Friday, April 14, 2017

Seaspan Ferries Welcomes New Hybrid Fuel Vessels to Fleet

By Mark Edward Nero

On April 9, British Columbia-based Seaspan Ferries Corp. officially welcomed two new, state-of-the-art dual-fueled/hybrid (liquefied natural gas, diesel and battery) vessels to its fleet during a double commissioning ceremony at Tilbury Terminal.

The Seaspan Swift and Seaspan Reliant, the first eco-ferries of their kind in North America, were formally christened by sponsors Christy Clark, the Premier of British Columbia; and Anisa White, wife of Doug White III, Councillor and Chief Negotiator for Snuneymuxw First Nation.

“April 9, 2017 will be remembered as a historic milestone for Seaspan Ferries and we are extremely fortunate to have two sponsors who represent our connection to both the past and future to help bring our new vessels to life,” Seaspan President Steve Roth said.

Following their construction at Sedef Shipyard in Istanbul, Turkey, the Seaspan Swift arrived in December 2016 and entered operation in January 2017, while the Seaspan Reliant followed in late February and is scheduled to begin service later this month.

The 149-meter (488-foot) ferries, which can accommodate up to 59 53-foot trailers, mark the first new vessels added to Seaspan’s fleet since 2002.

Seaspan currently operates a fleet of seven ferries out of five terminals in British Columbia and supplies more than 50 percent of all cargo to Vancouver Island.

Bellingham, Edmonds Ports to Receive Seattle Tourism Support Grants

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of Seattle on April 11 announced recipients of grants to support tourism across Washington State. The grants are expected to fund $150,000 in projects, from websites and advertising to booths at travel trade shows.

The grants must be matched by the organization and used for publicizing and attracting visitors to their destinations. This year, grant recipients are committing nearly $100,000 worth of matching funds.

“Increasing the number of tourists to Washington means more jobs for our region, so the Port of Seattle is partnering with communities to help grow tourism,” Commissioner John Creighton explained. The maritime-related 2017 marketing support program recipients include:

• Ballard Alliance, which received a $10,000 award to implement a digital advertising campaign to attract and increase non-resident travel-related expenditures including Fishermen’s Terminal and Shilsole Bay Marina.

• The Port of Bellingham is receiving $10,000 to market its area as an outdoor recreation base and growing reputation as a premier craft beer destination. The promotion effort will reportedly include marketing air travel to Bellingham via Sea-Tac Airport and participation in a travel / trade show in Denver, Colorado.

• The Port of Edmonds will receive $10,000. In concert with other travel-related organizations, the Port of Edmonds is expected to develop an online media campaign including video promoting whale watching opportunities from Edmonds.

• The Puget Sound Attractions Council will receive $5,500 to participate in an international tour operator travel trade show promoting their attractions to sellers of travel to the Pacific Northwest. It will also host additional travel media and social media influencers from beyond the Pacific Northwest to experience their city and surrounding unique visitor destinations.

POLA Monthly Volumes Up 29 Percent, Quarterly Up 10 Percent

By Mark Edward Nero

March cargo volumes jumped nearly 30 percent at the Port of Los Angeles compared to the previous year, the POLA said on April 13.

The robust numbers came, according to the port, through a combination of strong export volumes, which were up 20 percent, a post Lunar New Year surge of cargo from Asia, and US retailers shipping merchandise ahead of the new vessel alliance deployments that began this month.

For the first quarter of 2017, cargo increased 10 percent compared to 2016, according to POLA data. “We are pleased to end the first quarter of 2017 with strong volumes and continually efficient cargo handling operations,” Port of LA Executive Director Gene Seroka said in a statement. “We continue to earn the confidence of shippers and are encouraged by the strength of our supply chain partners.”

March 2017’s container volumes of 788,524 TEUs increased 29 percent compared to the March 2016 volumes of 612,863 TEUs, according to port data. The port’s most recent five-year average of March container volumes is 646,724; this year’s volumes represent a 22 percent increase over the five-year average.

March 2017 imports jumped 30 percent to 373,549 TEUs compared to the previous year, while exports increased 20 percent to 191,772 TEUs. Total loaded volumes of 565,321 TEUs increased 27 percent compared to the previous year. Empty containers grew 34 percent to 223,203 TEUs.

Current and historical data from the port is available at https://www.portoflosangeles.org/maritime/stats.asp

Port of LB Sees Rise in Monthly, Quarterly Container Volumes

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of Long Beach saw a nearly nine percent rise in total containers moving through its terminals last month compared to March 2016, port data show, despite a five percent drop in loaded outbound containers.

The monthly increase was mainly due to containers arriving in Long Beach with goods bound for US consumers having spiked 20.2 percent. The jump helped pushed the port to its best first quarter since 2007. Dockworkers offloaded 249,534 loaded inbound twenty-foot equivalent units from vessels in March, according to port data.

But the port’s loaded outbound shipments to overseas markets continue to face challenges due to the strong dollar, as exports decreased 5.3 percent to 120,435 TEUs.

Empties numbered 135,413 containers, up 4.2 percent. In total, the Port of Long Beach moved 505,382 TEUs last month – an 8.7 percent increase.

Long Beach had a modest boost in cargo during the first quarter of the year, with overall throughput increasing just 1.5 percent compared to the same period a year ago. Data shows that all segments of containerized cargo grew year-over-year in the opening quarter of 2017, with imports climbing 2.1 percent, exports 0.4 percent and empties 1.5 percent.

“We’re happy to see these gains during the traditionally slow period of the year,” Long Beach Harbor Commission President Lori Ann Guzm├ín said in a statement. “We see a lot of upside for the remainder of 2017.”

Port of Long Beach Interim Chief Executive Duane Kenagy said that the port’s rise in imports shows that consumers are feeling optimistic.

“Since their spending drives more than two-thirds of the economy, this is a great indicator for the jobs that depend on our port as we head into the busiest trading months of the year,” he said.

The port’s latest monthly cargo numbers are available at http://www.polb.com/economics/stats/latest_teus.asp, while more detailed cargo numbers can be found at www.polb.com/stats.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Barge Sinks South of San Francisco Bay Bridge

By Mark Edward Nero

A collaborative unified command, including the US Coast Guard, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response and the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management, has been established in response to the sinking of the 112-foot freight barge Vengeance near the San Francisco Bay Bridge on April 7.

During a huge storm last Friday, the barge capsized and then settled on the sea floor above a subterranean Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) tube, which is sheltered by a 25- to 30-foot protective layer of earth consisting of compacted sediment.

The Coast Guard says that regular sonar scans and tube inspections are being conducted to ensure the BART tube isn’t affected and that BART remains safe to operate.

Global Diving and Salvage has been hired by the barge’s owner, Vortex Marine Construction, to conduct underwater assessments and devise a salvage plan. The unified command is expected to review the salvage plan before salvage operations begin to ensure it can be conducted safely and efficiently.

A Coast Guard helicopter crew conducted an overflight Sunday and detected no sheen, but responders remain on scene prepared to deploy boom, according to the USCG.

Coast Guard Station San Francisco crews are enforcing a safety zone in the area to protect responders and watchstanders have issued a safety marine information broadcast to local mariners.

Shoreline teams have also been deployed throughout the surrounding areas to conduct assessments to the outlying areas and monitor wildlife, according to the USCG. While no impact to the shoreline has been detected, the responding agencies continue to prioritize and prepare for potential impacts to environmentally sensitive sites.

As of April 10, no visibly oiled wildlife had been reported or observed, according to the Coast Guard, but crews are said to still be monitoring.

Anyone seeing oiled wildlife is asked by authorities to not attempt to capture them, but instead report the sightings to (877) UCD-OWCN.

Alaska Oil Company to Pay Record Jones Act Violation Fine

By Mark Edward Nero

Anchorage-based natural gas and oil production company Furie Operating Alaska LLC has agreed to pay a record $10 million to satisfy a civil penalty originally assessed against it by US Customs and Border Protection for violating the Jones Act, the Department of Justice has announced.

According to the acting US Attorney for the District of Alaska, Furie was penalized when it transported the Spartan 151 jack-up drill rig from the Gulf of Mexico to Alaska in 2011 using a foreign flagged vessel without acquiring a waiver of the Jones Act from the Secretary of Homeland Security.

The settlement, which was announced April 4, resolves a civil lawsuit filed by Furie in 2012 challenging the assessment of the civil penalty.

The Jones Act, passed in 1920, prohibits a foreign vessel from transporting merchandise between points in the United States. A violation may result in the assessment of a civil penalty equal to the value of the merchandise. Waivers can be obtained from the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security in limited circumstances, specifically when it is in the interest of national defense, following a determination that there is no US vessel available to engage in the transport.

“Resolution of this case demonstrates that the Jones Act will be actively enforced and that an intentional violation will not be rewarded,” the Department of Justice said in a statement.

Third Olympic Class Vessel Joins Washington State Ferries Fleet

By Mark Edward Nero

The Evergreen State’s newest ferry, Chimacum, joined the state fleet on Friday, April 7, as Washington State Ferries (WSF) officially accepted the vessel from builder/contractor Vigor.

The Chimacum is expected to carry ferry riders on the Seattle/Bremerton route this summer after crews complete vessel outfitting, operational training and drills, according to WSF.

The name Chimacum (CHIM-a-cum) honors the Chemakum tribe's gathering place, which is now the present day town of Chimacum near Port Townsend.

“We’re excited to welcome the Chimacum to our fleet,” Washington State Ferries Assistant Secretary Amy Scarton said in a statement. “This new vessel replaces the 59-year-old Klahowya and allows us to continue providing safe and reliable service for the 2.7 million customers who use the Seattle/Bremerton route each year.”

Chimacum, which has room for 144 cars and 1,500 passengers, like its sister vessels Tokitae and Samish, offers flexible seating configurations, wider vehicle lanes and two passenger elevators, making it the most accessible vessel in the fleet for passengers with disabilities, according to WSF. The total construction cost was $123 million, in addition to equipment provided by Washington State Ferries.

“It’s an honor for us to partner with Washington State Ferries to deliver the Chimacum to the citizens of Washington,” Vigor CEO Frank Foti said in a statement. “Each ferry built here in Washington helps shipyards throughout Puget Sound retain skills vital to the maritime industry and supports hundreds of jobs.”

The Chimacum is the third Olympic Class ferry. The fourth 144-car vessel, Suquamish, is currently under construction at Vigor’s Harbor Island shipyard in Seattle.

Oregon Lawmaker Co-Sponsors Harbor Maintenance Fund Bill

By Mark Edward Nero

On April 5, Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-OR and bill’s co-sponsor, Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa. jointly introduced bipartisan legislation to effectively remove the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund from the US budget, therefore bypassing the annual congressional appropriations process.

Instead of being included in the budget, HR 1908 proposes to achieve “full use” of the tax by making revenue directly available to the Army Corps of Engineers.

If enacted, the Corps’ coastal operation and maintenance program would jump from about $1.3 billion a year to $1.8 billion a year. Based on current estimates, the spending level should be sufficient to restore all harbor channels to their constructed dimensions, according to DeFazio and Kelly.

Kelly is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over tax policy, and DeFazio is the ranking Democratic member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Kelly and DeFazio say that with the Trump Administration promoting a $1 trillion infrastructure investment, they want to highlight that it is easier to start with ports, as there is no need to raise taxes or find a new source of revenue. The funding source already exists and the money is being collected; the government just needs to spend it, they said.

The text of the proposed legislation can be seen at https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/1908/text