Friday, December 18, 2015

NWSA Monthly Container Volumes Continue Growth

By Mark Edward Nero

The Northwest Seaport Alliance, a marine cargo operating partnership of the ports of Seattle and Tacoma, said Dec. 16 that it saw its container volumes improve six percent year to date in November, marking its ninth consecutive month of growth.

Containerized exports improved 11 percent year to date to 1,209,562 TEUs on the strength of Washington state’s agricultural sector. The state is home to one of the most productive growing regions in the world, and Seaport Alliance terminals provide simple access to markets overseas.

Containerized imports rose five percent year to date to 1.32 million TEUs, while domestic volumes remained flat at 807,009 TEUs. Through the first 11 months of the year, the NWSA has handled 3,339,057 TEUs, according to data from the ports.

In the month of November, the ports moved a reported total of 283,945 TEUs, compared to 240,578 units during the same month last year, an 18 percent jump.

Among the reasons for the increase was that November 2014 marked the beginning of the West Coast port disruptions during contract negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association.

The ports also reported that auto imports continued to be strong in November and were up seven percent year to date to 168,893 units.

Detailed information about the ports’ current and historical volumes can be seen at

1st 18,000-TEU Ship Coming to America

By Mark Edward Nero

The CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin, an 18,000-TEU megaship named in honor of one of America’s founding fathers, is expected to call at the Port of Los Angeles on Dec. 26 and the Port of Oakland on Dec. 31, making it the largest container ship of this capacity ever to call at any port in the United States.

The vessel, operated by France-based shipping line CMA CGM, is the world’s 10th largest containership, at 399.2 meters (about 1,310 feet) by 54 meters (177 feet). It was launched from a Chinese shipyard in November and delivered Dec. 4.

The ship is expected to be deployed on the Pearl River Express, a service connecting the main China ports – including Xiamen, Nansha and Yantian – with US West Coast ports, including the APM terminal at the Port of LA’s Pier 400.

“It’s fitting that the largest container ship to ever traverse North American waters would make its first call right here at the Port of Los Angeles,” LA Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a prepared statement. “The arrival of the CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin sends a powerful message that our port stands among the world’s greatest, and that we are prepared to continue growing and adapting to the demands of our global economy.”

Currently, the largest ships serving the US West Coast can only carry a maximum of 14,000 TEUs. CMA CGM says it has been working closely with the Los Angeles and Oakland ports to ensure there is sufficient infrastructure to support the 18,000-TEU vessel and that it looks forward to working with other ports throughout the US as they begin similar assessments of their infrastructure.

The Port of Oakland says that included among the steps it has taken to improve its infrastructure are dredging berths and channels to 50-foot depths; raising the height of cranes that load and unload vessels; and modernizing marine terminals to handle increased import and export volumes.

Until now, vessels the size of the Benjamin Franklin have been deployed exclusively in the Asia-Europe trade, which is the world’s busiest container shipping route.

Port of San Diego Awarded Improvements Grant

By Mark Edward Nero

The California Division of Boating and Waterways has awarded the Port of San Diego a $6.1 million grant for a major improvement project at the port’s Shelter Island Boat Launching Facility.

The award was announced at the most recent meeting of the Boating and Waterways Commission, held at the port’s administration building in November.

The estimated $9.5 million improvement project entails improving the Shelter Island launch ramp’s basin by enlarging the maneuvering area, replacing the worn-out launch ramp, increasing the lengths of the boarding floats, providing a concrete drop-off area for kayaks, and bringing the restroom to ADA standards. The port says it also anticipates receiving $3.35 million in project funding from the Wildlife Conservation Board.

The Shelter Island Boat Launching Facility was built in the mid-1950s and is used by recreational boaters from the general public. Small yachts, inboard and out-board motorboats, private fishing boats, fishing tournament boats and amphibious tour buses all compete for space at the launch ramp and its basin.

“It’s the most popular boat launch in San Diego Bay with nearly 50,000 boat launches a year,” Board of Port Commissioners Chair Dan Malcolm said. “However, this is a heavily congested facility that needs improvement.”

When completed, the new launch facility basin is expected to be 82 percent larger: the new entry/exit point would increase from 25 feet to 60 feet and new walkways and public viewing platforms will be added, as well as a separate area for hand-launched watercraft.

The Port of San Diego said it expects to solicit bids for the project in the fall of 2016, with construction taking place between December 2016 and December 2017.

POLA Container Volumes Up 7 Percent

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of Los Angeles handled a total of 709,968 TEUs in November 2015, a jump of seven percent compared to the same period last year, according to data that was released Dec. 16.

Imports improved 7.6 percent to 358,423 TEUs in November compared to the previous year, however exports dropped 5.7 percent to 142,020 TEUs in November. Factoring in empties, which increased 16.5 percent, overall November volumes of 709,968 increased seven percent compared to November 2014.

“We’ve seen container volumes at and above 700,000 TEUs for the past six months, which demonstrates consistency and the strength of our supply chain partners,” Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said. “With larger vessels coming into the transpacific trade this month… we can further show the gains we have made this year in terms of effectively moving greater volumes through our port.”

For the first 11 months of 2015, overall volumes of 7,534,181 TEUs are down 1.9 percent compared to the same period in 2014. For the fiscal year so far, the port has seen 3.63 million TEUs so far, nearly identical to the 3.62 million during FY 2015. The new fiscal year began July 1.

Current and past data container counts for the Port of Los Angeles is available at

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

NASSCO Delivers LNG-Ready Tanker

By Mark Edward Nero

General Dynamics NASSCO has launched the first ship in a series of “ECO Class” tankers for the fleet of SEA-Vista, a Florida-based company that operates a fleet of US-flag product tankers servicing the US coastwise trade of crude oil, petroleum and chemical products.

The christening and launch ceremony was held Dec. 12 at NASSCO’s San Diego shipyard.

The tanker, Independence, is a 610-foot, 50,000 deadweight-ton, and LNG-conversion-ready product tanker with a 330,000-barrel cargo capacity. Construction on the ship began in November 2014.

The Independence will be operated by Seabulk Tankers.

“We are pleased to complete this important milestone for the first in a series of three fuel-efficient, ECO Jones Act product tankers,” Seabulk Tankers President & CEO Daniel Thorogood said.

As part of the ceremony, the ship’s sponsor, RaceTrac Petroleum CEO Allison Moran, christened the ship with a traditional champagne bottle break over the ship’s hull, and Jayne Rathburn, former CEO/owner of US Joiner, pulled the trigger to release the ship into the San Diego Bay.

The new tanker symbolizes the US shipping industry trend toward cleaner, more fuel-efficient modes of transporting product. On Dec. 4, NASSCO delivered the company’s first ECO Class tanker, the Lone Star State, to American Petroleum Tankers.

A video of the Dec. 12 launch ceremony can be viewed here:

Storms Close 9 Pacific Northwest Ports

By Mark Edward Nero

On Dec. 11, two US Coast Guard captains of the port temporarily closed nine maritime entrances in the Pacific Northwest – seven in Oregon, two in Washington – due to severe sea conditions and large amounts of debris in the water caused by a string of storms.

The entrances are expected to remain closed during the duration of the inclement weather, which began December 7 and includes heavy rain and snow.

In Washington, the port of Grays Harbor in Westport; and Quillayute River in LaPush were closed; in Oregon, the ports of Chetco River in Brookings; Coos Bay; Umpqua River in Winchester Bay; Siuslaw River in Florence; Yaquina Bay in Newport; Depoe Bay; Tillamook Bay in Girabaldi were all closed.

The Columbia River was also closed to all maritime traffic.

The action was taken after several storms carrying strong winds and heavy rainfall crossed the Pacific Northwest last week and caused flooding and landslides in parts of Oregon and Washington. Flood waters and landslides caused large amounts of debris to flow in the river systems causing potential problems with maritime traffic.

“My job as a captain of the port is to ensure safety throughout the maritime infrastructure and part of that is to sometimes close the lanes of traffic that mariners use,” said Capt. Dan Travers, commander Sector Columbia River and captain of the port for all ports in Oregon and southwest Washington. “The storms that we all experienced over the last several days have made it dangerous for mariners to transit in and out of our many rivers due to severe sea conditions and debris.”

As of Dec. 14, the maritime entrances were still closed to all recreational and uninspected passenger vessels, according to the Portland branch of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration.

Foss, TOTE Maritime Alaska Name New Execs

By Mark Edward Nero

TOTE Maritime Alaska announced Dec. 8 that Michael Noone will assume the role of president of the company on Jan. 1, 2016. He takes the place of John Parrott, who is joining TOTE’s sister company, Foss Maritime, as its Chief Operating Officer.

“We thank John Parrott for his many contributions, accomplishments and leadership for TOTE Maritime Alaska,” said TOTE President & CEO Anthony Chiarello. “We wish him well in his new role at Foss and look forward to TOTE’s continued success under Mike’s capable leadership.”

Parrott was TOTE Maritime Alaska president for the past six years. He began at TOTE Maritime in 1992 as the Chief Mate of the SS Northern Lights, and in 1994 he came ashore, and later became the General Manager for Sea Star Stevedore, which manages the loading, discharge and terminal operations for TOTE Maritime.

In 2002, Parrott returned to TOTE Maritime as the Alaska General Manager, where he was later promoted to Vice President/GM, then VP of Commercial before being named President of TOTE Maritime Alaska in 2009.

In his new role as Foss’ COO, Parrott will be responsible for overseeing key operating divisions, developing and delivering on strategic plans, and optimizing day-to-day operations through implementation of best practices throughout the organization.

Noone joined TOTE Maritime Alaska as Chief Operating Officer in August 2013, and brought with him 28 years of experience in the shipping and logistics field. As COO, he has been responsible for creating strategic and operating plans for sales, pricing and operations for the company.

Oakland Monthly Imports Up 8.7 Percent

By Mark Edward Nero

November’s containerized import volume at the Port of Oakland jumped 8.7 percent from the same month a year ago, the port reported Dec. 11. It was the eighth such increase at the port in the past nine months.

The port speculated that healthy consumer demand might have been behind November’s import increase. Containerized trade volume typically slows at year-end as retailers complete holiday inventory buildups.

Despite the encouraging import volumes however, total container volume – imports, exports and empty containers – declined 0.3 percent last month compared to November 2014, according to port data.

The drop was cased in part by a whopping 24.3 percent decline in the number of empty containers imported during the month. The number of full containers exported dropped also month-over-month, but only 1.5 percent compared to November 2014.

The export volume decline, according to the port is attributed in part to weaker demand in China for US goods.

The port said that its import volume for the first 11 months of 2015 is up 0.4 percent from last year, and termed the performance significant in light of a nearly 40 percent volume decline last winter.

“We’re finishing the year much stronger than we started,” Maritime Director John Driscoll said. “Our goal now is to keep the momentum up heading into 2016.”

Complete 2015 cargo statistics for the port are available at