J. Christopher Lytle, executive director of the Port of Long Beach, will leave in mid-July to take the same post at the Port of Oakland.
Lytle joined the port, the nation’s second-largest, in 2006 as a managing director, was promoted to deputy executive director and chief operating officer in 2008 and became executive director in November 2011 after the retirement of longtime port chief Richard D. Steinke.
“The Board, Port staff and our customers will miss Chris, and we wish him well in his next endeavor,” Susan E. Anderson Wise, president of the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners, said in a written statement. “He has served admirably in all his roles here at the Port, and a lot of great things have been accomplished while he’s served as our Executive Director.”
The board said it would name an interim executive director before Lytle’s departure. “As commissioners, our top priority is the stability and continuity of leadership at the Port of Long Beach,” Wise said. “We will move quickly to identify the very top candidates to be our next Executive Director.”
Long Beach handled 4.4 million 20-foot-equivalent container units in 2012, trailing only Los Angeles’ 5.9 million, according to data from PIERS, a sister company of The Journal of Commerce. Oakland, the nation’s sixth-largest container port, handled more than 1.5 million TEUs in 2012.
For Oakland, Lytle’s appointment ends a four-month search following the November retirement of Omar Benjamin. Deborah Ale Flint, a former aviation director for the port, has been serving as acting executive director of the seaport since last fall, and will continue in a senior port executive leadership position when Lytle comes aboard.
“The Port Commission set a high standard for its next leader and has successfully achieved this goal with the selection of Chris Lytle, who has a proven track record of growing business while engaging the community and ensuring leading environmental stewardship,” Gilda Gonzales, president of the Port of Oakland Board of Commissioners, said in announcing the hiring.
Prior to joining Long Beach, Lytle was vice president of West Coast operations for CMA CGM, the Marseilles, France-based ocean carrier that has significant maritime and terminal operations at Long Beach, Oakland, and Seattle. He also held executive positions at P&O Ports North America, Denmark-based APM Terminals and Sea-Land Service, Inc., where he was based in Oakland from 1992-1995.
As Long Beach’s executive director, Lytle worked with Mediterranean Shipping Co. and CMA CGM, the world’s second- and third-largest carriers by fleet capacity, to establish the port as their Southern California hub. The resulting realignment of terminals and services for those lines gave the Port of Long Beach an additional 900,000 containers and an estimated $22 million per year.
He also worked closely with Hong Kong-based carrier OOCL to negotiate a $4.5 billion 40-year lease for Long Beach’s Middle Harbor Terminal — the largest lease in U.S. container terminal history. Construction on the terminal began last May and is scheduled for completion in 2019.
Lytle also was instrumental in implementing environmental initiatives that resulted in 75 percent reduction in diesel particulates in five years.