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Greater Houston Port Bureau
The following is the October, 1999 edition of "The Bulletin". Any questions or comments regarding content should be addressed to Alistair Macnab at 713-678-4300.
 The Editorial
Have we become crassly commercial or are there very good reasons why you will find advertisements in this month's issue of "The Bulletin"?
First, let me place before you the fact that we were asked if we would accept commercial messages by several of our Members, and you know its always our policy to try to do what our Members want!
It seems that the contents of this publication are enjoying fairly widespread notice, so apparently, there is a feeling that "The Bulletin" can be a useful medium through which to reach all the right desks in Houston's maritime community. A look at the long and distinguished list of those of you who have already paid the annual subscription would certainly tend to bear out this assumption. Thank you very much, indeed.
This month's advertisements are "dummies" in that they are mock-ups of a format we have in mind that will blend in nicely with the entire publication. If you don't see your own company advertised, that's because those you see were chosen at random and are not being charged for. I did want you to get a feel, however, for the sort of layout and advertisement size and placing. Please let me know what you think. (We can now be reached by email on
Secondly, we'd like to eventually aspire to a color print run but it will be some time before we have the resources to do this in-house. In the mean time, we have started saving up and with your kind and continuing support; we'll get to where we want to be.
But I think I hear some of you saying: "Never mind the fancy stuff; just the news, please", and that's a point-of-view I need to pay attention to, as well. Let me commit to you all, here and now, that the news and features will always be our top consideration. If we're driven at all, its with a burning passion to spread the word about the magnificent civic and commercial achievement that is today's Port of Houston. Whether public or private, the Port's billions of dollars contribution to our local economy and the estimated 75,000 jobs it supports, ain't chump change. The more people know about the Port, the more there is to know.
The Port Bureau, together with its affiliated organizations: The Marine Exchange of the West Gulf, and the U.S. Gulf International Commerce Club, is proud to represent the broad private sector that features so prominently in the success of Houston's Port. You'll find us everywhere and on every occasion that Port, regional transportation, or political issues of concern to the maritime community, are under discussion. Whether it's the quality of the air we breathe, the plight of the recreational boater, or the smoothing out of road humps at railroad crossings, the Bureau will keep you informed. That's our mission and, with your help, we'll be carrying it through.
Don't forget our Annual Dinner and Entertainment on Wednesday, October 27th. 1999. Its an early start so that we can all get home in good time, but in the two-and-a-half hours that I'd like you, your spouse, and your friends to spend with us, we hope to inform you a little with Ned Holmes, Chairman of the Port of Houston Authority, and David Dewhurst, Commissioner, Texas General Land Office, and to entertain you as well, with the skirling bagpipes of Lars Sloan and a scene or two from Stratford Community Playhouse's upcoming production of "Oklahoma".
Now, if that doesn't entice you, nothing will!
Look for the Dinner Booking Form inside and also for details of our advertising rates. As Claude Rains says to Humphrey Bogart at the end of "Casablanca": "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship!"
Alistair Macnab
 PHA Votes to Support Maritime Training
The Seamen's Church Institute (SCI) of New York and New Jersey has been looking to create a Training Facility here in the Gulf Region as an extension of its highly successful Centers for Maritime Education already operating in New York and Paducah, KY.
For over one hundred years, the SCI has been providing educational programs for mariners and now, thanks to a strong, supporting commitment by the Port of Houston Authority, the SCI's programs will be coming to Houston where one of the world's foremost simulation-based training facilities will be based.
At the Port Authority's Board meeting on Monday, September 20th. 1999, a recommendation to the Authority to locate an appropriate property to lease to the SCI for a Pilothouse Simulator and to authorize the Port Authority to expend an amount not to exceed $1,000.000.00 for the construction of a Maritime Center, was adopted by the Commissioners and a request will now be issued for professional architectural services to further this project.
The training facilities furnished by the SCI will be capable of serving deep-sea, coastal and inland mariners. Its program will be port-specific, providing localized training to meet unique training needs. The state-of-the-art, Kongsberg NorControl navigational simulators, are already booked for more than forty weeks per annum for five years, by fifteen of the Gulf Region's premier waterway operators. This commitment on the part of private industry already amounts to some $2,500.000.00.
The Port of Houston wants it to be known that it is supportive of continuing educational facilities, which would be used by the maritime industry to enhance the general safety in the Houston Ship Channel as well as the establishment of a Center for Maritime Education. It is also envisaged that the Center will be used to further enlighten the citizens of Houston and Harris County about the Port of Houston by providing information about the maritime industry and its economic impact on our communities.
The Port Bureau, of course, is also engaged in the development of training programs and seminars, which are currently being run by the Houston Center for Marine Education at the Bureau's premises. These programs together with existing technical and safety programs run by the West Gulf Maritime Association are expected to re-locate to the new Center once it is built, making it possible for all maritime-related educational and informational programs to be available under the one roof.
The Millennium Edition
The Bureau continues to move forward towards the publication of the Millennium Edition of the Membership and Services Register which covers members of the Greater Houston Port Bureau, Inc., The Houston Customhouse Brokers and Freight Forwarders Association, the Marine Exchange of the West Gulf Inc., and the U.S. Gulf International Commerce Club.
Some of you have been a bit shy in filling out the Questionnaire Form which has been sent to all the registered members of the several organizations. While this is not a major problem and your membership(s) will be duly recorded in the Register, we had hoped that all of you would take advantage of the opportunity to obtain a free, expanded entry that would also incorporate your corporate message up to 50 words.
We have also offered to ask you to select the principal areas of business under which you would like your company's name to be indexed and this is viewed as particularly important when your business covers several areas of expertise.
Its not too late, however, for you to get full coverage in the Register. Please either send in the completed Questionnaire without delay or, if you have misplaced it, you may request a new one from the Bureau and fax it back by return. We are wanting to get the layouts finalized so your early attention to this matter will be greatly appreciated.
Call the Bureau on 713.678.4300 and ask for Cynthia of Jeannie. Our fax number is 713.678.4839.
 An Educated Workforce for the 21st. Century
The education arm of the Port Bureau, the Houston Center for Maritime Education, has recently opened discussions with one of Houston's neighborhood school districts, to design and develop a vocational program for high school students who might be encouraged to enter the exciting world of international business and logistics.
As high schools begin to compete for students with charter schools and open admissions policies, it will be necessary to offer programs that are attractive and present a pathway to jobs in the real world. This is especially important for students whose plans do not include a four-year college but who would like to be in a position to offer unique skills that are attractive to a prospective employer.
The Bureau's preparation program for a graduating student's entry into the many fields that comprise international trade, envisages five modules incorporating Geography, Business Administration, Computer Skills, Bookkeeping and Accounting, and an International Commerce component. This vocational program would commence in the student's junior year of high school and would develop the specific skills attractive to employers in international transportation services at the same time as additional learning opportunities were pursued at community college level.
The aim of the program is to heighten awareness of the job opportunities that exist in international commerce here in Houston as the home of the nation's number one seaport in international tonnage terms. A skilled and educated workforce is an absolute requirement for the next millennium and it should not be lost that international commerce already involves no fewer than 75,000 jobs here in Houston and Harris County.
While the various academic and business components will be developed from existing programs already taught at the high schools, their coming together for the specific purpose of creating a focused career path, is seen as a novel feature of the program especially when coupled to the Bureau-designed, International Commerce component that will include modules created for presentation at the Maritime Education Center being developed for construction by the Port of Houston Authority at its Turning Basin campus.
The Port Bureau invites international transportation and logistics corporations to help it in clearly identifying the skill sets that will be in demand from their workforce in the 21st. Century. A skilled workforce will be entitled to look for appropriate job openings and corporate participation and partnering will be essential elements in the entire program. For more information, please contact Alistair Macnab on 713.678.4300.
 Port Bureau and Marine Exchange Join Maritime Information Service of North America
The Marine Information Service of North America (MISNA) is a nonprofit corporation founded in 1995. MISNA facilitates the flow and utility of maritime information and commerce, enhances vessel traffic safety systems, provides expertise and advice to government, industry and the public, promotes the development of networks for communication technology, and promotes industry-government partnerships.
Houston's Port Bureau and Marine Exchange will be MISNA's first members not located on the West Coast of the USA and Canada. Plans for the future envisage a nationwide association of marine exchanges but at this stage, our membership gives us and you direct access to the port data bases and traffic logs for all West Coast ports between Vancouver BC and Long Beach CA.
With this new link, Houston's Port Bureau and the Marine Exchange now have instant communication via the Internet with all MISNA member ports. We're open for business. Give us a call on the Marine Exchange line, 713.678.7711, and ask for Alton Landry, if you're trying to locate a ship, obtain port information, or contact a service provider on the West Coast. We're here to help!
 The Maritime Committee; Greater Houston Partnership
The Maritime Committee, under the chairmanship of Rey Gonzales, has convened an informational meeting to be held in the Main Conference Room of the Greater Houston Partnership on Tuesday, October 12th. 1999.
The purpose of the gathering is to provide the leaders of Houston's and Harris County's many civic and business organizations with an up-to-date overview of the Port of Houston Authority's Bayport Terminal Project. Senior staffers from the Port Authority and a representative of the Port Commissioners will be on hand to explain any aspects of the Project that might benefit from further discussion.
It is hoped that by offering this opportunity for community leaders to receive a direct briefing from the agency directly involved, that it will be possible to bring together the majority of voters on November 2nd. who will vote in support of the Port Authority's bond issue.
The meeting will last from 08.00 AM to 10.00 AM and is by invitation. Please call Pat Foley at the Partnership on 713.844.3600 to register your interest in attending. A light continental breakfast will be available.
 Steel Imports Decline in August
"Imports continued their pattern of decline in August", noted Horst Buelte, President of the American Institute for International Steel (AIIS), following the release of preliminary import data by the Department of Commerce.
Steel imports were down by five percent from July and nearly 13 percent for the year to date period. Despite the overall trend, however, there was an increase in the import of semi-finished steel products - the products used by the domestic steel industry itself - in further evidence of the continuing strength of ongoing demand and the hypocrisy of the protectionist campaign waged by the domestic steel industry.
Countervailing duties and anti-dumping initiatives encouraged by domestic steel have certainly had a chilling effect on that part of the import market which is normally directed to the end user in competition with the sales efforts of U.S. producers. "The domestic steel industry believes that steel imports used by its own companies to meet demand are fine but other steel consumers who import should be penalized by paying higher prices", stated Buelte.
Cumulatively, imports from Brazil, Indonesia, and China remained buoyant while imports from Russia, Japan, and Ukraine recorded the greatest declines.
For more information on international steel and the AIIS, contact Eric Blomquist on 202.466.6210. The AIIS is represented here in the Gulf by Bob Moore at Salzgitter Handel on 713.968.6540
 University of HoustonSmall Business Development Center: "A Basic Guide to Exporting"
There will be another opportunity for interested parties to participate in this two-session seminar which will be held on October 26th. and 28th. starting at 6.00 PM at the new location at 2302 Fannin, Suite 200.
The course identifies what the potential exporter wants to know in such areas as determining the overseas market, the best market entry strategies, and sources of information and contacts.
On the first evening, the export readiness of the participant is reviewed and analyzed and the potential product examined against world market demand. Then on the second session, strategies are examined that will lead to the establishment of an overseas market presence.
This program is conducted by Captain Alistair Macnab under the auspices of the U of H/SBDC and more information is available by calling Ms. Etna Pellman on 713.752.8488.
 Clean Gulf 99: Emergency Response and Environmental Realities
You are invited to attend CLEAN GULF 99, the 9TH. Annual Conference and Exhibition on Oil and Haz-Mat Spill Prevention, Response and Technology in the Gulf Coast Region. This year's conference is hosted and supported by a "Who's Who" of state and federal agencies, and emergency response associations. With comprehensive coverage of the oil and haz-mat spill industry from an offshore, coastal and inland perspective as well as marine fire and salvage, this years event truly offers something for everyone.
The Conference will offer a single source solution in a single location and you will find it all at the Moody Gardens Convention Center in Galveston on November 8th - 10th. 1999. Conference registration is now being accepted and you are invited to contact the organizers, Summit Registration Services, by telephones on 713.463.5930 or by fax on 713.463.6427. You may also communicate my email to
Key professionals from state agencies, the federal government, and private industry will address the real issues of cooperation, regulation, preparedness, prevention and response. From pre-spill planning through final clean-up and disposal, this event is reality-focused on the real issues and trends that affect this environmental industry and its players.
With a program running from Sunday through Wednesday, there will be opportunities to do such things as network with your peers at a Golf Tournament, view the exhibition and visit the exhibitors' stands, and sit in on some lively presentations and discussions, just to same some of the highlights of the program. There is a long list of distinguished local and national speakers including keynote addresses by David Dewhurst, Commissioner, Texas General Land Office and Rear Admiral Paul Pluta USCG, Commander of the CG Eighth District and Maritime Defense Command Eight.
You will hear open discussion from both a regulator and industry perspective. True-life, real case histories, options and solutions for all segments of the oil and haz-mat spill marketplace will be a major portion of this event. The products and technologies that make these solutions possible will be on display in one of the largest indoor/outdoor exhibitions of its kind. Over 175 displays, showcasing the top spill prevention, emergency response, clean-up, remediation, marine fire and salvage equipment and services available for today's environmental professional will be on show.
Special travel and hotel arrangements have been put together for visitors coming from a long distance. For yet more detail, you can call the Bureau on 713.678.4300 or, of course, Summit Registration Services on 713.463.5930.
 GAO Report Expected to Help Shippers' Fight Against New Harbor Tax
A new report not yet released to the public by the General Accounting Office, requested by the House Transportation Committee, is predicted to provide shippers with additional help in fighting the Clinton Administration's plan to replace the defunct Harbor Maintenance Tax with a new set of taxes on carriers.
Leaders of the House Transportation Committee which has primary jurisdiction over channel dredging and maintenance at the nation's ports and harbors, asked the GAO for a thorough summary of shipping-related user fees, taxes and other charges.
The report entitled "Commercial Maritime Industry - Updated Information on Federal Assessments", stated that shipping assessments totaled $21.8 billion in fiscal 1996, and $21.9 billion in each of the last two fiscal years with most of the money coming from customs duties paid by importers, and that eleven federal agencies charge a total of 124 charges on ocean shippers, carriers and intermediaries. The report also states that collections are increasing , with shippers being hit the hardest. More importantly the report also concludes that most of the monies are not used to enhance transportation service. Both the National Industrial Transportation League and American Association of Port Authorities used this report as proof that additional taxes or levies are not needed.
The GAO's report claims about $20 billion of fiscal 1998 revenue was deposited directly into the government's general revenue fund and not earmarked specifically for shipping or transportation-related purposes. Of the amount remaining after this money was placed in the general revenue fund, about $995 million was credited to agency accounts for purposes of reimbursing the various federal agencies for the cost of issuing permits, conducting inspections and other activities.
The GAO report claims taxing imports but not exports constitutes an illegal trade barrier, that the total of 124 agencies levying assessments has increased from 119 agencies in fiscal year 1992 and since 1992 50 charges were added, 45 deleted and 44 were altered. In addition, the surplus in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund which was $1.3 billion at the end of fiscal year 1998, will rise to $2.5 billion in fiscal 2004.
 Trans-Pacific Shippers Claim Ocean Shipping Act Having Desired Effect On Rates
Shippers in the Trans-Pacific trade are claiming that the Ocean Shipping Reform Act (OSRA) of 1998 is having the desired effect on rates by allowing market forces to be large factors in ocean rates. The shippers state that rate levels are being determined by market forces instead of by carrier cartels, in spite of the continuing anti-trust immunity still allowed carriers by the Act.
When the OSRA was passed , even though such pro-shipper reforms such as no longer having to file public rates and allowing shippers to sign confidential contracts, were included, many people believed allowing carriers to retain anti-trust immunity and maintain rate-setting cartels would offset the pro-shipper reforms. However, recent statistics released by the Federal Maritime Commission show that confidential contracting has surged under shipping reform and has allowed market-based forces to affect rate negotiations. FMC stats show that the number of service contracts filed with the Commission has increased from about 300 from May 1 to June 30 in 1998 to nearly 15,000 during the same period in 1999. Also during the first four months after the OSRA was in effect, nearly 34,000 service contract amendments were filed. Even though the contracts and amendments are considered confidential, anecdotal evidence indicates some carriers agreed to lower rates or drop their peak-season surcharge due to the entry of six new carriers into the trade resulting in a surplus of vessel capacity.
The nationwide shipper organization the National Industrial Transportation League released a poll of its members and stated that 74% of those responding stated that OSRA has resulted in benefits for shippers.
 The Ocean Shipping Reform Act; Continued...
Reports from several sources seem to indicate that there is some optimism that the Ocean Shipping Reform Act (OSRA), which became law on May 1st. this year, is working but that the issue of the continuing anti-trust immunity enjoyed by the ocean carriers, still lingers as an "unresolved" matter in some camps.
At the September 12-14 Vancouver BC meeting of the Tripartite Shippers Group, an annual gathering of international shippers from Europe, North America and Asia, there was general agreement that OSRA will achieve significant benefits for all ocean transportation stakeholders including shippers, but that other measures should be pursued in the effort to achieve fully competitive ocean transportation. The Group will call upon their respective governments to enact transportation policies which reflect free market principles that are unencumbered by anticompetitive carrier practices such as "talking agreements" which still seem to suggest that carriers may be skirting the intent if not the letter of OSRA.
At the Tripartite meeting, Ray R. Miles, chief executive officer of CP Ships, while confirming that OSRA had weakened ocean conferences by encouraging shippers and carriers to work more closely together, argued that conferences have been valuable to the industry since they have contributed to growth in trade and increased efficiency, ability, and frequency of carrier service.
Ed Emmett, President of the National Industrial Transportation League, the principal representative of shippers in the USA, commented that shippers were committed to free markets but there was always concern over the continued efforts by some carrier agreements to maintain cartel pricing. "It is always educational to listen to the views of shippers from different parts of the world," concluded Emmett. "Even though their interests might differ slightly, they are committed to free markets".
The NIT League is based in Washington DC and can be contacted by telephone on 703.524.5011. This year, the League will be holding its Annual Meeting and TransComp Exhibition in San Antonio TX on November 14-17, 1999.
 How to Advertise in "The Bulletin".
Advertisements are approximately 5 inches wide by 3.5" high.
They will be limited to one per page.
The present print run of "The Bulletin" is 450 monochrome and 50 color per issue.
"The Bulletin" is published twelve times a year.
One Issue: $100.00
Three Issues: $270.00
Six Issues: $510.00
Twelve Issues: $960.00
Let us design your advertisement; its free! On the other hand, if you prefer to use your own layout, please submit a photo-ready copy.
Telephone Michel Benoit on 713.678.4300 or fax on 713.678.4839. Or e-mail on
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