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PMSA's Blog Corner

Record Cargo Volumes & Cleaner Air

By Thomas Jelenić

Maritime Logistics Professional

September 7, 2018


The ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles recently released their annual emissions inventories and the news was impressive. Cargo volumes are at record levels while emissions continue to decline. In fact, the twin ports were a hair's breadth away from meeting their 2023 air quality goals in 2017 (the calendar year the current emissions inventories cover) and may very well have met those goals this year - five years early. Diesel particulate emissions are down over 87%, emissions of sulfur oxides are down over 97%, and emissions of nitrogen oxides are down over 56%.

When you drill into the numbers, some very impressive gains pop out. For cargo-handling equipment, emissions of diesel particulates are down over 90%, while nitrogen oxides were down over 71%. This means that the air in our local communities continues to improve. All of this happened with cargo reaching a record volume of nearly 16.8 million twenty-foot equivalent (TEU) units in 2017, a 7% increase over its previous peak in 2006 - 11 years earlier.

It is important to stress the importance of this achievement. For one reason, the cargo that flows through Southern California's maritime gateway represents about 40% of all waterborne cargo entering the United States.

Click here to read the rest of the Op/Ed.

The High Cost of Zero Emissions

Journal of Commerce
March 2, 2018
By John McLaurin

DOES CALIFORNIA WANT international trade, or is the state pursuing a policy to drive cargo and jobs away?

That's a question marine terminal operators and shipping lines are asking with increased regularity. I'm sure other players in California's supply chain are having similar conversations.

With the world's most stringent environmental regulations, California state, regional, and local agencies are proposing new, overlapping regulations that will drive trade and jobs away from California. If that's the goal of these regulators, then they are sending a strong signal. If not, then these agencies need to step back and develop more holistic plans that continue the environmental progress without making our ports unwelcoming. 

Click here to read the rest of the blog.


Latest CA Clean Air Rule Undermines Industry Trust

Journal of Commerce
March 28, 2017
By John McLaurin

Without public notice, in the absence of any staff analysis, contrary to the direction of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) adopted a resolution that will drive up the cost of delivering goods to market and harm the competitiveness of California's ports.

On Thursday, March 23 following the closure of public comments, the CARB adopted a resolution that will require moving forward with regulations limiting business activity by placing "facility caps” on warehouses, railyards and distribution centers, and mandate that billions of dollars be spent at California's ports. A facility cap is an artificial limit on business activity in order to reduce air emissions. From a port and supply chain perspective, it is a state-imposed cargo diversion mandate.

The resolution was part of CARB's approval of their State Implementation Plan (SIP) — only it wasn't in the SIP, until it was.

Click here to read the rest of the blog.
Vital Port of Seattle deserves strong leadership now
Seattle Times
March 26, 2017
By Jordan Royer

FOR more than 100 years, the Port of Seattle has been a vital part of our region's economic development and cultural growth. People and goods from around the world enter — and exit — our region through airport and seaport facilities, creating jobs and business opportunities for everyone from new immigrants to CEOs, and generating millions of dollars in local and state taxes.

With Port CEO Ted Fick's sudden resignation on Feb. 1, this major regional asset is missing strong leadership at the helm. The port commission should act quickly to find the right person. If there were ever a time when the port needed strong management, it is now.

Throughout the past century, there were port managers who stepped up and made courageous and visionary decisions — investing millions of dollars in container-handling facilities, promoting the idea of double-stacking containers on train cars before it had been widely accepted, building the finest recreational boat marina in the Pacific Northwest at Shilshole Bay, and building satellite passenger terminals at the international airport to accommodate predicted growth.

Click here to read the rest of the blog. 

Why US port metrics matter 
Journal of Commerce
August 2, 2016
By John McLaurin

Mark Szakonyi, executive editor of, recently wrote a thoughtful piece about the issue of port metrics, a topic that generates a lot of controversy and strong feelings. One comment by Szakonyi in his piece that particularly resonated with me was his observation that recent opposition to port metrics "... smacks of an industry afraid to turn a critical eye on itself, and happy to keep finger-pointing." I agree with Szakonyi.
Across multiple efforts and regardless of whether you call it port metrics, port productivity or port efficiency, a common factor among many of these efforts is the ongoing "finger-pointing,” even after months of discussion between stakeholders. Ironically, individual entities like ocean carriers, marine terminals, trucking companies, railroads and distribution centers use various metrics — but not as a system.

The Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, for example, is in the process of developing container dwell time data for Southern California marine terminals that will be provided to port authorities and other interested parties. Additionally, individual member companies of PMSA along with PMSA staff are participating in various port metric efforts at a national, state and local level.

Click here to read the rest of the blog.

Approach Port Metrics with Caution
Journal of Commerce
March 30, 2016
By John McLaurin
Port metrics and key performance indicators are popular topics often discussed in Washington D.C. and by local port authorities, but while metrics and KPI's are good goals, they come with a cautionary note.
First, individual metrics can't be viewed in isolation. To state the obvious, a number of external and independent factors may impact a particular metric and policymakers need to take a holistic view of the situation.
Second, while metrics are needed, the underlying challenge facing the supply chain is that we are dealing with a model for the pickup and delivery of cargo at marine terminals that is outdated. To simply warehouse more cargo at increasing heights and density on marine terminals, coupled with the random and unannounced pickup and delivery of that cargo, is a failed and dying model. If we are to meet the demands that will accompany future growth along with current and future environmental regulations, existing supply chain processes need to change.

Click here to read the rest of the blog.


Seafarer Centers Need Our Help
October 28, 2015
By John McLaurin

The holidays are almost upon us.  Hundreds of millions of Americans will head to shopping malls or go online to order gifts for friends, loved ones and colleagues.  People will worry about how the gift will be received, whether it will fit, if it is the right color, will it break or whether it is returnable.  Few will give much thought to the hard work of those onboard ships that brought those goods to this country.

Hundreds of seafarers will spend this holiday season at sea or at distant ports of call thousands of miles from their families. Working on board ships is a solitary and lonely life.  Seafarers spend months away from their home and loved ones, often working in very dangerous conditions.  It is a profession that is taken for granted by consumers all over the world, but one that is critical for our economy. 

These seafarers need our assistance and support.  That is why the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, the Port of Oakland and other members of the Bay Area maritime community came together recently to raise funds for the Seamen's Church Institute, International Maritime Center.  The recent luncheon event included a keynote address from Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who expressed her gratitude and appreciation for the women and men who work onboard ships.  The Mayor's support for the International Maritime Center and its volunteers was a wonderful acknowledgement of the hard work performed by individuals who are largely invisible to the general public.
Click here to read the rest of the blog.

California's green push to ripple through supply chains
Journal of Commerce
September 11, 2015
By John McLaurin

If California is to see long-term success in its continued push to be a global environmental leader, the state and its regulatory agencies must also look at how to keep California positioned as a global economic leader.

At issue is California Gov. Jerry Brown's recent executive order that directs a number of diverse state agencies to "…develop an integrated action plan by July 2016 that establishes clear targets to improve freight efficiency, transition to zero-emission technologies, and increase competitiveness of California's freight system.”

The governor's policy directive will impact everyone that handles or receives domestic and international freight including warehouses, distribution facilities, airports, ports, trucks, railroads, manufacturers, agriculture, retailers and final mile delivery.  It is an ambitious effort to address climate change and reduce emissions that will fundamentally change the way freight is transported in California.

Click here to read the rest of the blog.

Millionaire Monopoly Asks The Legislature For A Raise … Again
Fox and Hounds Daily
August 24, 2015 
John McLaurin

It's nice to have a state-sanctioned monopoly. It's even nicer to have a monopoly in an important, yet obscure profession, like the San Francisco Bay's 60 bar pilots do. In 2014, the San Francisco Bar Pilots, who guide ships in and out of the Bay, collected their highest revenues ever in their 150+ year history, nearly $40 million, from the ships that called on the Bay Area's seaports. After expenses, each pilot took home an annual income of $453,766 last year.   And that income is for an estimated six months of work per pilot – indeed, at the urging of a pilot, the US Tax Court recently determined that a pilot working in the San Francisco Bay works so few hours that the IRS can consider it a part-time – job.

Despite their 2014 record-high revenues, $450,000 annual salary, and a less-than-full-time workload, the San Francisco Bar Pilots apparently still feel that they are underpaid, as they are currently seeking an 11% pay increase (yielding an additional $12.4 million over four years) from the California Legislature.  As justification, they're arguing that their expenses are increasing and they haven't had a rate increase in 10 years. These are similar arguments to those used by the pilots when they asked the Legislature for a rate increase in 2011.

Fortunately, the facts have demonstrated that the pilots are much better navigators than they are financial planners.   In 2011, the pilots projected that their income in 2014 would be $362,147 per pilot if they didn't receive a rate increase. The ratepayers in the maritime industry disagreed, and argued that their incomes would grow without the need for rate increases. The Legislature agreed with the ratepayers and rejected the pilot's requested increases.  The result? The Legislature made the right choice. At $453,766 last year, each Bar Pilot made $91,619 more than what they told the Legislature they would be making.
Click here to read the rest of the op-ed.

Keep Cargo Moving
Los Angeles Business Journal
June 15, 2015
John McLaurin

California is moving forward with a program that will fundamentally change the way cargo is transported to address climate change and reduce emissions at a cost of billions of dollars. The goal of this effort is to see all those who have a hand in moving cargo reduce their carbon output to zero or near-zero emissions.

The California Air Resources Board's Sustainable Freight Strategy will impact our ports, including the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach; airports; trucks; railroads; vessels; marine terminals; warehouses; distribution facilities and delivery trucks. Issues around the strategy and how it is implemented are significant because this road map will be used as the basis for future regulations and investments as California moves to phase out the use of liquid fossil fuels and the diesel engines that burn them.

The Pacific Merchant Shipping Association continues to support many efforts by California to integrate clean air technologies in global trade. However, if the air board's Sustainable Freight Strategy is to be truly sustainable, it must give businesses a chance to grow while emissions are reduced. If this is an emissions reduction plan without financial support or funding, it will severely harm California's international trade position, a role that helps fuel our economy.

Click here to read the entire op-ed.

Doesn't Stack Up
Los Angeles Business Journal
April 4, 2015
By John McLaurin

So now here comes Florida Gov. Rick Scott leading a "trade delegation” to entice the international trade and logistics industry to uproot and return with him to the Sunshine State.

The governor doesn't really want the cargo, of course. What he wants are the tens of thousands of jobs and economic benefits in California that are associated with moving, tracking, storing and distributing goods – everything from lawn chairs to clothing to big-screen televisions. 

Click here to read the entire blog.

Gov. Scott, Welcome to California
Journal of Commerce
March 15, 2015
By John McLaurin 

Drinking a glass of Florida orange juice this morning, I thought about the governor of Florida's well-publicized letter to "shipping industry professionals,” touting Florida's port system while at the same time taking a few cheap shots at the state of California by comparing Florida to California in a number of areas. I thought I'd respond in kind about some items that the governor of Florida failed to mention.

Unlike Florida, California does not allow alligators to play through on its public golf courses. California is a place where great ideas are born, home to dreamers and innovators represented by companies such as HP, Google, Apple and even Disney. Florida is a place where people go to retire. I appreciate the governor's hesitancy to talk about climate change in a state that is just a few inches above sea level and where the most popular program is anything shown on the Weather Channel.

While the governor notes that Florida's entire port system has averaged approximately $212,500,000 on an annual basis in funding seaport improvements over the past four years, some of California's ports have matched that investment (and more) on just an individual port basis. In addition, our marine terminal payments to California's public ports for seaport investments total more than $900 million per year. And we've been able to reduce port-related emissions by more than 80 percent in many categories in the process.

Click here to read the entire blog.
Spare some thought for the seafarers
Journal of Commerce 
August 4, 2014 
By John McLaurin

Peter Tirschwell came to town last week. I've known Peter for many years, and given that he might write my obituary one day, I offered to buy him lunch.

Not having seen him for a while, once we got past insulting each other, as old friends do, the conversation settled down into a wide ranging discussion about the current state of the maritime industry, longshore contract negotiations, waterfront personalities and the like. What became clear during our conversation was Peter's commitment to seafarers and to seafarer centers around the country which provide much needed help and assistance to those that work onboard vessels.

Click here to read the entire blog.

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