Friday, February 5, 2016

Oakland Terminal Operator Files Chapter 11

By Mark Edward Nero

Port of Oakland terminal operator Outer Harbor LLC, which until early January was known as Ports America Outer Harbor, said Feb. 1 that it is filing for bankruptcy. The announcement comes two weeks after Outer Harbor revealed that it would be closing its Port of Oakland terminal in March.

In a Chapter 11 petition filed in US Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, Outer Harbor listed both assets and liabilities of between $100 million and $500 million.

“We’re deeply disappointed in the action today by Ports America,” Port of Oakland Executive Director Chris Lytle said in a prepared statement. “They made a decision to close their business in Oakland. Since then, we’ve been negotiating with them in good faith for a smooth, orderly transition that protects the interests of shipping lines, cargo owners and others who depend on the terminal. It’s a shame they’ve taken this step.”

Outer Harbor, which had run of five marine terminals at the port, was about six years into a 50-year lease with Oakland.

Ports America said Jan. 19 that it intends to terminate its 50-year lease at Oakland’s Outer Harbor terminal for “business reasons,” according to the port. Although Ports America has said it would continue with business as usual for 30 days, vessel and cargo-handling operations are expected to cease after that, then the terminal itself would close down within 60 days.

Port officials have promised to keep cargo moving efficiently after Ports America leaves, and that vessels would be rerouted to adjacent terminals after the shutdown occurs.

“We’ll find a home for all of the cargo that was going to Ports America Outer Harbor,” Lytle said.

Ex Port of LA Police Chief Pleads Guilty

By Mark Edward Nero

Former Port of Los Angeles Police Chief Ronald Boyd faces up to 11 years in federal prison after pleading guilty Feb. 3 to charges of tax evasion and lying to FBI agents who were conducting a bribery investigation.

Boyd, 58, submitted his plea the day he was scheduled to go to trial on a 16-count grand jury indictment.

Although he had told FBI agents he had no financial interest in a company developing a smartphone app called Portwatch, to allow people to report criminal activities at the port, the truth was that he actually had 13.3 percent interest in it, according to the US Attorney’s Office.

He was given a stake in the company, according to the 16 count indictment against him, by promising that the Portwatch contract would be awarded to a company he set up in 2011 with two partners, BDB Digital Communications.

The parties involved with BDB also allegedly intended to generate revenues by marketing and selling a similar app – called Metrowatch – to other government agencies.

Boyd had been named the port’s police chief in January 2015, three months before being indicted by a federal grand jury.

He was placed on administrative leave by the port after being indicted, and his duties were assumed by Deputy Port Police Chief Thomas Gazsi.

A sentencing hearing for Boyd is scheduled for July 25.

Jensen Maritime Designing Escort Tugs

By Mark Edward Nero

Seattle-based naval architecture and marine engineering company Jensen Maritime has been chosen to provide detailed design services for two, 100-foot long, 40-foot wide, escort tugs for McAllister Towing.

The design services for the New York-based towing and transportation company are to include stability, structure and systems design.

The 12-knot, 6,770-horsepower tugs are to be constructed at Horizon Shipbuilding in Bayou LaBatre, Alabama, and are scheduled for delivery in 2017.

The Brian A. McAllister and the Rosemary McAllister will be the 31st and 32nd ocean going escort/rescue tugboats in the fleet respectively, but will be the first that are Tier IV, meaning they utilize high-efficiency catalytic after-treatment technology to reduce emissions.

Powered by twin Z-drive propulsion units, the tugs will have an approximate bollard pull of 90 short tons, making them suitable for offshore service, ship assist, escort, maneuvering and docking. Both tugs will be Load Lined and Classed by the American Bureau of Shipping as +A1, Towing, Escort, +AMS, and FFV-1.

Since 2001, Jensen has designed 13 tugs for McAllister’s 75-vessel fleet, according to Jensen Vice President Johan Sperling.

“Their continued reliance on our knowledgeable naval architecture and marine engineering services proves that we are a trusted and effective, long-term partner for fleet development and refurbishments,” Sperling said.

Crowley Celebrates Safety Milestone

By Mark Edward Nero

Crowley Maritime Corp.’s tanker escort and docking services group in Valdez, Alaska is celebrating more than seven million man hours and more than six years since logging its last Lost Time Injury (LTI), the company said Feb. 3.

In addition, the company said, it hasn’t had an OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) recordable case in more than two million man-hours while performing tanker assist and escort work for Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.

In 2015, the company logged more than a million man-hours while escorting 236 tankers through Prince William Sound, transporting 185 million barrels of oil in one of the harshest environments in the world.

“We’ve partnered with Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. for more than 25 years,” said Rocky Smith, Crowley’s senior vice president and general manager, petroleum distribution and marine services. “This achievement is a testament to the keen focus on safety our professional mariners and Valdez shore side support team displays.”

In Valdez, Crowley personnel and tugs help protect the environment through a contract with Alyeska Pipeline Service’s Ship Escort/Response Vessel System. As part of the partnership, the company provides tug escorts for tankers traveling through Prince William Sound to and from the Valdez Marine Terminal. They also provide secure docking and undocking operations at the oil product loading terminals.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Coos Bay Harbor Entrance Limitations Imposed

By Mark Edward Nero

On Jan. 29, the Coast Guard captain of the port for all ports in Oregon and southern Washington announced limitations on the movement of deep-draft vessels across the Coos Bay Harbor entrance, citing possible debris in the water from the commercial fishing vessel Sara Jo that capsized near the north jetty last week.

The announcement came four days after the 49-foot fishing vessel Sara Jo became disabled and capsized on the Coos Bay bar, leaving two fishermen reportedly injured and one deceased. The vessel was destroyed in the incident, but Coast Guard waterway managers believe debris from the ship could threaten the safety of certain mariners transiting the area.

Two Panamanian-flagged bulk carriers were immediately affected by the closure: the 640-foot Stellar Stream II and the 656-foot Andalucian Zephyr were notified and instructed not to transit the area until a sonar survey of the channel is conducted this week to determine that the entrance is safe.

“The continued flow of commerce is a priority, but my foremost concern as captain of the port is to ensure the safety of all crews and vessels that come in and out of Oregon and Washington waters,” said Capt. Dan Travers, captain of the port for Sector Columbia River and Sector North Bend.

“I will reevaluate the closure as soon our surveys confirm the channel is clear of navigation hazards,” Travers said.

Although the closure only impacts deep-draft vessels, the Coast Guard has urged all mariners to navigate the area with caution and keep an eye out for debris.

Updated river entrance observations and closures is available at the National Weather Service’s Western US Bar Observation site:

Matson, TOTE, Crowley Win Defense Contracts

By Mark Edward Nero

Oakland-based Matson Navigation and Concord, Calif.-headquartered Patriot Contract Services were among seven U.S. maritime firms that have won contracts to manage, maintain and operate 48 National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF) vessels through January 2024, US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced Jan. 22.

“The US Merchant Marine and National Defense Reserve Fleet play a crucial role in our nation’s security,” Maritime Administrator Chip Jaenichen said in a prepared statement. “These contract awards will allow our commercial maritime companies to continue providing top-notch support to our troops who are stationed or deployed around the world.”

In total, the Dept. of Transportation has awarded contracts with a total award value of $1.96 billion over eight years to the seven US maritime firms, with the Maritime Administration contracts being funded by the Department of Defense (DoD) National Defense Sealift Fund to support DoD’s strategic sealift mission.

Patriot Contract Services received a $227 million contract to bear responsibility for seven vessels, while Matson won a $174.6 million deal to maintain three vessels. Other contract awardees include Crowley Technical Management of Jacksonville, Fla., which will received $149.7 million to maintain four vessels; and TOTE Services, also of Jacksonville, which won a $461.1 million contract for the care of nine vessels.

Pennsylvania-based Keystone Shipping Services (11 vessels, $411.6 million); Ocean Duchess Inc. of Houston (eight vessels, $342.2 million); and Pacific-Gulf Marine Corp. of Louisiana (six vessels, $194.2 million) were the other awardees.

Award amounts include firm-fixed fees for the four-year base contract and two 2-year options, without future economic price adjustment, plus estimated reimbursable costs for eight years.
The 18 contracts awarded total $953.5 million for the four-year base contract, which runs through January 2020. The two 2-year options bring the total award value to $1.96 billion.

Forty-six of the vessels are part of the Department of Transportation’s Ready Reserve Force, a fleet managed by the Maritime Administration that provides rapid mass movement of Department of Defense equipment and supplies to support our Armed Forces, and also responds to national and humanitarian emergencies. The other two vessels are used to support Missile Defense Agency operations.

Each certified, mission-ready vessel is maintained so that it can be fully activated and deployed quickly. The 46 Ready Reserve Force vessels have been activated hundreds of times since 2002, according to MARAD.

More information on the ships is available at

Oakland Port Performance Guidelines Proposed

By Mark Edward Nero

A Port of Oakland efficiency task force made up of cargo owners, terminal operators and labor representatives is calling for a 90-minute maximum wait time for harbor drivers.

“If we’re going to be the best port on the West Coast of the US, let’s shoot for this target,” Scott Taylor, head of the task force’s metrics subcommittee and CEO of GSC Logistics, one of the largest trucking firms at the Port of Oakland, said in a Jan. 28 statement. “There’s a lot of work to do, but we can get there.”

The task force was assembled by the port in 2015 to improve cargo-handling performance. Committee members, all of whom are port stakeholders, said measurement standards are needed to improve cargo-handling speed and efficiency.

Trucker wait times was one of several measurement benchmarks proposed by the task force. Among others: a call for at least 80 percent of the port’s chassis fleet to be available at all times. The lack of chassis, trailers that transport containers over the road, contributes to driver delays.

Timely cargo flow has emerged as a concern for importers and exporters as Oakland container volume grows. Some say drivers wait more than two hours at marine terminals to pick up loads.
The benchmark proposed by the task force states that drivers should wait no more than 45 minutes to complete single transactions -- such as picking up imports or delivering exports – and no more than 90 minutes for dual transactions.

The efficiency task force said it’s also exploring a mandatory appointment system for the port’s marine terminals. The system would require truck drivers to schedule a time to pick up or drop off containers. The goal: to shorten queues that often form outside terminal gates.

The port says it will review the proposals in time for the next task force meeting in March.

Metro Vancouver Monitoring Shows No Ecosystem Impacts

By Mark Edward Nero

A program to monitor and manage the ecosystem of the Roberts Bank inter-causeway area has concluded after eight years that the ecosystem has not suffered significant negative impacts due to the construction of a third berth at Port Metro Vancouver’s Deltaport container terminal.

The independent monitoring program, called the Adaptive Management Strategy, was developed by Port Metro Vancouver in consultation with Environment Canada. It included a scientific advisory committee comprised of three scientists appointed to provide independent scientific and technical advice and recommendations to prevent or mitigate any significant negative ecosystem trends attributable to the Deltaport Third Berth Project.

The program was designed to look specifically for changes to the nutrient balance in the water, and for potential erosion effects, both of which could negatively affect the ecosystem of the area located between the Roberts Bank and Highway 17 causeways in Delta.

It was initiated in 2007 when construction of the Deltaport third berth commenced, and carried through until 2014. Science-based monitoring concluded there was no evidence of significant environmental impacts from the project.

One small localized area behind a tugboat basin showed changes in water and sediment quality due to poor drainage, and the port authority responded by installing a swale in a berm to increase drainage.

“It is very encouraging to see the plan put in place nine years ago has been successful in protecting the ecosystem at Roberts Bank,” said Duncan Wilson, Port Metro Vancouver’s Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility.

The final report on the strategy, as well as yearly reports since 2007, is available on Port Metro Vancouver’s website: