Following a deluge of service complaints, the Federal government this week introduced Bill C-30, the “Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act” which is intended to ensure that both CN and CP move grain from the Praries to the country’s ports a whole lot faster or face fines. The legislation extends power to the Canadian Transportation Authority (CTA) to extend inter-switching distances and would additionally require regulators to tighten up service level agreements between carriers and shippers along with the power to address non-performance. Both CN and CP have roundly criticized the legislation which in summary they believe will have many unintended consequences and hit their bottom line.
Canadian Federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt has criticized the latest round of proposed U.S. legislation that would tax cargo entering the U.S. from Canadian ports. “We will vigorously defend our trade interests and the rights attained through our international trade agreements,” Minister Raitt told attendees of the Association of American Port Authorities’ spring conference in Washignton, D.C. Washington State politicians have introduced bills in their respective chambers that would replace the Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) with a fee on all containers that originate internationally. Supporters argue the legislation would stop shippers from circumventing the 0.125% levy on the value of cargo imported through U.S. ports by diverting shipments through Canadian and Mexican ports. The Minister reminded her audience that Canadian destined cargo coming through U.S. ports is on average three times that of the traffic of U.S.-bound cargo through Canadian ports.
BC Ferries may face a legal challenge over plans to order and operate a new cable ferry to operate between Vancouver Island and Denman Island. The company’s union has said its lawyers will request the BC court of appeal to hear arguments against the funding for the new vessel for which Seaspan Marine has won the $15m construction contract. BC Ferries says that cable vessels offer fuel and crew savings of up to $2m per year. The union argues that switching to a cable ship will cost as many as 15 local jobs, and that the length of the crossing and unpredictability of water conditions raises concerns about safety and reliability of the vessel.
The UK’s Inmarsat System used a wave phenomenon discovered in the nineteenth century to analyse the seven pings its satellite picked up from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 to determine its final destination. The pings, automatically transmitted every hour from the plane after the rest of its communications systems had been turned off, thereby proving conclusively that it continued flying for several hours after diverting from its intended flight path from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. From the time the signals took to reach the satellite and the angle of elevation, Inmarsat was able to calculate two arcs, one north and one south that the plane could have taken. Inmarsat’s scientists then analysed the faint pings using a technique based on the Doppler effect, which describes how a wave changes frequency relative to the movement of an observer, in this case the satellite. The UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch provided confirmation of the method of analysis which on Tuesday this week resulted in the Malaysian Prime Minister announcing that the Boeing 777, which disappeared more than two weeks ago, crashed thousands of miles away in the southern Indian Ocean with the loss of all onboard.
Aircraft and ships from six countries including the car carrier Hoegh St Petersburg (above centre) are involved in the effort to locate and retrieve numerous satellite detected indications of wreckage. Following their Friday search pattern, five planes have spotted "objects" in a new area of the Indian Ocean, 700 nautical miles north of the previous search area and much closer to land. A Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion first spotted "a number of objects white or light in colour and a fishing buoy". An Australian plane then went to locate the items and spotted "two blue/grey rectangular objects", and three other planes reported similar sightings.
The Chinese patrol ship Haixun 01 is in the search area and will be dispatched to locate and possibly retrieve any objects of interest on Saturday according to the Australian Maritime Authorities. Of the 239 people lost on the flight, 154 were Chinese. China has therefore pulled out all the stops in pursuing the search for wreckage in terms of sharing satellite images, search planes and at least 13 ships are in or headed for the new search area. The Australian Prime Minister has also vowed “to continue the search for as long as it takes”. Both the Australian and Malaysian governments have also said the focus on the new search area was based on further analysis of radar data that showed the plane had been travelling faster, thus burning more fuel.
Almost 800 tons of marine fuel found its way into the Houston Ship Channel last weekend after a collision between the bulk carrier Summer Wind and a loaded tank barge under tow. The barge, which was being towed by the tug Miss Susan, has since been lightened and removed from the area. With a backlog of around 100 ships waiting to move, the USCG allowed the waterway to begin reopening on Tuesday and by Thursday two way traffic was restored but in daylight only.
COSCO has assigned one of the company’s 13,000 TEU capacity vessels to the Transpacific trade. Last week, COSCO Fortune (above) made her maiden call at the Pacific Container Terminal terminal in Long Beach in the company’s South China / US Southwest Coast Express (SEA) Service.
Still on the subject of container lines, South Korea's antitrust regulator announced this week that it intends to join forces with its counterparts in China and other countries to ensure fair treatment for smaller players in the face of the proposed P3 Alliance.
Richard Branson’s Virgin Group has announced that it is to develop an ocean cruise division to be based in Miami. Discussions are well underway with German and Italian shipyards with a view to deliveries in 2017. Based on the Virgin track record of success, there appears to be no hesitation from potential investors. Speaking to media this week, Branson commented “we think we have a concept that is very sexy and is definitely something that I like to go on and something that my children like to go on”. Translation - young and free spending, first time cruisers.
Fednav is reportedly the first shipping company to employ aerial drones for ice reconnaissance on a commercial voyage through the Arctic. The ice-strengthened Umiak I recently used a variety of video-equipped UAVs (Unmanned Air Vehicles) to scout ahead of the vessel in the ice-covered waters off Northeastern Labrador Coast in order to provide detailed real-time visual information about local ice conditions. Fednav worked with its subsidiary Enfotec which specializes in providing advanced ice imagery and analysis to vessels operating in difficult ice conditions.
Ahead of next week’s meeting of the IMO’s “Marine Environmental Protection Committee”, the International Chamber of Shipping(ICS) has issued a paper in support of the IMO's proposed global GHG emissions reporting system but with stated opposition to the development of a mandatory global energy indexing system. The ICS position is one of “support for the reporting system as long as it would be simple to administer, be primarily based on fuel consumption and will not be used in the development of a full blown Market Based Measure”. The timing of the ICS paper is also designed to head off unilateral measures under consideration by the EU.
The federal government has given final approval to four LNG export licences. The following facilities have been authorized to export a total of up to 73.38 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) of LNG.
Subsequently, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has announced a 30-day public comment period for the Pacific NorthWest LNG project will begin April 2 and end May 1.
Canada Border Services Agency has released Customs Notice 14-006 to provide an update on changes to the Advance Commerical Information timeframes for pre-arrival reporting of breakbulk cargo in the marine mode. Amendments proposed to the Reporting of Imported Goods Regulations published in the Canada Gazette Part I, when enacted, will allow all breakbulk cargo to be reported at least 24 hours before estimated time of arrival in Canada. The amendments eliminate the annual application process that breakbulk carriers must currently follow. As the regulations expect to be finalized later in 2014, CBSA has automatically extended all breakbulk authorizations for the 2013-14 year to 2014-15 to facilitate the transition.
25 years ago the Exxon Valdez deviated off-course and ran aground in Prince William Sound. Rupture of the single-hulled vessel resulted in an oilspill affecting 1,300 miles of shoreline. The lessons learned from the Exxon Valdez incident resulted in profound changes to how tankers operate today. As British Columbians and professional mariners, the responsibility to protect our coast is our first priority. Watch our video to understand how spill response measures have evolved and how technology has been used to advance safety over the last 25 years following the Exxon Valdez.
Following rejection of last week’s 14 point action-plan by the UTA and Unifor driver groups, the Federal and Provincial Governments along with Port Metro Vancouver appealed for a full return to work on Thursday under threat of drivers losing Truck Licensing System (TLS) permits should they fail to do so. It was simultaneously announced that the Province will introduce “Back to Work” legislation on the Unifor drivers in the legislature on March 24. PMV also sent out a number of advisory notices to TLS permit holders advising of non-renewal of licenses and permits expiring in March, April or May 2014. The initial reaction was an approximate 40% of normal daily truck activity on Thursday which was 66 more than on Wednesday. The drivers’ primary demands are standardized rates of pay across the trucking sector, an end to undercutting and an end to long wait times for around 8% of truck traffic at the port. Please see last night global news clip: http://globalnews.ca/video/1221136/port-strike-latest
On a more positive note, Prince Rupert’s Maher Container Terminal is back to normal operations after several weeks of struggling with reduced rail service. However, rail service continues to be a serious issue elsewhere in the province with all bulk commodities impacted and the backlog of vessels at anchor still a major issue. By order in council, the railways are required to move one million tons a week of grain by early April or face fines of $100,000 per day.
The second tentative agreement reached between CN and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC), representing 3,300 conductors, baggae persons, car retarder operators, yard operations employees, switch tenders, traffic coordinators and assistant traffic coordinators, was not ratified by the union membership. This was the second time that a tentative agreement has been rejected by the union membership.
With 64.2% of the union opposed to the deal, CN is now proposing binding arbitration to settle the outstanding issues. CN News Release
All 23 crew members were airlifted to safety from a Handymax bulk carrier John 1 after the ship ran aground last weekend off the south coast of Newfoundland. The Joint Rescue Coordination Center Halifax dispatched a Cormorant helicopter from 103 Squadron in Gander to the scene approximately 1.6 km from Rose Blanche at about 1:30 pm on Saturday afternoon.The vessel was on passage from Montreal to Spain when she lost power on Friday morning. The CCGS Earl Grey attempted several times to connect a tow line to the vessel to prevent it from running aground.
Overnight Sunday/Monday, shifting winds freed the vessel from her grounded position and she was taken to a safe anchorage where a salvage team boarded to help decide on next steps.
The recently incorporated tanker company, Transport Maritime St-Laurent Inc. is to buy two Ice Class 1A Panamax tankers, Stena Poseidon and Stena Palva. The largest shareholder in this new company is Valero, which owns a 230,000-barrel-per-day refinery in Quebec City. Last year the refinery received a one-year, renewable permit from the U.S. Commerce Department to export Texas crude to its refinery on the St. Lawrence River. In addition, pipeline operator Enbridge received approval from the National Energy Board on March 6, 2014 to reverse the flow of their 639-kilometer pipeline between North Westover, Ontario to Montreal. The speculation is that the two vessels will be used to ship oil from Montreal to the Quebec City refinery.