Friday, August 5, 2016

NASSCO Lays Keel for USNS Vessel

By Mark Edward Nero

On Aug. 2, General Dynamics NASSCO hosted a keel laying ceremony for the future USNS Hershel “Woody” Williams, the US Navy’s second Expeditionary Sea Base under construction at the company’s San Diego shipyard.

USNS Hershel “Woody” Williams is the Navy’s second ESB ship. The 784-foot-long vessel is to serve as a flexible platform to support a variety of missions, including air mine countermeasures, counter-piracy operations, maritime security and humanitarian missions.

Features of the vessel include accommodations for up to 250 personnel; a 52,000-square-foot flight deck; and fuel and equipment storage. It will also support MH-53 and MH-60 helicopters with an option to support MV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft. The ship’s expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2018.

The vessel’s namesake, Hershel Woodrow “Woody” Williams, spoke at the keel laying ceremony, and his two daughters, Travie Ross and Tracie Ross, welded their initials onto the keel of the ship. Williams, a retired US Marine, received the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Battle of Iwo Jima during World War II. He is the last surviving recipient of the Medal of Honor from that battle.

“The story of Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams is remarkable. It’s a story of valiant devotion, extraordinary courage and American heroism,” General Dynamics NASSCO vice president and general manager Kevin Graney said. “We have the distinct honor of constructing a ship that will reflect the strength and fearlessness of its namesake and will provide global, advanced capabilities for future generations of Marines and sailors to come.”

General Dynamics NASSCO has so far delivered three ships in the class to the Navy: USNS Montford Point (ESD 1), USNS John Glenn (ESD 2) and USNS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 1). USNS Hershel “Woody” Williams is the fourth ship to be constructed by NASSCO shipbuilders under the program, and a fifth ship is currently under contract for advanced procurement.

BNSF Appeals POLA Railyard Ruling

By Mark Edward Nero

BNSF Railway said Aug. 2 that it would appeal a final ruling by a Superior Court judge stating that the Port of Los Angeles and City of Los Angeles must complete deeper analysis of possible environmental impacts before proceeding with a $500 million railyard project.

The Southern California International Gateway project, or SCIG, is aimed at expediting the transfer of international containers to intermodal trains at the largest US port complex and reducing truck congestion in the region.

But the judge’s decision means that the project, which has been in the planning process for a decade and tied up in litigation since 2013, could be delayed another two years.

BNSF is joined in its appeal by the city and Port of Los Angeles. They say that the lower court ruling is an “unprecedented expansion” of the scope of the California Environmental Quality Act. “BNSF is confident the appellate court will correctly apply the law, reverse the lower court ruling and maintain the existing scope of CEQA,” the railroad said in a prepared statement announcing the appeal.

The railway company also says that if built, the SCIG would reduce truck traffic, freeway congestion and air pollution by eliminating about 1.3 million truck trips annually along a 24-mile stretch of the Long Beach (710) Freeway to BNSF’s Hobart Yard near downtown LA.

The proposed project would sit just outside West Long Beach, alongside the Terminal Island Freeway on land owned by the Port of LA. The project, if built, would serve on-dock rail facilities at both the Port of Long Beach and the Port of Los Angeles.

Originally, construction was due to begin in 2013 and open in 2016, but in June 2013, the City of Long Beach filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction against the project, saying 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.

Delivery of 3 LNG-Powered Ferries Delayed

By Mark Edward Nero

The Salish Orca, a new intermediate-class vessel being built for BC Ferries, won’t be delivered at the end of August, but rather by the end of 2016, the British Columbia ferry operator says. The delay, BC Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall told local radio station CFAX 1070, is due to this being the first time the company has had natural gas-powered vessels design-built, a process that requires considerably more review.

The ferry, which is replacing the 50-year-old Queen of Burnaby, is being built by Remontowa Shipbuilding S.A. in Gdansk, Poland. It’s the first of three new intermediate-class vessels expected to be built, the others being Salish Eagle and Salish Raven.

The Polish shipyard was awarded a $165-million contract in 2014 to build the three new ferries. Delivery of the second vessel is now expected in early 2017, rather than October; the third is anticipated in the first quarter of next year.

The ships are being built as dual-fuel, capable of running on LNG or ultra low-sulfur diesel. Using primarily LNG to fuel the new ships will result in reduced emissions and reduced costs, according to BC Ferries.

The new Salish-Class ships will replace vessels that are at the end of their life cycle. BC Ferries’ use of LNG is expected result in the reduction of an estimated 9,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, the same as taking 1,900 passenger vehicles off the road annually because LNG is cleaner burning than marine diesel.

Plan to Deepen Seattle Harbor Up for Comment

By Mark Edward Nero

The US Army Corps of Engineers is seeking public comment on a newly released plan to deepen the Seattle Harbor in order for it to handle ultra-large containerships.

Under the Seattle Harbor Navigation Improvement Project Draft Feasibility Report and Environmental Assessment, the Army Corps of Engineers and Port of Seattle have agreed on a tentatively selected plan of 57 feet mean lower low water (MLLW) for both the East and West waterways.

This depth, according to the Port of Seattle, would allow it to handle the current and future generations of ultra-large containerships, which have capacities of 14,500 twenty-foot equivalent units and higher.

“Large ships with deep drafts are being deployed globally and on the West Coast. Authorization of a depth of 57 feet will preserve our gateway’s ability to provide sufficient depth for the future fleet of ships,” said Port of Tacoma Commission President Connie Bacon. Bacon is also co-chair of the Northwest Seaport Alliance, an operating partnership between the Seattle and Tacoma ports.

The selected plan, according to the Army Corps, is technically feasible, environmentally sustainable and maximizes the national economic development benefits.

The environmental assessment component identifies and analyzes the environmental effects of the alternatives for deepening, incorporates environmental concerns into the decision making process and determines whether further environmental analysis is necessary.

Comments on the Draft Feasibility Report and Environmental Assessment may be submitted by email, at the upcoming public meeting or in written form.

Comments will be accepted via email to or can be mailed to:

Nancy Gleason US Army Corps of Engineers
P.O. Box 3755
Seattle, Washington 98124-3755

Comments via email will be accepted through Aug. 31. All mailed comments must be postmarked by Aug. 31.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Missing Fishing Vessel Presumed Sunken

By Mark Edward Nero

On July 30, the US Coast Guard, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and Fishing Company of Alaska called off the search for a missing fishing vessel, which presumably sank in about 5,400 feet of water in the Bering Sea, after the rescue of dozens of crewmembers.

“We have searched and have not been able to locate the fishing vessel Alaska Juris,” federal on-scene coordinator representative Lt. Todd Bagetis said.

The Coast Guard and other entities had formed a Unified Command last week to respond to the Alaska Juris, which began to take on water around 11:30 am on July 26.

Good Samaritan crews from four vessels assisted in the rescue of 46 mariners who abandoned ship after the vessel began taking on water. The mariners were transported to Adak, Alaska.

The Unified Command had activated a fishing vessel, salvage tug, and a Coast Guard aircraft crew to search the area northwest of Adak, Alaska, where the Alaska Juris was last seen.

Searches by sea were conducted on July 28-30, and air searches were conducted on July 29 and 30, with the vessel not being found. A search was also conducted along the track of the vessel’s projected drift.

Unrecoverable diesel sheen was located in the search area with the source of the sheen unknown but believed to be from the Alaska Juris.

Through an abundance of caution, the Fishing Company of Alaska formally activated a state and federally-approved oil spill response organization per a non-tank vessel response plan.

“We have received reports of intermittent unrecoverable sheen, potentially resulting from the sinking of this vessel,” state on-scene coordinator Ron Doyle said. “We do not anticipate any shoreline impacts. We will continue to monitor the situation and look into any future reports we receive.” The cause of the fishing vessel’s sinking is under investigation.

Port of Everett Receives Modernization Grant

By Mark Edward Nero

The US Department of Transportation has awarded a $10 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant to the Port of Everett to help fund the port’s South Terminal modernization project.

The project includes strengthening more than 500 feet of dock, creating a modern berth capable of handling roll-on/roll-off and intermodal cargo, upgrading high voltage power systems and constructing rail sidings to increase on-site rail car storage.

The port also has said the project would “modernize facilities to meet 21st century demands to efficiently and safely serve larger, heavy cargo vessels critical to the region’s aerospace supply chain.” The project could also improve the local and regional impact of freight movement on the general public by converting truck trips to rail, and also has environmental benefits from electrifying the terminal and implementing cold ironing.

Total cost of the modernization project is estimated at $55.5 million.

Federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER grants, are awarded on a competitive basis to fund capital investments in surface transportation infrastructure; selection prioritizes projects with significant regional economic impact.

The Port of Everett was one of only two West Coast ports awarded 2016 TIGER grants. The other facility was Oregon’s Port of Portland, which received $7.3 million to help fund a rail overpass and realign a congested and dangerous intersection at an industrial park.

Since 2009, the TIGER grant program has provided a combined $5.1 billion to 421 projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and tribal communities.

The funds leverage money from private sector partners, states, local governments, metropolitan planning organizations and transit agencies, with the 2016 TIGER round alone leveraging nearly $500 million in federal investment to support $1.74 billion in overall transportation investments.

POLA Releases Terminal Improvement Study

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of Los Angeles has released an Initial Study/Notice of Preparation (IS/NOP) as the first step in the Environmental Impact Report process for a marine oil terminal wharf improvement project in Los Angeles Harbor. The document is available for review on the Port of Los Angeles website at

The port will hold a public meeting to receive comments at 6 p.m. Wed., Aug. 3 at the Port of Los Angeles Administration Building, 425 S. Palos Verdes St., San Pedro.

The primary goal of the proposed project, which is located at the Valero Terminal on Mormon Island, is to comply with the Marine Oil Terminal Engineering and Maintenance Standards (MOTEMS) to protect public health, safety, and the environment, which involves demolition of the existing 19,000-square-foot timber wharf at Berth 164 and construction and operation of a new, MOTEMS-compliant wharf, with minor infrastructure improvements to connect the new loading platform to the existing landside pipelines and utilities.

The proposed project would also include a new, 30-year lease through 2047.

The IS/NOP was released in late July for public review to solicit feedback, which helps to identify any potential environmental impacts and suggest possible alternatives for the project that can be incorporated into the EIR. Written comments on the IS/NOP may be submitted via email to or to the following address through the public comment period from July 21 to Aug. 19:

Christopher Cannon, Director of Environmental Management
Los Angeles Harbor Department
425 South Palos Verdes St.
San Pedro, CA 90731

Comment letters sent via email should include the project title “Berth 164 [Valero] Marine Oil Terminal Wharf Improvements Project” in the email subject line and the commenter’s physical mailing address in the body of the email.

International Shipholding Files Chapter 11

By Mark Edward Nero

International Shipholding Corp., which is based in Alabama but has affiliates with a significant West Coast presence, announced July 31 that it and certain of its subsidiaries have filed petitions for relief under Chapter 11 in US Bankruptcy Court.

However, the company has stated that it currently intends to continue operating in the normal course of business without interruption.

Among ISC’s subsidiaries are Waterman Steamship Corp., a deep-sea ocean carrier operating direct service between US West Coast ports and Asian countries.

To facilitate the Chapter 11 process, the company has entered into a debtor-in-possession $16 million credit facility. The credit facility can be used to fund, among other things, the company’s working capital needs while in Chapter 11.

“Today, we took a critical step toward right-sizing the company’s balance sheet,” ISC President and CEO Erik Johnsen said in a prepared statement. “While the company is facing challenges with its debt and capital structure, we believe our core business segments are performing satisfactorily.”

The company has filed a series of first-day motions with the United States Bankruptcy Court to allow it to continue to operate in the ordinary course of business, including asking the court to approve, among other things, the payment of wages, salaries and other employee benefits during the Chapter 11 process as well as payments to certain vendors.

“During the Chapter 11 process, suppliers will be paid in full for all goods and services provided after the filing date as required by the Bankruptcy Code,” ISC said in a statement.