Friday, October 2, 2015

Removal of Contaminated Tacoma Sediment Begins

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of Tacoma has begun dredging contaminated sediments in Blair Waterway in preparation to expand Pier 4, which is located within the major South Puget Sound waterway of Commencement Bay.

The work became necessary after the port detected a marine biocide, called tributyltin, while completing a dredging inspection for the site evaluation to expand Pier 4 for larger ships. The Port of Tacoma has agreed to complete the cleanup of the sediments, which the US Environmental Protection Agency will oversee.

The dredging work began September 15th.

The port plans to dredge an additional 500,000 cubic yards of clean sediment to make the base of the pier deeper as part of the pier expansion.

In an effort to contain costs and remain competitive, shipping lines are increasing the size of the container ships, providing economies of scale. The planned upgrades to Pier 4 will allow Husky Terminal to handle two of the worlds largest ships simultaneously, Port of Tacoma Commission President Don Johnson said. An estimated 1,500 jobs in Washington State are connected to the movement of cargo through Husky Terminal. These berth improvements will add capacity, creating the demand for additional family-wage jobs in the region.

A 2013 investigation performed by the Port of Tacoma showed that the fill material used to create the bulkhead under Pier 4 was contaminated with TBT.

Developed to be toxic to aquatic life, TBT is a marine biocide, commonly added to ship paint to prevent mollusks from sticking onto vessels and other objects that contain the chemical. EPA canceled all TBT antifouling paint product registrations in December of 2005.

The port removed the Pier 4 deck and pilings between May and August and plans to dredge about 40,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediments. The contaminated sediments are to be dewatered and trucked to a waste disposal facility. The Superfund phase of the work is expected to be finished by April of 2016 at an overall cost of $19.3 million.

Once the contamination extraction is complete, the Port of Tacoma begins the second phase of the Blair Waterway extraction and reconstruction, which includes additional piling removal, deck demolition, dredging and reconfiguration of the existing pier.

Largest-Ever Seaspan Bulk Barge

By Mark Edward Nero

On Sept. 29, Seaspan Marine unveiled the newest addition to its marine fleet a 16,000-ton barge named Seaspan 252 during an official commissioning ceremony at Seaspans North Vancouver barge maintenance terminal.

The 374-by-90-foot bulk barge is the largest of its kind in Canada, and can carry the equivalent of 1,454 dump truck loads of limestone.

The Seaspan 252, an open ocean, ABS classed + A1 barge, is the companys fourth new barge over the past 10 months, following Seaspan 211 and Seaspan 212 in June and Solid 66 in late 2014.

The four new barges add a total of 44,000 tons of barging capacity and an almost 50 percent rise in volume to Seaspans fleet. The additional barges increase Seaspans ability to handle specialty and project cargo and prepare the company to meet the needs of both its current customers, as well as those in the LNG business.

Seaspan 252 was commissioned by Linda Peters, wife of Daniel Peters, a vice president of manufacturing with Ash Grove Cement Co. The barge is scheduled to enter service later this month for Ash Grove, hauling lime rock from Texada Island to Portland and Seattle.

Todays celebration exemplifies our latest investment in the future of British Columbias marine sector, Seaspan CEO Jonathan Whitworth said during the ceremony. With the addition of four large barges to our fleet in less than a year, Seaspan continues to help drive Canadas marine industrial base.

Rebar Lacking in Panama Locks

By Mark Edward Nero

The contractor responsible for the design and construction of a set of locks for the expansion of the Panama Canal says it has found the cause of localized seepage found last month in the concrete sill between the lower and middle chamber of the Canals expanded Pacific Ocean-facing locks.

In a recent letter to the Panama Canal Authority, contractor Grupo Unidos por el Canal, known as GUPC, wrote that the localized seepage was the result of insufficient steel reinforcement in the area that was subjected to stress from extreme condition testing. After examination of all the other sills in both lock complexes, GUPC stated that in addition to reinforcing the sill that presented the issue, they would also reinforce the sills in the first two sets of locks as a preventative measure, even though the sills have not presented any issue.

Canal Authority said that GUPC also verbally indicated that the completion date for the expansion project remains April 2016, as planned; however, the Authority said it is awaiting formal confirmation from GUPC in the form of a comprehensive report which should also include the root cause of the detected filtrations.

The Panama Canal Authority revealed Sept. 7 that 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 separating the middle and lower chambers.

Despite the setback, the expansion project has now reached 93 percent completion, according to the Canal Authority, and work continues in other areas of the project.

The $5 billion Panama Canal expansion is expected to allow post-Panamax ships to travel through the canal en route to East Coast terminals, thereby bypassing the US West Coast. It was initially scheduled to be complete 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.

Maritime Champion is California Congressman

By Mark Edward Nero

On Sept. 30, the Washington DC-based American Maritime Partnership recognized US Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) with the 2015 Champion of Maritime Award, honoring Hunter for what the AMP says is his extraordinary support and dedication to the American maritime industry.

Rep. Hunter, a US Marine Corps veteran, chairs the federal Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation and is a member of the Seapower Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.

Chairman Hunter has been a tremendously valued champion for the domestic American maritime industry, serving as a leader who truly understands our industrys critical role to the vitality and security of our nation, AMP Chair Tom Allegretti said. From his time in the service to his seat as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, Congressman Hunter has witnessed firsthand what it takes to sustain a strong maritime industry and because of his dedication, we are honored to provide him with our highest honor the Champion of Maritime Award.

In June, Hunter joined hundreds of veterans and active military at the American Maritime Partnerships Military to Maritime career fair in San Diego where he met with men and women looking to transfer their skills learned in the military into a career in the maritime industry.

The true champions of maritime are the hundreds of thousands of highly-skilled service men and women in the American maritime industry who tirelessly work to protect our waterways such a strength in defense wouldnt be possible without the Jones Act, Hunter said. I will continue to vocalize my support for the American maritime industry; one that creates good paying family-wage jobs, secures our borders, and fuels our economy.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Port of Walla Walla Director Retiring

By Mark Edward Nero

Port of Walla Walla Executive Director Jim Kuntz announced Sept. 22 that he’s stepping down from his post after more than two decades on the job. He is expected to depart in June 2016.

Kuntz has been the port’s executive director since July 1989 and since then has been responsible for day-to-day port operations, including the oversight of businesses and operations at the Walla Walla Regional Airport.

The port is also the lead economic development agency for Walla Walla County and helps creation of family wage jobs and expansion of the region’s tax base via the attraction of new investment. Prior to coming to Walla Walla, he was the assistant port manager for the Port of Benton from June 1986 to July 1989. Upon his departure at age 55, Kuntz will have 30 years of service with Washington ports.

He told the local media that he is not planning on leaving the workforce.

“I am without a doubt looking forward to starting a second career,” Kuntz told the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin. “I am young enough to do that.”

Monday, September 28, 2015

Shell Suspends Offshore Alaska Drilling

By Mark Edward Nero

Shell Oil on September 28 said it is indefinitely suspending exploration activity in offshore Alaska for the foreseeable future due to a lack of oil and gas found in its Burger J exploration well.

The Burger J exploration well, located in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea, is about 150 miles from Barrow, Alaska, in about 150 feet of water. Shell drilled the well to a total depth of 6,800 feet this past summer in a basin located in an area equivalent to half the size of the Gulf of Mexico.

Shell said it found indications of oil and gas in the Burger J well, but they are “not sufficient to warrant further exploration” in the Burger prospect. The well is to be sealed and abandoned in accordance with US regulations, the company said.

“Shell continues to see important exploration potential in the basin, and the area is likely to ultimately be of strategic importance to Alaska and the US,” Shell Upstream Americas Director Marvin Odum said in a statement. “However, this is a clearly disappointing exploration outcome for this part of the basin.”

Shell is now ceasing further exploration activity in offshore Alaska for the foreseeable future, a decision that the company says reflects both the Burger J well result plus the high costs associated with the project and the challenging and unpredictable federal regulatory environment in offshore Alaska.

Shell’s drilling fleet was the subject of protests during the spring and summer while it was moored and anchored within Puget Sound.

USCG Detains Cargo Vessel in Tacoma

By Mark Edward Nero

The M/V Rena, a 751-foot Bahamian-flagged cargo vessel, was detained by the US Coast Guard at the Port of Tacoma on September 24 due to safety deficiencies. The vessel is required to remain in port until the deficiencies are rectified.

The detainment occurred after a Port State Control exam team from the Coast Guard’s Puget Sound sector conducted a routine port state and international ship and port facility security exam aboard the M/V Rena.

During a Port State Control exam, the Coast Guard conducts an extensive inspection of systems, including fire protection, life saving, machinery, navigation and pollution control systems, and assesses the crew's ability to respond to onboard emergencies.

A vessel that is determined to be substandard is subject to a detention and must remain in port until it can proceed to sea without presenting a danger to persons on board or without presenting an unreasonable threat of harm to the marine environment.

While aboard the M/V Rena, the Coast Guard says it discovered multiple areas that did not meet regulations set forth in the International Maritime Organization’s Safety of Life at Sea Convention. The most severe deficiency involved improper pressurization of the crew’s self-contained breathing apparatus. Malfunctioning SCBAs would prevent the crew from safely responding to a fire aboard the vessel.

“Coast Guard examiners determined that key safety procedures were inadequate and the crew did not have the necessary equipment to safely respond to an onboard emergency," said Cmdr. Matt Edwards, chief of prevention at Sector Puget Sound. “We will continue to work with the vessel's crew and the appropriate authorities to ensure that the issues found are corrected before the vessel resumes operations.”

Oakland Port Revenue Reaches All-Time High

By Mark Edward Nero

Operating revenue at the Port of Oakland reached an all-time high in fiscal year 2015, according to newly released data.

On Sept. 25, the port reported $336.6 million in revenue for the fiscal year that ended June 30. The amount was an increase of 4.2 percent from the previous year.

“The result is encouraging, given the challenges we faced,” Executive Director Chris Lytle said. “The job now is to build on our strengths and grow our business.”

The port reported revenue increases during FY 2015 in all three of its major business lines: maritime, aviation and commercial real estate.

Maritime revenue was up 3.9 percent despite a 6.5 percent decline in loaded container volume that followed a labor dispute last winter on the West Coast waterfront.

Aviation rose 3.1 percent due largely, the port says, to an 8.7 percent boost in passenger traffic at Oakland International Airport.

Commercial real estate was up nearly 20 percent.

Additionally, the port said operating expense increased 6.8 percent during FY 2015, which led to an 8.5 percent decline in operating income from the previous year, the amount of which it did not reveal.