The nation’s two largest ports, Los Angeles and Long Beach, should collaborate by combining into a single entity, according to a recommendation in a report issued by an independent private commission studying fiscal stability and job growth in Los Angeles.
“Regional cooperation is a no-brainer, especially when it comes to tourism and ports -- two big job creators in our region,” said the Los Angeles 2020 Commission in a report entitled “A Time for Action”
that was issued Wednesday.
(See the January issue of American Shipper for a commentary on the idea of a Los Angeles-Long Beach port.
"Long Beach and Los Angeles could enter into a Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) to manage future strategy and direction as well as capital planning and rate-setting. A JPA should not be construed as either the port of Los Angeles or Long Beach ports being taken over by the other -- rather, this should be a true 50-50 collaboration, with the governing board comprised of equal representation appointed by the Cities of LA and Long Beach. The individual ports would still oversee day-to-day operations for now, but over time the ports would naturally become more closely linked in day-to-day operations."
But, according to the Los Angeles Times
, Long Beach officials slammed the proposal.
“I find it ... mysterious and condescending and disrespectful that they didn’t have the courtesy to call the Port of Long Beach or the mayor of Long Beach before they issued this recommendation,” Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster told the newspaper.
Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners President Doug Drummond told the Times a merger was “an awful idea. The two ports have been competing for over a hundred years to the benefit of customers. … Why would we give up our port?”
The two ports form the fifth-busiest port facility in the world, but have seen their share of the nation’s goods drop more than five percentage points in the past 10 years (an amount equal to the cargo handled by the ports of Seattle and Tacoma) said the report, which adds that less cargo also means lower tax revenues and jobs.
“All too often, the Ports of LA and Long Beach issue press releases boasting of new customers -- one only has to study the details to understand these customers are just switching from LA to Long Beach or vice versa and not bringing new jobs to the region," the report said.
The report added that, “with the ongoing widening of the Panama Canal, maritime trade is about to get a lot more complex -- and competitive. We should be competing with ports in other regions, not with each other.”
It pointed to regional cooperation by New York and New Jersey in creating the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, “two rival states who don’t agree on much, but who understand the value of cooperating for a brighter shared future.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose administration has been caught up in a scandal over the closing of a portion of the entrance to the George Washington Bridge last year as alleged political payback, said at a press conference in March that he believed there is a need for “fundamental structural change at the Port Authority.”
The call for structural change was included in a report
that Christie ordered that cleared him of wrongdoing in the so-called “Bridgegate” scandal.
“I’m particularly intrigued by the idea of dismantling the Port Authority operations from under one roof to two. I think the report is replete with examples of the New York New Jersey rivalries which have allowed this place not to work as one, but to ineffectively work as two,” Christie said.
“The best way to deal with this is to take the Hatfields and McCoys and move them to separate homes, because they haven't been able to get along, despite my best efforts and the best efforts of Governor (Andrew) Cuomo," of New York, Christie said.
The commission's report also pointed to the decision of Vancouver, British Columbia-area ports combining properties and assets in 2008 to form Port Metro Vancouver.
The report also noted that, “in January 2014, the ports of Seattle and Tacoma -- which sit 30 miles apart from each other -- agreed to share information about operations, facilities and rates to help Puget Sound compete in a shifting global maritime industry.”