The articles excerpted on this site report on the state of the industry as seen by mainstream media, and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the officers of the ILWU Coast Longshore Division.

Port of Long Beach executive outlines strategies to reduce congestion

From the Press-Telegram:

The people who run the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are developing plans to work together to help themselves and the companies who do business at the harbor alleviate congestion around the waterfront.

That’s the word from Michael Christensen, appointed as the Port of Long Beach’s new senior executive for supply chain management in February. Christensen, who was the keynote speaker Tuesday during the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce’s World Trade Week Luncheon, said the twin ports plan to make a formal announcement soon revealing more specifics.

Christensen noted that shipping companies’ moves to control their own costs, such as forming alliances between carriers, moving goods on bigger ships and divesting themselves of the trailers that truck drivers need to haul the containers, have exacerbated the congestion problem.

More at the Press-Telegram


King County denies waste disposal permit for Shell’s Seattle home port

The King County industrial-waste program on Wednesday denied a permit for discharge of waste water into the county’s regional sewer system from Shell Oil’s Arctic home port fleet based at Terminal 5 at the Port of Seattle.

City, state and county officials have now extended an unwelcome mat to the oil giant, but Shell shows no signs of disembarking. A second giant drilling rig, the controversial Noble Discoverer, is reportedly about to move from its berth in Everett to Terminal 5.

More at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer


Arch Coal no longer meets NYSE’s minimum share price requirement

The New York Stock Exchange has notified Arch Coal that it no longer meets the stock exchange’s minimum price requirement, the coal company said Friday.

The NYSE requires listed common stock to average at least $1 per share for any period of 30 consecutive trading days; if not, the stock is at risk of being delisted. As of May 15, Arch’s average price for the 30-day period was 99 cents, the company said. On Friday, the shares closed at 66.2 cents, which puts that 30-day average at 93.6 cents, according to data from Thomson Reuters.

More at the St. Louis Post-Dispatcher


Army Corps of Engineers to consider deeper Mississippi River

Barges on the Mississippi River near Baton Rouge, LA.The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is once again weighing the costs and benefits of a potential $300 million effort to deepen the lower Mississippi River by as much as 5 feet.

The New Orleans Advocate reports the project — which would cover the stretch from Baton Rouge to the Gulf of Mexico — is being considered largely in light of the work underway at the Panama Canal.

When the Panama project is finished, the canal will be able to accommodate ships with drafts as deep as 50 feet below the water’s surface. That is 5 feet deeper than what’s available on the lower Mississippi.

More at The News Tribune


No solution in sight for dockers’ strike at Callao port


Hundreds of union dockworkers are without work during the strike. The union called on the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and Peruvian authorities to intervene over allegations that APM Terminals was acting illegally and disregarding the risks to health by using seafarers to assist with unloading containers.

The dockers’ strike at Callao port in Peru has been underway for over a week now and based on the current development there is no solution in sight as talks have been suspended.

ITF-affiliate Sutramporpc has accused APM of intransigence in refusing to negotiate over workers’ demands for fair pay and of acting illegally, as in Peru crew from vessels are not authorised to undertake unloading in port, given their lack of expertise. The union has suspended talks “until the company shows genuine interest in ending the dispute”.

Five members and leaders of Sutramporpc, including the secretary general, were arrested by state intelligence officers on the first day of the strike on 13 May.

The men were released without charge several hours later, after the ITF wrote to president Ollanta Humala to demand their release and the union denounced the arrests to Callao’s judge and ombudsman’s office, stating that they violated the freedom of the individual and the freedom of association, on which the ILO’s Committee on Freedom of Association had already issued an opinion.

More at World Maritime News


ATA: Terminals and carriers using congestion-related fees as a 'profit center'

Excerpts from a Journal of Commerce article titled ‘Shippers and truckers the losers in demurrage blame game’:

Demurrage and per-diem detention fees at gridlocked U.S. ports have turned into a multimillion-dollar hot potato. Cargo interests, truckers, ocean carriers and marine terminals are locked in noisy, seemingly nonstop argument over responsibility for the fees. It’s a complex problem with no easy solution — but plenty of finger-pointing.

Curtis Whalen, executive director of the American Trucking Associations’ intermodal council, said, “Truckers are stuck in the middle. They’re billed demurrage for failure to pick up a container, and detention when they can’t return it before free time expires — and all of this is triggered by things beyond their control.”

Whalen said terminals and ocean carriers are using the charges as a profit center. “They have created a revenue stream that cushions them from the impacts of the problems they have created and does not incentivize them to become more efficient,” he told The Journal of Commerce.

More at the Journal of Commerce


Obama takes unexpected setback on trade agenda as Fast Track passes Senate

From the Huffington Post:

President Barack Obama’s trade agenda suffered a setback Friday evening during a series of last-minute maneuvers in the Senate. While the upper chamber eventually passed a bill that would help Obama streamline a trade pact with 11 Pacific nations, the final product threw a wrench into the president’s plans.

The Senate approved a bill to “fast-track” trade agreements negotiated by the president. The agreement will prevent Congress from amending or filibustering Obama’s controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. The TPP deal would have a hard time surviving without fast-track authority.

But a key crackdown on human trafficking survived the legislative jujitsu. The White House considers the provision a deal-breaker, as it would force one of the nations involved in the TPP talks — Malaysia — out of the agreement. An immigration-related amendment authored by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) never got a vote, making it far more difficult for Obama to win over skeptical tea party Republicans in the House.

Read the rest at the Huffington Post


Here’s Everything You Need To Know About Obama’s Trade Deal In One Short Speech

From Huffington Post:

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) took to the Senate floor Friday evening to make a point-by-point analysis of why a trade deal being negotiated by President Barack Obama would harm the United States.

While Obama has said that the deal, called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, is “the most progressive framework for trade” the United States has ever had, Merkley argued on Friday that the deal would hurt American workers, increase inequality and undermine American sovereignty.

“We are creating a structure of a group of seven very poor nations with very low wages, five affluent nations with higher wages, and think about the difference between running an operation on the mound or Malaysia or Mexico, with a minimum wage of less than $2 an hour, and in Vietnam with a minimum wage of 60 to 70 cents depending on what part of the country you’re in,” Merkley said. “Think about the difference between that and the minimum wage in the United States. It is a 10-to-1 differential.”

Watch the 7-minute speech at the Huffington Post


Banana shippers scramble to find capacity

BananasLong-haul banana trades continue to flourish as consumers in Asia add more of the fruit to their diets.

While container lines gain market share, Ecuador based shipbroker Sopisco argues that specialized liner services could claw back some of the business. Bananas remain a key commodity for specialized reefer carriers and container lines alike, and demand for fruit from leading global supplier Ecuador appears to be rising.

Volume and cargo fixture data captured by specialist shipbroker and agent Sopisco shows that long-haul liftings from Ecuador to China and Saudi Arabia greatly increased over the past few years, with equipment and tonnage shortages restraining growth.

More at the Journal of Commerce


West Coast Longshore workers overwhelmingly vote to approve new 5-year contract, 82% in favor

ILWU-logoSAN FRANCISCO, CA (May 22, 2015) – West Coast Longshore workers have overwhelmingly voted to ratify a tentative contract agreement reached in February with employers represented by the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).

Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) voted 82% in favor of approving the new 5-year agreement that will expire on July 1, 2019. The previous contract was ratified in 2008 with a vote of 75% in favor.

Voting results were certified today by the ILWU’s Coast Balloting Committee, which was chosen by Coast Longshore Caucus delegates elected from each of the 29 West Coast ports.

“The negotiations for this contract were some of the longest and most difficult in our recent history,” said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath. “Membership unity and hard work by the Negotiating Committee made this fair outcome possible.”

The new agreement provides approximately 20,000 good-paying jobs in 29 West Coast port communities. The contract will maintain excellent health benefits, improve wages, pensions and job safety protections; limit outsourcing of jobs and provide an improved system for resolving job disputes.

– ILWU Coast Longshore Division news release


Zim swings to profit

Zim Integrated Shipping Services Ltd. finished the first quarter of 2015 with an $11 million net profit, following a sharp drop in shipping costs, and despite a more moderate decline in its revenue. Zim, which last summer completed a huge debt settlement with its creditors, reported $792 million in revenue from cargoes and related services in the first quarter.

Zim said this 8.6% drop, compared with the first quarter of 2014, was caused by lower revenue from transporting cargoes in containers and from related activities. In contrast to its weakness in revenue, the cost of the company’s transportation and related services fell 14.6% to $685 million, thanks to lower global oil prices over the past year, which cut Zim’s first quarter fuel costs by $64 million, leaving them 37% lower than in the corresponding quarter last year. Furthermore, quarterly costs for cargo handling were down $18 million. The lower costs enabled Zim to report a $40 million first quarter operating profit, compared with an $8 million operating loss in the first quarter of 2014.

More at Globes


A new low for the Port of Portland

In an article titled ‘Port of Portland pushed to kill carbon fee on propane export terminal and save backers millions annually,’ the Oregonian reports on how the Port tried to throw Portland under the bus … Or in this case, the rail-clogging Canadian propane train:

Even as community opposition mushroomed to a proposed propane export terminal in North Portland, the Port of Portland was negotiating in secret to save its Canadian backers millions of dollars annually.

It hoped to do so by convincing the City of Portland to eliminate an annual $6.2 million carbon fee proposed for the terminal and its backer, Pembina Pipeline Corp. The fee was a threshold condition in winning a controversial zoning approval for the project after a seven-hour public hearing of Portland’s Planning and Sustainability Commission in early April. But the Port almost immediately set to work behind the scenes to get rid of it.

The Port has faced consistent criticism over the years for ignoring the environmental impacts of its projects and being deaf to advocates concerns.

[Ignoring advocates' concerns; ya think? Read the rest of the Port of Portland's latest slick maneuver at The Oregonian.]


SSA Marine: We need more time to respond to Lummi concerns about coal terminal

Coal train, Bellingham, WA

A coal train heads north through the site of the former Georgia-Pacific mill on the Bellingham waterfront. File photo from the Bellingham Herald.

The company that would build a coal terminal at Cherry Point told a
federal agency it needs more time to respond to a tribe’s request to shut down the project.

Seattle-based SSA Marine said in a May 12 letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers it needs about 90 days to respond in full to Lummi Nation’s claims that the terminal and associated vessel traffic would interfere with the tribe’s traditional fishing practices, as protected in an 1855 treaty.

In a separate letter from May 8, Sahlin, SSA Marine’s vice president of project development, said the Corps shouldn’t “rush to judgment.”

More at the Bellingham Herald


Recall petition: 'Malfeasance and violation of the oath of office' at the Port of Vancouver

In a May 20 article titled ‘Petitions filed to recall Vancouver port commissioners Oliver, Wolfe,’ the Columbian’s Aaron Corvin follows an excellent investigative series that includes the following excerpts:

In recall documents filed Tuesday, Vancouver resident Christopher Clifford accuses Port of Vancouver commissioners Jerry Oliver and Brian Wolfe of malfeasance, misfeasance and violation of the oath of office, including that they “knowingly violated” Washington’s open public meetings law in discussing in closed-door executive sessions a proposal to build what would be the nation’s largest rail-to-marine oil transfer terminal.

The recall petitions and complaint to the Auditor’s Office follow a recent series of stories by The Columbian. The three stories, based in part on public records, court depositions and interviews with experts in open government, found a pattern by port leaders of keeping the community in the dark about crucial financial and policy issues before making decisions and of improper use of closed-door executive sessions to hash out safety, environmental and financial issues, among others, meant to be aired in public.

The complaint alleges the port excluded the public from at least nine meetings in 2013 before approving the oil terminal lease on July 23.

More excerpts from the series:

May 17: ”Culture of secrecy shrouds Port of Vancouver”The Port of Vancouver is a government body that’s beholden to its voters and taxpayers.

Yet its elected officials embrace a culture of secrecy, meeting behind closed doors “about 95 percent of the time,” as one commissioner put it in a court deposition, and making decisions inside a bubble of deference to the port administration and the private industries it courts. As a result, the powerful port often sidesteps full public accountability, which is one reason why it faces impassioned political and legal challenges to its decision to approve what would be the nation’s largest rail-to-marine oil transfer terminal.

May 18: Skids greased for oil terminal behind closed doors

Even the most vigilant of Port of Vancouver watchers couldn’t have foreseen how the port and two private companies were paving the way behind closed doors for quick local approval of what would be the nation’s largest oil-to-marine transfer terminal.

Before the public had heard a single word about the terminal, the port had agreed to negotiate exclusively with Tesoro Corp., a petroleum refiner, and Savage Companies, a transportation company, on their potential use of Terminal 5 and other port facilities. In court depositions, two of the three elected commissioners gave conflicting statements about whether the commission had approved the exclusive discussions or whether the port’s CEO, Todd Coleman, used his administrative authority to sign off on it.

May 19: Oil terminal lease unleashes a gusher of backlash

Sparked by the port’s insular handling of a lease for what would be the nation’s largest rail-to-marine oil transfer terminal, reform-minded critics are pushing the port to embrace a more transparent approach to making decisions. Some are jumping into the race for an open seat on the port commission, hoping to change the organization from within.