Tuesday, February 16, 2010

LA Port Shipyard Plan Faces Deadline

A private-venture plan to resurrect a shuttered Port of Los Angeles shipyard into a new shipbuilding and repair facility is once again facing an uphill battle.

The $50 million plan, by Long Beach-based Gambol Industries, calls for the expansion of the firm's current Port of Long Beach shipbuilding and repair facilities into the vacant Southwest Marine shipyard, which sits on Los Angeles port property.

Los Angeles port officials originally opposed the plan because the Southwest shipyard slips were to be used to dump sediment from a $96 million Army Corps of Engineers dredging project that would deepen the port's main channel to 53 feet. The dredging project is considered a critical component in the development of two long-delayed container terminal development projects at the port. The port eventually rejected Gambol's proposal, which the firm said would bring 1,000 jobs to the area.

However, after Gambol appealed to City Hall, the Los Angeles City Council's three-member Trade, Commerce and Tourism Committee, headed by port-area Councilmember and Gambol-supporter Janice Hahn, directed the port's governing board to work with Gambol on the shipyard proposal.

The following month, the port board and the City Council approved the dredging project with a provision that required the port to inspect Gambol's business plan before moving forward with the sediment dumping at Southwest.

The port eventually signed an agreement with Gambol that would allow Hahn to act as a mediator over the dispute.

However, Hahn recused herself last week from the mediator role after it was revealed by the Torrance Daily Breeze that Gambol officials had contributed more than $11,000 to Hahn's statewide campaign for Lieutenant Governor.

Now, the Army Corps have announced that they plan to begin dredging on the main channel project by the end of this month. With no mediator in place, it is now unclear if negotiations with the port will occur at all, and if so, who will serve as mediator.

For its part Gambol claims to have come up with a way to provide enough of the Southwest shipyard property for the dredging sediment while still retaining enough waterfront area to operate as a shipyard. The port on the other hand is concerned that any delay in the dredging project, either due to negotiations or a change in the plans, could hamper the development of the China Shipping and TraPac terminal now under way.