Pacific Transportation Association
Pacific Transportation Associations Ports and Terminals Luncheon Features Talk on Short-Sea Shipping
by Patrick Burnson
June 7, 2010
OAKLAND - Now that the U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration (MARAD) has established a final rule on its Marine Highway strategy, shippers are keen to understand how the tactical implementation will begin. More to the point, however, is the question of how it will enhance trade and improve the movement of domestic goods.
John Hummer, Director of MARADs Northern California Gateway Office, was charged with facing those queries and others at last weeks Ports and Terminals luncheon staged by the Pacific Transportation Association. Held at Scotts, near the Port of Oakland, the event attracted its share of skeptics who took issue with some of Hummers rosier projections.
How does MARAD quantify the return on investment? asked one shipper, who said that not enough hard numbers had been produced before the plan was pushed through.
Hummer admitted that MARADs five-year plan to ease congestion by using barges and tugs as alternatives to trucks was going to deliver a net value yet to be measured.
But its our best shot at the moment, he added. And worth a try."
According to the National Strategy to Reduce Congestion on Americas Transportation Network, congestion is costing the U.S. an estimated $200 billion a year. And this figure is rising. Nearly 98 percent of all domestic freight including through ports moves on the United States nations highways and railroads. The Federal Highway Administration study entitled, Estimated Cost of Freight Involved in Highway Bottlenecks Final Report, indicates that, on average, there are currently 10,500 trucks per day per mile on the Interstate Highway System. But by 2035, that volume is expected to double to 22,700 trucks, with the most heavily used portions of the system seeing upwards of 50,000 trucks per day.
By linking the Northern California ports of Sacramento, Stockton, and Oakland, a great deal of that surface mode pressure can be relieved, said Hummer. Short-sea shipping is hardly a new concept, and now that the Obama Administration has given us the funding, its worth a try."
Other concerns raised about the plan were brought up by members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). One dockside worker was assured by Hummer that all container hand-offs would remain with the ILWU which controls all three ports. The implications of a wildcat strike or sudden work slowdown were not addressed, however.
Ocean Cargo/Global Logistics: Pacific Maritime Association and ILWU Face Common Challengeby Patrick Burnson May 4, 2009
by Patrick Burnson December 3, 2008
Former leaders of the Pacific Transportation Association convened for their annual "Past Presidents" lunch yesterday to renew old ties and share industry anecdotes spanning generations. It's always a poignant event.
Founded in 1920, this remarkable association flourished in San Francisco when the city still had a major cargo seaport and was home to scores of steamship lines and agents. In those days, the PTA was made up of mostly shippers and intermediaries using ocean carriage. Our annual Steamship Night attracted more than a thousand professionals every fall, and was a genuine cant miss social event.
Today, the association is smaller but continues to thrive, reflecting the complexity of the supply chain. There are still ocean carrier reps to be sure, but our membership comprises industries far more diverse, from the air cargo, warehousing and terminal, motor carrier and rail sectors as well. Freight forwarders and Customs brokers, insurance brokers, high-tech solutions providers, and container leasing experts also contribute to this mix.
It is also important to note that this group gives back a great deal to the larger community every year. Our annual donations provide scholarship monies to the California Maritime Academy in Vallejo, and in past years weve provided generous support for the Bay Areas Seafarers Service in Oakland.
In a world of mass communication and commoditization, its a relief to know that grass roots organizations like the PTA can still provide the needed human element so crucial to doing business on a regional level. The ultimate payoff is more than just receiving exclusive market intelligence. Rather, its knowing that shared values and interests are being nurtured to move the industry forward at a stately, refined, and sustainable pace.
Port of Oakland Praised for Innovative Thinking on Congestion
by Patrick Burnson
SAN FRANCISCO - The Port of Oakland should get the "lion's share" of federal money being dispensed to rebuild the nation's transport infrastructure, declared Norman Fassler-Katz, Chair of the Senate Transportation Sub-Committee on California Ports & Goods Movement.
"As the U.S. Department of Transportation launches its national initiative to address highway freight congestion, it is crucial that the Port of Oakland is properly recognized for its innovative solutions," he said. "The regional port strategy being put in place here is truly remarkable."
Fassler-Katz was speaking at the annual Ports and Terminals Luncheon sponsored by the Pacific Transportation Association at the World Trade Club. He noted that on the same day, May 16, DOT chief, Norman Y. Mineta, was calling for legislation meant to transform the nation's transport network.
Calling congestion one of the single largest threats to the economy, Fassler-Katz noted that America loses an estimated $200 billion annually due to freight bottlenecks and delayed deliveries.
"The DOT initiative will seek urban partnership agreements with a handful of communities willing to demonstrate new congestion relief strategies," said Fassler-Katz. "Furthermore, it encourages states to pass legislation giving the private sector a broader opportunity to invest in transportation."
The DOT initiative also calls for more widespread deployment of new operational technologies and practices that end traffic tie ups, designates new interstate "corridors of the future," and targets port and border congestion.
On the state level, Fassler-Katz had nothing but praise for the work of Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, who put together a major infrastructure financing package that will direct billions of dollars to improve traffic congestion.
"Oakland and other state ports handle 43 percent of all commerce measured in real dollars," he said. "At the same time, however, vessel calls have increased five times faster than corresponding growth in infrastructure."
Ray King, general manager of marine operations and marketing for the Port of Oakland, outlined the ambitious regional cooperation strategy currently in "working stages."
"Everyone knows about our relationship with the Port of Sacramento," he said. "But we're also looking into partnerships with Stockton and Humbolt Bay in an effort to get trucks off the road."
Short sea shipping and short line rail solutions can work in Northern California, said King, but require the "buy-in" of the major railroads and dockside labor.
"Our executive director has been meeting regularly with the railroads to explain the port's growing importance as an inbound destination from Asia," he said. "While exports remain strong, we are seeing tremendous growth in imports."
Skeptics in the audience questioned the "bottom line" viability of these alternatives, however.
"The Port of San Francisco looked into a barge alternative back in the 1990s," said Jill Simpson-Rodby, the port's director of maritime marketing. "And it just did not pencil out."
Tony Saraceno, regional sales manager for China Shipping (North America) Agency, Inc. asked who would shoulder the expense of handling chasis at inland destinations.
"We have been exploring all of those issues," said King, "and all I can say is that it won't be the shipper."
In anticipating still more difficult questions regarding dockside labor, King was adamant about their participation in alternative distribution plans.
"We are all grown-ups here," he said, "and you have to believe me when we say everyone - including labor - was invited to the table to discuss this."
The Port of Oakland has identified over US$500 million in projects, both near the port and at gateways connecting critical goods movement corridors with the rest of the country that could benefit from state and federal funding.
Priority projects include:
Reconstruction of a rail overcrossing and grade separation at a critical intersection located at the center of the Port of Oakland's maritime area
Building a rail transfer facility at the site of the former Oakland Army Base
Completing the funding package for an automated people-mover to run between the Oakland Coliseum BART station and Oakland International Airport
Cooperation with the Port's rail partners to construct a second track and raise tunnel clearances over Donner Pass for container trains linking California with the rest of the country.
In addition to money coming from Washington, DC, California voters will be able to approved US$36 billion infrastructure package which includes four general obligation bond proposals. The statewide general election on the November 7, 2006, will determine if the port is to benefit from the US$19.9 billion put aside for roads and transit projects.