In an interview, Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach, told AJOT that the Port has “re-established the same annual container volume in 2017 that it had processed before the 2008 recession.”
Cordero recently wrote: “As 2018 begins, the people of Long Beach will be proud to know their port finished its busiest year in our 107-year history. Our container terminals and longshore workers topped the previous high of 7.3 million 20-foot-equivalent units in 2007, before the Great Global Recession.
Cordero noted that one factor improving competitiveness is the new automated Long Beach Container Terminal (LBCT) “which is scheduled to be fully operational in 2020 and capable of handling the largest container ships in the world including 23,000 TEU ships.”
LBCT operates an electrically-powered automated equipment that is nearly zero emission.
Cordero also observed that the new Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement project remains on schedule for completion in 2019 thanks to the completion of the new bridge’s two towers in 2017.
The new bridge replaces an older structure with a more modern one that will allow for increased traffic flows and reduce congestion and delays, he noted.
“Thanks to the Port of Long Beach’s $4 billion infrastructure investment program, the Port will soon have a fully automated zero emission container terminal complex, a brand new modern bridge replacing the Gerald Desmond Bridge and a new Port headquarters in the new Long Beach Civic Center complex. A 2017 Clean Air Action Plan will bring Port terminal operations down to near zero emissions. There will be less harbor truck transporting containers on Southern California freeways thanks to construction of more on-dock rail facilities at the Port. The result is that the two San Pedro Bay ports -Long Beach and Los Angeles- will be the most advanced ports in the United States.”
Cordero said, “A few weeks ago, we topped out the towers for the replacement to the Gerald Desmond Bridge. These 515-foot-tall towers are the tallest points in Long Beach. This new “bridge to everywhere,” scheduled to open as early as next year, is going to be a landmark. It will be high enough for large ships and wide enough for extra traffic lanes, with a separate bike and pedestrian path to be enjoyed by the community.”
Some terminal operators have complained that the higher cost of implementing air quality regulations have increased the costs of doing business at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles contributing to the two Ports losing market share to U.S. Atlantic and Gulf ports.
Cordero remarked, “I dispute the idea that we have lost market share.” Cordero noted that in partnership with the Port of Los Angeles “The San Pedro Bay Ports are back to the same 33% market share as they had been before the 2008 recession.”
In spite of the two ports’ success in reducing pollution, the Mayors of Montebello and Southgate, California have told the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach that they are worried about chronic pollution caused by harbor diesel trucks that pick up containers at the ports and deliver them to Southern California warehouses resulting in truck congestion and pollution in adjoining communities near warehouses and freeways. The truck pollution has led to asthma and other respiratory problems for many Southern Californians. The two Mayors asked that the two ports do more to relieve respiratory problems caused by harbor trucking.
Cordero pointed out back in 2006 the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach implemented a new program to replace older dirtier trucks with new clean trucks. The result, he said, was an 88% reduction in particulate matter pollution that contributes to asthma and respiratory problems cited by the Mayors of Montebello and Southgate.
One of the objectives of the 2017 Clean Air Action Plan, recently adopted by the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, is to shift more trucks off the freeways and on to rail transport cutting back on truck traffic and pollution, ”One container carrying rail car can eliminate 750 truck trips,” Cordero remarked.
The Teamsters Union has been supporting efforts by harbor truck drivers to gain recognition as employees instead of owner/operators. The drivers argue that harbor trucking companies cause drivers to lose wages and benefits when they are not employees. This occurs when drivers cannot pick up or deliver containers to the Ports because of congestion. As owner operators, they are not compensated for delays, whereas if they were hourly workers they would get paid regardless of delays. The union has successfully sued several companies with the State of California for back wages because the drivers should have been treated as employees working on an hourly rate rather than as owner/operators working on a container delivery basis.
Cordero said, “The best way to provide better economic security to drivers is to provide a pick-up and delivery of container system that reduces delays and increases driver turn times.” In this way, drivers will make more money and are not penalized by operational delays picking up or delivering containers at port terminals.
Improved turn times increase profitability for drivers and for trucking companies, he noted.
Finally, Cordero told AJOT that thanks to progress made by the developer of Long Beach Downtown Civic Center complex, the Port of Long Beach will be moving into its new permanent home in downtown Long Beach ahead of schedule: “We are looking at the summer of 2019 for moving in,” he said.
The Port of Long Beach offices are currently miles away from the harbor and near the Long Beach Airport.