Thursday, May 25, 2017

Proposed Trump Budget Would Impose Maritime-Related Funding Cuts

By Mark Edward Nero

This week, the Trump Administration released its proposed budget for 2018 and among the proposals listed was the elimination of the US Department of Transportation’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program.

The program, which provides funding to port, road, rail and transit projects nationwide, awarded US ports $61.8 million in multimodal infrastructure grants such as dock, rail and road improvements last year.

The proposed budget also calls for a steep cut to the Department of Homeland Security’s Port Security Grant Program (PSGP), which Congress last funded at $100 million, and which provided 35 port security-related grants in fiscal 2017. The program’s funding would be reduced by 52 percent, to $47.8 million.

Trump has also proposed drastically decreasing the Environmental Protection Agency’s Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) grants. DERA grants help ports make investments in clean diesel equipment and reduction strategies. Funds help businesses buy newer, cleaner-burning trucks, locomotives and vessels. DERA grants are currently funded at $60 million, while Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget calls for only $10 million in funding.

American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) President and CEO Kurt Nagle said that his organization, which represents the interests of seaports across the US, has issues with the proposed cuts.

“We’re concerned about the significant reductions proposed for fiscal 2018 in many of the programs critically important to ports, such as TIGER discretionary grants, HMTF (Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund) outlays, port security grants, and assistance in reducing diesel emissions,” Nagle said in a statement.

AAPA has called for $66 billion in federal funds for port-related infrastructure over the next decade to “ensure US job creation, economic growth, safe and secure ports and tax fairness.” On the water side, AAPA has recommended investing $33.8 billion to maintain and modernize deep-draft shipping channels, and $32 billion to build vital road and rail connections to ports and improve port facility infrastructure.

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 $321 billion a year in federal, state and local tax revenue, Nagle said.

Seattle Port Commissioners Approve Railroad Funding

By Mark Edward Nero

The Port of Seattle Commission on May 23 approved transportation funding for Kent’s South 228th Street grade separation (overpass) project that will help relieve traffic congestion caused by railroad crossings.

According to the port, the project will improve regional connections between thousands of businesses, employers and 40-million square feet of warehouse and industrial space.

The $595,000 in funding contributes to an overall project cost of $25 million.

“The Port of Seattle recognizes the need to keep freight, and all other traffic, moving throughout our region,” Commissioner Stephanie Bowman said in a statement. “Grade separations like these are critical to remove traffic bottlenecks, especially areas in the Kent Valley that handle the second largest freight and cargo volumes on the West Coast.”

Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke said that the success of both the Port of Seattle and the Kent Valley’s manufacturing, warehouse and distribution activity depends upon connections to the Seattle and Tacoma ports, and increasingly to Sea-Tac Airport.

“Kent’s South 228th Street has been designated as a key freight route, attracting port customers who value timely access,” she said. “The elimination of the chokepoint at the Union Pacific Railroad crossing will help ensure our region’s future as a premier manufacturing and distribution center of world-wide importance.”

New Auto Staging Lot Opens at Port of Portland

By Mark Edward Nero

On May 24, representatives from the Port of Portland, Ford Motor Co. and the Auto Warehousing Company (AWC) held a ribbon cutting ceremony for a new 18.9-acre storage and staging yard to support the port’s growth of export vehicles.

The lot, which can hold close to 3,000 vehicles, features porous pavement to minimize stormwater runoff and energy efficient LED lighting.

The Oregon Department of Transportation awarded a ConnectOregon grant of $2.6 million to the port and Auto Warehousing in 2016 to fund part of the $7 million lot expansion.

AWC leased 130 acres at the port’s Terminal 6 in 2005, and currently handles the import of Hyundai vehicles into the US and the export of Ford vehicles manufactured in North America bound for China, the Philippines and South Korea.

Export volumes have grown steadily in the last several years, according to port data, with more than 50,000 exports moving through Portland in 2016. A total of 291,000 vehicles – imports and exports – rolled through Portland’s terminals last year, representing an 11 percent increase over the previous year.

Port of Oakland: Vessel Calls to Southeast Asia Up 50 Percent

By Mark Edward Nero

Direct vessel calls from the Port of Oakland to countries in Southeast Asia are up 50 percent this spring, Oakland officials said May 23.

Direct weekly vessel calls to Southeast Asia have risen from 10 to 15 since April 1, port Executive Director Chris Lytle said.

Highlights from the past several weeks include the first direct vessel service between Oakland and Jakarta, an increase from two to four weekly voyages linking Oakland with the Port of Laem Chabang near Bangkok, and an additional weekly Singapore call enabling more cargo to be transported from nearby Cambodia to Oakland.

“Southeast Asia is a dynamic region with significant export potential and increasing demand for US products,” Lytle said. “It’s imperative that we position ourselves to serve this market.”

He also added that Oakland’s growing Southeast Asian presence coincides with changes to shipping line alliances as 11 leading ocean carriers realigned in April, sharing vessel services to control costs. One outgrowth of their restructuring was heightened emphasis on Oakland-Southeast Asia trade.

Shipping lines have been drawn to Southeast Asia due to shifting trade patterns, Lytle said. The region has grown as a manufacturing center for US markets, he pointed out. Meanwhile, its growing middle class populations have increased demand for US products. The result has been an uptick in two-way trade, which could translate to more business for ocean carriers.

California is the largest US exporter to Southeast Asia, with almost $16 billion in exports just last year, supporting over 87,000 jobs, according to Alexander Feldman, President and CEO of the US-ASEAN Business Council, an advocacy organization for US corporations operating within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Three-Vessel Fire in Alaska under USCG Investigation

By Mark Edward Nero

The cause of a fire aboard three fishing vessels, the 57-foot Seaborn, the 56-foot Pacific Lady and the 49-foot Julia Kae, which occurred at a marina in North Cove in Craig, Alaska is under investigation, the US Coast Guard (USCG) said May 21.

The Craig harbormaster and fire department contained the fire, and there were no injuries reported, according to the USCG. Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment Ketchikan investigators responded to the scene to monitor for signs of pollution, investigate the cause of the incident and assess extent and cost of damage. The Pacific Lady has a maximum capacity of 1,500 gallons of fuel, while the Julia Kae and the Seaborn have 3,800 and 2,000 gallons respectively, according to the USCG.

Sheening was minimal, according to the Coast Guard, but boom was deployed around two of the vessels as a precaution.

The fire broke out at about 3:30 a.m. May 21.

Vigor Delivers Low Emission Catamaran for San Francisco Service

By Mark Edward Nero

Hydrus, the first in a series of 400-passenger catamaran ferries for the Water and Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) in San Francisco, California, is completed and has entered service. Built by Vigor in Seattle, Washington, the Hydrus is the first of a new class of vessel, with additional ferries to follow.

Hydrus is powered by a pair of MTU 12V4000M64 EPA Tier 3 main engines, each producing 1,453 kW. It is one of the earliest passenger vessels to enter service with advanced exhaust aftertreatment, a system that ensures the vessel not only complies with the latest US emissions regulations, but is one of the lowest-emission ferries currently operating in North America.

Marine engineering design for the vessel was completed by Incat Crowther, which worked with suppliers to create an efficient layout for the system that minimizes noise ingress to the cabins and has minimal effect of passenger flow and operations. Hydrus has a top speed of 29 knots and a service speed of 27 knots under full load, according to Incat Crowther.

Vigor began construction on the first of two WETA ferries in this class in the spring of 2015. Following trials of the first vessel, two additional vessels were ordered by WETA.

“It’s an efficient design and very environmentally friendly,” Vigor Ballard General Manager Tim Kolb said. “The four Vigor vessels will play critical roles in maintaining service reliability in WETA’s planned expansion of the ferry service on the San Francisco Bay,” WETA Executive Director Nina Rannells said.

Hydrus is expected to be joined mid-2017 by a second vessel, Cetus, with a further two vessels due in 2018

Seaport Alliance: Pier 4 Reconfiguration Nearing Halfway Mark

By Mark Edward Nero

The reconfiguration of Pier 4 at the Port of Tacoma, which consists in part of redeveloping it to allow larger containerships to berth, is taking shape on the General Central Peninsula in the South Harbor.

Since awarding the contract to Manson Construction Co. and launching the first phase of the project in May 2016, the 1,724-foot pier nears its halfway mark, says the Northwest Seaport Alliance, the marine cargo operating partnership between Tacoma and the Port of Seattle.

Crews are working heavily on pier construction and installing underground utilities, including electrical, communication, sewer and stormwater treatment, according to the Seaport Alliance.

In February, Manson wrapped up the first phase of the pile driving, which set up the foundation for the structure that could serve two 18,000-TEU container ships once completed.

“Bigger ships require bigger cranes, and bigger cranes require a stronger foundation to evenly distribute the load,” Port of Tacoma Senior Project Manager Trevor Thornsley said. “Building the pier is all about providing enough support to handle the heavy cranes and the heavy load of the trucks, straddle carriers and the equipment that run on the pier.” Each pile, varying from 70 to 170 feet in length, is driven underwater in a neat row formation, and the segments are then bound together with rebar and concrete to create a thick platform called a pile cap.

Once pile caps are built, the crew places 25-foot-wide deck panels between them and fills any gaps with more concrete. At the end of the project, the pier will be covered with three to six inches of pavement.

The second phase of pile driving is slated to resume in July, with the completion of the full project anticipated for a spring 2018, according to the Seaport Alliance.

Seattle-Tacoma YTD Cargo Volumes Up Eight Percent

By Mark Edward Nero

Total container volumes at the Seattle and Tacoma seaports were steady for the month of April, according to the Northwest Seaport Alliance, as new ocean carrier alliance deployments took effect, thereby resulting in 0.5 percent growth over the same month last year, while year-to-date volumes were up eight percent.

April international container volumes performed well, with 110,821 TEUs shipped, full imports grew six percent compared to April 2016. The ports cites retailers continuing to rebuild inventory levels and a favorable market outlook fueling import demand as causes for the increase.

Additionally, full exports were up one percent to 77,558 TEUs, according to data. Empty exports grew 81.5 percent as ocean carriers began repositioning empties to Asia in preparation for peak season. Total international TEU volumes, including empties, jumped eight percent compared to last April.

Last month’s full imports brought year-to-date volumes to 462,427 TEUs, up 11 percent. Full exports grew five percent to 324,743 TEUs, while total international containers, including empties, increased 12 percent year to date.

However, total domestic volumes last month were down 21 percent compared to April 2016. Also last month, breakbulk cargo was down 10 percent, to 55,119 metric tons year to date, due to soft market conditions; and autos, at 53,925 units year to date, slipped 13 percent compared to the same time last year, a reflection, the port said, of weakening US demand and shifting manufacturing locations.

Additionally, log volumes were up 165.3 percent, to 94,547 metric tons, over the same time last year, something driven by consistent demand from China according to the Seaport Alliance.