If you take a close look at the Southern California ports these days, you will find that under the banner of the Center for International Trade and Transportation at California State University, Long Beach, amid little fanfare, a broad-based, industry-led, quiet revolution is gaining momentum.

The intermodal freight industry is represented. There is critical union and shipper participation, combined with a community outreach, the Gateway Cities Partnership of 27 cities that are affected by port and regional congestion.Peter Tirschwell's column of Oct. 8 (''The industry needs to get its act together,'' Editor's Notebook, Page 8) noted that the termodal freight industry has failed to resolve the problem on the West Coast of growing port and regional congestion triggered by staggering growth in the volume of Pacific Rim container trade.

The missing element in the collective cry for industry reform - and a successful recipe for the same - is a neutral forum far removed from the negotiating table, the dispatch hall and the distribution center.

Enter the vision of CITT's founding members, representing every element of the global supply chain from source to destination, including shippers, longshore labor, ocean carriers, terminal operators, truckers, rails, customs brokers, freight forwarders and regional economic collaboratives.

They are united in the common critical examination of the entire linkage of the global supply chain. They know from personal experience the contributions and compound effect of individual industry-member practices on reduced productivity and bottlenecks.

Their mission is to promote consensus-driven ways of both reforming work practices and introducing new technology to increase throughput capacity to meet today's needs and tomorrow's demand with the least disruption.

The progress achieved to date in consensus-building and winning a broad spectrum of support for necessary change bears out the age-old maxim that there is no limit to what can be achieved if individual blame is not assessed, and individual credit is not sought, but collective credit is earned with plenty to go around when tangible results are in.

CITT activities have included:

* Intermodal Transportation Survey 1998.

* The Building Partnership In International Trade and Transportation program in May 1998. Keynote speaker was Kenneth Wykle, administrator, Federal Highway Administration.

* The ILWU State of the Trade and Transportation Industry Town Hall Meeting, February 1999, a history-making event that attracted more that 1,500 longshore workers in the spirit of education.

* ''Mechanization & Modernization: A Tradition in Partnerships,'' the second annual ILWU State of the Trade and Transportation Industry Town Hall Meeting, scheduled for Feb. 24 in conjunction with the Transportation Research Board's national conference in Long Beach.

With the unique elements of active participation by the ILWU membership and shippers, the CITT and its partners are beginning to make a difference. They are beginning to make their collective presence felt in providing the forum for a quiet, industry-led revolution in freight-movement reform - along the lines called for in your timely opinion article.


Executive director

Center for International Trade and Transportation

California State University,

Long Beach