Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has nominated Gene Seroka, the head of commercial operations in the Americas for container line APL, to be executive director of the Port of Los Angeles. His selection must still be considered by the Board of Harbor Commissioners at its June 5 meeting and be confirmed by the Los Angeles City Council.
Seroka's last day at APL will be June 13, according to an internal message to employees from APL President Ken Glenn obtained by American Shipper
The decision ends months of uncertainty surrounding the leadership of America's largest container port.
After becoming mayor last summer, Garcetti ordered all city directors to tender their resignations, pending review. In October, port director Geraldine Knatz announced her retirement after Garcetti opted not to retain her services.
L.A.'s city engineer, Gary Lee Moore, has been serving as acting general manager since November, but early this year, took himself out of the running for the permanent spot. He will return to his previous post as city engineer, with responsibility for the public infrastructure.
"I'm confident that Gene will be a strong leader who will enhance our international trade agenda, increase reliability and efficiency through effective management and labor relations, and ensure our port is a sustainable and positive neighbor to the harbor community," Garcetti said in a statement.
APL, a subsidiary of Singapore-based Neptune Orient Lines, is the world's seventh-largest ocean carrier. Its Americas headquarters is in Phoenix. As president of the Americas Region, Seroka led more than 1,000 employees and all of APL's sales and operations activities for the hemisphere, including liner shipping, four U.S. marine terminals and intermodal operations. His title changed last month to head of commercial operations as part of an APL reorganization along functional instead of geographic lines.
Seroka began working for APL in 1988 after graduating from business school at the University of New Orleans. He held a number of marketing positions in the United States before becoming director of sales and marketing in Shanghai for APL (China). In mid-2003, he was named managing director of APL and APL Logistics in Indonesia, and in late 2005, was promoted to vice president of APL Logistics for Asia and the Middle East.
In April 2008, Seroka was named vice president of the Middle East and East Africa for NOL.
"Gene Seroka is uniquely qualified to lead the Port of Los Angeles," said Ambassador Vilma Martinez, president of the Board of Harbor Commissioners. "His maritime and global commerce expertise, leadership skills, and strategic vision are exactly what we need as the nation’s premier trade gateway."
The Port of Los Angeles hired an executive search firm in February to find candidates for the Port of Los Angeles' top job. Public input on what traits to look for in an executive director was gathered from port users, labor, local elected officials and business groups through an electronic survey, a public hearing and other means. A search committee narrowed down the field and brought the top applicants to the full Harbor Commission for interviews. The Harbor Commission then presented its top candidates to Garcetti for his consideration.
There is a growing trend among port authorities to hire port directors directly from the ocean shipping industry because of their expertise in the maritime sector and managing large infrastructure networks, as well as to cement relationships with shipping lines that are major customers of ports.
In February, John Reinhart took over as port director at the Virginia Port Authority after heading Maersk Line Ltd., the Norfolk-based U.S. flag subsidiary of Denmark's A.P. Moller-Maersk Group. Maersk is the largest container shipping line in the world. Last year, the Jacksonville Port Authority hired former Horizon Lines executive Brian Taylor as its CEO.
In March, Paul Cozza was appointed CEO of the North Carolina State Ports Authority after serving in several positions, most recently chief financial officer, at Maersk Line.
South Carolina Ports Authority CEO Jim Newsome previously was president of Hapag-Lloyd (America), Inc. John Wolfe, the director of the Port of Tacoma, spent 10 years at APM Terminals in Tacoma before heading the Port of Olympia and then moving to Tacoma as deputy port director. Ports have also hired many former carrier executives for other top management positions.
Several current port directors held executive positions at Sea-Land, the former U.S. carrier bought by Maersk 15 years ago, including Taylor, Christopher Lytle at the Port of Oakland and Curtis Foltz at the Georgia Ports Authority.
Seroka's team will report to APL Chief Commercial Officer Peter Jongepier while the company searches for his replacement, an APL spokesman said.