By Stas Margaronis, AJOT
The Port of Long Beach is embarking on three projects with a price tag of $3 billion to accommodate the new generation of container vessels with a 10,000 to 12,000 teu capacity as well as improve cargo-moving efficiencies and reduce air pollution. About $2 billion of the funds will go to two major terminal modernization projects that include deepening the draft next to container berths and improving rail and gate access. The remainder will go to replace a bridge to accommodate the bigger vessels under the span and improve traffic flows for cars and trucks on the bridge.
Art Wong, a spokesman for the Port of Long Beach explained the rationale for the modernization: “We are going to increase our capacity, but overall, we’re only adding 60 or so acres of terminal space to the ports. It’s mostly modernization, such as shore power, on-dock rail, deeper drafts.”
1) The Pier G Project. This $980 million project is already underway to modernize container facilities for K Line that includes an expansion from 2 berths with a uniform draft of 50 feet, to a third berth with a 50 foot draft. In addition, construction of better rail and truck gate facilities is already underway. A new maintenance and new office building will also be erected. Two thirds of the project is already completed and port’s investment will be repaid lease payments from K Line.
2) The Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement. This is a $1 billion projects that the port still lacks $200 million to fully fund. The funds will pay for replacing the existing Gerald Desmond Bridge with a newer taller bridge 200 feet above the waterline. Currently, safety and traffic congestion issues required the port to plan for an upgrade, but the need to develop a 200 foot height over the existing ship channel would open up inner terminals occupied by Maersk, CMA and MSC to bringing in larger vessels with the higher bridge. This is consistent with attracting the larger 10,000-12,000 teu ships. The port expects to receive the final installment of the $200 million from the State of California by the end of the year. If successful, the port expects to bid out the project in 2011 and hopes to see construction begin by 2012. This is a project that will take 5-6 years, but the economy could influence the time table. At the same time, there is an undeveloped piece of land next to the other terminals that is undergoing environmental review that the port hopes to develop and lease out as a new terminal. The higher bridge will also increase the capacity for the new terminal. The Port is planning to invest $114 of its own money and is receiving funding from local, state and federal sources for the balance of the funding.
3) The Middle Harbor Project. This is another $1 billion terminal project that will expand the current 50 foot berth to include two more berths for a total of three more berths as well as upgrade the current rail yard. The port has the funding for the project, but needs one more tenant. There were two tenants at the site, Hyundai and OOCL, but Hyundai left to go to the Port of Los Angeles, next door. While negotiations are continuing with OOCLL to finalize a lease, the port this fall is set to seek bids on the project’s first stage, which includes $135 million worth of construction, dredging and slip fill work.