Rerport on 9th Maritime Leadership Symposium

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May 26, 2009


By John G. Denham

A gathering of 132 maritime and related afficionados of the California ports, harbors and maritime facilities met in Sacramento on the 12-14 May and were exposed to political, bureaucratic and professional views on the business of directing, managing and surviving in today’s economic and environmentally challenging environment.

Sponsoring this specialized professional symposium was big player CHEVRON, the ports of LA/LB, San Diego and the U.S. Propeller Club and also supported by the Ports of Humboldt Bay and Santa Cruz who joined with a dozen other involved contributors.

Bunked down at the luxurious Hyatt hotel, in the shadow of the state capitol the 2 ½ day 9th California Maritime Leadership Symposium informed the crowded assembly to an inside view of the daily, annual, short and long term operations for California’s eleven sea ports. Dave Hull, the CEO of Humboldt Bay Harbor Recreation and Conservation District and chairman of the California Maritime and Navigation Committee (CMANC) a major sponsor, introduced the attendees to a time more exciting than “24” on Monday night TV.

The first morning sessions were dedicated to panel discussions by over a dozen practicing experts that reviewed California’s proposed new water laws and regulations, emission laws and regulations and proposed habitat and species protections laws effecting the ports, harbor and waterways of California.The afternoon sessions complemented the morning’s effort with more experts discussing “greening” strategies for inland and off shore waters. The day ended with the feeling that wildlife and the environment were well taken care of and the ports and harbors would compensate.

Day two started with Senator Alan Lowenthal, Senate Transportation Committee, explaining the political difference between fees and taxes; it is just money until you try and spend it. He urged the audience to communicate ideas and concerns to their representative and announced that the 11% legislature confidence rating was not very encouraging. Thereafter, the day’s panels provided informative responses to the previous day’s doubts with detailed explanations of profiles of California ports and harbors and their needs.

The late afternoon session was concluded with an analysis by Steve Heminger of the federal Metropolitan Transportation Commission and fellow member Tom Skancke explaining the possible distribution and guidelines for stimulus funds for the national transportation system initiated by President Eisenhower. The critical need for an improved national transportation system was explained and the lack of funding and support emphasized.

After two days, one is left with several thoughts:

1. Elected officials are concerned and aware but not knowledgeable.

2. The solution of the environment-economic situation is viewed as stimulus money.

3. Government looks to funding as a pinata.

4. There is relief coming, but it is not on the horizon in California.

5. The environment has priority over economics.

6. There are plans for almost everything, but they are on hold until situations improve or stimulus funds arrive.

7. There are newly invented words and acronyms for every problem.

8. There is, and always will be, conflict between local, state and federal solutions.

9. No symposium will succeed without at least one reception; more is better.

10. The major impediment to improved operations is congestion.

Noted was the lack of any presentation by the City/County of San Francisco and a not noticeable representation of the U.S. Merchant Marine, although the U.S. Navy League, Merchant Marine Council was represented. Any attendee claiming continuous education credits should be granted 2 units.


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