Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Industrial Stagnation

By Chris Philips,
Managing Editor, Pacific Maritime Magazine

The late 18th and early 19th century saw the dawn of the industrial revolution, whose impact was felt throughout the world and which catapulted the United States and its citizens to an unprecedented level of wealth, safety, health and comfort that we enjoy to this day.

In 1775, the New York firm of Sharpe and Curtenius cast the first cylinder for a steam engine in the new world. Twelve years later, John Fitch of Pennsylvania built a working steam-powered boat, operated by six pairs of mechanical oars. In 1790, his second steamboat reached seven miles per hour on the Delaware River. That summer, it operated a passenger service from Philadelphia to Burlington, Bristol, Bordentown and Trenton.

In 1804, Robert Stevens built a steamboat 68 feet long, with a 14-foot beam and a revolutionary, 100-tubed boiler. At the same time, Oliver Evans was in production of 50 high-pressure steam engines, as well as an amphibious steam-powered paddlewheel dredge that he drove under its own power from his workshop to the Schuylkill River.

In 1807, Robert Fulton’s steamboat North River, later known as the Clermont, made her maiden voyage from New York to Albany. The next year, Robert Stevens sailed from New York to Philadelphia (the first sea passage by steam power), and in 1811, the first steam-powered ferry, Juliana, began operation between New York and Hoboken, New Jersey.

By 1814, steamboat service was operating between New Orelans and Nachez, Mississippi, and in 1819 the Savannah became the first steamship to cross the Atlantic.

Between 1824 and 1831, the first school of science and engineering opened in the United States, the Erie Canal opened from Albany to Buffalo, New York, the first freight and passenger-carrying rail line in the US was incorporated, and the first US-built steam locomotive, Peter Cooper’s Tom Thumb, began working the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, replacing horses.

These milestones were the product of unfettered scientific and commercial ventures, and they were powered by coal.

Last month, Washington State’s Cowlitz County granted a shoreline-development permit to an Australian company that wants to build a shipping terminal in Longview, Washington. The company, Millennium Bulk Logistics, a subsidiary of Australia’s Ambre Energy, hopes to export 5 million tons of coal a year, brought by rail from Wyoming and Montana. The coal will go to China to fuel that country’s own industrial revolution, presumably offering the opportunity to 1.3 billion Chinese for the same unprecedented level of wealth, safety, health and comfort that we enjoy. In exchange, Millennium Bulk Logistics says the company will create 120 family-wage jobs in the Longview area during construction and 71 full-time positions at the terminal once it comes online.

But all is not smooth sailing for the terminal. Like the 19th-century Luddites that saw technology as a threat to their way of life, environmental activists, from hooded anarchists in Portland, Oregon to Hollywood stars, and all the way up to the White House, scorn the coal that continues to fuel much of our fragile economy. In 2008, on the campaign trail in San Francisco, then-Senator Barack Obama promised to price coal out of existence as a source of electricity: “So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them, because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”

Locally, environmental activists are opposing the terminal, hoping the required permits will be denied by state or federal regulators. “This is an emerging area of law,” says Jan Hasselman, an attorney with the environmental law firm Earthjustice, speaking to the Seattle Times. “But we shouldn’t have commissioners in Cowlitz County making what effectively are decisions of national and even international significance.”

Some would argue that we shouldn’t have radical environmental groups like Earthjustice involved in what are effectively local decisions. Earthjustice claims 776 different members and associations, including the usual suspects like the AFL-CIO, Bluewater Network and the Humane Society, and eco-radical groups like the Basel Action Network, The Sierra Club and Greenpeace.

Of the 776 groups that make up Earthjustice, the overwhelming majority consists of attorneys, who apparently make a “non-profit” living accepting donations to sue the federal or state government, which, in turn, pays large settlements from tax receipts, presumably from the people whose jobs have been eliminated by the eco-lawyers.

It is becoming more difficult in the United States to harvest or extract our abundant natural resources, and those we can extract are considered to be too dirty to use. Now, the eco-obstructionists don’t want anyone else to use our resources either. The Luddites are back.

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Street Use Fees Could Go Up 900%

SMBC has learned that SDOT has proposed a substantial increase in the fees it charges those who use city street Right Of Ways (ROW) for storage. As part of the 2011 City budget process the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDoT) proposed a fee increase of 900% for ‘material storage’ on 128 parcels of city property leased to private organizations and individuals.

The proposed ordinance would increase annual SDoT Street Use Material Storage Fees (Use Code 12) from $.0.51 per square foot per year to $4.68 per square foot per year. The fee ordinance was bundled with other issues as part of the 2011 city budget adoption process; and was scheduled to be passed by Council on November 22nd.

Little advance notice was given to users of affected property. Permit holders were notified by letter of the city’s intent to increase the fees in a letter dated November 10th—fewer than two weeks prior to the City Councils scheduled hearing of the proposal on November 22nd.

SMBC and other businesses organizations joined affected property users in mid-December to urge Council members and SDoT director Peter Hahn to delay voting on this increase until affected property owners had a chance to comment on the proposal. Hahn has since consented to delay putting the proposal before the city council until 2011, but it’s pretty clear that SDoT intends to wrest a much larger lease fee from those who use city ROW to support their business activity. SMBC will continue to follow this issue, and we’ll keep members apprised of any proposals of which we become aware.

Comments on the Supplemental Draft EIS for the Bored Tunnel Viaduct Replacement Alternative

The Seattle Marine Business Coalition was invited to submit comments to the Draft Environmental Impact Study that the state is required to complete prior to moving ahead with the Bored Tunnel replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. 

The city must prepare and submit a similar study. Below is the text of the comments we submitted to the state today. We will update you with responses from the state and city when we receive them.

The Seattle Marine Business Coalition represents roughly 300 marine industrial land users within the city limits. Most of our member companies are clustered at the north and south ends of the viaduct, and rely on the efficiency that structure provides for movement between the two industrially zoned neighborhoods of the BINMIC and the Duwamish.

We are concerned with the effects the bored tunnel alternative proposal will have on traffic movement between those two neighborhoods. We believe there has been inadequate analysis of the cumulative impacts of the project on vehicle mobility on I-5, Alaskan Way and other city truck routes, arterials and residential streets. Without more comprehensive analysis, there is insufficient information in the SDEIS to provide adequate notice to the potential users of the revised road transportation system, and/or to plan and provide for appropriate mitigation of the impacts of the project.

Specifically, the analysis should address the following:

1. The state project managers have consistently held that the current tunnel portal configuration and access points mean that virtually all freight movement will be diverted from the existing viaduct to a new at-grade Alaskan Way. What are the expected truck volumes along Alaskan Way?

2. Given that trucks operate differently from single occupancy vehicles, what will be the effect of the additional freight volumes on Alaskan Way to overall travel times between BINMIC and the Duwamish?

3. Tolling seems to be increasingly attractive to the state as a revenue source to help offset construction costs of the bored tunnel, yet the effects of various tolling scenarios are not well defined in the Draft EIS. What will be the diversion patterns for the various tolling scenarios? Which tolling scenario is the preferred scenario? What are projected revenues for that scenario, and what effect will that scenario have on Alaskan Way traffic volumes and travel times?

4. The bored tunnel alternative will by definition cause a reconfiguration of the street grid. What happens to existing recognized truck routes in the post bored tunnel scenario? It would be helpful to the freight community if WSDOT or SDOT could create a schematic to illustrate truck routes developed to accommodate freight needs under the bored tunnel alternative.

5. Finally, we note that two other alternatives were compared to the bored tunnel in the Draft EIS: the cut and cover tunnel and a new elevated structure. Why was maintenance and seismic upgrade of the existing structure not included in the comparison? Several of our members served on Viaduct Advisory Committees. From that participation and independent study, we know that such a seismic upgrade would cost roughly ¼ of the cost of the bored tunnel alternative, and would maintain existing capacity and travel times.

Thank you for the effort represented by this Draft EIS, and for the opportunity to provide input regarding our concerns over the proposal.

Your responses to these concerns will help the freight community understand the effects the bored tunnel proposal may have on our businesses, such that we may work collaboratively with the city and the state to develop solutions that will help maintain the economic viability of the maritime industrial communities represented by the Seattle Marine Business Coalition.

We look forward to hearing from you.


Peter Philips
Seattle Marine Business Coalition

City of Seattle to form Freight Advisory Board

The City of Seattle has decided to form a Freight Advisory Board (FAB) to advise the city on issues affecting freight mobility within and through the city. According to the city, the FAB would have equal standing to the Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Boards currently advising the city on those issues.

The city council will appoint six members to board and the mayor will appoint five members. The Port of Seattle will have one seat for a Port staffer.

The FAB will be supported by a city staffer and will make regular reports to the city. SMBC has made several recommendations for representation from our membership.

Next Tuesday, Dec 14th, the city council’s Transportation Committee is expected to make its appointments to the Freight Advisory Board. Although the agenda for the committee meeting is not available as of press time; this action is scheduled as item 2 on the committee’s docket immediately following a briefing and discussion concerning the city’s response to the Nov 22 snow event in Seattle.

As always, Council committee meetings begin with an opportunity for public comment. Committee meets on Tuesday morning, 9:30 in Council Chambers at City Hall. The appointments to the FAB should probably come up by around 10:30 or so.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Local Boys (continue to) Make Good!

SMBC Board member Brian Thomas’ company Kvichak Marine Industries has been all over the news lately—locally and nationally—as the ‘poster child’ for successful manufacturing businesses.

Most recently they have been chosen to build new skimmers to help with the Bluewater Horizon spill clean up. The following is excerpted from the August issue of Pacific Maritime Magazine

The ‘damn hole’ is apparently plugged, at press time, but there is a big cleanup job ahead in the Gulf of Mexico. Not surprisingly, expertise and equipment to deal with the spill are being sought on the West Coast. The US West Coast has been at the center of oil spill expertise since 1989, when the Exxon Valdez changed the face of the maritime industry, and companies like Kvichak Marine Industries, which specializes in aluminum fast ferries, pilot boats and research vessels, have also become experts in the field of marine oil spill response.

Kvichak has been asked to build 30 skimmers for the Gulf, equipped with Kvichak/Marco Filterbelt oil and debris recovery systems.

The company has already sent two of the boats south, and 28 more will be built at a rate of three a week.
A crew of four can operate the skimmers in 15 feet of water or less, and under optimal conditions can pick up 1,000 barrels of oil a day.

The skimmers cost between $300,000 and $400,000 each, meaning the 30 boats could bring about $10 million in sales to the Seattle company. It pays to specialize.

Nickerson Street Road Diet to Move Forward

According to The Fremont Neighborhood blog and SDOT’s own updates, yesterday was to be the first day of work on the Nickerson Street diet. However a drive-by yesterday afternoon exposed little if anything had been done.

SDOT update at 2:30pm on July 26, 2010: The contractor plans to mobilize today and set up the no parking signs. Either this afternoon or tomorrow they will begin preliminary layout of the new channelization. Once they have completed the preliminary layout, SDOT will review and approve the layout prior to the permanent pavement markings. Grinding or removal of the existing pavement markings and installation of the permanent pavement markings are scheduled to begin on Monday, August 2.

SMBC and local residents continue to be vehemently opposed to this project. The city’s own studies show that it will do nothing to make the street any safer—for pedestrians or bicyclists.

We will continue to follow the issue, and ask that you document negative impacts on your business or your personal life over the next several weeks. As those impacts become apparent, please share them with me, and with the Seattle City Council, Peter Hahn, the city’s transportation director, and the mayor. I can be reached at Council members and city employees can be reached at: first name.last

Marine Industrial Sector Survey

The Seattle Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring a survey of Seattle area economic activity. SMBC has been asked to circulate the survey to our membership, and I believe it’s an excellent opportunity to quantify our economic value to the city—and to the city’s chamber of commerce.

I encourage you to take a few minutes to complete the survey. You can access it at It should take less than 10 minutes to complete. You are encouraged to forward this survey on to your business associates so they can participate as well.

Responses from the survey will support a broader public discussion about business conditions and provide substantive information about the best ways to keep and grow our job base. Please be assured that none of your responses will be directly attributed to you or your organization.

As added incentive to participate in this survey, the Seattle Chamber of Commerce will draw one lucky winner from all who complete the survey for Southwest Airlines Green LUV tickets.

About the Job Sector Survey Project

The Job Sector Survey is supported by more than 30 business organizations, as well as the regional Prosperity Partnership, King County, the City of Seattle’s Office of Economic Development, Urban Enterprise Center and the Washington Research Council.

The survey aims to collect data from as many King County employers as possible. As a result, you may receive notification of this survey from other organizations. While that approach helps to gather as much data as possible, it also created the potential that you may get this survey from multiple sources. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, and hope you understand that a larger pool of respondents will make the information derived more valuable.

Should you have any questions about the Job Sector Survey, please contact Chamber SVP George Allen at (206) 389-7268. George can also provide a hard copy of the survey if needed.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

GreenPacific Conference Coming to Seattle - Moving People and Cargo – Safely, Efficiently and Responsibly

Produced by Pacific Maritime Magazine, GreenPacific is an annual conference aimed at those in the maritime industry that are responsible for the movement of people and cargo: Specifically, those within marine transportation companies responsible for environmental sustainability, risk management and safety. The conference alternates between Southern California and Seattle. This year GreenPacific will be held September 21st and 22nd at the Seattle Hyatt Regency.

This year’s theme is Moving People and Cargo – Safely, Efficiently and Responsibly. The conference will consist of general sessions on environmental policy, supplemented by concurrent cargo-specific and ferry-specific tracks dedicated to funding and finance, technology and implementation of sound environmental practices.

Join maritime industry representatives in the ocean carrier, tug, barge and ferry operations sectors, legislators, policymakers, regulators and environmental agencies as we discuss cargo and ferry operations.


  • Policy and Funding for Environmental Best Practices
  • Federal/State legislative Outlook: Regulations and Set Standards
  • Environmental Best Practices: The Non-Regulatory Approach
  • Green Certification Programs
  • Green Terminal Technology
Defining the Need, Building the Solution and Financing the Route
  • Federal/State Legislative Outlook: Funding and Partnerships
  • Terminal Technology: Building a Multimodal approach to land/water transit
  • Wake Wash Mitigation
  • Green Certification Programs: SNAME initiative and PVA WATERS Program
  •   Green Technology
  • Ferry System Case Study: Moderated Panel Discussion
For more information visit

SMBC shows Mayor McGinn Working Waterfront Firsthand

50 members of the Seattle Marine Business Coalition collaborated in late April to take our new mayor on a tour of Seattle’s commercial maritime and commercial fishing industries. Our goal was to show the mayor and his staff the dynamic nature of an industry that goes largely unseen …and unappreciated …and contributes $5 billion annually to Seattle’s economy.

The tour started on a partly cloudy morning at Kvichak Marine where we walked through the yard and visited one of the new Dutch Pilot boats being built on the Ship Canal.

From there we boarded a Western Towboat tug captained by Western Towboat president Ric Shrewsbury for a one-hour tour of the ship canal where we pointed out the many family-owned, environmentally responsible businesses that line the cut.

Ric deposited us at Fishermen’s Terminal where Port of Seattle CEO Tay Yoshitani and terminal manager Kenny Lyles joined us for a dock walk along the newly refurbished piers. Local seiner Paul Matson joined us to talk to the mayor about the dynamic small boat fleet that calls Seattle home.

From Fishermen’s Terminal we boarded a Port of Seattle van and shot along the viaduct to Todd Shipyards where John Lockwood and his team presented the mayor with a professional and comprehensive overview of Todd’s role in the maritime industry, and its importance to the local economy.

From there we boarded a Harley Marine Services tug for a tour of the Duwamish and its large marine industrial land users. We were joined by labor and management representatives who pressed home the theme of collaboration and family wage jobs.

Our intent was to impress upon Mayor McGinn the dynamic nature of our community, our environmentally responsible work practices, our multi-generational stability …and the collaborative nature with which management and labor work toward common goals. We achieved all of that thanks to the collaborative work that each of you contributed to the project.

The mayor offered these takeaways to me on the bus ride back downtown after the tour:
  • He acknowledged the importance of the maritime and commercial fishing industries to the economic and cultural fabric of the city, and the interdependence of the two industrial neighborhoods that together make up that community.
  • He understands and appreciates that storm water runoff treatment responsibility is falling unfairly on the owners and users of marine industrial lands.
  • He acknowledged that the Seattle City Light rate increases will be an enormous burden and promised to consider its impacts in establishing rate policy
  • He appreciated the sometimes misguided application of mitigation funds to ‘salmon protection’ sites that might better be used elsewhere.
  •  He appreciated the importance of maintaining industrial street ends as industrial street ends.

However, there were two issues on which he was intransigent that disappointed me.

  1. Mayor McGinn continues to support the proposed Burke Gilman trail alignment along Seaview. Our arguments about the disastrous potential impacts didn’t seem to resonate.

  2. The mayor seemed unmoved at the importance of the Alaska Way Viaduct to the maritime industrial community. (even though it took us only ten minutes to get from Fishermen’s Terminal to Todd Shipyards.) He studiously avoided discussion of alternative freight routes should the viaduct come down.

These two issues will be the focus of the Seattle Marine Business Coalition’s advocacy efforts for 2010

Peter Philips
Seattle Marine Business Coalition

Kvichak Wins Seattle Business Magazine Manufacturer of the Year Award.

Seattle Marine Business Coalition member company Kvichak Marine Services has been awarded the award for ‘Large Manufacturer of the Year’ by Seattle Business Magazine, the publication reports in its June 2010 issue. The company was recognized for its versatility, environmental innovation and general business success in the face of recession.

Kvichak sells boats around the world and locally, ranging in size from 40-feet to 180-feet. Recent deliveries include pilot boats to the port of Rotterdam, Astoria Oregon and Houston Texas, Coast Guard patrol boats and US Navy support craft. The Company is the sole US builder of passenger hovercraft having built two to date, with a third now under contract. Kvichak built the two newest 40-foot harbor patrol boats for SPD.

In 2007, the Company opened a second construction facility dedicated to the production of USCG patrol boats under a contract expected to last eight-years. The partners are optimistic increasing foreign sales will spur additional employment and necessitate a third production facility in 2011.

Nickerson Street Road Diet

In late May Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn unveiled a new Walk Bike Ride initiative that includes a reduction in capacity for Nickerson Street, a vital access route to Ballard, Fremont Magnolia and Queen Anne residential and business traffic.

This action was taken with little consultation from stakeholders, and the little input that was invited was in strong opposition to the move. The initiative to narrow Nickerson has serious implications for Seattle’s transportation system, and the city’s quality of life.

SMBC is participating in a grass roots effort to convince the mayor to reverse his decision. Our intent is to demonstrate the depth and breadth of opposition to the Mayor’s plan to reduce capacity along Nickerson—and other major arterials.

SMBC, member companies and local residents coauthored letters sent to the mayor last week.

If you support our efforts, we urge you to appear with us at city council chamber on June 8th, 930am to testify before the council’s transportation committee. Even if you don’t testify, your presence will help us show the mayor how important Nickerson Street is to the marine industrial community in this city.

For more information, contact Peter Philips (206) 284-8285 or