Friday, March 24, 2017

Seaport Alliance Says YTD Traffic Up Eight Percent

By Mark Edward Nero

The Northwest Seaport Alliance recorded an eight percent year-to-date increase in container cargo through February 2017, according to newly released data.

International container volumes for the month of February remained steady with a 9.1 percent year-to-date increase despite fewer sailings. Compared to same time last year, full export loads saw a four percent increase, and import loads were up more than seven percent for the year.

As anticipated, we saw fewer vessel arrivals and amended service schedules by ocean carriers in February due to the Lunar New Year holiday, which began more than 10 days earlier than last year. In observance of the holiday, the factories in China traditionally shut down production for up to two weeks. As a result, total container volumes declined by 0.8 percent for the month.

At 102,697 TEUs, full imports declined four percent compared to February 2016. Meanwhile, full exports recorded 71,243 TEUs, nearly a seven percent dip. Overall, total international TEU volumes grew 1 percent in February due to an increase in empty containers.

Total domestic volumes declined almost eight percent, compared to February 2016. Year to date, Alaska volumes declined more than six percent in February and are expected to decline five to six percent this year due to soft market conditions. The Pacific Northwest trade with Hawaii, however, is expected to show modest growth in 2017.

The Seaport Alliance’s container volumes for February 2017 can be viewed at and the cargo statistics for the month are available at

Port of Oakland Ready for Alliance Changes

By Mark Edward Nero

In an effort to soothe importers and exporters fearful of fallout as ocean carriers switch partners next month, Port of Oakland officials said March 22 that they expect to take on upcoming changes to container shipping alliances with little disruption.

“We’ve spoken to the shipping lines, we’ve spoken to our marine terminal operators and we understand their schedules,” Port of Oakland Maritime Director John Driscoll said. “We’re confident that Oakland will be able to accommodate the newly formed alliances efficiently.”

Eleven of the world’s largest container shipping lines are coming together in three new alliances. The port said it expects cargo volume to hold steady once new alliances begin operation April 1. Fewer but larger ships are expected to visit Oakland weekly, laden with more ocean containers. This is a change that reflects industry-wide consolidation as shipping lines cut excess vessel capacity to trim costs.

The carriers are changing partners after bankruptcy, acquisitions and consolidation roiled container shipping in 2016. Alliances allow participating carriers to share ships and port calls to reduce expenses while at the same time expanding service.

Some industry experts foresee port disruption if arrival schedules change or shipping lines redirect to different marine terminals, with the worry being that cargo flow could be inhibited, leading to congestion at major ports.

Oakland officials said they don’t foresee difficulties in working with the new alliances. Since most of the port’s vessel calls are concentrated in just three marine terminals, that means cargo relocation should be minimal.

The port said it expects to handle 29 weekly and two fortnightly vessel calls in the new alliance structure, and that it anticipates no loss of cargo in Oakland, even though weekly vessel calls will decrease from 32 to 29.

The Port of Oakland is expected to receive direct calls from 13 different Chinese ports, including six weekly calls from Taiwan and four from Southeast Asia, and seven weekly services from Oakland to ports in Japan.

It’s expected to take two-to-three months for all alliance changes to take hold, with the process including slotting vessels into new service rotations, and in some cases, older ships being replaced with newer, larger ones.

POLA to Hold Community Meeting on Waterfront Development

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of Los Angeles says it will host a public meeting on the status of the Wilmington Waterfront Development Program from 6 pm to 8 pm Thursday, March 30 at the cornerstone of the project, Banning’s Landing Community Center, 100 E. Water St. in Wilmington on the Los Angeles Waterfront.

Attendees will get a detailed update on the Wilmington Waterfront Development Program and Wilmington Waterfront Promenade, as port staff presents design updates for the promenade that have evolved from the original Environmental Impact Report and master plan renderings to the current detailed design, based on community feedback.

Key elements of the design are public access and connectivity to the water’s edge. As part of the meeting, the port will conduct a question and answer forum. Simultaneous Spanish translation service will be provided, according to the port.

The designer of the Wilmington Waterfront Promenade, Sasaki Associates, was approved by the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners in October 2015. In February 2017, the Harbor Commission approved T.Y. Lin International Group to design a pedestrian bridge on the Wilmington Waterfront, the Avalon Promenade and Gateway.

This summer, the port says, it expects to host additional public meetings to gather community input on the design of another aspect of the waterfront development, the Avalon Promenade and Gateway.

POLB to Live Stream Peak Season Forecast

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of Long Beach will live-stream its 13th annual “Pulse of the Ports: Peak Season Forecast” online next week. The forecast features a panel discussion with industry experts who will provide their thoughts and expectations for the upcoming peak season and the effects of new container alliances beginning in April, among other issues.

The event begins at 7 a.m. Wednesday, March 29 at the Long Beach Convention Center Grand Ballroom, Long Beach, California. The panel of experts will include Mario O. Moreno, a senior economist and forecaster with IHS Maritime & Trade; John Zarrella, a sales manager with Preferred Shipper Services; Ken O'Brien, Chief Operating Officer with Gemini Shippers Group; Steve Rothberg, a partner with ocean Carrier and marine terminal operator Mercator International LLC; Anthony Hatch, a principal with ABH Consulting; and Alex Cherin, the intermodal conference executive director with the California Trucking Association.

The panel will be moderated by Mark Hirzel, a district manager with customs brokerage, international freight forwarding, transportation, warehousing and distribution company A.N. Deringer Inc.

The live webcast will be able to be viewed online at and starting at 8 a.m.

Those wishing to attend the event in person can make reservations online at

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

AAPA Concerned About Port Funding Cuts Under Trump

By Mark Edward Nero

The American Association of Port Authorities said March 16 that it has concerns regarding the potential of significant declines for most federally funded, port-related programs in President Trump’s first proposed fiscal budget.

Proposed for the budget chopping block is the US Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants program, which last year awarded US ports $61.8 million in multimodal infrastructure grants such as dock, rail and road improvements. Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security’s Port Security Grants Program (PSGP), which Congress last funded at $100 million and provided 35 port security-related grants in fiscal 2017, is expected to experience a significant cut.

“We’re apprehensive about the fiscal 2018 budget,” AAPA president and CEO Kurt Nagle said. “Adequate federal investments into US port-related infrastructure, both on the landside and waterside, are crucial for the efficient movement of goods so the nation can remain globally competitive.”

Activities at US seaports account for more than a quarter of the nation’s economy, support over 23 million American jobs and generate more than $320 billion a year in federal, state and local tax revenue, according to the AAPA.

“International trade through ports is vital to our economy,” Nagle said.

The AAPA has also given its key recommendations for the fiscal 2018 budget. They include:

• Expand the USDOT’s TIGER program, or create a similar new, multimodal discretionary grant program, and fund it at $1.25 billion annually.

• Continue funding USDOT’s FAST Act programs at currently authorized levels, which includes formula funds to states and grants for nationally and regionally significant transportation projects.

• Increase funding to $400 million for the Department of Homeland Security’s Port Security Grant Program and increase the number of Customs officers in the maritime environment by 500.

“While the president’s budget request includes significant funding cuts to some port-related programs, we’re hopeful that, as the fiscal 2018 budget process as well as the anticipated sizable infrastructure package moves forward, that significant federal investments will be made in port-related infrastructure. Such investments will pay huge dividends in terms of economic growth, American jobs and tax revenues.”

USCG Warns Illegal LA-Long Beach Charter Boats

By Mark Edward Nero

The Coast Guard captain of the port for the Los Angeles-Long Beach region issued a warning on March 16 to vessel operators regarding illegal charter boats in the San Pedro Bay area.

The captain of the port, in an ongoing effort to ensure public safety on local waterways, issued several orders to specific vessel operators to cease operations as commercial vessels carrying more than six passengers, including one passenger for hire, and in some cases to cease operations carrying any passengers for hire.

By definition, a passenger is considered for hire if they “contribute any economic benefit, monetary contribution, or a donation as a condition of carriage, to any person having an interest in the vessel, unless the contribution is from a voluntarily sharing of voyage expenses,” according to the USCG.

Vessels carrying passengers require a Coast Guard licensed or credentialed operator, and if carrying more than six passengers, the vessel must have a valid certificate of inspection issued by the Coast Guard. The certificate is proof that the Coast Guard has verified the vessel meets specific minimum federal safety standards.

When reserving trips, the Coast Guard has said, prospective passengers should ask the operator in advance for proof the vessel’s compliant with Coast Guard requirements. Passengers can also request a vessel’s captain to show his or her valid Coast Guard license.

Vessel operators wanting more information on how to meet federal requirements and passengers wanting to either verify a captain’s license, the inspected status of a commercial passenger vessel, or report an illegal charter operation, can do so by calling Coast Guard Sector Los Angeles-Long Beach Command Center at (310) 521-3801.

LA Port Police Seize 500 Lbs. of Marijuana

By Mark Edward Nero

On the afternoon of March 14, Los Angeles Port Police Marine Unit officers on patrol in Los Angeles Harbor made an unusual discovery in an unoccupied boat at the Cabrillo Beach Launch Ramp: about 500 pounds of marijuana.

The drugs had an estimated street value of between $500,000 and $900,000.

Police declined to release more information regarding the case or the boat, other than saying that they were still attempting to track down the vessel’s owner and that Los Angeles Port Police detectives assigned to the Los Angeles Border Enforcement Security Task Force are continuing the investigation in collaboration with port police.

The LA BEST is tasked with identifying, targeting, and reducing security vulnerabilities affecting the Los Angeles/ Long Beach seaport complex, the Southern California coastline, and the waterways and transportation infrastructure.

The task force is made up of personnel from nine federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, including US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), US Customs and Border Protection, the US Coast Guard Criminal Investigations Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles Port Police, the Long Beach Police Department, and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

Fishing Vessel Captain Pleads Guilty in Seattle to Polluting Waters

By Mark Edward Nero

On March 16, a captain of the fishing vessel Native Sun pleaded guilty in federal court in Seattle, Washington to discharging oily-waste directly into the ocean in violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships and the federal conspiracy statute.

Randall Fox pleaded guilty to two criminal felony counts for violating prohibition against discharging bilge water directly into the ocean.

According to court documents, Fox and others repeatedly discharged the oil-contaminated bilge water into the ocean using unapproved submersible pumps and hoses. On at least one occasion, such a discharge left a sizable oily-sheen along the surface of the water that trailed alongside the F/V Native Sun.

Fox faces a maximum of six years in prison for the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships count and five years in prison for the conspiracy count. He also faces a criminal fine of up to $250,000 for each count. Sentencing is scheduled for June 16.

According to the charges, the conspirators directed the installation of the aforementioned illegal pumps and hoses, directed co-conspirators to empty the bilges regularly, and instructed the co-conspirators to conceal any evidence of the discharges by dispersing the sheen with detergents.

Vessel owner Bingham Fox pled not guilty to all charges in April 2016, and is scheduled to go to trial on March 21.