Friday, March 25, 2016

Bulk Carrier Grounded in Columbia River

By Mark Edward Nero

A vessel that grounded in the main shipping channel of the Columbia River during the morning of March 21 has been towed to the Port of Kalama, according to the US Coast Guard.

The 623-foot bulk carrier Sparna went aground at 12:16 a.m., in a narrow part of the river near Cathlamet, Washington. The vessel sustained serious and significant damage, including the flooding of two compartments.

The 10-year-old Panama-flagged vessel was laden with 218,380 gallons of high sulfur fuel and 39,380 gallons of marine diesel at the time of the grounding.

“The positive news so far is that responders have not observed any oil in the water,” Capt. Dan Travers, Coast Guard Captain of the Port for the Columbia River, said.

On March 23, the vessel was safely towed to a pier at the port with the assistance of two tugboats during a five-and-a-half hour journey.

The Sparna was fully loaded at the time and headed to Japan with grain and was outbound in the Columbia River with a river pilot still onboard when it ran into trouble. The vessel then activated its “Vessel Response Plan,” which is required of all large vessels transiting the Columbia River for pollution contingencies.

Under the response plan, the Maritime Fire & Safety Association and Clean Rivers Cooperative deployed response vessels, boom and personnel. Incident Management Division responders from Coast Guard Sector Columbia River met Clean Rivers personnel in Cathlamet for what the Coast Guard says was “a seamless, coordinated response.”

The cause of the incident is under investigation, according to the USCG.

US Anticipates Merchant Mariner Shortage

By Mark Edward Nero

By 2022, the United States will need 70,000 new people for the nation’s maritime fleet, Paul Jaenichen Sr., the head of the U.S. Maritime Administration, told the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee March 22.

The problem, Jaenichen said, is that the six state maritime academies and Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, N.Y. only graduate 900 people per year and are at capacity.

He added that even with a new military-to-mariner program for separating service members, and other programs like it, the real issue is how those individuals would get credit for the necessary licenses required.

He told the panel that American mariners are “also a very aging work force” that could aggravate the shortfall in the future.

Addressing existing requirements for mariners in support of global power projection, Jaenichen said that while the administration can meet the requirement for immediate deployment, the first crew rotation is critical. After four to six months, he said, there were “not enough (mariners) for sustained operations.”

He also predicted “a perfect storm” after Jan. 1, 2017, when licensing requirements change. For the Maritime Administration, it means that drawing on a pool of recently retired mariners likely would not be possible. The retired mariners, to remain current under the regulations, would have to pay for required training out of their own pockets.

The Maritime Administration has said it hopes to release for public comment a strategic maritime assessment document in a few months. It would be the first such document in decades.

Panama Canal Expansion Inauguration Set

By Mark Edward Nero

The expansion of Panama Canal, in progress since 2007, is expected to be officially inaugurated on June 26.

The announcement was made by the Panama Canal Authority the morning of March 23 during an inauguration ceremony for the Canal’s Scale Model Maneuvering Training Facility, which will provide additional hands-on experience to pilots and tugboat captains to operate in the expanded Panama Canal.

Under the Canal expansion, capacity is expected to be doubled via the addition of a new traffic lane allowing more and larger ships to traverse the Canal. The expansion program is currently 97 percent complete, according to the Canal Authority. Final testing’s being conducted in the upcoming weeks, leading up to the official June 26 inauguration.

Panama President Juan Carlos Verela was in attendance at the inauguration ceremony for the Scale Model Maneuvering Training Facility, along with the Panama Canal Board of Directors Chairman Roberto Roy, and other Board members.

The 35.3-acre training facility features two lakes connected by a channel modeled after the Canal’s Culebra Cut. It also features docking bays, replicas of the new and existing locks, gates, and chambers, all at a 1:25 scale.

Additionally, the facility is equipped with a number of scale model Panama Canal tugboats, as well as ships. It also has wave and wind generators to provide a realistic, hands-on training experience for Canal pilots and tugboat captains to prepare them for the opening of the expanded waterway.

“The Scale Model Training Facility will allow us to continue providing world-class service to the global maritime industry, while guaranteeing safe and efficient transits through the soon-to-be inaugurated Expanded Canal,” Panama Canal Authority CEO Jorge Quijano said.

Oakland Import Volume Surges

By Mark Edward Nero

The number of full import containers moving through the Port of Oakland leaped 89.7 percent in February 2016 compared to the same month last year, something that the port says demonstrates that it is continuing its cargo recovery from a 2015 coastwide labor contract dispute.

Oakland said it handled the equivalent of 70,620 twenty-foot loaded import containers in February, which was 33,484 TEUs more than the import volume for February 2015 and 11,705 more than the import total in February 2014, when contract issues were not impacting volume.

The total container volume last month – fulls and empties – was 188,139 TEUs, a 54.2 percent increase from the year before.

Export volume for loaded containers jumped up 37 percent this February from a year ago, the port said, attributing part of the huge increase to the strength of the US dollar, which is making it easier for American consumers to purchase products that are imported.

Another factor, the port says, is that with a multi-year labor contract now in place between the Pacific Maritime Association and International Longshore & Warehouse Union, Oakland says it expects to see container volumes for imports and exports return to the levels that were standard prior to the drawn-out contract negotiations.

“It’s good to see that our cargo volume for both imports and exports has jumped up again,” Port of Oakland Maritime Director John Driscoll said. “This is further evidence that we have regained the cargo that temporarily left our port a year ago.”

February cargo statistics for the Port of Oakland are available at

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Puget Sound Container Volumes Up Significantly

By Mark Edward Nero

Cargo continued to return to the Puget Sound gateway in February, with container volumes through the ports of Seattle and Tacoma – collectively known as the Northwest Seaport Alliance – jumping nearly 21 percent compared to February 2015, according to newly released data.

The two ports saw a combined 267,951 TEUs in February, a 20.7 percent increase over the 222,009 TEUs during the same month last year.

Robust import and export volumes propelled the growth according to the data, which was released March 17. Full containerized imports climbed 31 percent year to date to 215,690 TEUs, while full exports improved 31 percent to 141,890 TEUs.

There was also an overall 27 percent year-to-date gain in international volumes to 428,234 TEUs, which the Seaport Alliance said reflects the impact of last year’s contract negotiations. Last year’s volumes were down during the first two months of 2015 due to the then-ongoing talks between the Pacific Maritime Association and International Longshore & Warehouse Union.

The two parties reached an agreement on a new contract in February 2015.

Domestic container volumes fell eight percent to 97,066 TEUs last month, due in part to Alaska’s economy continuing to struggle because of lower oil prices.

Auto imports and breakbulk cargo also saw declines last month due to seasonal volume fluctuations and fewer vessel calls. Auto imports fell 11 percent year to date to 25,190 units, while breakbulk dropped 40 percent to 25,973 metric tons. However, both are projected to grow in 2016, according to the Seaport Alliance.

February 2016 container volumes for the ports can be seen at and cargo statistics for the month are available at

USCG Shuts Down LB Passenger Vessel

By Mark Edward Nero

Investigators at the US Coast Guard’s Los Angeles-Long Beach sector said they have identified and ordered the cessation of activities on what they say is an illegal passenger vessel operating in Long Beach.

The vessel Orion, operated by the Angel’s Ashes charter company, is suspected of taking passengers for hire while operating out of Long Beach Harbor. Coast Guard Los Angeles-Long Beach sector commanding officer Capt. Jennifer Williams has issued a captain of the port order to the vessel’s owner to immediately cease operations as a commercial passenger vessel.

The Angel’s Ashes is a Long Beach-based company providing burials at sea. The Orion is a 40-foot twin diesel, aft cabin motor yacht used by the company in the course of its business.

In a notice posted on the Angel’s Ashes website after the Coast Guard action, the company announced that it is currently undergoing a “restructuring,” and is currently only performing unattended burials at sea.

Under the law, vessels carrying at least one passenger for hire, but no more than six passengers, require at a minimum a Coast Guard credentialed operator who holds a valid passenger vessel operator license.

Vessels carrying more than six passengers with at least one passenger for hire require a Coast Guard licensed master. The vessel must also be inspected by the Coast Guard, with the vessel’s certificate of inspection posted in a location visible to passengers.

Operating an illegal passenger vessel can potentially result in civil penalties in excess of $35,000 depending on the severity and violation, according to the Coast Guard.

POLA Investing in Electric Crane Project

By Mark Edward Nero

The Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners has authorized plans by metal recycling company SA Recycling to replace an older diesel mobile crane with a new crane that will transition to an all-electric mode when an electrification project is complete by next January.

Under the plan, the crane will initially be operated with a cleaner Tier 4 diesel engine. Then, after January 2017, it will run solely on electricity except for no more than 12 hours per year for standard maintenance.

When the newly installed Tier 4 engine replaces the existing 950-horsepower diesel-powered Tier 2 crane, it is expected to eliminate 74 tons of nitrogen oxides, three tons of particulate matter, three tons of hydrocarbons, and 14 tons of carbon monoxide emissions over the life of the equipment.

The new crane will be used at SA Recycling’s scrap metal recycling, processing and export operations at the Port of L.A. to load processed metals onto vessels to be shipped overseas.

The project is funded in part by a US Environmental Protection Agency $1.3 million Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) grant to the port. The remaining cost of the $5 million crane replacement project is funded by SA Recycling, which will own, operate and maintain the crane.

The Port of L.A. was one of four US ports to receive a DERA grant last year. The grants are aimed at reducing diesel emissions and improving air quality, particularly for communities near port operations.

Seaspan Appoints Three VPs

By Mark Edward Nero

Seaspan, a Vancouver, British Columbia-based association of companies specializing in coastal marine transportation, shipdocking/ship escort, ship repair and shipbuilding services, has named three new vice presidents to its senior leadership team, the company announced March 17.

The association has announced Linda Wortman as Vice President, Finance & Accounting; Catherine Chick as Vice President, Business Services & Technology; and Shawn Chylinski as Vice President, Health, Safety, Environment & Quality.

Chylinski joined Seaspan in June 2013 as Director, Safety & Environment and held that role until being appointed Vice President, Health, Safety, Environment & Quality (HSEQ) earlier this month.
As part of both the Seaspan Marine and Seaspan Shipyards Senior Leadership Teams, Chylinski will be expected to provide strategic leadership and direction for all HSEQ management systems throughout Seaspan.

He’s also expected to be, according to Seaspan, “the driving force behind a culture of safety, environmental stewardship, quality and efficiency throughout the company.”

Wortman joined Seaspan in 2008 as Controller, Marine. In her new role as Vice President, Finance & Accounting, she’s responsible for strategic financial oversight of the marine division and corporate services.

She will also advise Seaspan’s CFO and executive leadership team.

As Business Services & Technology VP, Chick’s role will be to provide vision and leadership for developing and implementing information technology initiatives in support of the company’s short and long term business strategies.

She joined Seaspan in 2012 to establish internal project management capabilities and system improvement projects. In 2013, her role expanded to include the management of IT Operations.