The Port of Long Beach will handle more cargo and continue to invest in infrastructure this year.
“The future is bright,” said Al Moro, Acting Executive Director, who delivered the 2014 State of the Port Address to more than 700 people at the Westin Long Beach Hotel during the annual event held Jan. 23. “And for us, the future is big.”
Moro drew on hard numbers to illustrate the Port’s top competitive position and how it is forging ahead with its historic $4 billion capital improvement program so that all ships, including the new-builds too big to transit the soon-to-be expanded Panama Canal, will continue to move goods through the Port of Long Beach for years to come.
“Our cargo numbers were up last year by an impressive 11.3 percent. We grew faster than any major port in North America and four times faster than the U.S. economy,” Moro said. “In the next two years, we expect to surpass more than 7 million TEUs, our peak before the recession.”
For fiscal year 2014, the Port has dedicated $788 million to spending on infrastructure projects to upgrade terminals, roads, railways and bridges. The sum represents 77 percent of the Port’s budget and is its largest single-year capital outlay ever.
Moro showcased the Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement Project, a $1.2 billion project due to be completed in 2016, and the Middle Harbor Redevelopment Project, a $1.3 billion 300-acre terminal due to have its first phase become an active terminal in 2015. Both are engineering marvels whose progress will become increasingly visible this year, he said.
The extensive preparation work needed to ready the site for the new bridge is almost done, and crews will begin placing hundreds of piles in the ground in the coming weeks. The 1.5-mile span linking the nation’s busiest port complex to the rest of the nation is making engineering history on many fronts, including as California’s first cable-stayed bridge for vehicles.
In mid January, the Port and its Middle Harbor partners, Orient Overseas Container Line Ltd. and Long Beach Container Terminal, welcomed two of the next generation ship-to-shore gantry cranes capable of servicing the largest container ships in the world fleet. Likewise, 10 new state-of-the-art all-electric stacking cranes are on site with 60 more to follow. The ultra-green terminal’s features include energy-efficient, space-saving racks for storing refrigerated containers.
The Port’s unprecedented investment in its facilities also translates into thousands of jobs: 3,000 to 5,000 construction jobs annually over the 10-year program.
Moro also spotlighted the Port’s security, environmental and community programs. The Port is continually improving its police and fire protection capabilities, and this year the Port will commission two new high-tech fireboats – an investment of more than $50 million, Moro said.
With ships plugging into shore-side electricity, this year also heralds a new round of dramatic clean air gains. The Port, whose pioneering environmental initiatives led to new statewide rules that took effect Jan. 1, invested more than $175 million over the last six years to ready its terminals for shore power.
Since 2005, the Port’s aggressive measures for cutting pollution from trucks, trains, vessels and cargo-handling equipment have led to remarkable results, including an 81 percent reduction in emissions of diesel particulate matter. The Port has also contributed more than $18 million over the past five years to local health programs, clinics, classrooms and community centers.
The Port isn’t finished, Moro said. “Our goal is to be the world’s first zero-emissions port and also the most sustainable.”
The Port expects to end the 2014 fiscal year with an all-time high net income of $180 million. Its financial strength allows it to give back to the community, which includes contributing more than $250 million since 1995 to the City of Long Beach’s Tidelands Operation Fund for community beachfront and marina projects and more than $500,000 since 1993 to college scholarships for students pursuing education and advancing careers in international trade and related fields.
Speakers included Board of Harbor Commissioners President Doug Drummond, who said top priorities for 2014 include hiring a new executive director and moving forward with projects on time and on budget. Drummond also noted that the Harbor Department soon will be operating out of temporary headquarters near the Long Beach Airport, but is on track to find a new permanent downtown location.
Vice Mayor Dr. Robert Garcia welcomed the crowd, and Dr. Noel Hacegaba, the Port’s Acting Deputy Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, served as master of ceremonies. Prior to Moro’s speech, the Port honored Jim Dillman of MetroPorts and Tony Urrutia of the Port’s Finance and Accounting Division for their volunteer work that supports the International Seafarers Center.
Watch the complete State of the Port Address at www.polb.com/stateoftheport