Friday, October 30, 2015

Truck Drivers Strike at LA-LB Ports

By Mark Edward Nero

On Oct. 26, port truck drivers, who say they are misclassified as independent contractors instead of employees, began an “unfair labor practice” strike at the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex.

It’s the eighth time in the three years such a strike has taken place. This time, the striking drivers include those who work for two companies: trucking company Pacific 9 Transportation – who have been on an indefinite strike since July – and global transport company XPO Logistics, which has multiple offices in Southern California.

Dozens of drivers are believed to be participating in the strike, although a spokeswoman with Justice For Drivers, the group leading the effort, said they did not have an exact number.

Officials at the two ports have said that the impact of the strike on operations has been minimal and that although some terminals have been picketed, the disruptions have done little to slow down traffic coming in and out of the terminal gates.

Drivers have said they went on strike to protest unfair labor practices, including job misclassification, retaliation, harassment and intimidation for having filed claims for wage theft with the California Labor Commissioner’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.

The indefinite picket is organized in part by the Teamsters union, which for years has pushed to have the drivers recognized as employees with their respective companies so that they may then be eligible to join the union.

The Harbor Trucking Association, which represents a collective of LA area transport companies, has said the Teamsters and other outside interest groups don’t represent the majority of its drivers, and that independent contractor status offers drivers flexibility and the opportunity to own their own small businesses.

NASSCO Holds Keel Laying Ceremony

By Mark Edward Nero

On Oct. 23, General Dynamics NASSCO hosted a keel laying ceremony for an ECO tanker, the Garden State, which is now under construction for American Petroleum Tankers at NASSCO’s San Diego shipyard.

During the ceremony, San Diego County Board of Supervisors member Greg Cox authenticated the keel of the tanker by welding his initials onto a steel plate; the plate is to be permanently affixed to the ship’s keel and remain with the vessel throughout its time in service.

The ECO tanker is the third of a five-tanker contract between General Dynamics NASSCO and American Petroleum, which calls for the design and construction of five 50,000 deadweight ton, LNG-conversion-ready product carriers with a 330,000 barrel cargo capacity.

The 610-foot-long tankers are of a new design that is expected to have improved fuel efficiency, and include the latest environmental protection features, including a ballast water treatment system.

“When delivered, these tankers will be among the most fuel-efficient and environmentally-friendly tankers anywhere in the world,” NASSCO Vice President and General Manager Kevin Graney.

The five-tanker APT contract, along with NASSCO’s current backlog, is helping to sustain and grow its current workforce of more than 4,000 people.

The ships were designed by DSEC, a subsidiary of Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering of Busan, South Korea. The design incorporates improved fuel efficiency concepts through several features, including a G-series MAN ME slow-speed main engine and an optimized hull form.

The tankers will also have dual-fuel-capable auxiliary engines and the ability to accommodate future installation of an LNG fuel-gas system.

Portland Oil Spill Cleanup Completed

By Mark Edward Nero

The cleanup of a diesel fuel spill from a tank barge at the Kinder Morgan Bulk Terminal in northwest Portland is complete, US Coast Guard personnel said Oct. 28. The USCG had reported the release of 418 gallons of diesel into the Willamette River took place around 5:15 am on Oct. 26.

Containment boom was placed around the area where the diesel spill occurred to prevent the fuel from spreading and absorbent boom and pads were used in cleaning up the spill.

Inspectors with the Coast Guard Incident Management Division in Portland monitored and oversaw the cleanup, while Clean Rivers Cooperative was the contracted cleanup company.

“Facility and vessel response plans were quickly and properly followed by the Kinder Morgan Bulk Terminal and Kirby Offshore Marine allowing for containment boom to be in place helping to mitigate exposure caused by the spill,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Billy Lemos, a pollution responder with the Coast Guard Sector Columbia River Portland incident management detachment.

The Coast Guard investigation of the spill, which was from an above deck fuel tank on the barge, is ongoing. The USCG says that Kirby Offshore Marine, the owner of the tank barge, is fully cooperating with the agency’s investigation of the incident.

Anchorage Employee Receives Crowley Award

By Mark Edward Nero

Crowley Maritime Corp. marine operations director David Ridge was presented with the annual Thomas Crowley Award, the company’s highest honor, at a recent ceremony at the company’s Anchorage, Alaska, office.

Presenting the award before more than 70 employees and senior leaders was Crowley’s Chairman, President and CEO Tom Crowley Jr., the grandson of the company’s founder.

Among those present for the ceremony were two past recipients of the award, marine solutions Vice President Bruce Harland and government relations vice president Craig Tornga. Ridge, a 30-year Crowley employee, was selected for the award, according to the company, because of his reputation for high performance. In his nominating letter, Crowley’s marine services general manager Captain Rod Jones, wrote: “David has proven his competence, loyalty and exemplary performance time and again, both aboard the vessels and in the office. Whether commanding Crowley assets halfway around the world or facilitating a training seminar in Valdez, his commitment to the core principles of safety, integrity and high performance has never waned.”

Ridge joined Crowley in 1984 as a mate, subsequently working aboard a variety of vessels operated by the company, including oil and cargo barges, offshore towing tugs, and ship assist and tanker escort tugs.

He came ashore as port captain in Seattle in 2005, and was later assigned to the position of marine operations manager in Valdez, Alaska. In 2014, he was promoted to his current position.

“I am honored to have received this award, but the recognition really should go to my team,” Ridge said. “Crowley is the most unique and worthwhile company I have ever had the pleasure of working for and it’s the people I work with who make me who I am.”

The Thomas Crowley Award, created in 1985 is symbolized by a limited edition bronze sculpture, which depicts company founder Thomas Crowley ferrying goods to and from ships on San Francisco Bay in the early 1890s.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Whale Watching Boat Sinks, 5 Killed

By Mark Edward Nero

Five people died and one remains missing after a whale-watching vessel sank off the British Columbia coast on the afternoon of Oct. 25. The MV Leviathan II, operated by Jamie’s Whaling Station, had 27 people on board when it sank west of Vargas Island, according to Canadian authorities.

The cause of the accident has not been determined and is under investigation. Although the weather was moderate and the waters were not overly choppy at the time of the incident, the area where the vessel sank is known for its strong currents, local fishermen have said. The vessel’s operator is cooperating with the investigation to determine what exactly happened.

A total of 27 people were aboard the vessel when it sank, 21 of whom were rescued, according to the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Center, which is jointly operated by the Canadian Coast Guard.

The five confirmed dead were all British nationals who were passengers aboard the boat, not crewmembers. Three were tourists vacationing from Britain, and two were currently residing in Canada while retaining their status as British nationals.

In total, four of the confirmed deceased were males while one was female. The age range of the deceased is from 18 to 76 years of age.

Canada’s Transportation Safety Board sent a team of investigators to the area on Oct. 26.

USCG Suspends Towing Captain’s Credential

By Mark Edward Nero

A US Administrative Law Judge has suspended the merchant mariner credential of Cindy Stahl of Bainbridge Island for six months for operating a commercial towing vessel with an invalid credential.

The suspension was issued on Oct. 7, nearly eight months after a Feb. 17 incident where the US Coast Guard says Stahl wrongfully assumed direction and control of the towing vessel Shannon in Elliot Bay with an invalid credential in violation of US laws and regulations.

Stahl’s credential was suspended at the time as a result of a previous violation during which the Coast Guard says she endangered the crew and passengers aboard multiple Washington State ferries by purposely hindering their safe transit in Elliot Bay near Seattle on Oct. 7, 2014.

Stahl had also previously been issued a Letter of Warning by the Coast Guard in March 2013 and had her credential suspended for three months in September 2013, both for other violations of US laws and regulations.

“The Coast Guard’s enforcement actions regarding mariner credentials are remedial and not penal in nature and are designed to maintain standards of competence and conduct necessary to minimize loss of life, personal injury, property damage, and environment harm on US waters,” the senior investigator at Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound, Chief Warrant Officer Brian Hennessy, explained. “When repeat offenses warrant more significant action, the Coast Guard will not hesitate to seek lengthy suspension or revocation of a mariner’s credentials.”

BC Ferries Vessel Undergoing Upgrade

By Mark Edward Nero

British Columbia ferry service provider BC Ferries says its vessel Queen of Cumberland will undergo an $18 million mid-life upgrade from Nov. 21, 2015 to April 17, 2016 to prepare the vessel for another 20 years of service.

The refit work will be carried out at Esquimalt Drydocking Co. in Victoria, BC. Highlights of the vessel’s extensive upgrade include safety, mechanical and customer service improvements, such as the installation of a new boat deck entrance/exit for walk-on passengers; the installation of a new evacuation system and replacement of the rescue boat; installation of a pet area; and a complete elevator system overhaul.

Also planned are upgrades to vessel stairwells, disabled washrooms, the ship intercom and public address system, and CCTV and other security systems.

“A significant upgrade such as the one the Queen of Cumberland is undergoing allows BC Ferries to operate a more efficient vessel for decades into the future,” BC Ferries’ Vice President of Engineering, Mark Wilson, said. “We are confident that our customers will see positive results and we hope they are pleased with this commitment to reliable service.” For the duration of the upgrade, service on the Swartz Bay-Southern Gulf Islands route will be provided by a combination of the ferries Skeena Queen and Bowen Queen.

Since the vehicle capacity of the Bowen Queen is lower than that of the Queen of Cumberland, BC Ferries says it will deploy the Skeena Queen on the Swartz Bay-Southern Gulf Islands route during the morning and late-afternoon periods to better meet expected demand.

The Skeena Queen normally services the Swartz Bay-Fulford Harbour route, where the Bowen Queen will provide service during those same peak times. The vessels will ‘swap routes’ during each weekday, BC Ferries says.

Port Awarded Zero-Emission Equipment Grant

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of Long Beach said Oct. 23 that it has been awarded a $1.2 million grant by the US Environmental Protection Agency to help Long Beach Container Terminal replace diesel-fueled tractors with electric, zero-emission vehicles.

The federal Diesel Emission Reduction Act grant is expected to help LBCT buy eight cargo-handling electric-powered yard tractors for $5.4 million, replacing a matching number of diesel-powered yard tractors and reducing the associated air pollution.

The electric vehicles are critical components of the port’s $1.3 billion Middle Harbor project, which when opened early next year is expected to be among the greenest, most technologically advanced shipping terminals in the world as a virtually all-electric and zero emissions facility.

“These vehicles will cut pollution, providing immediate health benefits to surrounding communities,” Rick Cameron, the port’s Managing Director of Planning and Environmental Affairs said. “They’re an important part of building our Port of the Future and we thank the EPA for recognizing our efforts and awarding us this funding to facilitate the project for LBCT.”

The project’s expected to reduce emissions of smog-forming nitrogen oxides by 40 tons and diesel particulate matter by two tons during the lifecycle of the equipment. Vehicles are scheduled for delivery by summer 2017.

The 10-year-old Diesel Emission Reduction Act provides grants to state, local and tribal governments for programs to reduce emissions from diesel engines. Since 2005, the Port of Long Beach has received about $10.5 million in grants from the EPA to reduce emissions in the Harbor area.