Tuesday, April 1, 2014

POLB Board President Slams Head of PMSA

By Mark Edward Nero

Port of Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners President Doug Drummond on March 31 criticized Pacific Merchant Shipping Association President John McLaurin, saying that McLaurin was spreading misinformation about the port.

In a prepared statement read during the harbor board’s latest meeting, Drummond said he wanted to “clear up inaccuracies” spread by others, specifically mentioning McLaurin. McLaurin has been vocal over the past several months regarding what he views as an increasingly political way of doing business at both the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports.

In February, McLaurin wrote an opinion piece for the PMSA stating that as other states around the country become more aggressive in marketing their port systems, LA and Long Beach – both of which are currently searching for new executive directors – must rise to the challenge.

“Our ports need leadership with the international trade experience to lead a multibillion-dollar enterprise coupled with sensitivity to local needs,” McLaurin wrote. “We need local and state government to be partners instead of adversaries and to realize the port’s extremely important role in creating jobs and business opportunities.”

In January, during his first-ever “State of Trade & Transportation” address, McLaurin criticized the Port of Long Beach’s loss of several upper management officials over the past year, including Executive Director Chris Lytle who defected to the Port of Oakland. Other vacancies that have come up over the past two years – some of which remain open – include the positions of Deputy Executive Director/Chief Operating Officer, Managing Director of Trade Development and Port Operations, Director of Construction Management, Managing Director of Environmental Affairs and Chief Finance Officer.

Additionally, former Harbor Commission President Thomas Fields was removed from his post by the Long Beach City Council last November at the urging of Mayor Bob Foster. The day after Fields’ departure, the Harbor Board’s then-Vice President, Nick Sramek, resigned.

Despite the various setbacks, Drummond said March 31 that the port is moving in the right direction. In recent months, the port has appointed a handful of new managers to fill vacancies and the city has approved a new harbor commissioner, although one open seat on the five-person panel remains.

The port’s search for a new executive director, Drummond said, is expected to be complete by June.