A Year of Recovery Begins at the Port of Long Beach


A Year of Recovery Begins at the Port of Long Beach

Sponsored by: 

A Year of Recovery’ Begins at the Port of Long Beach

An unprecedented pandemic bringing society to a halt. Nosediving cargo container traffic. And then, a resurgence. The story of 2020 was one of doom and gloom giving way to fast and furious. Through it all, the Port of Long Beach, marine terminals, the waterfront workforce and the entire supply chain remained on duty to move goods vital to the American economy while wide swaths of the population sheltered at home.

Because of the collaborative steps taken by supply chain stakeholders to keep the docks operating safely, the Port stands ready to play a major part in an economic renewal in the latter part this year.Integral to that recovery is the timely vaccination of waterfront workers who continue to leave their homes to move the goods their fellow Americans are using as they isolate to protect themselves from COVID-19.

“The workforce is essential to keeping our economy moving, and they have put their health on the line,” said Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero. “As ports, we cannot avail ourselves of the benefits of cargo volume without acknowledging the men and women who have continued to report to work, day in and day out, during the COVID crisis.”

“We’re so thankful to all the men and women, especially those on the frontlines — the essential workers and first responders — who continue to get us through this pandemic,” added Long Beach Harbor Commission President Frank Colonna. “Many people also work from home to keep the Port going, even as they care for their families and educate their children.”

Never Wasting a Good Crisis

Turning a crisis into opportunity is something the Port of Long Beach knows something about. During the Great Recession, the Port stayed the course with a $4 billion, decade-long capital improvement program, building many of the infrastructure advantages that allowed it to handle big ships ahead of competitors. Likewise, when a storm of logistical challenges combined to create the congestion of 2014-15, the need for quick solutions resulted in unprecedented levels of collaboration with the neighboring Port of Los Angeles and industry partners up and down the supply chain. A shared chassis pool helped alleviate a shortage, and the ports began holding meetings to look at optimizing the supply chain.

Aerial POLBLikewise, concrete actions w
ere taken in 2020. Among other future-oriented efforts, the Port opened the replacement for the Gerald Desmond Bridge, and advanced plans for all-zero emissions cargo movement by 2035. In 2021, the Port will begin construction of two projects to benefit on-dock rail service-- a second mainline track to the Port’s southern terminals, and a “wye” turnaround and storage area to improve rail flow at the Port’s Pier T terminal. The projects, the officials said, make the “Port of Choice” more efficient and sustainable, and ultimately more competitive. 

In a major improvement to cargo flow, the long-awaited final completion of the $1.5 billion Long Beach Container Terminal (LBCT) is expected. The new terminal, which has opened in phases since 2016, is the most technologically advanced and sustainable facility of its kind anywhere in the world. At full build-out, LBCT will be able to move twice the cargo with less than half the air pollution of the two terminals it replaces.

Also in early 2021, the Port will open the first of two new fireboat stations that will significantly upgrade business continuity and security. The second one will begin construction in 2021. The stations will house the Port’s two state-of-the-art fireboats, which were needed due to the increased size of ships and volume of cargo in San Pedro Bay.

Finally, the Port is moving ahead with the Pier B On-Dock Rail Support Facility. The facility, designed to increase train fluidity across San Pedro Bay, includes space for storage, staging and repair infrastructure — allowing our largest container terminals to build trains up to 16,000 feet long.

new bridge

The Pier B project, which is in the design process, is due to start construction in 2022, and be completed by 2032. As components of the project are completed and phased in, the Port and its goods movement partners will see marked increases in efficiency and reliability. The $870 million project is the cornerstone of more than a billion dollars in rail infrastructure improvements to be constructed in the next 10-11 years.

Year of Recovery

Last year included the top four best months and the most active quarter in the Port’s 109-year history. The Port ended 2020 with a record 8,113,315 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) moved.

In a reflection of the extraordinary amount of cargo still being directed through Long Beach, the Port handled 764,006 TEUs in January 2021, making it the busiest first month of any year in the Port’s history.

The COVID-19 pandemic will transform public health and American business sectors, especially retail, and accelerate the shift to digital shopping, meaning seaports must face the future with even more of a focus on efficiency, predictability and reliability of operations. But international trade was one of the bright spots of 2020, and Cordero expressed confidence that as the economy rebounds from the pandemic, hopefully by the second half of 2021, cargo volumes will stabilize and even grow.

“Crisis is not only about building brick and mortar, it is also about building character, building on our social responsibility,” said Cordero.  “This is why we are ‘The Port of Choice.’ We are a team, and I’m certain that together, united, we will make 2021 the Year of Recovery.”