Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach said in his “State of the Port of Long Beach” address that the Port “had its busiest year ever” in 2021, moving 9.4 million TEUs compared to 8.11 million TEUs in 2020.
This was a 15.7% increase from 2020.
Cordero cited the importance of President Biden’s infrastructure bill supporting investments in U.S. ports:
“In November President Biden signed the Infrastructure and Jobs Act. This package includes 17 billion dollars in investments for ports and inland waterways. The funding will allow ports like ours to fast track projects that will speed the movement of goods and allow our ports to grow sustainably. The president clearly recognizes the importance of … ports to the U.S. economy.”
Cordero conceded that 24/7 cargo-handling operations need to be embraced to reduce the congestion that has seen a back-up of ships waiting to unload at the Port of Long Beach and at Los Angeles: “We will continue to advocate for transformational change – 24/7 operations. Not just here, but throughout the supply chain. There are 168 hours in a week. For the most part, our terminals are open less than half those hours. Without expanding our terminals or building new facilities, we could handle still more cargo by utilizing more of those hours. We’d also need truckers and warehouses to go 24/7. With the Biden Administration’s help, the framework for 24/7 supply chain operations has been established … In Asia, on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, our trading partners already operate 24/7.”
Cordero said better data management is also important to move cargo: “We continue advancing data sharing to maximize efficiency and visibility in cargo movement. The Port of Long Beach has joined with a leading tech firm to create the Supply Chain Information Highway. This tool will allow all of us to track cargo across the various modes of transportation. A soft launch is set for this month.”
The Port is “also partnering with the Utah Inland Port Authority to accelerate cargo destined for Utah, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona by maximizing on-dock rail, freeing up more equipment to support the Southern California market.”
California U.S. Senator Alex Padilla also spoke and said he visited the Port of Long Beach in November: “I was thrilled to recently announce a grant of more than $50 million dollars for the Port of Long Beach to construct new railyard facilities.”
On the Dock Rail Project
Cordero said the Pier B on dock rail project will have an important impact to the Port: “Our biggest investment this decade will be improvements to our rail system. We’re making it possible for a greater share of the cargo moving through this port to go via ‘on-dock rail.’ This reduces truck trips, improves efficiency and lessens environmental impacts, even as we handle more cargo … we were awarded a $52.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) to move ahead with the first project of our rail program centerpiece – the Pier B On-Dock Rail Support Facility. This was the largest award to a port authority from MARAD’s Port Infrastructure Development Program … Pier B will provide our terminals with a facility where they can send smaller segments to join into full-sized trains increasing velocity of cargo and eliminating approximately 7.3 million truck trips. Construction begins next year.”
This type of investment is possible, Cordero said, because there has been a turning point in federal investments: “It was emblematic of the high level of support that our port has received in the first year of the Biden/Harris Administration and from our federal and state leadership. We welcome … a clear sign of investment and no longer disinvestment in the nation’s most significant container gateway. This is transformational change.”
Cordero said the Port also accomplished a number of important programs during 2021 including:
A free waterfront COVID-19 vaccination program for ships’ crews calling at both San Pedro Bay ports: “We are on track to reach 10,000 vaccinations very soon.”
The Port also reduced vessel emissions from at-anchor ship crowding utilizing a new system: “Late in the year, we began to allow ships leaving Asia to take a number, slow steam to the port complex, and wait their turn about 150 miles off the coast. This eases at-anchor crowding, improves navigational safety and most importantly, reduces coastal emissions. For this program, we must thank the PMSA (Pacific Merchant Shipping Association), PMA (Pacific Maritime Association), and Marine Exchange for their collaborative efforts to improve safety and diminish the impact of emissions on the South Coast air basin.”
And in addressing the truck driver shortage the POLB, “In December we [POLB] teamed with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, the California Department of Motor Vehicles, and identity certification firm IDEMIA to offer a one-stop shop for trucker registration, licensing and clean truck program needs.”
Cordero also commented on the Long Beach Container Terminal’s (LBCT): “The facility is one of the world’s most sustainable and most technologically advanced. The 300-acre terminal is capable of moving three-and-a-half million TEUs a year. With that kind of capacity, LBCT by itself could be the nation’s sixth busiest U.S. port complex. LBCT operates with nearly all-electric, zero-emission cargo-handling equipment. Union labor operates all-electric ship-to-shore cranes, and staffs the control center operations and maintenance. LBCT is big ship ready with fourteen of the world’s most modern ship-to-shore cranes. Its wharf is long enough to accommodate three of the world’s largest container ships. At the beginning of December, the 20,000-TEU COSCO Shipping Aquarius called at LBCT. And the facility is designed to handle even larger vessels.”
Another program underway is the “goods movement training campus.” Cordero said of the program, “Also in the works this year is a much-needed goods movement training campus. The Port of Long Beach is partnering with the Port of Los Angeles and the ILWU (International Longshore and Warehouse Union) on this critical workforce development center. Thank you, (California) Governor Newsom for your investment to the workforce by including $110 million for the new center, which will be centrally located in the port complex.”
Among the most important initiatives is Port electrification and reduced emissions: “Almost two decades ago, the Port of Long Beach launched a green revolution that spread to seaports worldwide. We’re proud to be the global leader in reducing harmful air emissions from port-related operations; improving water quality in the harbor … the Port of Long Beach has already met all our 2023 emission reduction targets. Far ahead of the goal we set for ourselves. We’ve cut emissions from vessels, trucks, trains and cargo-handling equipment. Today, vessels use cleaner fuels and plug into the electrical grid while at berth. Let the record be clear – we stand by our commitment to cleaner trucks and trains ... At the terminals, 16 percent of all the cargo-handling equipment is electric powered and zero emissions,” Cordero noted in his Port overview.
Cordero itemized the following electrification upgrades at the Port’s terminals:
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