Summer is a good time to travel, but the Port’s Business Development team is hitting the road pretty much year-round. Port representatives have seen a lot more boardrooms than sunny beaches, as they meet face-to-face with customers far and wide to build upon strong relationships and promote the Long Beach trade gateway.
It’s all part of the Port’s initiative to keep Long Beach – the second-busiest container port in the U.S. – front and center in the minds of the businesses that import and export goods. The Port team has been trekking recently to corporate offices and industry conferences in New York, Oregon, Ohio, and overseas to connect with customers. Earlier in the year, they were in Europe, New England, North Carolina and Tennessee. And, they host visitors in Long Beach, too.
“We want our customers to see us as a partner in their success,” says Port Managing Director of Commercial Operations and Chief Commercial Officer Dr. Noel Hacegaba. “In the past, we may have relied on our strategic location and superior infrastructure, but today we have to be more aggressive in attracting cargo. We cannot wait for the cargo to come to us, we have to go get it. The 'build and they will come' approach is today as obsolete as a 1,500-TEU vessel.”
The Port has expanded outreach to cargo owners, the ones who make the logistics and shipping decisions that determine which seaport moves the goods. Cargo owners are one of three major customer segments where the Port is directing its outreach, in addition to marine terminal operators and shipping lines. The updated strategy is aligned to new realities in global trade.
“We already offer world-class facilities and award-winning service here in Long Beach,” Hacegaba says. “We need to make sure that the shipping lines and cargo owners know what we are doing today to make our port even better tomorrow.”
Roger Wu, Port of Long Beach Assistant Director of Business Development, explains that meeting with customers provides a unique perspective that can’t be communicated just through standard email and phone calls. “Each customer is unique, and you can’t really understand or learn the difference unless you really work with them closely.”
By visiting factories where goods are manufactured, or meeting with a company’s logistics team for example, Port staff can better understand how a business operates and see firsthand how Port services can benefit the customer’s bottom line.
“It would be easy to sit back and just see things from our perspective, but when we meet in the customer’s office and hear about how our port impacts their supply chain, we leave with a better understanding of what we need to do improve our gateway,” Hacegaba says.
In-person visits have also provided a great opportunity to communicate directly about the successful resolution of recent West Coast labor contract negotiations, and the Port’s readiness for the peak shipping season and beyond. And if customers have received outdated information, Wu says, “it’s great to be able to bring them up to date.”
The Long Beach trade team is also talking to customers about the Port’s efforts to improve the overall customer experience. This includes discussing the $4 billion capital improvement program underway this decade and emphasizing the Port’s environmental achievements and ongoing sustainability programs.
“We are also very excited to talk about our efforts to improve the supply chain,” adds Wu.
Customers have appreciated the extra effort and face time, Wu says. “They really value it. Customers can openly talk about their challenges and know they can come to us for help solving problems.”
Port representatives have gained valuable insight from these in-person exchanges.
“The experience has been invaluable to me and my excellent team, and it’s a reminder of how important it is to keep a big-picture perspective in order to continue to improve not just our gateway, but the entire supply chain,” says Hacegaba. “Every improvement we make to our gateway creates value for our customers, the supply chain and for the national economy."