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‘Pulse of the Ports’ Forecasters See 2011 Growth

Experts say economy is recovering, changes ahead for industry

March 30, 2011

Supply chain and logistics experts gathered Wednesday for the Port of Long Beach’s annual “Pulse of the Ports: Peak Season Forecast” said international trade will continue to grow in 2011 while structural changes transform the industry over the long run.

“The recovery happened a little faster than we thought,” said Dan Smith, a principal at consulting firm The Tioga Group and one of the panelists at Wednesday morning’s event, which attracted nearly 500 guests to the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Long Beach.

Smith and the other panelists predicted that trade will grow more modestly this year compared to the double digit gains in 2010. While trade and the economy grows, the industry overall is undergoing profound changes that will transform the way goods are transported globally, they said. Container ships are getting bigger while rising fuel costs are forcing vessel operators to “slow steam” to conserve fuel. Railroad companies are modernizing their facilities to meet demand and compete more efficiently while trucking companies are cleaning up their fleets to meet environmental standards.

The expansion of the Panama Canal, scheduled to be completed by 2014, will be a game changer, but the change will happen gradually, said Smith. “They are not building for trade volumes in 2014. They are building for trade volumes in 2030.”

Those who will fare well are those who planning for the future, Smith said. “The Port of Long Beach is on the right track.” The Port plans to invest $4 billion in its facilities over the next decade.

The Pulse of the Ports: Peak Season Forecast is an annual free event sponsored by the Port of Long Beach that brings top industry experts to give insight into the year ahead.

“Things seem to be on a pretty steady upward track for 2011,” said Port of Long Beach Executive Director Richard D. Steinke. “But we never want to get too comfortable. It always pays to scan the horizon ahead, to build on strengths and identify challenges.

For video highlights, click here.

For the webcast of the event, click here.

To download slides of the presentations by the individual presenters, click on their names.

Dan Smith - Principal, The Tioga Group
Jonathan Gold - Vice President, Supply Chain & Customs, National Retail Federation
Frank J. Baragona - President, CMA CGM/America LLC
Ed DeNike - President, SSA Containers
Clarence W. Gooden - Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing, CSX Corporation
Josh Owen - President, Ability Tri-Modal and Chair of California Trucking Association Intermodal Group

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