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Ports & Terminals

Review: “Port Town” a history of Port of Long Beach

Port Town: How the People of Long Beach Built, Defended and Profited From Their Harbor by George and Carmela Cunningham If you are looking for a Christmas present for that special someone who works in the U.S. maritime or port related industries, then the new book Port Town, published by the Port of Long Beach, will be a good investment. Port Town is a history and reference explaining how a successful port can be built out of marshland. Today, the Port of Long Beach is competing for ocean freight from around the world. In 2016, it will deploy a new, automated container terminal that will be the most advanced facility in the Western Hemisphere. In his Forward to Port Town, Long Beach Harbor Commissioner, Douglas Drummond, argues that the Port of Long Beach “is a landlord port. We develop and rent cargo facilities. That’s our unique expertise. We do not operate terminals – our customers are the premier operators, the ones in front of the curtain. Our magic is in finding the right performers to put on that front stage.” The authors, George and Carmela Cunningham, covered the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach for many years as the founders and publishers of the weekly Cunningham Report. The insights they gained allowed them to develop the building blocks that have become this detailed but very readable history. They have written a history of California, Southern California and the forces that drove pioneering entrepreneurs and public officials to build ports at Los Angeles and Long Beach. Both locations lacked the natural harbor features of other ports around the country and indeed around the world. As the story focuses on the development of the Long Beach Harbor, the authors describe the confluence of hucksters, promoters, real estate developers, shipbuilders, railroad builders, oil well builders, labor leaders and politicians: In 1907, the Long Beach Harbor developer, Los Angeles Dock and Terminal Company, donated land to Craig Shipyard to establish a 40-acre shipbuilding facility at Long Beach. The company required citizens of Long Beach to compensate them for the donation to Craig, valued at $400,000, by raising $100,000. Citizens and businesses did so because support for the shipyard and new jobs was so strong. Craig Shipyard’s first contract was to build a dredging vessel for the Western Dredging and Marine Construction Company. The company contracted with the Los Angeles Dock and Terminal Company to complete channel dredging necessary to build the Long Beach Harbor.1 At the time, Craig Shipyard president, John Craig, was the president of Western Dredging. C.H. Windham, a Long Beach real estate developer, was a director at the Los Angeles Dock and Terminal Company and then became general manager of Western Dredging Company. Prospects for the Long Beach Harbor received “a big boost” in December 1907 when Windham was elected Mayor of Long Beach, serving from 1908-1912.2 In 1911, the first ship arrived at Long Beach from Northern California on June 2nd . The SS Iaqua, a coastal vessel, unloaded a cargo of redwood lumber to provide construction material for the Southern California building boom. 3 In 1934, the Pacific coast longshore strike led to the establishment of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) that has made union labor a consistent force in port and terminal operations, including at Long Beach. Under the leadership of ILWU founding president, Harry Bridges, workers won the right for decent wages and working conditions in an industry where accidents are frequent and sometimes fatal. In 2014-2015, the union’s influence was most recently felt in the contract dispute with the Pacific Maritime Association. The Pacific Coast longshore labor slowdown stranded containers all over the United States. In 2002, the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority opened a new container freight rail line consolidating rail traffic between the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and the rail yards near downtown Los Angeles. The Corridor consolidated 90 miles of rail and 200 roadway crossings into a 20-mile high capacity transit corridor between the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. The two ports provided $394 million for a project that cost $2.4 billion.4 Although initially priced at $220 million and controversial, the Corridor is a success today. The Corridor now expedites containerized rail freight from the two ports to customers in Chicago and other Mid-Western destinations. In 2006, the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles embarked on the Clean Air Action Plan that cost nearly $2 billion. The Plan dramatically reduced air pollution generated at the two ports by trains, ships and trucks. The air pollution caused serious respiratory problems for people living near the ports and along freeway corridors from Long Beach to Los Angeles and beyond. The Plan included “stringent requirements for ships, trains, trucks and cargo handling equipment…trucks and the trucking industry were a special challenge - so much so that the ports instituted a Clean Trucks Program” to replace older trucks with “newer model trucks with clean burning engines.”5 In 2016, the Long Beach Container Terminal (LBCT), owned by Hong Kong-based Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL), will open and provide the most automated container ship handling technology for any terminal in the Western Hemisphere. The new terminal will be electrically powered and will generate few air emissions. LBCT will be able to handle mega container ships transporting freight between Europe, Asia and the United States. The automated cargo-handling capacity and lower container handling costs will strengthen Long Beach’s competitive advantage over other U.S. ports. The Port’s investment in the new LBCT terminal infrastructure is projected at $1.3 billion.6 To obtain a copy of Port Town, please go to: https://porttown.polb.com/2015/06/how-to-get-a-copy-of-port-town/ 1 Port Town, page 162 2 Port Town, page 162-163 3 Port Town, page 15 4 Port Town, page 494 5 Port Town, page 494 6 Port Town, page 499
Stas Margaronis
Stas Margaronis

WEST COAST CORRESPONDENT

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