Friday, February 10, 2017

USCG Responds to Increase of Illegal Hawaii Charters

By Mark Edward Nero

The US Coast Guard said Feb. 8 that it is ramping up enforcement on Hawaii’s big island in response to a perceived increase in illegal charters operating in the area.

The Coast Guard said it has identified two tour boats operating illegally out of Pohoiki Boat Ramp to view lava streaming into the ocean from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano.

Commercial tour boat and charter operators must possess the appropriate merchant mariner credential to operate. Masters of commercial charters operating in state waters are also required by the State of Hawaii to have a permit from the Department of Land and Natural Resources and to keep that permit on the vessel.

“Safety is always our top priority,” said Capt. David McClellan, chief of prevention for Coast Guard 14th District. “For boat operators, it is important to maintain situational awareness and not unnecessarily put yourself, your passengers or your boat in danger. For visitors, it’s important they check that their hired boat operators are licensed ensuring they possess the experience and training required to get them to the viewing area and back safely.”

For vessels carrying six or fewer passengers for hire, the operator must possess a Coast Guard-issued operator of uninspected passenger vessel license and operate on near coastal waters not more than 100 miles offshore, as defined in 46 U.S.C. 2101 (42)(B).

For vessels carrying seven or more passengers for hire on vessels less than 100 gross tons (not including auxiliary sail), the operator must possess a Coast Guard-issued master of self-propelled vessel license to operate on near coastal waters. The vessel must also have a Coast Guard-issued certificate of inspection posted in a visible location.

More on information regarding licensing for charter boat captains can be found at

Port of Seattle Strengthens Code of Conduct

By Mark Edward Nero

In a unanimous vote, the Port of Seattle Commission on Feb. 7 approved a motion strengthening the transparency and accountability elements in the port’s Code of Ethics and Workplace Conduct.

The Commission amended the code of conduct to require that any changes to the code be made in consultation with the Port of Seattle Commission.

The Commission amended the “Exceptions to $50 Limit on Gifts” to its pre-April 2015 status by eliminating an exception for the cost of admission to a performance or event where attendance by the senior manager is related to the performance of official duties.

The Commission also added an accountability measure. When potential conflicts of interest, reported concerns, or alleged violations of the Port’s Workplace Responsibility policies pertain to the CEO, the Port shall report those matters to the President of the Commission. The President of the Commission shall have the discretion to refer such matters to an outside party.

The changes were made in the wake of the resignation of former port head Ted Fick, who resigned Feb. 1, about two-and-a-half years into a three-year contract.

His resignation came the same day that Washington State Auditor’s Office publicly disclosed that it has challenged a one-time payment that the Port of Seattle made to about 640 exempt employees in December 2015 at Fick’s behest, saying that the lump-sum $4.7 million in one-time retention bonuses, which was approved in December 2015, was illegal since it wasn’t tied to merit or performance goals.

The Port Commission responded to the Auditor’s Office findings on Feb. 7, releasing a statement declaring that the port had “a legitimate business rationale” for making the payment, and that it was appropriate as a business need, due in part to concerns raised by employees after Seattle joined with the Port of Tacoma to form the Northwest Seaport Alliance joint maritime operating agreement.

“In response to employee concerns, the port determined that a one-time payment, versus more costly permanent wage increases, was the best option to achieve our business rationale of retaining our highly-skilled and experienced workforce while limiting the financial impact,” the port stated.

Oakland Container Volume Rises 6 Percent

By Mark Edward Nero

Export volumes are on the rise again at the Port of Oakland.

The port said Feb. 9 that containerized export volume rose nine percent last month compared to January 2016. It was the seventh straight month of rising exports in Oakland, and the 12th increase in 13 months.

Containerized imports also increased last month, rising 3.6 percent, according to port data. Overall, loaded container volume at Oakland was up 6.1 percent.

“We’ve been cautiously optimistic about 2017 cargo volumes and this is a solid start to the year,” Maritime Director John Driscoll said in a statement. “In particular, we’re gratified by the continued success in our export business.”

The port said agricultural commodities continue to drive Oakland export increases, with examples being strong harvests and aggressive marketing helped boost overseas sales of California almonds in January.

Port data shows that volume increased in January as US shippers stocked inventories ahead of Lunar New Year holidays. Manufacturers in Asia sometimes close factories for up to two weeks in observance of the holiday. The port said its months-long export rally is noteworthy because the US dollar remains strong against foreign currencies. A strong dollar typically dampens exports by making US commodities more expensive overseas.

Port of Oakland export volume increased 10.5 percent last year, despite the US Commerce Department reporting that the US trade deficit reached a four-year high in 2016, attributed in part to export softness.

BC Ferries to Conduct Sea Trials of New Vessel

By Mark Edward Nero

BC Ferries, the contractor responsible for ferry service along coastal British Columbia, said Feb. 8 that its newest vessel, Salish Orca, will conduct a series of sea trials starting Friday, Feb. 10.

The trials are part of operational training, and to verify the interface with docks at many of BC Ferries’ terminals as part of its commissioning process.

The trials are scheduled to begin at Long Harbour on Salt Spring Island, and over the next month, Salish Orca is expected to conduct dock trials at ports in the Southern Gulf Islands, Sunshine Coast, Departure Bay, Duke Point, Horseshoe Bay and Swartz Bay.

BC Ferries says that as part of the commissioning process for its vessels, ships conduct dock trials at a variety of locations for potential future deployment purposes, corporate planning and contingency scenarios.

“We’ve heard from many customers eager to see Salish Orca, so we wanted to let the public know when the vessel would be visiting the various terminals,” BC Ferries’ Vice President of Strategic Planning and Customer Engagement, Mark Collins said. “Passengers will be able to have a sneak peak of the ship from shore over the next four weeks.” Dates/locations of dock trials will be posted on Twitter @BCFerries and on BC Ferries Projects page for New Salish Class Vessels on the website under Major Project Milestones 24 to 48 hours in advance at

Salish Orca is expected to enter service on the Powell River – Comox route in the spring, replacing the Queen of Burnaby. Salish Eagle and Salish Raven are to be brought into service for the Southern Gulf Islands later this year, BC Ferries has said.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Trade Center Sets Annual Town Hall Date

By Mark Edward Nero

The Center for International Trade and Transportation, based in Long Beach, Calif. has scheduled its 2017 Town Hall event for March 30 at the Gerald Daniel Recital Hall on the campus of California State University, Long Beach.

A highlight on this year's agenda is expected to be the recognition of the first Dominick Miretti Award recipient. The award was established in honor of the ILWU Port Liaison and founding member of the CITT Policy and Steering Committee who passed away in 2016.

It will recognize individuals who have made exemplary efforts in bridging gaps between industry, education, and labor stakeholders.

Since it was founded in 1997, CITT has become an industry leader in Southern California supply chain and logistics workforce development, as well as Cal State Long Beach’s home for four research centers addressing challenges raised by the transportation industry.

Over the last 20 years, CITT has made an ongoing effort to develop its educational and training programs in partnership with industry and community stakeholders and also has led outreach within the trade and transportation community in the region through its annual Town Hall meetings, which are designed to provide a forum for stakeholders to present their perspectives on current issues and developments impacting the industry.

More information about the 2017 town hall and previous events can be found at

Port of Oakland Outlines $600 Million Spending Plan

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of Oakland on Feb. 3 outlined a $600 million spending plan for growth at the seaport.

Maritime Director John Driscoll told an audience last Friday that Oakland would increase its trade volume by investing in new facilities and better infrastructure, with the objective being more containerized cargo.

“We’re building for growth in a shipping industry that is becoming more and more competitive,” Driscoll said at an American Association of Port Authorities conference. “By investing with partners who share our vision, we can deliver services that will be of great value to the global supply chain.”

The port, Driscoll said, plans to team with both private developers and public agencies to modernize the port’s infrastructure, and that investment from all three sources would be used to create new logistics capabilities in Oakland, as well as help eliminate bottlenecks that inhibit cargo flow.

Among the proposed investments are:

• $244 million, mostly from government grants, to separate railroad tracks from major port roadways;

• $90 million, privately built refrigerated warehouse called Cool Port to increase chilled beef and pork exports, and;

• $50 million expansion, also privately financed, of the port’s second-largest marine terminal. Oakland has just completed a $100 million railyard near marine terminals and a proposed logistics complex.

The proximity of the new developments should be a drawing card for shippers, Driscoll said, and could enable cargo to be quickly shifted at the port between rail, road and ocean transport.

Construction on Cool Port could begin next month, Driscoll said, while terminal expansion is already underway. The truck-rail grade separation still awaits government funding.

Seattle Port Payments Challenged by State Auditor

By Mark Edward Nero

The Washington State Auditor’s Office has challenged a one-time payment that the Port of Seattle made to exempt employees in December 2015 at the behest of recently-resigned CEO Ted Fick.

The Port Commission authorized the payment to address widespread negative reactions following a series of large-scale organizational changes, moving to a common performance review date and increasing the standard work week from 37.5 hours to 40 hours.

The Auditor’s Office revealed its finding during a regularly scheduled accountability audit on Feb. 1. The audit is still in progress.

“We believe that the one-time payment achieved the intended effect of supporting employee retention and addressing employee concerns,” Port Commission President Tom Albro said in a statement provided to Pacific Maritime Magazine Online. “We have conveyed to the State Auditor’s Office our belief that the port has a strong legal basis for taking this action.”

“We respect the State Auditor’s Office’s process and accountability to the public, and are working collaboratively with them to expedite completion and public release of the audit with all of the facts and circumstances and the port’s full response.,” Albro said.

Albro also addressed the recent administrative leave and subsequent resignation of ex-port CEO Tom Fick, who departed the port Feb. 1.

Albro said the Port Commission had raised multiple personnel issues with Fick during a recent performance review, but that he wasn’t placed on administrative leave as a result of the audit.

The performance review, an electronic version of which was provided to Pacific Maritime, praised his leadership in some areas, but gave him low marks in the areas of CEO-Port Commission relations and integrity.

In the review, one of the five commissioners said that Fick “needs to internalize that leading a public agency is living in a fish bowl,” and another commented on Fick’s April 2016 arrest on charges of driving under the influence.

“The Commission is not as concerned as much as Ted’s DUI as it was about his thinking on how to deal with the issue… It took a lot of Commission effort to convince him that he needed to tell his staff and make a public statement right away,” the unidentified Commissioner said.

Mechanical Issues Temporarily Remove BC Ferries Vessel from Service

By Mark Edward Nero

BC Ferries, the contractor responsible for the delivery ferry service along coastal British Columbia, is temporarily removing one of its vessels from service due to mechanical issues.

Queen of Burnaby is being temporarily removed from service on the Comox – Powell River route to repair a propeller hub. The vessel is scheduled to enter a dry-docking Wednesday, Feb. 8 and is expected to return to service within a week.

The M/V Island Sky, which usually sails between Earls Cove and Saltery Bay, is being redeployed to the Comox – Powell River route to replace the Queen of Burnaby on the evening of Feb. 7, and the regular schedule is to remain in effect on this route beginning the morning of Feb. 8.

The Bowen Queen will assume service on the Earls Cove – Saltery Bay route on Feb. 8, as well. Since the capacity of the Bowen Queen is lower than that of the M/V Island Sky, an additional round-trip is being added to the schedule from Friday, Feb. 10 through to Monday, Feb. 13. This will include a 1:50 pm sailing from Saltery Bay and a 2:50 pm sailing from Earls Cove.

BC Ferries has said that once the repairs are complete on the Queen of Burnaby, that vessel and the M/V Island Sky will resume service on their regular routes.