Marine Transportation System

Posts Tagged ‘NY/NJ’

Our Turn to Pay the Freight

In Infrastructure, Surface Transportation Policy on September 9, 2009 at 5:21 pm
PBS "Blueprint America" Documentary:  "Keep on Trucking?"

PBS "Blueprint America" Documentary: "Keep on Trucking?"

Blueprint America is the PBS infrastructure series.  The series is one of the best I have seen on the subject, not that there is much competition on TV in this category.  Keep on Trucking? has the virtue of being taped in my Garden State, where men are men and women are truck drivers who train the men.

The segment reported by Miles O’Brien covers our reliance on trucking and the 50+ year old interstate highway model.  He reports on the benefits and limitations of the rail freight system.  He covers how trucking and rail compete and cooperate (“the term of art is intermodal”).  He introduces community concerns via New Jersey’s Ironbound, which is adjacent to the Newark container terminals.  And O’Brien overlays the  fact that Congress will have to replace SAFETEA-LU and face the political conundrum of taxes, with Jim Oberstar’s (D-MN) foot on the House accelerator.

Part of the value of this particular “…Trucking?” segment, as one individual awkwardly said, is the need “to look at the network of this nation as a whole” and “how these two modes can be interfaced in the most efficient way”.   “A freight relay if you will,” Miles O’Brien added, “… trains and trucks each doing the part of the job they do most economically, then passing the baton.”

Of course that topic deserves a 24-minute segment of its own…but not one limited only to two surface modes.

Predictably marine transportation was not mentioned.  Considering the key points made in the piece the marine highway should have been included in the “network of this nation.”  The water mode applies to the ideas of intermodal operation, efficiency, congestion mitigation, and the need to think outside the 1950s highway model.  As one voice noted, “it’s about retooling the freight infrastructure so American business can compete in the global marketplace.”  Not about maintaining the primacy of road and rail, one might add.

Miles O’Brien alluded to the fact that arriving at a new policy will not be easy.  “There is no love lost in the fight over infrastructure dollars.”  Bill Graves of the American Trucking Association asserted that the public shouldn’t be “deluded” that rail is “the answer”…the Association of American Railroads‘ ad campaign notwithstanding.

O’Brien expressed no particular confidence that Congress will adopt a new model.  He spoke of an American consumer trait, taking things for granted–“plentiful, high quality goods, delivered fast and cheap”–and made possible seemingly “like magic.”  Not willing to make it easy on voter or legislator, he said “it is actually about planning ahead and making big investments.”  The generation that built the interstate system did it.  “Now it may be our turn to pay the freight.”   Pbea

When State Regulation is Invasive

In Federal Government on September 1, 2009 at 5:24 pm

Non-indigenous species carried in ballast water (graphic by Patterson Clark of the WPost)

Non-indigenous species carried in ballast water (graphic by Patterson Clark of the WPost)

The Coast Guard issued on August 28th a proposed rule for the regulation of ballast water discharges (BWD).  This is the Nagging Problem (NP) that has plagued the maritime sector, particularly vessel operators.  That problem is both the habitat devastation caused by non-indigenous aquatic species unwittingly carried here from foreign ports and the  patchwork of regulation that can confound those responsible for ships in commerce.

Two Federal agencies claim jurisdiction.  The EPA does, per the Clean Water Act, and through that several states  exercise delegated authority to protect their waters.   So states like California, Michigan, Washington, and New York set their own requirements for vessels to meet.

But the vessels in question don’t just putter around Lake Erie, so to speak.  They transit international waters in international commerce and call in multiple ports.  The proposed Coast Guard rule takes a national approach with an international foundation for starters.  The proposed regs  would establish a standard for allowable concentrations of organisms in BWD.  The standard and schedule are consistent with the applicable IMO convention.  In the next decade, the standard would tighten significantly–assuming you think 1000x is significant–if currently unavailable technology would become available.  (Comments on the regulations are due November 27th.)

Still, there is that other NP.  The complication of multiple standards courtesy of the states.   At present Federal law doesn’t preempt non-Federal standards though that would be a good idea.  Who is to say that the means to meet one standard can also satisfy a second or a third standard as a ship moves from port to port?  And what if the State standard isn’t…well…carefully considered?

New York’s regulation, effective 2012, will put a ship’s pilot in violation of the law if the ship, lacking a means to meet the standard, crosses New York waters (without discharging) on its way to a terminal in New Jersey.  As frustrating  is the stricter-than-IMO standard for which ships must have onboard environmental technology that has yet to be devised, not to mention shown to be safe and effective.  NYDEC does not allow for an absence of applicable technology.  Take this enlightening discussion from The Washington Post story of August 31

Steve Fisher, executive director of the American Great Lakes Ports Association, called different regulations in each state a “nightmare scenario.” He said current technology cannot meet New York’s standards, which are 100 times stronger than the IMO treaty, and he expects that the state will have to close ports or relax its rules.

Jim Tierney, assistant commissioner for water resources at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, disagreed. “It’s not that hard to kill things,” he said. “You can heat them up, crush them, pressurize them, put a chemical on them. We think this is a problem that can be solved in a very economical fashion.”

Well, there ya go, naval architects, biologists and others who have been working this question for a good many years.  Maybe it’s not so difficult after all.  Maybe just a big hammer, goggles, and a trash bag will get ‘er done.   Pbea

Special Delivery 400 Years Later

In History on August 30, 2009 at 9:24 pm
The FLINTERDUIN and friends sailing from the Netherlands to New York Harbor.

The FLINTERDUIN and friends sailing from the Netherlands to New York Harbor.

The Dutch are at it again.  Sailing into New York Harbor to navigate the Hudson…like Henry did.  And no, the ship in the shot isn’t a freighter of a new multi-masted design.   Look closer.  The FLINTERDUIN is delivering to 20 vessels any day now to the mouth of the Hudson River as part of the quadricentennial celebration of Hudson’s exploration of that great river.   Look to The Old Salt Blog, Rick Spilman’s blog, for more information and as well as Sea History.   The Dutch sails will be a great sight to see.   Another source of information on the celebration is the 400th commission’s website. Pbea

New York Harbor High

In Education on August 24, 2009 at 12:29 pm

A number of years ago a colleague at The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey came up with the idea of a board game for area schools.  It would be used to teach kids that one the world’s great seaports was  a short distance away.   Few people in the region understood that the Port was a major economic generator for the two States.  Where Wall Street, Broadway, The Village, the Jersey Shore, and The Sopranos were well known economic generators we found ourselves envying other, smaller ports that were valued, centers of hometown interest.

So staff in the port department developed the board game and produced boxed versions as one element of a public relations effort.   Many hours went into designing the game board to serve its education purposes.  To  the credit of those who worked on it the board didn’t look like one of the countless Monopoly knock-offs. Years later a sample of the game board is one of several keepsakes in my office.  Those game boxes probably share a similar, perhaps inevitable, dusty fate in teacher closets.  Thankfully the imperative to educate kids about their port didn’t end there.

The New York Harbor High School has a greater chance of producing a population of kids who will better understand the natural harbor and the commerce taking place there.  This publicly supported school and its roughly 400 students are moving into a new facility on Governors Island, which is as great a front porch as any from which to soak in the benefits of a harbor.   The kids will benefit by a curriculum described by the NYC Department of Education as including “Marine Technology, Marine Science, Environmental Policy, Maritime Culture and History, Computer Aided Design (CAD), Swimming, Senior Internships at maritime and water-related businesses throughout the New York City area” and more.  Teach your children well.  Pbea