Friday, April 1, 2016

Judge Orders New Review of Rail Project

By Mark Edward Nero

A Superior Court judge on March 30 ruled that BNSF Railway Co.’s planned Southern California International Gateway (SCIG) project at the Port of Los Angeles must undergo a new Environmental Impact Report because the previous one was inadequate.

The court case pits the Port of Los Angeles against the City of Long Beach. The city filed the lawsuit in June 2013 on behalf of residents of the city’s west side who could be impacted by air pollution caused by the proposed $500 million, 153-acre SCIG.

The city contends in its lawsuit that the project doesn’t comply with the California Environmental Quality Act, a statute requiring state and local agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of their actions and to avoid or mitigate those impacts.

The proposed project would sit just outside West Long Beach, alongside the Terminal Island Freeway on land owned by the Port of LA.

If built, the project would serve on-dock rail facilities at both the Port of Long Beach and the Port of Los Angeles, but the City of Long Beach claims that the SCIG would adversely affect its residents, businesses and schools by bringing more noise and air pollution to an area that has already suffered plenty over the years due to nearby port-related operations.

“The negative effects of the rail yard project will be borne almost entirely by the residents of West Long Beach,” the legal complaint states in part.

In his March 30 ruling, Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Barry Goode said that the Port of Los Angeles failed to perform an adequate environmental analysis.

In a statement, the Port of Los Angeles said it was disappointed with the ruling, plans to study it, and that staff will discuss next steps with BNSF and the port’s harbor commission.

Meanwhile, the Port of Long Beach said it applauds the judge’s ruling.

“The Southern California Intermodal Gateway project directly impacts the residents and businesses of West Long Beach and since the beginning the port has believed more should be done to mitigate the effects of the project on the Westside,” the POLB said in a statement.

Port Industry Anticipates Growth in 2016

By Mark Edward Nero

Cargo growth should continue through 2016 even though uncertainty remains as the economy and industry continue to evolve, panelists said during an industry event this week in Long Beach.

The seven panelists made their remarks during the 12th annual “Pulse of the Ports Peak Season Forecast” March 30, an event that attracted an audience of about 550 people.

One panelist, senior economist Mario Moreno of IHS Maritime & Trade, projected that containerized imports from Asia would grow at about 5.5 percent this year and that the overall US economy should grow by about 2.3 percent.

In addition to Moreno, speakers included Lori Smith, Sourcing Lead, Ocean, CLS Regional Transportation Organization, Johnson & Johnson; Revis Stephenson, Senior Manager, Export Container Trade, the Scoular Company; Phillip Wright, Vice President Sales and Marketing, Total Terminals International; Seana L. Fairchild, Senior Director, International Intermodal Sales, Union Pacific Railroad; Vic La Rosa, CEO and President, Total Transportation Services Inc.; and Fran Inman, Senior Vice President, Majestic Realty Company and member of the California Transportation Commission.

The Q&A portion was moderated by Phil Ramsdale, President, Transport Solution LLC. Ramsdale is also Past President and current officer of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals of Southern California.

Each spring, the Port of Long Beach brings supply chain industry leaders together to discuss their forecasts for the year ahead. The event helps to provide fellow industry members with the information they need to plan.

At this year’s event, held at the Hyatt Regency Long Beach, the seven speakers from across all segments of the supply chain offered their thoughts on megaships, congestion, cargo volumes and the future of the transportation industry.

“Pulse of the Ports is a truly unique opportunity for us to hear from top experts throughout the supply chain,” Port of Long Beach Harbor Commissioner Tracy Egoscue said. “Forecasting is not an exact science, but piecing together information from various segments of the industry helps us look at the big picture and plan more accurately for the months ahead.”

The complete Pulse of the Port webcast is available at

Seaspan Begins OSFV Construction

By Mark Edward Nero

British Columbia-based Seaspan Shipyards said March 29 that it has begun construction on an Offshore Fisheries Science Vessel (OSFV) for the Canadian Coast Guard.

The vessel is the second ship built by Seaspan as part of Canada’s National Shipbuilding Strategy, a federal plan to renew the fleets of the Canadian Navy and Coast Guard via Canadian shipyards.

With production of the second OFSV now underway, significant progress continues on the first OFSV with 35 of 37 blocks currently under construction. The two Canadian Coast Guard ships are part of a three vessel, incentive-based build contract for the construction of three OFSVs, which are scheduled to be delivered under a ceiling price contract before the end of 2017.

Work on the third OFSV is set to begin later this year.

“Seaspan is now full-steam ahead on the production and delivery of its first two National Shipbuilding Strategy vessels, and we are re-writing shipbuilding history in Canada in the process for generations to come,” Seaspan Shipyards President Brian Carter said.

The cutting of steel on the second OFSV follows the March 14 announcement of two new contracts valued at over $65 million to help pave the way for future construction of the CCG’s Offshore Oceanographic Science Vessel (OOSV) and the Royal Canadian Navy’s Joint Support Ships (JSS) at Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards.

It’s estimated that Seaspan’s NSS work will create more than 2,300 direct, indirect and induced jobs annually, produce almost $290 million per year in gross domestic product for Canada’s economy, and provide thousands of people the opportunity for a shipbuilding career.

USCG Continues Monitoring of LA Harbor Oil Spill

By Mark Edward Nero

The US Coast Guard said March 25 that it is continuing to monitor an oil spill that occurred during a refueling operation in the Los Angeles Harbor on March 13.

The 577-foot cargo ship Istra Ace was reported to have leaked heavy fuel in the Los Angeles harbor while conducting a refueling operation earlier this month.

The cause of the spill, according to the Coast Guard, appears to be a faulty pipe onboard the ship that allowed heavy fuel oil to escape the confines of the bunker room and leak out of a hatch on the side of the ship.

During the initial stages of the oil spill response, clean up contractors contained and removed oil in the vicinity of the marina, from the channel, from the barge and cargo ship.

Currently, cleanup activities are ongoing in the vicinity of Berth 198 on the pier pilings. Clean up operations on the pilings are contingent on tidal cycles, which limit the amount of hours the pilings are accessible for cleaning.

“Coast Guard and California Fish and Wildlife continue to actively monitor all marinas and waterways affected during the incident to ensure cleanup activities were effective,” the USCG said in a statement.

The initial estimate of oil spilled reported to the National Response Center was 50 gallons of heavy fuel, but the USCG said that the estimate could be inaccurate and should not be definitively stated as the actual amount, because a final amount has still not been calculated.

Safety and security zones issued by the Coast Guard that restricted recreational and commercial vessel traffic in the affected area were removed March 17. The channel was reopened to all vessel traffic, both commercial and recreational, at that time.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Labor Dispute Halts Oakland Terminal Operations

By Mark Edward Nero

One of the five marine terminals at the Port of Oakland had its operations suspended March 28 after a dispute regarding the time that workers represented by the International Longshore & Warehouse Union begin their workday.

Last week, SSA Marine, which operates the Oakland International Container Terminal, unilaterally instituted a 6:45 am start time for day shift workers, which was 15 minutes earlier than the previous time of 7 am.

When workers refused to show for work at the new time on March 28, the union says, SSA fired more than two dozen workers and temporarily closed the terminal.

“The company refused to honor the start time in our contract,” Craig Merrilees, a spokesman for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, told the San Francisco Chronicle March 28 regarding the situation.

According to Merrilees, an arbitrator was summoned in an attempt to resolve the dispute.

In the meantime, however, truck traffic was backed up at the terminal, with dozens of drivers queued up outside, waiting to pick up and drop off containers at OICT, which is Oakland’s largest terminal.
When fully operational, OICT handles about 74 vessel calls each month and provides stevedoring services for 20 shipping lines serving Asia, Europe and Central America.

As of the afternoon of March 28, Oakland’s other four terminals were operating normally, although one of them, the Outer Harbor Terminal, is closing at the end of the month due to operator Ports America pulling out of the area. Ports America filed for bankruptcy Feb. 1.

BC Ferries Picks Polish Yard for LNG Upgrades

By Mark Edward Nero

Following a bidding process, British Columbia-based BC Ferries has awarded Remontowa Ship Repair Yard of Gdansk, Poland a $140 million contract to conduct the midlife upgrades of two vessels, including the conversion of both to dual fuel so they can operate on LNG.

The upgrades are scheduled to begin in 2017 and be complete in 2019.

BC Ferries is planning for Spirit of British Columbia to be the first ship through the MLU and LNG conversion process and commence actual conversion from the fall of 2017 through the spring of 2018, and Spirit of Vancouver Island to follow the following year from the fall of 2018 through the spring of 2019.

The schedule is expected to allow the two vessels, the largest BC Ferries’ fleet, to be in operation during the summer months when traffic is at its peak.

Spirit of British Columbia was built in 1993 and Spirit of Vancouver Island in 1994. BC Ferries said it plans to operate the two vessels for another 25 years.

Remontowa Ship Repair Yard is the largest ship repair yard in Poland and ranks among the largest in Europe. About 200 ship projects are conducted there annually, and the yard is well experienced and proven with LNG-fueled ships.

These elements, BC Ferries said, factored “heavily” into the decision of contract award.

“Last fiscal year, we spent approximately $118 million on diesel fuel of which the two Spirit-class vessels consumed approximately 16 percent,” BC Ferries’ vice president of engineering, Mark Wilson, said. “The conversion of the two largest ships in the fleet along with the three new dual-fuel Salish-class vessels currently under construction will go a long way to help with fare affordability for our customers as LNG costs significantly less than marine diesel.”

By utilizing LNG to fuel the vessels, the company said it expects to reduce CO2 emissions by 12,000 tons annually, the equivalent of taking about 2,500 vehicles off the road per year.

In addition to the LNG conversion, safety systems will be renewed or upgraded including the marine evacuation systems, rescue boats, fire detection system, public address system and installation of a local water mist fire protection system.

Planned renewal of navigation equipment, propulsion equipment components including rudders, steering system, bow thrusters and propeller blades will also occur during the upgrades.

USCG Warns of Vessel Electrical Deficiencies

By Mark Edward Nero

An increase in reported electrical deficiencies on commercial vessels has led the US Coast Guard to warn commercial vessel owners to inspect their vessels’ wiring before getting underway this spring.

The Coast Guard says its marine inspectors have discovered that a number of vessels have significant electrical deficiencies that can pose safety hazards and cause marine-engine causalities, and inspectors will spend additional time during inspections examining electrical systems as a result.

Some examples of common discrepancies include dead-ended wiring, compromised watertight integrity, wire chafing and deteriorated wiring.

Dead-ended wiring is when equipment is changed or removed and new wiring is installed. Sometimes the old wiring is not removed or properly put in a junction box, which poses a shock hazard if the wiring is still energized.

Compromised watertight integrity can occur when wiring that penetrates a watertight bulkhead is replaced. The penetration must be made watertight, or the watertight integrity and fire boundary of the space becomes compromised.

Wire chafing is when wire runs that are susceptible to vibrations and movements aren’t adequately protected where pinch points and rub hazards exist. Excessive wear can compromise the sheathing and insulator, and can cause a circuit short or fault and in some cases result in a component failure or fire.

Deteriorated wiring is when wiring is exposed to water, which compromises the integrity of the sheathing and insulator. This can cause a circuit short or fault and in some cases result in a component failure or fire.

Ultimately, says the Coast Guard, vessel masters are responsible for vessel safety, and routine inspections of vessels’ electrical systems should be conducted by trained personnel and in accordance with applicable regulations and standards.

“It shouldn’t be assumed that all discrepancies are identified during fit-out exams,” the USCG said in a statement. “Some items require attention and troubleshooting beyond the scope of an annual exam.”

Seaspan Takes Delivery of Containership

By Mark Edward Nero

Vancouver, British Columbia-based marine services company Seaspan ULC said March 24 that it has received delivery of a 10,000-TEU containership, MOL Benefactor.

The new containership, which was constructed at Jiangsu Yangzi Xinfu Shipbuilding Co. in China, is Seaspan’s ninth 10,000 twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) containership and its first delivered in 2016.

It’s also the 18th 10,000-TEU vessel using Seaspan’s fuel-efficient SAVER design constructed in China. SAVER is short for Seaspan Action on Vessel Energy Reduction. As the name suggests, the design is geared toward significantly reduced fuel consumption and energy efficiency.

MOL Benefactor, a Hong Kong-flagged vessel that is 337 meters long (1,105 feet) and has a beam of 48 meters (157.4 feet), is expected to soon begin an eight-year, fixed-rate time charter with Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, commonly known as MOL.

The ship is the last of a total of five 10,000-TEU SAVER design vessels to be chartered by Seaspan to MOL.

With this delivery, transport company Seaspan now has nine vessels chartered to MOL, and the delivery of MOL Benefactor expands the company’s operating fleet to 86 vessels.