CALIFORNIA PORTS - California Port Survey

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Container Business: “Going Green” gets goingBy George Lauriat, Editor-in-Chief, AJOTIn discussions about California’s economy, it is often pointed out that if the Golden State were a nation, its $1.5 trillion GDP would rank within the top 10 countries worldwide. The international trade component of California’s GDP is estimated to be $375 billion, which itself would be roughly twice the GDP of Portugal, and according to a survey by ITA (International Trade Administration), 8.6% of California’s private sector jobs. None of this is a surprise to anyone living in San Pedro County, harboring the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, or even in the Bay area’s Port of Oakland. The neighboring ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach post a collective throughput in excess of 13 million teus a year, which would rank them fifth worldwide. The Port of Oakland adds another 2.2 million teus to the state’s annual container throughput.
With high box volumes come steep challenges for California’s box ports. The acreage of land available for future expansion of container and intermodal facilities is very limited. Truck and rail access to enable the shifting of containers to and from the box ports in the urban areas is a challenge. Finally, addressing environmental issues is absolutely essential to retaining support from the port communities.
Port of Long Beach (POLB) has exhibited remarkable growth over the last decade, moving from 2.84 million teus in 1995 to 6.71 million teus in 2005. It is said that “necessity is the mother of invention,” and certainly handling growth from the Port of Long Beach (and neighboring Los Angeles) has resulted in some innovative solutions that balance trade and container throughput against environmental and quality of life concerns. Among the most notable is the landmark $2.4 billion Alameda Corridor project. The 20-mile rail corridor consolidated some 90 miles of spurs, eliminated 200 crossings and cut in half the 45 minute trip from the port terminals to the railheads in the City of Los Angeles. It is estimated that the service saves some 2.3 million-truck trips annually. The latest innovation in relieving truck congestion is PierPass. PierPass is pretty simple in concept. The idea is to provide an incentive for importers (and now exporters) to move cargo at night or on weekends, to reduce congestion, improve efficiency and reduce pollution. Art Wong, assistant director of communications at Long Beach, says that the first year (July 2005 –July 2006) of PierPass was better than expected. “The first year PierPass handled 35% (at off peak hours) of the ports’ [Long Beach and Los Angeles] container truck traffic. That’s consistently doubled previous off peak hour moves, which were spotty,” Wong said.
“Moreover, the moves were much broader based. Before PierPass only a few large shippers moved off peak hours, now it is much more widespread,” Wong added.
In local terms, the program has taken over two-million truck trips off the severely congested Southern California highways. The PierPass program is already a year ahead of where planners anticipated. It might be difficult, however, to push the percentage higher in the near term. The program is just now targeting the export community, which could inch the off-peak hour traffic higher, towards the 40% mark. The lack of congestion at the marine terminals during this year’s Peak Season is a welcome sign that PierPass is working. Wong believes that at least in the short term, PierPass should keep working to reduce congestion throughout the system. Wong acknowledges, however, that with only two trunk line rail services (BNSF and UP), any problem with rails, “can back up in a hurry” to the piers. As Wong points out, “The railroads are making significant investments but it is a race [against increases in box volumes].”
Like neighboring Long Beach, the Port of Los Angeles is experiencing a surge in box volumes. Loaded

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American Journal of Transportation