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“Everybody expects 2009 to be a bleak year. Now, it looks like 2010 is going to be just as bleak.”

Idle ports signal two ‘bleak’ years ahead in world trade
 Loss of financing threatens sector that accounts for 25% of world economy

 Chris Lytle, chief operating officer of the port of Long Beach, Calif., took in a panorama of the slumping world economy from his rooftop observation deck one day this month.

Shipping cranes stood still, truck traffic trickled and a cargo vessel sat idle, moored to a pier.

“You never see that,” Lytle said. “It’s quiet. Too quiet.”

Port traffic is slowing around the world — everywhere from North America to Asia — as a recession erodes consumer demand and the credit crisis chokes off loans to export-dependent companies. International trade is set to fall by more than two per cent next year, the most since the World Bank began measuring it in 1971. Idle ports are showing how quickly a collapse in trade can spread, undermining growth in each country it reaches.

September and October are typically Long Beach’s busiest months as U.S. retailers take deliveries for holiday sales. This year, September imports fell 15.8 per cent from a year earlier, October’s dropped 9.5 per cent, and November’s slid 13.6 per cent.

“Everybody expects 2009 to be a bleak year,” said Jim McKenna, chief executive officer of the Pacific Maritime Association, a San Francisco-based group representing dock employers at U.S. West Coast ports. “Now, it looks like 2010 is going to be just as bleak.”

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“Shipping volumes at the container port have fallen far short of initial expectations that capacity would be fully taken up this year.”

B.C. port expansion delayed
Globe and Mail Update
December 19, 2008 at 6:24 AM EST

The port of Prince Rupert is delaying the expansion of its container terminal by at least 18 months, as the global recession and its own financing woes dash hopes of breaking ground on the $650-million project next year.

According to a confidential study commissioned by the federal government, a summary of which was obtained by The Globe and Mail, the port authority has hit the debt wall, with the decline in shipping volumes meaning it will breach federal requirements on its current loans of $22-million.

The port authority’s limited cash flow, and inability to borrow against its lands, means it cannot support an increased debt burden and will not be able to borrow the $200-million needed for its portion of the Phase 2 expansion, concludes PricewaterhouseCoopers. Prince Rupert has “little or no financial flexibility to move forward with plans for Phase 2 in the short term,” says the summary, written in August, before the full force of the economic crisis swept over the global shipping industry.

The head of the Prince Rupert Port Authority confirmed in an interview with The Globe yesterday that Phase 2 has been delayed, and will likely begin in late 2010 rather than the middle of next year.

But Don Krusel, the port authority’s president and chief executive officer, attributed the delay to global economic conditions, and the resulting blow to shipping volumes, rather than to the organization’s finances.

Shipping volumes at the container port have fallen far short of initial expectations that capacity would be fully taken up this year.

Instead, only about a third had been used as of the end of November, and traffic dipped from the month before. The volume of shipping to Prince Rupert in November, if maintained over a full year, would mean the container port would be running at about 60-per-cent capacity, Mr. Krusel said.

The container port may not reach the full capacity of its first phase until 2010, a consequence of the severe slowdown in transpacific shipping volumes. “You cannot push back against a tidal wave,” Mr. Krusel said. Read the rest of this entry »

Associated Press
Ahead of the Bell: Railroad shipments slowing
Associated Press, 12.12.08, 09:22 AM EST

 A Goldman Sachs analyst on Friday predicted that North American railroad shipments will continue to slow in 2009, and said historically high shipping prices may not be enough to balance out the shortfall.


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“The decline we are seeing in recent weeks is faster and deeper than what most people had expected only a few months ago.”

From The Times
December 10, 2008
Maersk Line warns shipping industry needs a lifebelt
Carl Mortished, World Business Editor

It was the one industry geared for huge volume growth. From China alone, annual double-digit percentage increases in trade had been the norm in the shipping world.

But a sudden and sharp slowdown in global trade is hurting the cashflow of container shipping companies. The situation is so critical that a senior executive of Maersk Line said that the accelerating traffic decline could push a big group over the edge next year.

Maersk, the world’s leading container shipping line, has slashed the rates it charges for transporting containers on its Asia-America routes and last week the Danish company said that it was laying up eight vessels amid worsening market conditions.

The eight ships, each with a capacity for 6,500 containers, will remain at anchor, probably in the Far East, until next summer. They are unlikely to represent the last capacity cut for the shipping giant, Michel Deleuran, head of network and product at Maersk, said: “We are certainly seeing a dramatic slowdown. The decline we are seeing in recent weeks is faster and deeper than what most people had expected only a few months ago. If we don’t see improvements, we will be laying up more.”


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Updated December 9, 2008 9:54:24 AM


The Port of Portland has suspended its search for a private investor to lease and operate its Terminal 6 container facility. 

Port officials decided to put the terminal concession process, which began earlier this year and was spearheaded by Morgan Stanley, on ice in light of economic conditions and tight capital and credit markets.

As recently as October, officials had said that the Columbia River port was on track for a final decision by the end of the year on proposals from about 10 potential partners for the long-term concession to operate up to 215 acres of the 428-acre facility.

They said at that time that the concession project would be unaffected by current economic and financial conditions because of its long-term nature — 50 years or more.

The move by the port was intended to take it out of direct operation of the container business at T-6. The terminal has never reached its full 700,000-TEU capacity while under port management.

Portland’s T-6 is the only remaining port-operated container facility on the West Coast.

“Even if growth continues as strongly as it has in recent years, any new trade will probably pass the West Coast by,” 

Ship cargo volume slumping at West Coast ports
George Raine, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, November 30, 2008

Cargo volume at West Coast ports, after years of being dominant in U.S. maritime trade, is slumping, clearly the result of the worsening global economic crisis but also because Gulf Coast and East Coast ports are gaining favor, shipping industry executives say.

The first priority for the cargo container business, of course, is making good decisions in an economy in which consumers have zipped their wallets, orders are a fraction of what they were in good times, Asian factories are shuttered and unemployment rates are rising.

Long-term infrastructure improvements, including increased rail service and improved trucking conditions – as well as helping to cleanse the air at pollution-heavy, dangerous ports – will be necessary for the West Coast to hold on to market share amid ever-increasing competition from across the country, experts say.

Container cargo volumes moving through the West Coast ports fell again in October, and 2008 is now expected to be the slowest year since 2004, according to the National Retail Federation. Collectively, the decline at West Coast ports is more than 1 million containers so far this year, American Shipper magazine reported.


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“This is another setback for US West Coast ports…”

Hanjin move another blow for US West Coast ports
By Martin Rushmere 
San Francisco 

Hanjin Shipping has signed a 30-year lease with the Jacksonville Port Authority for a US$300 million, 88-acre container terminal at Dames Point in northeast Florida. Expected to be up and running in 2011, it is expected to bring in $1 billion a year to local business, mostly from the 5,000 jobs that will be created, according to Jaxport officials.

This is another setback for US West Coast ports, which have been losing business as shipping lines focus on East Coast ports.


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“Even if global trade returns to its formerly robust pace, Drewry said, “any new trade will probably pass the West Coast by. Volumes are unlikely to decline, but the days of strong growth on the Pacific Coast are behind us.”

Panama Canal expansion threatens some US ports
By Ronald D. White, Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service
Published: December 07, 2008, 23:3

Los Angeles: The slowdown in international trade has left the docks at the United States’ biggest seaport complex quieter than they’ve been in years.

Some workers, particularly non-union “casuals”, at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports wait for shifts that never come. Automobiles and other merchandise pile up as consumers dig in for a long economic winter.

But the problems at the twin ports, along with smaller West Coast harbours, extend beyond the nation’s economic woes, maritime experts say, and changes on the horizon could leave the seaports struggling to keep customers.


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“We are actually on the front end of a long-term structural change of business models where people are building their supply chains around California” for goods not destined for California,”

Is the Bloom Off California’s Rose? Some Say Yes.
US Gulf, East Coast ports vie to attract container cargo and business from the once-Golden State
The CalTrade Report

LOS ANGELES – 12/04/08 – The continuing global economic crisis, dreary retail sales, and increased efforts by US Gulf and East Coast ports to attract container cargo are severely impacting the volume of goods moving through California’s deep-water container ports, according to the monthly Port Tracker report released this week by the National Retail Federation (NRF). 
Overall, nationally cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to decline 6.5% in 2008 compared with 2007 as merchants carefully manage inventories in response to the nation’s slow economy.

Container cargo volumes moving through the West Coast ports fell again in October, and 2008 is now expected to be the slowest year since 2004, the report said. 

Import and export container volume moving through the Port of Los Angeles, the nation’s busiest box port, was off 3.9% for the 12-month period ending in October, while the Port of Long Beach, the nation’s second ranked port, was down 7.7% during the same period. 


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“How much do we really want to play in this game? How much do we want to use this land for container shipping versus other uses?”

Puget Sound ports facing challenges

The U.S. economic slowdown has cut the demand for Asian imports, reducing container traffic, and competition from other West Coast ports is heating up.

By Drew DeSilver
Seattle Times business reporter

Like one grazing brontosaur after another, the giant cranes lined up at the ports of Seattle and Tacoma to pluck multicolored shipping containers from massive cargo ships. The steel containers, filled with everything from electronic gadgets to running shoes, are as likely to travel to Chicago as Chehalis; once they’re gone, hundreds more sitting in nearby yards will be loaded and shipped the other way, to Asia.

By year’s end, nearly 4 million TEUs of cargo will have moved through the ports of Seattle and Tacoma. (TEU stands for 20-foot-equivalent unit, a standard measurement of containerized cargo; one TEU can hold 43,500 apples, 8,928 frozen chickens or 616 Christmas trees.)

Together — which is how people in the shipping business often think of them — the two Puget Sound ports are the third-largest container center in North America, and the second-largest on the West Coast.

But the activity is deceiving. The two ports face both immediate and longer-term threats to their plum positions in West Coast shipping — and to the thousands of well-paying jobs each port directly and indirectly supports.


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October 6, 2008
BRUCE BARNARD / Shipping Digest


Orders for new container ships have dried up as vessel charter rates and ocean freight rates tumble and volume growth slows on key liner trade routes.

Enquiries to shipbuilders about new tonnage have “hit the floor,” according to London-based Clarkson, the world’s biggest ship broker “With volumes and earnings stalling, owners’ taste for newbuilds has slowed right down.”

The collapse in orders, which has affected all ship sizes, follows five straight years of historically high deliveries. Only 179 container ships were contracted in the first eight months of this year, down 49 percent year-on-year, Clarkson reports. This compares with a record 566 contracts in 2005, 479 in 2006 and 530 in 2007.


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“While the present downturn and the recession that might follow will hurt everybody, the ports of the U.S. West Coast will not recover so easily because their decline is part of a deeper malaise”

West Coast port volume drop likely to worsen in next decade, study says

Cargo volumes at West Coast ports will continue to decline because of higher intermodal transportation costs. That’s the latest forecast in a study conducted by Drewry Shipping Consultants, a United Kingdom-based maritime advisory firm.

The U.S. Pacific Coast will lose its leadership position in the import cargo market because it’s cheaper to transport goods via Gulf Coast and East Coast ports, according to the study.

The “complacency of inland transport providers,” especially U.S. railroads, is driving the shift, the study claims. Although railroads continue to invest in infrastructure, the nation’s rail system is faced with a tightening market and rising demand.

“Railroads have chosen to up their prices rather than invest in significantly more capacity, in the mistaken belief that they had a captive market,” said Drewry Supply Chain Advisors’ Philip Damas in a statement.

The West Coast cargo decline likely will intensify during the next decade, with intermodal costs continuing to rise and all-water costs continuing to fall, the study predicts.


And: Changes threaten US intermodal route: Report

Updated October 28, 2008 3:36:28 PM


After years of dominating the United States maritime trade, the intermodal route connecting the major West Coast ports with interior regions is coming under threat, according to a logistics white paper published by Drewry Supply Chain Advisors.

While the recent decline of containerized imports through West Coast ports looks like the natural result of the U.S. economic slowdown, the white paper argues that these changes are structural and long-term.

The white paper, “U.S. Intermodal Today and Tomorrow,” says that several factors have combined to undermine the position of America’s Pacific Coast ports, not least of which is the complacency of the U.S. railroads.

For many destinations in the eastern U.S., the route via the West Coast ports is now much more expensive than the route via East Coast and Gulf Coast ports.


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“Our primary purpose is to attract business from Prince Rupert and Savannah”

L.A. Considers $10 Incentive Plan; Long Beach Not Happy

The Port of Los Angeles is contemplating a short-term incentive program to pay tenants $10 for every new TEU they bring to the port by either adding a new service or luring an existing service from another West Coast port. Needless to say, Port of Long Beach reaction to the proposal was not positive.

Port of Los Angeles staff say the program would run through Dec. 31, 2009 and could capture an estimated 350,000 more TEUs for the Port of L.A. If successful, the cost would be $3.5 million; the net gain would be about $9.5 million.

The program likely would divert discretionary cargo from West Coast competitors, including the Port of Long Beach – the neighbor with whom the L.A. port has worked so closely to advance sweeping clean air environmental measures. A cornerstone of those measures – included in their joint Clean Air Action Plan – has been for the ports to act in a manner that gives neither an economic edge.

That goodwill – at times strained due to varying approaches and key differences in the two clean truck programs – could be jeopardized by L.A.’s proposed marketing incentive program. Viewed by L.A. as a smart way to attract business during tough economic times, the proposal has been likened by others to poaching by the port that already has the nation’s highest cargo volumes.

At the very least, the proposal is a reminder that the L.A. and Long Beach ports are fierce competitors, along with every other West Coast port.

“Our primary purpose is to attract business from Prince Rupert and Savannah,” said Los Angeles Harbor Commission President S. David Freeman. “The thrust of this story is not the impact on other ports, but L.A. wants your business.” Read the rest of this entry »

“In the past year, imports through Long Beach and Los Angeles are down nearly 10 percent as the national economy slows and consumers buy less.”

Rising global wages may cut imports, add U.S jobs
TRADE: Economist thinks trend will end double-digit growth at West Coast ports as manufacturers return.
By Kristopher Hanson, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 10/06/2008 12:00:00 AM PDT

Has Southern California experienced its last major surge in international trade?

With energy costs rising, the global economy losing steam and U.S. exports forecast to begin a long, slow decline in coming months, the days of regular double-digit growth in volume through West Coast ports may be history.

Under a scenario advanced by noted economist Paul Bingham, international trade is poised to undergo a paradigm shift in coming years, shaped by rising energy prices and growing wage rates in Asia.

According to Bingham, these factors may eventually offset much of the savings importers now enjoy by moving manufacturing and production overseas.

And if the trend holds, manufacturers could move production closer to end markets to save on higher shipping and production costs, leading to a long-term softening in the volume of imports through trade gateways like Long Beach and Los Angeles.


Read the rest of the story >

“If you are someone who is sitting down with a spreadsheet, and looking at how many containers will come this year, that’s going to push this back a bit,”

Transport The U.S. financial crisis could spell trouble for the Atlantic Gateway project
Ben Shingler

FREDERICTON – The deepening financial crisis and looming recession in the United States may hold up plans for the Maritimes to become a transatlantic shipping gateway, economists say.

Workers at Ceres watch a container being loaded aboard the Hong Kong Express in Halifax Thursday. Halifax handles about half a million containers a year, but the city’s two terminals have the potential to handle 1.4 million containers, nearly three times that amount.

Experts have long predicted an increase in global trade could lead to a doubling of shipments to North America over the next 15 years, from approximately 50 million containers annually to 100 million.

The log-jam of container traffic at popular west coast ports presented Halifax with an opportunity to grab a slice of the growing shipping market.

Many hoped the Port of Halifax, and the Maritime region as a whole, could become a premier destination for Asian goods travelling through the Suez Canal towards markets in eastern and central North America.

But David Chaundy, senior economist with the Halifax-based Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, said much of the bottlenecking at Pacific Coast ports has already been remedied by upgrading infrastructure. Read the rest of this entry »


Cold Storage: Interest In Port Facility Rises As Temperature Drops

Published: October 1, 2008

By Scott Graves
Pilot staff writer


The cold storage facility at the Port of Brookings Harbor on Monday was at minus 10 degrees and filling up fast as word of its renewed operation spread up and down the West Coast.

“We’re getting a much better response than I thought we would,” said Ted Fitzgerald, interim port manager.

That’s good news for a port struggling to raise revenue to pay off its massive debt. The port commission voted in September to turn its cold storage facility back on in an effort to make money. The $1.3 million facility was closed in 2004 after drawing nary a customer.

That changed this year when the closest cold storage facility, in Eureka, Calif., was closed down. A similar facility at the Crescent City Port closed years ago. Brookings port officials saw the closing of the Eureka facility as an opportunity to reclaim business it had lost to the other ports. Read the rest of this entry »

“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.”

“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


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


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.

“And what we found was a surprise, because no one expected that the contribution from ships of solid sulfur-rich particles called primary sulfate would be so high.”

Dirty Smoke from Ships Found to Degrade Air Quality in Coastal Cities
University of California, San Diego
August 18, 2008
By Kim McDonald


Ah, nothing like breathing clean coastal air, right? Think again.

Chemists at UC San Diego have measured for the first time the impact that dirty smoke from ships cruising at sea and generating electricity in port can have on the air quality of coastal cities.

The scientists report in this week’s early online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that the impact of dirty smoke from ships burning high-sulfur fuel can be substantial, on some days accounting for nearly one-half of the fine, sulfur-rich particulate matter in the air known to be hazardous to human health.

Their results have particular significance for the state of California, which will require, beginning next July, that all tankers, cargo and cruise ships sailing into a California port switch to more expensive, cleaner-burning fuels when they come within 24 miles of the coast. Similar international rules requiring clean-burning ship fuels are set to take effect in 2015.

While those regulations are intended to minimize the potential hazards dirty ship smoke may pose to human health and the environment—which some researchers have estimated may be responsible for as many as 60,000 deaths worldwide and a cost to the U.S. economy of $500 million a year—no one knows the actual impact of ship smoke. The reason is that air quality experts have been unable to quantify the specific contribution of ship smoke to the air pollution of coastal cities—until now.


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“Shipping pollution is basically one of the last regulated or lightly regulated frontiers”

Ship Pollution Dirties New England Air
May 9, 2008

BOSTON (WBZ) ― The air quality near ocean waters isn’t nearly as healthy as New Englanders might think.

In fact, it can be downright harmful, which raises concerns about ship pollution. 

Some exercise and an ocean breeze is a daily ritual for Bob Pasquale and Chris Koskella. 

Their favorite spot is Castle Island where they see and feel the impact of the ships heading in and out of Boston Harbor. 

“I can feel it in my breathing,” said Chris Koskella. “Some days when you come down in the area, my eyes water, and I sneeze.” 

The shipping industry is booming. It’s up 10 percent in Boston Harbor this year, which is good news for the economy, but is bad news for the air quality. 

“Shipping pollution is basically one of the last regulated or lightly regulated frontiers,” said David Marshall with Clean Air Task Force. “There are about 50,000 ocean-going ships around the world.” 

Ships can weigh thousands of tons, and that takes a lot of power to move them across the waters. 

These ships have extremely large diesel engines, some of which are the size of a municipal power plant. They also burn some of the dirtiest fuel on the planet. Read the rest of this entry »

And why should we believe we will ever have one?

San Diego Green Port Program

A Green Port Program was developed by the Port of San Diego to support the goals of the Environmental Sustainability Policy that was approved by the Board of Port Commissioners in 2007. The ultimate goal of the program is to achieve long-term environmental, societal and economic benefits through resource conservation, waste reduction and pollution prevention.

 The Green Port Program unifies the Port’s environmental sustainability goals in six key areas. Overseen by the Green Port Program Steering Committee, the Port sets measurable goals and evaluates progress in each area on an annual basis. The Green Port Program both continues the Port’s existing environmental efforts and expands these efforts through new programs and initiatives.


Water: Improve water quality in San Diego Bay. Reduce the Port’s water usage to preserve San Diego’s water supply.

Energy: Conserve energy and maximize energy efficiency of Port operations.

Air: Reduce greenhouse gas contributions and other air emissions from Port operations.

Waste Management: Reduce waste from Port operations through material reuse, recycling and composting.

Sustainable Business Practices: Give equal weight to environmental, economic and social concerns in the decision-making process.

Sustainable Development: Enhance the environmental performance of Port buildings while maximizing long-term economic benefits.


Long Beach Green Port Policy

The Green Port Policy is an aggressive, comprehensive and coordinated approach to reduce the negative impacts of Port operations. The Green Port Policy, which the Board adopted in January 2005, serves as a guide for decision making and established a framework for environmentally friendly Port operations. The policy’s five guiding principles are:

Protect the community from harmful environmental impacts of Port operations.

Distinguish the Port as a leader in environmental stewardship and compliance.

Promote sustainability.

Employ best available technology to avoid or reduce environmental impacts.

Engage and educate the community.


The Green Port Policy includes six basic program elements, each with an overall goal:

Wildlife – Protect, maintain or restore aquatic ecosystems and marine habitats.

Air – Reduce harmful air emissions from Port activities.

Water – Improve the quality of Long Beach Harbor waters.

Soils/Sediments – Remove, treat, or render suitable for beneficial reuse contaminated soils and sediments in the Harbor District.

Community Engagement – Interact with and educate the community regarding Port operations and environmental programs.

Sustainability – Implement sustainable practices in design and construction, operations, and administrative practices throughout the Port.

Why don’t we have a Green Port policy for Humboldt Bay today?

Find the “Green Port” on Humboldt Bay >

“no one expected that the contribution from ships of solid sulphur-rich particles called primary sulphate would be so high.”

Pollution from ships causing thousands of deaths
Sulphur particles from ships may be responsible for as many as 60,000 deaths a year, say US scientists
Tuesday August 19 2008 09:51 BST

Sea air is generally regarded as healthy, but it may be polluted with dangerous chemicals from ships, say scientists.

Dirty smoke pouring out of the funnels of ships at sea or in port is having a major impact on the air quality of coastal cities, a study has found.

Researchers used a chemical fingerprinting technique to identify “primary sulphate” in ship emissions. This consists of tiny sulphur particles, less than 1.5 microns across, which can be carried long distances on the wind.

Breathed in, they lodge deep inside the lungs and pose a serious health hazard. It is estimated that ship pollution may be responsible for as many as 60,000 deaths a year worldwide.

The US scientists from the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) found that ships contributed far more of the sulphate in the atmosphere than was previously realised. Their analysis separated primary sulphate from ship smoke and other sources, such as vehicle exhaust emissions.

Air samples showed that 44% of the sulphate polluting coastal California could be traced to ships. On some days ship sulphate accounted for almost a half of the fine particles in the air. Ships burning high sulphur fuel in the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Diego were largely to blame, the scientists discovered.

Primary sulphate is produced when ships burn a cheap sulphur-rich fuel called “bunker oil”. The particles are believed to be especially harmful to human health because of their small size.

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“Now the waterfront is alight with cranes and terminals, but the business hasn’t quite come,” he said. “To do all that build-up, they put themselves in rather severe debt. The problem now is not revenue, but that the debt is coming due.”

Oakland port to eliminate 100 jobs
Carolyn Said, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
The Port of Oakland is cutting 100 jobs, representing about 15 percent of all positions, in its biggest reduction in force in recent memory. The cuts, to take effect Aug. 29, affect 62 filled positions and 38 that were vacant because of a partial hiring freeze. “We’ve had a tremendous upset in the aviation industry which has impacted our airport operations,” said port spokeswoman Libby Schaaf. “Consumer spending is down; the dollar is weak, that has also really impacted imports at the seaport. It’s been a prudent decision to adjust to the economic realities.” Port revenue is growing more slowly than anticipated; at the same time, debt payments are increasing for bonds that paid for past capital improvements. Read the rest of this entry »

“Operations would generate emissions of nitrogen oxides that would exceed the state standard more than 10 times.”


Honda deal spells emissions for Richmond
By Katherine Tam
West County Times
Article Launched: 08/01/2008 05:57:29 PM PDT

Richmond is near to finalizing a deal with American Honda Motor Co. to move 150,000 cars a year through its port, a contract that could bring about $100 million in revenue over 15 years.

The deal would be a major boon to the city coffers, but it also would carry environmental impacts, including one deemed to be “significant and unavoidable,” according to the draft environmental impact report. Operations would generate emissions of nitrogen oxides that would exceed the state standard more than 10 times.

“Although mitigation measures have been identified to reduce the project’s air emissions, they would still substantially exceed the (Bay Area Air Quality Management District) threshold,” according to the document.

Nitrogen oxides alone aren’t considered harmful to people, but they contribute to smog, which can irritate the lungs and trigger asthma, said Aaron Richardson, a spokesman for the air district.

A provision in California law allows applications with emissions above state thresholds to move forward if economic or social benefits outweigh the environmental effects. The city of Richmond would need to file a Statement of Overriding Consideration outlining such benefits.

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“But the ports hold another, less honorable distinction: They are the biggest polluters in Southern California.”

California ports’ pollution plan proves a big haul
Wed Jul 23, 2008 8:04am EDT
By Nichola Groom

LOS ANGELES, July 23 (Reuters) – A short drive from the sandy beaches of Malibu rise two sprawling ports, where goods from around the world enter the United States before fanning out by road and rail to stores from coast to coast.

The adjacent ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the United States’ biggest, see nearly half of the nation’s container traffic and are key to insuring goods made in China make it to retailers like Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

But the ports hold another, less honorable distinction: They are the biggest polluters in Southern California.

Concerns about pollution-linked illnesses in local communities stalled port expansion projects for years before both ports in 2006 agreed to slash pollutants — mainly exhaust from diesel engines — to below 2001 levels in five years.

The ports are requiring cleaner vessel fuels, shoreside electricity so ships will not run their dirty diesel engines at berth, newer truck fleets and cleaner train locomotives. Much of the plan is funded by increased fees for customers.

“We were dead in the water, and we had to stick our neck out to do some things, so we did,” Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Geraldine Knatz said in a recent interview.

The plan, however, is proving to be easier said than done.

Already, some shippers, truckers and others who don’t want to make changes are choosing other ports, according to Knatz, who said port traffic could drop 10 percent to 15 percent.

Meanwhile, the trucking industry said it plans to sue over what it says is the ports’ plan to micromanage its business, while the railroads say they can’t comply with a 2014 deadline for new locomotives because the technology won’t be available.

Also, retailers are balking at having to pay fees to fund the ports’ clean trucks program while also investing in new trucks, according to the Retail Industry Leaders Association.

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A powerhouse of the ports

For SSA Marine, high cargo volume means success. Global terminal operator SSA Marine focuses on moving lots of cargo from many shippers. It will bring a different business model to the Port of Tacoma.

KELLY KEARSLEY; The News Tribune
Published: September 16th, 2007 01:00 AM

Seattle-based SSA Marine, working with the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, plans to build a multimillion-dollar container terminal on Tacoma’s Tideflats. Scheduled to open in 2012, SSA’s terminal will likely look like other terminals at the port: stories-high cranes unloading large rectangular boxes off ships, stacks of containers lining the asphalt.

But the company brings a business model not yet seen in the Port of Tacoma.

The company depends on high volume – moving as many containers through its terminal as possible to generate lower costs for its customers. To do that, SSA Marine brings container ships from many shipping lines through its dock instead of designating one carrier for the terminal, as has been the tradition in Tacoma.

“This is not rocket science,” said Bob Watters, SSA Marine’s vice president of business development. “It’s a concept used everywhere in the world, except on the West Coast of the United States.”

Watters says SSA Marine’s operations maximize the use of the terminal land. But industry experts note that the company’s success depends on its ability to attract enough customers and cargo to its facility.

Here’s a look at the company, which is setting itself up to be a powerhouse in Tacoma’s expanding port.


SSA Marine’s parent company, Carrix, has 125 operations around the world, including container terminals, rail terminals and rail yards. The 58-year-old company handled 22 million TEUs (20-foot-equivalent-unit containers) last year – roughly 10 times the containers that came through either the Port of Seattle or the Port of Tacoma.

The company started managing terminals in Seattle and began marketing its abilities to manage terminals elsewhere only in the last decade. Carrix was family-owned until this past month, when it sold a 49 percent stake to investment firm Goldman Sachs.


Before you read further consider these facts and follow the links:

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“Because this is a brand new business model, it goes against the grain. We don’t have a local market. We’re way up north. The jury was out to see if the service was going to work.”

Prince Rupert poised to triple its business

Nathan Vanderklippe,  Financial Post, with a file from Scott Deveau

Published: Thursday, May 22, 2008


VANCOUVER – Billed as the “St. Lawrence of the West,” the Port of Prince Rupert has spent the months since its grand opening last November dramatically under-performing expectations.

Its cranes are capable of off-loading 9,600 standard-sized containers a week. Until April, the sole shipping line that uses the port’s new container terminal delivered just 1,100 a week. In the past month, that number has risen to 1,800 weekly, still less than a fifth of capacity.

Prince RupertBut the faltering start, which comes largely thanks to a sluggish U. S. economy that has decreased container traffic to the entire Pacific coast by about 5%, could soon come to an end. Maher Terminals, the New Jersey-based operator of Prince Rupert’s Fairview container terminal, plans to triple the number of ships calling at the Northern B. C. port beginning in a month or so. Currently, only one ship a week calls there.

“There’s two new ships coming in June or July,” said Odd Eidsvik, a board member with the port.

It’s unclear whether the new ships will come from Cosco Container Lines or Hanjin Shipping Co., the shippers whose vessels currently sail to the port, or other members of the CKYH Alliance, which includes K-Line and Yang Ming Line.

But the boost in scheduled service lends weight to arguments from the port, railways and shippers, who all say the $170-million Fairview terminal weathered its first winter in remarkably good form, despite the low volumes.

“The terminal operation at Maher is just beyond our expectation,” Claude Mongeau, Canadian National Railway Corp. chief financial officer, said on a conference call yesterday. “Everything is humming from an operations standpoint.”

Ships have arrived and departed on schedule and, despite having relatively inexperienced crews, the new terminal has off-loaded containers at the rate of 22 an hour, “which is really quite impressive and very competitive for North America,” said Barry Bartlett, port spokesman.

“To be totally frank, we’re not going to be at the 500,000 [annual 20-foot container equivalent throughput] capacity as quickly as we thought we were, but it is getting there,” he said.


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