Up­grades urged at lo­cal ports

L. A. and Long Beach ports ‘ have to be state of the art’ to re­main com­pet­i­tive, he says.

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS - By Chris Kirkham chris. kirkham @ latimes. com

U. S. off icial says L. A. and Long Beach ports need to be “state of the art” to re­main com­pet­i­tive.

Four months af­ter help­ing to re­solve a long- run­ning la­bor dis­pute that crip­pled traf­fic at West Coast ports, U. S. La­bor Sec­re­tary Thomas E. Perez was back in Cal­i­for­nia to praise how quickly work­ers and man­age­ment were able to clear enor­mous back­logs of cargo.

But he also pointed to long- term chal­lenges fac­ing the ports of Los An­ge­les and Long Beach as they work to re­main the dom­i­nant hub for tran­spa­cific trade.

“Lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion in this com­pet­i­tive global econ­omy is not enough,” Perez said at a news con­fer­ence Mon­day in San Pe­dro with port of­fi­cials and lo­cal po­lit­i­cal lead­ers. “You have to be ef­fi­cient, you have to be timely, you have to be re­li­able, and you have to be state of the art.”

Although the San Pe­dro Bay ports are the na­tion’s two largest ship­ping hubs, their share of U. S. im­ports has de­clined over the last decade amid com­pe­ti­tion from East Coast and Gulf Coast ports. The much- an­tic­i­pated widen­ing of the Panama Canal next year could also pose a threat, giv­ing busi­nesses a new op­tion for rout­ing goods.

As global ship­ping lines have started to use gi­ant cargo ships in an ef­fort to cut costs, ports across the world have strug­gled to adapt to much larger inf luxes of cargo.

The ports of Los An­ge­les and Long Beach are in the midst of multi­bil­lion- dol­lar ex­pan­sions — some of the largest ever un­der­taken — in an ef­fort to speed up the f low of cargo and stave off ri­vals who want their busi­ness. Ma­jor projects in­clude a $ 1.3- bil­lion plan in Long Beach to re­place the Gerald Desmond Bridge and a $ 510mil­lion pro­ject in Los An­ge­les to up­grade and au­to­mate one of its ma­jor ter­mi­nals.

But ports on the East Coast, in­clud­ing New YorkNew Jersey and Sa­van­nah, Ga., have been mak­ing sim­i­lar up­grades as they brace for larger ships com­ing through the Panama Canal.

In an in­ter­view Mon­day, Perez said the key to fu­ture suc­cess is f ig­ur­ing out how to “max­i­mize the ad­van­tages that you al­ready en­joy over ba­si­cally the rest of the coun­try.”

The two ports are also work­ing to­gether to speed up the sup­ply chain, mak­ing it eas­ier for truck­ers who move goods from the ports to ma­jor dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ters in the In­land Em­pire. In the last few months, both ports cre­ated a sys­tem to bet­ter dis­trib­ute trail­ers used by truck­ers and are work­ing to cre­ate off- site stor­age yards to free up space on the docks.

“When our ports are more ef­fi­cient, when our goods move in a speedy way, they at­tract more ships and put more peo­ple to work,” Los An­ge­les Mayor Eric Garcetti said at the news con­fer­ence. “We’re ac­tively look­ing for new ways to add value to our ter­mi­nals, to be a part­ner in mov­ing goods to the na­tion and the world.”

Un­til the la­bor dis­pute ended in Fe­bru­ary, con­tainer cargo vol­umes at the ports of L. A. and Long Beach were down 18% for the first two months of this year com­pared with a year ear­lier. But in March, af­ter the dis­pute was re­solved, cargo vol­umes at both ports surged more than 23%.

Francine Orr Los An­ge­les Times

LONG BEACH Mayor Robert Gar­cia, left, Los An­ge­les Mayor Eric Garcetti, La­bor Sec­re­tary Thomas E. Perez, Rep. Alan Lowen­thal ( D- Long Beach) and Rep. Jan­ice Hahn ( D- Los An­ge­les) walk to a news con­fer­ence on the bat­tle­ship Iowa in San Pe­dro.

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