Greater Houston Port Bureau
The following is the April, 2000 edition of "The Bulletin". Any questions or comments regarding content should be addressed to Alistair Macnab at 713-678-4300.
When Houston’s all-water direct breakbulk liner services from and to the Far East melted away in the 70s and 80s, we became a mere intermodal destination served over the U.S. West Coast as containerization took hold. This has lead to today’s overwhelming growth in such ports as Long Beach and Los Angeles and the development of intermodal rail services to deliver or uplift our Far East traffic.
But change is again in the air. One might speculate that the success of Californian seaports in capturing this business has now brought about the unintended consequences of port, road, and rail congestion and a reportedly restless workforce. These factors have lead to recent developments in that several major container lines are again reintroducing regular, all-water services to the U.S. East Coast from Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, Korea, and Japan via the Panama Canal. And all-water full-container services from South East, South, and South West Asia are again running to the U.S. East Coast via the Suez Canal.
Good news for East Coast ports but what impact will all this activity have on Houston and the U.S. Gulf?
For certain trade routes, particularly to and from Asian Pacific countries, Houston’s geographic location at the head of the Gulf of Mexico has long been considered as just too “out of the way” for some ocean carriers and I have no doubt most of them will initially want to continue to serve Houston and Texas with transshipment and a feeder service, or continue to use the rail connection.
If we want to ensure that such services will include Houston, we’ll need to be proactive in drawing ocean carriers’ attention to the size and growth of the market we serve here in the Upper Gulf. This may be a good time for all cargo interests and port service providers to come together to examine ways of making sure that the Texas market (the third greatest market in the USA) is not relegated to feeder status by default.
Indeed, Houston’s geographic location, far from being “out of the way” is very much in an ideal spot to serve mid-America between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains, right up into central Canada and all the way down to Monterrey and Mexico City. By developing these long-distance land links, the perception of Houston’s location is instantly transformed into one of international significance and this point cannot be emphasized enough to ocean carriers busy with their long-term plans to connect up the world’s centers of production and consumption.
But long distance land communication means vastly improved rail services originating and terminating as close as possible to the docks where the container ships will call. So the problem is not just being able to attract the ocean carriers, its also all about attracting the surviving railroads to include Houston’s seaborne trade in their traffic plans for the future. One could almost say that a good rail infrastructure will attract world class ocean services which will attract a good rail infrastructure. A classic “chicken and egg” situation, I’m sure you’ll agree.
But Houston’s future must not be left to the posing of childish conundrums. The international commerce generated by the Houston-Dallas-San Antonio triangle is big but Houston’s extended hinterland is even bigger! This is the growth area that will bring ocean container carriers directly to our port and we’re going to need the railroads to help us to reach these distant points with regular intermodal trains serving dockside.
Our recent and spectacular port growth has been brought about by the development of South American trade and this has been most welcome. At this stage of our growth, however, we cannot be dependent only upon one or two trade lanes. We need to be vocal and visible participants in all trades. And, guess what? That means we have to be constantly and aggressively marketing our port, its location, and its landside lines of communication.
We need to ensure that no ocean carrier would want to bypass Houston or relegate it to secondary port status. To achieve this, its probably time to look for a public-private coalition of Houston port users and service providers to make our best case with the decision makers in far off cities who might be as unaware of Houston’s world class ambitions and potential for the 21st. Century as we’d like them to be.
We must be masters of our own destiny. It’s the Texas way.
JOBHUNTER’S FILE, April 2000
PY: May 2000 Master’s Degree in transportation with current internship with METRO. Recipient of one of this year’s ITMA Scholarships. Looking for
employment in international logistics management.
RGW: Tough times with a local company restructuring has placed this applicant
on the Jobhunter’s List. Splendid recent record of achievements with ocean carrier and steamship agency with substantial liner, charter, cargo, and claims management background.
AB: Currently seeking employment in the harbor tug industry Has appropriate
Certifications. Special expertise with Z Drive Tugs and Voith Schneider Propulsion Drive Tugs.
RMJ: An engineering background with a recent BS in engineering and naval architecture. Safety, Fire Protection, Ship System Planning, and Surveying are all areas of expertise.
The Port Bureau welcomes enquiries from interested businesses about these and other job-hunting candidates with offers of full-time or contract work. The Bureau specializes in the placement of experienced and qualified professional individuals with member companies. For more information, please call Alistair on 713.678.4300.
Letters to the Editor
From Rod Paige,
Superintendent of Schools,
Houston Independent School District.
“The Houston Independent School District (HISD) exists to strengthen the social and economic foundation of Houston by assuring its youth the highest quality elementary and secondary education available anywhere. Clearly the District cannot achieve its goals without the support and assistance of the many organizations and individuals in Houston. We believe that the Texas Scholars partnership that we have developed with you, your firm and the Greater Houston Partnership dramatically contributes to the success of our students and the future of our city.
“Your presentation of the Texas Scholars Program to eighth grade students provided an invaluable resource to HISD’s students. These are critical years for these students, and your presentation played a critical role in developing the students’ understanding of what it will take to be successful in their high school years and beyond.
“I would like to sincerely thank you for your time and contribution to the students of the district. I hope you enjoyed working with the students and I can assure you that you have made a tremendous impact. We look forward to your continued participation in the Texas Scholars Program.”
From Wayne D. Gusman,
Captain U.S. Coast Guard,
Captain of the Port.
“I commend you for your thoughtful contributions to the Houston-Galveston Ports and Waterways Safety Assessment (PAWSA) initiative conducted on January 25-26, 2000. Your efforts will help to make this port safer, more competitive, and better able to accommodate change.
“The PAWSA process was developed to provide the Captain of the Port and port community with a unique tool to evaluate various risks within the port and identify potential long-term solutions to mitigate these risks. As a fellow participant, I can say with confidence that each of us is smarter today about our waterway and that we possess a greater respect for the activities and perspectives of the diverse group of stakeholders, mariners, and regulators represented on the panel. Only through thoughtful consideration and mutual understanding of the needs of the whole port community can we continue to nurture partnerships such as this to address issues within our port.
“I gratefully acknowledge the investment of your time and expertise. Further, I applaud you for your dedication and willingness to contribute to the PAWSA process. Thanks to your work, we are well on our way to developing a plan to meet the shared government, industry, and public objectives of ensuring the safety of vessel traffic in U.S. ports and waterways.”
From the Editor:
Modesty forbids us to publish the foregoing other than to draw your attention to the excellent programs that have been put in place by such organizations as the HISD and the U.S. Coast Guard. You may be sure that the Port Bureau will continue to represent its members’ and constituents’ interests as we all seek to create, grow, and sustain a vibrant international business community in Houston.
What is “An Ocean Common Carrier”?
Since the passage of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act (OSRA) of 1998, Non Vessel Operating Container Carriers (NVOCCs) and container lines servicing the U.S. market by way of slot charters on another operator’s ships, have been eagerly awaiting the Federal Maritime Commission’s definition of ‘ocean common carrier’ - a term used in the Act but undefined up till now.
Now that the FMC has settled the matter by stating that an ocean common carrier must actually operate ships in a U.S. international trade lane, the possibility for NVOCCs and other similarly situated operators to offer confidential service contracts to their customers, has been dashed.
In a decision handed down during the week of March 6th. 2000, the FMC now clarifies the distinction between ocean carriers who commit ships to the trade and those service providers who do not. As a further clear distinction, only vessel operators will continue to have antitrust immunity - a privilege which will not be extended to carriers who have not made the investment in providing ships in at least one international trade lane serving the U.S.
Americana Ships, Stevedoring Services of America and Texas City
Get Together to Develop Shoal Point.
Much excitement has been generated by the announcement on April 4th. 2000 of the coming together of two major North American maritime businesses to design, develop, operate, and finance Texas City’s proposed container port complex on Shoal Island.
Americana Ships, one of the operating arms of Canada’s CP Ships, and Stevedoring Services of America, with international container terminal business worldwide, will lease presently undeveloped Shoal Point for an initial period of 30 years with plans for an initial 3000 ft. dock supported by 240 acres of container yard and 60 acres for on-dock rail.
At a time when the Port of Houston Authority is working its way through the regulatory process to develop its own new container port at Bayport, the announcement of the private sector Texas City project sets up a lively competitive situation. Fortunately, the steady growth of international container trade probably ensures a bright future for both facilities in the long run.
As with the development of any new container port, landside lines of communication and costs by road and rail between the marketplace and the port will be critical for Shoal Point just as it is for Bayport. In recent times, environmental concerns have assumed a much greater significance to the development of industrial sites than formerly. Even so, Texas City’s Shoal Point project is expected by its proponents to be operational within three years.
Proposed Air Quality Control Measures
Alarm Port User Groups.
Much anxiety has been generated by reports in the local Press concerning the possibility of unpleasant restrictions being placed on individual and corporate activity in order to attempt to comply with upcoming federal and state regulations for the protection of the environment and the attainment of air quality standards which some feel are, in any case, unattainable no matter what is done.
Much has been made of the possibility of restricting private automobile use to three days out of four, and the likelihood of heavy construction activity limited to the hours between noon and midnight.
While these are serious issues in themselves, the port and maritime communities
were recently alerted to the impact that the new control measures might have on being able to conduct normal business in the Port of Houston. At a series of meetings organized by the Port of Houston Authority (PHA) on April 3rd. and 6th. 2000, representatives from harbor towing, tanker owners, terminals operators, stevedores, and ocean carriers met with the PHA’s environmental affairs staff lead by Ms. Laura Fiffick. Other interested parties in attendance included Starcrest Consulting, Texas Department of Transport (TxDOT), the Greater Houston Port Bureau, the Carriers Container Council, and the West Gulf Maritime Association.
A list of potential control measures to meet the expected shortfall of NOX reductions needed for attainment was studied with particular regard to categories likely to affect established port activities. These ranged from requirements to shut down ocean ships in port, the imposition of low-emission fuel use and the mandatory installation of combustion controls on existing equipment, restrictions on allowable operating hours, telecommuting, work flex-time, and many other proposed controls designed to refine emission control strategies.
Only a very tight timetable of available action initiatives is available for submissions of evidence to seek amendments to the EPA’s and the TNRCC’s state implementation plan or SIP. The PHA’s Managing Director, Wade Battles, volunteered the Port’s environmental staff to coordinate any initiatives that might be forthcoming from the assembled group and an early date for further review of this serious situation was suggested, to follow everyone’s opportunity to report back to their own organizations.
A draft report concerning Dallas and its surrounding counties was published on April 3rd. 2000 and reviewed as a likely indication of what Houston can expect from the TNRCC. Special emphasis in the Dallas report on control requirements, recordkeeping requirements, exemptions, and engine types (road and non-road), clearly show that the effects of this legislation will be widespread and will impact heavily on Houston and the way we currently conduct our businesses.
Much work needs to be done in a very short space of time, if Houston’s maritime community is to offer any suggestions that might be used to modify the proposed control measures and restrictions that will affect us. Some numbers developed by Bruce Anderson of Starcrest will challenge some of the EPA’s existing data and a strategy to divorce port machinery from its current conjunction with “construction equipment” might also offer possibilities of regulatory amelioration.
For the latest information on this “hot” topic, call Laura Fiffick at the PHA on 713.670.2438.
The Greater Houston Partnership,
World Trade Division - Maritime Committee.
Chairman: Rey Gonzales.
CARRIER MANIFEST DISCREPENCIES
AND COMPLIANCE ISSUES.
Tuesday, April 18th. 2000
At 1030 to 12.00 noon.
YMCA Training Center
2122 East Governor’s Circle
(Loop 610 West T.C. Jester one block north to Dacoma)
Free Refreshments and Parking.
Mr. Paul Rimmer
Customs are looking for a 95% mandated compliance rate on all export and import documentation. This is not yet being achieved.
Every carrier, agent, stevedore, broker, and forwarder should attend.
Places are now being reserved for the first one hundred callers. Please RSVP no later than April 17th. to Gracie or Erica on 281.821.0580
or by fax to 281.821.0585.
This meeting is co-sponsored by the Carriers Container Council and by the
Greater Houston Port Bureau.
Intermodal Trucker Interests Meet with
Ocean Transportation Industry at the Port of Houston.
The Texas Intermodal Truckers Association (TITA) and the Port of Houston Authority (PHA) are seeking ways to resolve the deepening crisis that is overtaking the movement of containers at the Port of Houston.
At a meeting held in the Board Room of the PHA on Tuesday, March 7th. 2000, more than sixty interested parties drawn from the ranks of container and chassis yards, terminals, stevedores, independent truckers, drivers, steamship lines and agents, forwarders and brokers, and container service providers, were present to relate the near-to-breaking-point conditions that currently beset truckers. Chassis were in poor repair; drivers were being badly treated; and there were inconsistent working hours at the various depots.
Everyone, it seemed, had a “war story” to tell.
- A chassis failing a Level-1 inspection by traffic police just minutes after leaving a terminal supposedly in a “roadworthy” condition;
- Up to 60% of equipment attracting an “Out of Service” citation upon roadside inspection;
- Lack of cooperation and coordination between a container yard and its downtown steamship line controlling office;
- Drivers being forced to act as “mules” to look for, segregate, and pickup chassis;
- Unproductive and pollution-causing diesel engine idling in long waiting lines.
These, and other incidents, are only highlights that follow the interminable waiting: waiting in terminals; waiting in yards; waiting at control gates; waiting for repairs. Today’s rising cost of diesel coupled to the inefficiencies being described by the truckers are, in fact, fast bringing financial ruin to independent operators and threatening to close down a vital link in the intermodal service sector and damage the Port of Houston’s reputation as an efficient and effective regional container distribution center.
But the meeting was called, not just to catalogue the problems and complaints, but also to look for solutions. Tom Kornegay and Jimmy Jamison were present to examine what the PHA could be doing at Barbours Cut, and John May, Mark Scharinghausen and B.L. Manry of TITA were looking for some message that could be delivered to truckers that would demonstrate that something was going to be done to alleviate the current situation.
W.W.Rowland spoke of a professional consultancy that had recently examined a similar situation in Seattle WA. All parties had been interviewed, questionnaires collated, and the most egregious parties identified. While truckers were still losing money in that port, at least the specific problems were being examined. Just as in Houston, waiting times had to be severely reduced and rates had to go up.
Mr. Kornegay wanted to know if a 24-hour gate operation would help? No; gate opening hours were not the problem, he was told, when steamship offices were 8 to 5; railroad terminals were not much better; and there was such a variation in lunchtime meal breaks. If extended hours were to work, they would have to be uniformly applied over every aspect of the entire shipping process. There was general agreement that a 12-hour working day of 7 to 7 with no break would be a possible solution.
Many attendees were scathing about the current chassis arrangements. Most ocean carriers worked from their own exclusive chassis pools, which meant that a change of steamship line customer meant a change of chassis for the trucker. There was wide support for a well-run neutral chassis pool that would permit a trucker to eliminate equipment interchange delays. It was recognized that each steamship line derived marketing benefit from its own efficient operation but here was a case that cooperation in this area might save the overall business of the port. Mr. Walt Niemand, Director of the Carriers Container Council, who was present, offered to draw his members’ attention to the remarks of the group.
In winding up, Mr. May asked what message could be taken back to the truckers who were looking for any sign that their problems were being adequately addressed in a timely fashion? It was agreed that the PHA would hire an outside consultant; that a terminals meeting would be immediately convened to discuss and coordinate working hours; and that Mr. Niemand’s offer to discuss the matter with his CCC members would be accepted.
No one wanted to see a withdrawal of services by the truckers or a confrontation
engineered by a union seeking to organize an industry, which had a proud reputation of independence. Sympathy wasn’t needed; action was. As the room cleared at the end of what had been a frank yet courteous exchange of ideas, there was a feeling that some progress had been made and that the first steps towards solving the problem had been taken.
For more information, you can contact the Texas Intermodal Truckers Association (TITA).
Marine Exchange Now Offering
New Value Added Services.
Alton Landry, Manager of the Marine Exchange of the West Gulf (MEWG) which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Port Bureau, was recently demonstrating his new database to interested visitors who were in town to examine the Exchange’s observation station at Morgans Point and the administration functions in the Port of Houston Authority’s executive building at the Turning Basin.
The Exchange is now a member of the Marine Information Services of North America (MISNA) group and has access to port and vessel data from all ports in the USA and Canada. In addition, a worldwide network of databases is being assembled which will offer subscribers access to vessel arrival/in port/departure information from many overseas locations.
For more information on the Marine Exchange, call Alton on 713.678.7711. Information on the ship you need to know all about is only a local phone call away.
And talking of phone calls, you might want to look into the Exchange’s live telephone answering service which will take care of those important after hours, holidays, and weekend telephone calls which can be patched through to your decision-makers by our 24/7 friendly, experienced operators who know the language of shipping and never run out just when the message gets to the important bit
Some Exchange Data:
Between 1995 and 1999, Steel Imports over the Port of Houston Authority’s wharves
went from 72.9% to 38.6% of the total with the balance being received at private sector facilities.
1999 was the best year for passengers with no fewer than 164,292 cruise passengers billed over the PHA’s facilities.
Overall Port of Houston vessel arrivals for the fist quarter of 2000 exceeded the same period of 1999 by nearly 8% with 1713 arrivals recorded by the Exchange’s observation station at Morgans Point.
The top three port agencies during the first quarter of 2000 were Inchcape, Biehl, and Moran-Gulf. 80 port agencies were active during the same period.
The Galveston Bay Foundation.
The Galveston Bay Foundation (GBF) invites you to discover the wonders of Galveston Bay through Expeditions, tours and activities presented by GBF and some of its many partners. To learn more about the Galveston Bay Foundation and their programs in education, conservation, research and advocacy, you can call 281.332.2281. Check out their website at www.galvbay.org
Upcoming activities include: -
- Bay Celebration Day at LaPorte on June 10th. 2000.
- GBF Expeditions - Guided canoe tour on Armand and Horespon Bayous on April 29th. and May 13th. 2000.
- Canoe and Crab Caper on May 6th. 2000.
- GBF Canoeing Instruction on April 15th. and June 17th. 2000.
For these and many other exciting events including discovery adventure expeditions to Wallisville, Smith Point, Galveston Island State Park, San Jacinto State Historical Park, and the Texas City Dike, call the Galveston Bay Foundation on 281.332.3381.
“Down to Sea on “Elissa”
Clear sunlight reflects from the highly polished mahogany handrail and the gentle northerly breeze fills the sails as the full rigged ship “Elissa” clears the Galveston Bay breakwaters and heads out into the gentle swell of the Gulf.
Astonishingly, conversations coming from all over the ship are clearly overheard in the unaccustomed quietude that accompanies a sailing ship under way in perfect sailing weather. Good sailoring ensures that the canvas is not flapping and the sound of the parting ocean is only a gentle hiss as “Elissa” makes her stately progress, outward bound for exotic and unknown destinations.
Well, the last part of the previous sentence is not strictly accurate, because the voyage was, alas! only from Galveston to Galveston, and only a most pleasant way of spending a recent afternoon as guests of admiralty lawyers, Baker and Hostetler LLP., who had chartered the vessel for the cruise. But it was a lovely thought to dream for a moment that we were really and truly outward bound and your correspondent could tell that he was not alone in being carried away with the sheer romance of the occasion.
Crisp, unamplified commands were promptly carried out by a willing crew of well-trained volunteers who, even when they were not tending to sailing orders, were always busy cheesing down ropes or working on their sailoring skills. No idle hands here!
An invitation to the adventure had been heralded by a message in a bottle delivered to the Port Bureau from Bob Nicholas and Judy Ryan of Baker and Hostetler.
But the sail on “Elissa” was only the start, because upon our return to port, we were conducted to the beautifully restored Galveston Custom House where Betty Massey, Director of the Galveston Historical Foundation, was waiting to greet us and to provide refreshments and dinner catered by the friendly and attentive staff from the Salt Water Grill.
Did I forget to mention the pirates? To renderings of “What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor?” to frequent outbursts or “Arrrrr me hearties!” three actors from the Alley Theater had been keeping the romance alive throughout the afternoon. One came complete with parrot on his shoulder; another wore the regulation black eye patch. Golden earrings were certainly “rig of the day”!
Our thanks must go to Baker and Hostetler (call Judy Ryan on 713.646.1360) and to the Galveston Historical Society (Betty Massey’s telephone number: 409.765.7834) for a splendid and memorable outing in which the Texas weather was at its most glorious. We have a memory filled with treasured images and a camera with some splendid photographs taken by Judy, some of which are printed nearby.