The Port of Long Beach's $4.5 billion capital improvement program to expand and modernize its facilities is helping the port fend off competition from other North American ports and create up to 50,000 permanent jobs in Southern California, Executive Director Christopher Lytle said in his annual State-of-the-Port address Thursday.
Long Beach, the second largest container port in the United States, is on track with investments after years of delay to resolve community concerns, "but we must never take our success for granted. Right now, ports in Canada, Mexico and right here in the United States on both coasts all want a greater share of our business," he said.
The vessel and cargo-handling capabilities of the port are attractive to ocean carriers, including Mediterranean Shipping Co., which he announced has taken a stake in the leasehold at Pier T through a joint venture with ocean carrier Hanjin and its terminal subsidiary Total Terminals.
Although the POLB's container volumes in 2012 were essentially flat (down 0.3 percent to 6.05 million TEUs) with slow U.S. growth of about 2 percent, Lytle chose to highlight the surge experienced during the fourth quarter when terminals moved 13 percent more cargo than the same period in 2011 and more import containers than any December in its history, up 19 percent from 2011 to 295,579 TEUs.
A major reason for the port's current and projected growth, Lytle said, is its ability to accommodate the megaships entering the transpacific trade, including many vessels in the 10,000 TEU-range and up to 14,000 TEUs.
The port, which has a channel depth of 76 feet, recently set a U.S. record by receiving the 300-deadweight-ton oil tanker British Pride
, with a draft of 65 feet, he said.
"We are Big-Ship ready today and preparing for the biggest ships of tomorrow," Lytle said, using the port's catch marketing phrase.
New projects recently completed or underway include the $1 billion replacement of the Gerald Desmond Bridge with a taller, wider structure that will allow larger ships to pass underneath, the reconfiguration and modernization of the Middle Harbor Terminal for liner OOCL now nearing completion of Phase 1, the new Pier G upgrade for liner "K" Line that includes new truck gates and more on-dock rail capacity, and $1 billion in on-dock rail expansion throughout the port in the next several years.
The port authority also expects this year to finalize plans for a new terminal on Pier S, the last piece of vacant land in the San Pedro Bay ports complex.
Lytle said the Port of Long Beach is striving to become the world's first "zero-emission" port. Since 2005, programs it implemented have cut diesel emissions by 75 percent. The port continued to build electric shore power stations for vessels to plug into while at berth, which should cut vessel emissions in half by 2014 and 80 percent by 2020, he said.
Long Beach has also implemented a "Green Ship" incentive program to encourage carriers to use the least-polluting ships and is investing in technology research to develop clean cargo-handling equipment.
(Watch a video of the Mr. Lytle's annual address about the Port of Long Beach here
.) - Eric Kulisch