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“We just don’t believe a local jurisdiction can be given the authority to enforce such a rule.”

Ocean cargo: The Federal Maritime Commission to revisit “Clean Trucks” issue today
Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor — Logistics Management, 9/24/2008

WASHINGTON—Closed-door deliberations on the Los Angeles-Long Beach Ports Terminals Agreement will take place during a portion of a Federal Maritime Commission’s (FMC) meeting today. While details were not disclosed by FMC spokesmen, shippers suspect that commissioners may share their concern about escalating costs associated with the implementation of the port’s “clean trucks” program slated to being next month.

 Last week, the National Industrial Transportation League (NITL) joined the American Trucking Associations (ATA) in seeking legal action to stop the October 1 implementation.

 “The FMC may also be evaluating the merits of this plan and its impact on shippers,” said NITL executive director, Peter Gatti in an interview. “We can already see a shift in shipping and sourcing strategies coming as a consequence of this action.”

 Earlier this month, the FMC voted 2-1 to order additional information from the ports on the proposed plan.

 According to Gatti, U.S. west coast shippers are already being “hit hard” by California state-mandated container fees and are resisting another layer of expense associated with this program.

 “And no one is against the idea of using cleaner and more fuel-efficient vehicles,” he said. “Both the NITL and the ATA support the introduction of newer trucks in the drayage operations. We just don’t believe a local jurisdiction can be given the authority to enforce such a rule. It’s a complete violation of federal law.”

 The port’s argument that its “clean trucks” program banning independent owner-operators would result in a safer and more secure waterfront is also without merit, said Gatti.

 “Shippers know that this is really about money,” he said. “And if the costs of doing business in Southern California becomes too great, they will find other ports to do business with.”

“It would seem that the district wants the public out of the loop when receiving controversial reports.”
Eureka Reporter
Published: Sep 19 2008, 11:46 PM · Updated: Sep 20 2008, 12:32 AM
Category: Opinion

Dear Editor,

The last Harbor Commission meeting was on Sept. 11. Did you know the agenda? I didn’t either, except at the last minute. I’m on their e-mail list. I usually get plenty of time to read the agenda, sometimes weeks in advance. This time, I was received the notice at 10:05 on the morning of the day of the meeting.

This last meeting was very important. Allan Hemphill, chairman of the North Coast Railroad Authority, gave a status report on the NCRA and discussed and answer questions about the railroad. We all want to know about the death/existence of the railroad. Having a working railroad is necessary for the industrialized port.

Hemphill basically said, the port has to come in first. No rail until the deep-water port is built. The problem, of course, is that no one will build a port unless the rail is there first.

Previous meetings have been packed with the majority of people commenting against the industrialized port.

Because public notice was not given according to practice, a large crowd was not expected and so the venue was Woodley Island. It seems obvious that the Harbor District did not want a large turnout.

Some clerical error in noticing the community or some dirty trick to ensure a low public turnout?

It would seem that the district wants the public out of the loop when receiving controversial reports.

What will the district pull out of its hat next? A port, a railroad or just a rabbit?

Jessica Puccinelli
Fortuna

“… we have no intention of being enslaved by railroads”

Railroad rumble
Freight traffic would soar in some places and drop in others if Canadian National deal OKd
By Richard Wronski Tribune Reporter
September 14, 2008

The Canadian National Railway Co.’s plan to reroute freight train traffic through Chicago’s outlying suburbs has generated a locomotive-size controversy.

Opponents say the plan raises concerns about safety, traffic and pollution, while CN and experts say diverting freight trains around Chicago’s congested rail corridor will benefit business and the economy.

Thousands of residents have turned out at Chicago-area hearings to voice concerns about CN’s $300 million plan to acquire the lightly used Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway and transform it into what has been described as a rail superhighway.

Freight traffic could quadruple in some communities but significantly decrease in others. The U.S. Surface Transportation Board is expected to rule on the sale as early as December.

Here’s a look at some who favor the deal or oppose it—and why.

IF THE DEAL IS APPROVED, HERE’S WHO WOULD LOSE …

Frankfort

Freight trains would increase from six to 28 a day along the EJ&E tracks that cut through Frankfort. Marc Steinman, whose home is about 100 feet from the tracks, says: “Taking a transportation-related problem and moving it from one area to another doesn’t solve it. It just moves it.”

Barrington School District 220 

The district’s 9,200 students from kindergarten to 12th grade ride buses that cross the EJ&E tracks 376 times a day, said Supt. Tom Leonard. “It’s going to make traffic in town very difficult, and obviously it’s going to make traffic for kids who are on buses very problematic,” Leonard said.

Oak Terrace subdivision

The 160-home subdivision borders the EJ&E tracks and Illinois Highway 83 near Mundelein in unincorporated Lake County. Residents such as Cindy Murray complain that motorists use residential streets to avoid the crossing at Illinois 83 when freight trains block traffic. “I see more accidents, more injuries [happening],” Murray said.

West Chicago

The city, originally known as Junction, is reputed to be the first Illinois community created as the result of railroads. Under the CN plan, trains on the EJ&E line through town will increase from about 10 to more than 31 a day. “West Chicago is a railroad town, but we have no intention of being enslaved by railroads,” Mayor Mike Kwasman said.

TRAC Coalition

“All of us need to keep the pressure on the [transportation board],” said Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner, co-chairman of the Regional Answer to Canadian National, a coalition of suburban leaders from Lake, Cook, McHenry, Kane, DuPage and Will Counties, and northwest Indiana opposed to the CN deal.

Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital, Barrington

The additional train traffic in the Barrington area will delay ambulances, hospital officials say. Medical Director Joseph Giangrasso said: “It’s very simple: If you cannot get the patient to the hospital that could conduct their treatment, the patient will suffer. In emergency medicine, that usually means they die.”

 

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“I feel like we’re up against a giant. For them it’s all about money.”

Leaders hope to derail EJ&E plan
September 14, 2008 Recommend
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY, Staff Writer

If the people don’t want more trains coming through town, it’s up to them to do something about it. At a New Lenox rally to oppose Canadian National Railroad’s plan to purchase the Elgin Joliet & Eastern tracks and run freight trains all day long, residents were told they have one last chance to write letters, make phone calls and voice their opinions. The deadline to submit comments is Sept. 30.

Residents and officials are hoping that if the local motion is powerful enough it will throw CN off the EJ&E tracks.

“We need you to speak louder and clearer than the train whistles. We need you to move faster than a freight train. And, we need you to do it now,” said Mokena Mayor Joe Werner, who joined New Lenox, Frankfort and Will County officials in firing up a packed auditorium at Lincoln-Way Central High School Wednesday night to oppose the foreign rail company.

“Is there any benefit to us at all?” one man asked about CN’s proposal to operate 28 freight trains per day through the Lincoln-Way communities.

“Absolutely not,” said New Lenox Mayor Tim Baldermann.

 

Read the rest of the story >

“The first issue that needs to be addressed will be economic feasibility”

By CERENA JOHNSON, The Eureka Reporter
Published: Sep 12 2008, 11:35 PM · Updated: Sep 13 2008, 1:02 AM

Discussion returned to the future of the railroad at Thursday’s Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District meeting.

North Coast Railroad Authority Chairman Allan Hemphill provided the board with an update on current projects.

Currently, the NCRA is focused on reconstruction of the southern end of the line, with a $70 million reconstruction geared toward signals work, restoration of levees in Shellville and bridge reconstruction, Hemphill said.

As the harbor district has yet to reach a final decision on the Redwood Marine Terminal Project, Hemphill said there is “not much of a place to table” for the NCRA.

Once a decision is reached, Hemphill said, “we are required by staff to respond to that.”

The proposed marine terminal project includes construction of a multipurpose berth and long-term expansion dependent on operation of the railroad.

The way the process is set up, Hemphill said several issues need to be addressed.

“The first issue that needs to be addressed will be economic feasibility,” Hemphill said, along with assessing whether there is a sufficient traffic base.

Hemphill also said environmental issues need to be addressed in order to handle that traffic — in the case of the Eel River canyon, an environmental impact report — and said the question of where funds come from for restoration needs to be answered.

“We’re waiting for something to respond to,” he said.

Two years ago, the NCRA began the process of assessing the cost of fixing the canyon, starting an environmental review process and engaging an engineering company to do photo mapping to determine where problematic areas are, as well as a geo-tech study.

That is now in the final stages, Hemphill said, after which it will be delivered to the NCRA board and made available to the harbor district and public.

“I think it will finally answer some of the questions that have been hanging out there,” Hemphill said.

The harbor district board also continued discussion of the Goldman Sachs negotiations.

“We have not accepted their proposal because it does not cover items the board feel are necessary,” said Commissioner Roy Curless.

Curless said a lot of negotiating remains to be done between the board’s committee and Goldman Sachs.

“They’ve kind of come dead in the water,” Curless said.

The next step will be for Goldman Sachs to come up with a proposal that is accepted by the committee, which the committee would then bring to the board for fine-tuning, he said.

Read the story in the Eureka Reporter >

“The total number of loaded containers, import containers and empty containers were all down – by 6.7 percent, 15.3 percent and 46.7 percent, respectively.”

Alameda Corridor Numbers Plummet; Diversion Likely Cause
The Cunningham Report
08/31/2008

 

The number of trains running along the Alameda Corridor and the number of containers those trains carried were down by double-digit percentages during the first six months of 2008, according to new figures from the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority.
The numbers speak for themselves:

  • There were 8,033 trains that traveled along the 20-mile cargo expressway the first six months of the year, a decrease of 11.6 percent from the 9,091 during January to June 2007.
  • The number of containers declined 11.2 percent to 1.46 million this year from 1.65 million in the first half of last year.
  • The total number of loaded containers, import containers and empty containers were all down – by 6.7 percent, 15.3 percent and 46.7 percent, respectively.
  • The only increase for the six-month period came in the number of exports through the corridor, which were up 12.9 percent.

“What this does indicate is that there has been a fall-off in terms of the number of trains that are carrying cargo, which represents a loss in discretionary cargo to these ports in the first six months of this year,” ACTA CEO John Doherty told the Long Beach Harbor Commission last week. “Typically we trend exactly as the ports (of Long Beach and Los Angeles) do – if the ports are off three percent a year, the Alameda Corridor is off three percent a year. But the ports are now off 7.7 percent combined … and the Alameda Corridor is off 11 percent. So this is a little indicator that we’re losing discretionary cargo,” he said.

It’s an important indicator.

Everybody knows that shippers have to use the Southern California ports for the cargo destined for Southern California. The Los Angeles and Long Beach ports would have to become outrageously expensive before it would make sense to ship cargo through Oakland or Mexico and truck it to Southern California. But the discretionary cargo – goods headed across the Continental Divide to the American heartland – can be easily diverted to other ports.

“The port had planned to lease empty space at Berths 33 and 34 for container traffic but the sluggish market has forced the port to shop for more diverse tenants.”

Oakland May Use Container Space To Store Aggregate
The Cunningham Report
08/31/2008

 

The economic downturn and sluggish container shipping business has compelled the Port of Oakland to consider leasing vacant wharf space and marine facilities in the Port’s outer harbor to store construction aggregate.

The port’s Maritime Committee Thursday voted to ask the Port Board to authorize Executive Director Omar Benjamin to enter into a negotiating agreement with Teichart Materials of Sacramento to lease 12.5 acres in Berth 33. The agreement would give Teichart six months beginning in November to conduct due diligence and prepare an operating plan for a five to ten-year lease for an estimated $13.8 million.

Teichart is considering leasing the berth space for handling bulk construction materials, including crushed rock and sand. The site is currently being used for the TraPac Terminal construction project and won’t be available for another 18 months.

The port had planned to lease empty space at Berths 33 and 34 for container traffic but the sluggish market has force the port to shop for more diverse tenants. The Port’s long-term plan is to restrict the outer harbor area for containers.

Commissioner Margaret Gordon argued that Oakland should follow the Port of San Francisco example and conduct “smart planning” for cluster areas of similar industries, such as asphalt, cement, and recycling operations.

“The whole idea of creating a relief point in Mexico was based on LA/Long Beach being maxed out. That’s not going to happen now.”

Ocean cargo: Proposed Mexican seaport gets new attention
Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor — Logistics Management, 9/2/2008

LOS ANGELES—Shippers tired of congestion and slow downs at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach were given some promising news last week about an alternative gateway on the Pacific Rim.

 “The Punta Colonet container ship project will transform and revolutionize the productivity of the country,” said Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon last week. He added that plans for the seaport 150 miles south of Ensenada in Baja Mexico would be significant rival to its North American rivals.

 With bidding now open for a 45-year concession to operate the port and rail line to the U.S. border, Mexico plans to have Punta Colonet ready for business by 2012.

 Some industry analysts are skeptical, however.

 “We understand that some of the initial bidders have already pulled out,” said Dr. John Martin, president of Martin Associates, an economic consulting firm specializing in international trade. “And there’s reason to believe that the project is not as attractive to some investors as it might have been a couple of years ago.”

 According to Martin, ocean carrier redeployments to an “all-water” service linking Asia to the EU via the Suez Canal has meant less volume for the U.S. West Coast recently.

 “This means more cargo is sourced through U.S. East Coast ports,” he said, “and we see this trend continuing. The whole idea of creating a relief point in Mexico was based on LA/Long Beach being maxed out. That’s not going to happen now.”

 Industry analysts have also noted that the Canadian port of Prince Rupert is not attracting the massive shipments projected before it enlarged its operations a few years ago.

 “The West Coast longshore labor situation has stabilized, too,” noted Martin, “and shippers are not so worried about a long-term shutdown here again.

“Incoming goods are down so much that the twin ports are on pace to record their second straight year of declines in overall international trade.”

Exports jump at L.A., Long Beach ports but imports falter
By Ronald D. White, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer 
September 2, 2008

Forget scrap paper, plastics, scrap metal and the bounty of agricultural harvests. Until this year, the biggest U.S. contribution to the international supply chain were vast mountains of empty cargo containers outbound on ships to China, where they were quickly refilled with the imports on which American consumers have come to depend.

“For the longest time, we used to joke that our biggest export was our fine California air,” said Eric Caris, assistant director of marketing for the Port of Los Angeles. “The good news for us in 2008 is that we are finally exporting more loaded containers than empties.”

From January to July, exports jumped about 23% compared with the same period of 2007 at the nation’s two busiest container ports, Los Angeles and Long Beach. But the export boom overshadows a deep pullback in U.S. consumer spending.

Imports are down so much that the twin ports are on pace to record their second straight year of declines in overall international trade. That hasn’t happened in at least 30 years, despite a handful of national recessions along the way.

The slowdown has hit almost every harbor in North America.

Of the 10 busiest seaports that are tracked every month by the nation’s largest retailers for signs of congestion, only two are doing more business than last year. One is Vancouver, Canada, which is serving an economy much healthier than that of the U.S. The other is Savannah, Ga., which is winning market share as the first big East Coast stop for cargo headed north from the Panama Canal.

Weakness in the U.S. economy is mirrored on the docks, said Paul Bingham, managing director of trade and transportation markets for the Washington-based forecasting firm Global Insight.

“You can find all of the economic symptoms of the downturn in these numbers,” Bingham said. “Unfortunately, this is a bad-news story. We haven’t even found the bottom yet.”

Bingham and other economists even can glean from the port statistics the effect of the Bush administration’s economic stimulus checks, which was minor. Many observers hoped for a turnaround in the second half of 2008, but now they don’t see one happening before the second quarter of 2009.

At the five top West Coast ports — Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma, Wash. — imports were down by as much as 13% through the first seven months of the year.