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Officials celebrate port’s 7-percent gain, second-busiest December during address

State of the Port event also highlighted upcoming developments in rail and terminals

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At the Port of Long Beach’s annual State of the Port executive address Wednesday, officials presented updates on major infrastructure projects, cargo trends, employment, security and other Harbor Department initiatives.

Noel Hacegaba, deputy executive director of Administration and Operations for the port, opened the event by acknowledging the work of the late David Arian, who was vice president of the Los Angeles Harbor Commission and a long-time labor leader, who died Jan. 2.

“For decades, he shaped the course of our port with the [International Longshore and Warehouse Union] and as a commissioner on the Los Angeles Harbor Commission,” Hacegaba said. “Through his extraordinary life and service, David became an icon for our ports and our industry. We will miss David, but his legacy carries on.”

Harbor Commission President Tracy Egoscue then introduced her fellow commissioners and said they appreciate the opportunity to serve the community.

“We recognize that the honor of being a member of this commission is an important responsibility and one that we take very seriously,” she said. “Together, as harbor commissioners, we spend countless hours in our oversight role, fulfilling our responsibility to Mayor Garcia, the city council, the citizens of Long Beach and our state, our Harbor Department staff and our business partners and customers. Our job is to promote trade so this city and region can continue to thrive.”

Egoscue said that, throughout the port’s history, its board of commissioners has faced complex decisions.

“Looking back, it is easy to see that early investments in terminals to accommodate larger ships have paid off,” she said. “The Panama Canal expansion in 2016 threatened our competitiveness by opening the way for bigger ships to sail directly to the East Coast. Yet, our foresight and preparation to handle the largest ships has enabled us to maintain our market share and even break cargo records.”

Egoscue called it a “port of collaboration” and extended her appreciation to partners such as vessel and terminal operators, cargo owners, longshore workers and truckers. She added that, in the months to come, the port’s master plan will be updated to provide a framework for how port lands are developed– and redeveloped– in the years ahead. She added that last year the board of harbor commissioners approved a 14-year project to construct an on-dock rail facility at Pier B.

“Once [it is] completed, we will be able to move cargo faster with less traffic congestion and less air pollution,” Egoscue said. “After the city council approved the [environmental-impact report], the board passed an $870-million budget for final design, with construction set to begin in three years.”

She referred to the Pier B project as an example of an investment in the port’s critical infrastructure, the environment and the city.

She also spoke about the millions of dollars in grants the port provides, to address issues in water and air quality for local residents, as well as programs for youth.

Egoscue further discussed the Gerald Desmond Bride Replacement Project, which is expected to be completed this year, as well as how port staff are moving into their new headquarters in the civic center and how construction of the new Long Beach container terminal is also nearly finished.

Mario Cordero, executive director of the port, began his remarks by thanking the “dedicated port staff, which consists of about 550 men and women,” in particular, the new executive deputy directors: Rick Cameron and Hacegaba.

“Together, this team at the Port of Long Beach will raise the bar on sustainability and operational excellence,” Cordero said, asking the audience to give them a round of applause. Cordero then presented a short video that shows operations at the various areas of the port.

Afterwards, he said he had several items of good news to share, including the fact that “business is good” at the port.

“Nearly 70 percent of our import containers come from China, and 40 percent of our exports go there,” he said. “With this trade dynamic, [in 2018] we moved the highest container total ever in our history. We moved 8.1-million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units).”

He added that, nationally, ports averaged a 5-percent gain, but the Port of Long Beach earned a 7-percent gain, topping its previous year’s record.

“Although exports slowed in the second half of the year, we finished 2018 with a jump in imports,” he said, adding that December was the second-busiest month in the port’s 108-year history. That month, the Long Beach Container Terminal also welcomed its largest vessel ever– the 13,000-TEU OOCL Malaysia.

“Last week, Matson [shipping company] celebrated the arrival of its newest vessel– the Daniel K. Inouye,” Cordero said. “It is the largest container ship ever built in the United States.”

Cordero shared some examples of excellent performance, including the performance of two crane operators who moved 600 containers using a single crane during one shift.

“That’s a record-breaking 70 moves an hour, nearly triple […] the West Coast average,” he said. “Ladies and gentlemen, that is operational excellence.”

Cordero expressed the need for the port to be a leader and innovator, always seeking the best ways to move cargo more efficiently.

“The delivery of containers to and from ships by train is the most sustainable and efficient way to move cargo in and out of the port,” he said. “With on-dock rail, these trains eliminate as many as 750 truck trips, speeding the flow of goods while cutting traffic on roadways.”

He said the Harbor Commission has mandated more than $1 billion in rail improvements, including the Pier B project, and that plans are moving forward to build a second track between piers G and J. He also said another project– the realignment of tracks at Terminal Island– will benefit the five largest terminals in the port complex.

The full video of the address, which includes information about other forthcoming projects at the port, is available at polb.com/about/stateoftheport.asp.

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Officials celebrate port’s 7-percent gain, second-busiest December during address