HP engines and dual water jets, plus 34-foot patrol boats with 600-HP engines and dual water jets.

The cabins will feature shock-mitigating seats, heating and air conditioning. Gun posts will be positioned forward and aft, and the boats will have a foam collar made with 40oz polyurethane fabric.

The customized patrol craft for the Philippines is derived from a former SeaArk Marine boat design that Willard Marine acquired the licensing rights to last year.

Since its founding in 1957, Willard Marine has developed watercraft for the US military, Department of Homeland Security, foreign governments, law enforcement agencies, search and rescue organizations and private companies.

The company is also the exclusive builder of commercial vessels originally designed by SeaArk Marine and Crystaliner.

Hueneme Port Receives Development Grant

By Mark Edward Nero

The Oxnard Harbor District, which operates the Port of Hueneme, was awarded a grant of nearly $1.5 million by the US Economic Development Administration on Aug. 24, which the port says it plans to use to make wharf and berth improvements.

The grant provides funding to prepare for the deepening at the port as well as improvements to the pier and wharf, which would provide access to larger capacity vessels.

“This funding sets the stage for us to modernize our dockside infrastructure, a capital project needed to advance our Harbor deepening project,” port Executive Director and CEO Kristin Decas explained. “We appreciate the support of the US Economic Development Administration team for providing us with funding to enable the port to keep pace with the dynamic changes in the maritime industry.”

According to the Department of Commerce, the project will assist the port with the export initiatives set forth under the Obama Administration’s National Export and Look South initiatives to remove barriers to trade and help companies do business with Mexico, respectively.

The Port of Hueneme is a hub for import and export for a variety of cargo including automobiles, tractors and heavy machinery, fresh fruit and produce, liquid fertilizer and squid.

The EDA, an agency within the US Department of Commerce, makes investments in economically distressed communities in order to create jobs and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth. The port estimates the funding will create 127 new jobs and save more than 3,000 existing ones.

“It will increase our capability to improve and maximize our port’s infrastructure which will expand our operational effectiveness, create well-paying jobs and keep us competitive in the global economy,” Port Commission President Jess Herrera said of the grant.

SF Bay Ship Backlog Dwindling

By Mark Edward Nero

A backlog of container ships crowding the San Francisco Bay is diminishing, according to the Port of Oakland. The port reported no vessels at anchor waiting for berths at its five marine terminals as of Sept. 1, the sixth straight day of no waiting after a summer-long buildup of ships.

“The vessels waiting to berth have been declining the past three weeks,” Oakland Maritime Director John Driscoll said. “Ships are arriving in Oakland and going straight to berth – just what our customers need and how we expect the port to operate every day.”

As many as 13 ships filled the San Francisco Bay anchorage in July, delayed by a labor shortage that slowed vessel loading and unloading in port. Since then, the number has steadily dwindled.

An influx of additional longshore labor over the past six weeks has helped eliminate the backlog, according to the port. About 150 more dockworkers are joining the work force to accelerate vessel operations in Oakland and are being augmented by more than 300 casual or part-time workers.
Another 30 marine clerk positions are being created as well, according to the port.

Throughout late August and early September, all requests for labor have been filled at Port of Oakland marine terminals. For much of the summer, only 50-to-70 percent of the labor orders had been filled.

The port has cautioned, however, that vessel backlogs could reoccur until all longshore labor reinforcements are in place, which could take another four to six weeks. Growth in the labor force is expected to be complete in time for the autumn peak-shipping season.

The port has recently proposed congestion remedies including Saturday gates and a common pool of container chassis to help harbor truckers move containers more quickly.