Having weathered seven years of environmental challenges and the worst economic downturn in the history of containerization, the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles are ready to grow.
"We're building for the future," Dick Steinke, executive director of the Port of Long Beach, told a meeting of the Harbor Association of Industry and Commerce.
"We're focusing on competitiveness and relationships," said Geraldine Knatz, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles. The port directors addressed the Southern California trade group on Wednesday.
By The Numbers: Containerized Ocean Trade - Southern California Ports
Long Beach is moving forward on the Middle Harbor and Pier S container terminals, harbor-area intermodal rail projects and replacement of the aging Gerald Desmond Bridge.
Los Angeles is expanding its China Shipping and TraPac container terminals, with the next terminal expansion project likely to be the APL facility. Los Angeles is also talking to Yang Ming Marine Transportation and Yusen Terminals about an expansion project in that area of the harbor, and is surveying land use practices on Terminal Island that should produce more usable real estate, Knatz said.
The port directors said the entire transportation community in Southern California is aware of the developments underway or planned by ports in Canada, Mexico and on the East Coast. Los Angeles and Long Beach are moving forward just as aggressively to protect their market share.
Attracting more discretionary cargo that will move to the eastern half of the country via rail will depend upon expansion of Union Pacific Railroad's Intermodal Container Transfer Facility and building BNSF Railway's Southern California International Gateway, Steinke said. "The near dock rail projects are critical," he said.
The key battleground for West and East Coast ports when the Panama Canal is enlarged in 2014 will be the cargo-rich region from Chicago to the Ohio Valley, Knatz said. The ports learned during the economic recession the importance of operating more efficiently and keeping costs reasonable, and they are now "more circumspect" in dealing with fees and other issues that affect competitiveness, she said.
On the other hand, Los Angeles and Long Beach have dealt with the environmental issues surrounding growth, such as dredging their harbors to depths of more than 50 feet and reducing pollution from port operations. With their Clean Air Action Plan, completing an environmental impact report now takes 18 months rather than five years. East and Gulf Coast ports will face a similar learning experience as they prepare for the larger vessels expected to transit the canal after 2014, the port directors noted.
Although the Los Angeles and Long Beach expansion projects will cost billions of dollars, the ports will have the money they need to complete these projects through internally-generated funds, hundreds of millions of dollars in state and federal grants and their bonding ability, the port directors said.
-- Contact Bill Mongelluzzo at email@example.com.