Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New POLB Executive Director Outlines His Vision

The Port of Long Beach needs to be bold in bringing in more trade, jobs, business and revenue, according to new executive director J. Christopher Lytle.

“To keep generating jobs and economic activity here in Long Beach, we have to stay ahead of our competition,” he said during his first-ever State of the Port address, given Jan. 19 at the Long Beach Convention Center. “We must continue to make major investments in our facilities.”

Lytle, who was named the successor to outgoing executive director Dick Steinke last November, said the port projects that it will move 6.3 million containers in 2012, up slightly from the 6.1 million that traveled through the port last year. He also covered many other issues during the wide-ranging address, including the expected emergence of new competition for cargo.

“With the coming of the Panama Canal in 2014, the battle for our business and our jobs will only grow,” he said. “Once bigger ships can sail through the Panama Canal, the Gulf and East Coast ports will try to grab a greater slice of the pie.”
The answer for Long Beach, he said, is to be ready with deep waterways, efficient cargo-handling terminals, high-capacity rail connections and state-of-the-art security, among other things.

And to that point, he touted the port’s Middle Harbor project, which, by the time it’s finished in 2019, is expected to double its previous capacity and move about 3.1 million containers, while reducing the amount of pollution the terminal generates by half.

The port has finalized negotiations on a 40-year, $4.6 billion lease on the terminal with Orient Overseas Container Line and its affiliate, Long Beach Container Terminal.

“It’s by far the biggest project in North America,” Lytle said.

Among the other highlights of the speech:
•    As of Jan. 1, all 11,000 drayage trucks serving the Port of Long Beach are newer, cleaner models, thanks to the port’s Clean Trucks Program. The program has cut truck pollution by 90 percent, Lytle said.
•    All the port’s major terminals are expected to have shore power capabilities by 2014.
•    Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the port has increased its security staff by 40 percent and invested tens of millions of dollars on equipment and training. More than 130 surveillance cameras now operate throughout the port complex, Lytle said.
•    About $5 million in grants earmarked for reducing greenhouse gasses are slated to be issued out to community groups and other stakeholders.