Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Report Urges LA, LB Port Merger

By Mark Edward Nero

The LA 2020 Commission, an independent, private commission formed to study and report on fiscal stability and job growth in Los Angeles, has issued a report that recommends in part, that the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach merge.

“Los Angeles and Long Beach should parlay their individual successes into a combined port to enhance their overall competitive position,” the report, which was released in early April, states in part, citing a five percent lost market share over the past 10 years and a need for more tax revenues and regional jobs as the reasons.

“All too often the Ports of LA and Long Beach issue press releases boasting of new customers – one only has to study the details to understand these customers are just switching from LA to Long Beach or vice versa and not bringing new jobs to the region,” the 21-page report states. “And with the ongoing widening of the Panama Canal, maritime trade is about to get a lot more complex – and competitive. We should be competing with ports in other regions, not with each other.”

The report cites the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, the Vancouver, Canada-area ports, and a new agreement between the ports of Seattle and Tacoma as examples of regional cooperation.

In January, Seattle and Tacoma, which sit 30 miles apart, reached an agreement to share information about operations, facilities and rates in order to help Puget Sound better compete in the global maritime industry. The LA 2020 report suggest setting up a joint-powers agreement under which “future strategy” of the two ports would be managed, as well as capital planning and rate setting.

After the report’s release, the Port of Los Angeles indicated it was amendable to discussing such a merger. However, officials with the City and Port of Long Beach were quick to dismiss the proposal, calling it a bad idea.

In comments to local media, both Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster and Harbor Commission President Doug Drummond said the status quo should remain, with the Port of Long Beach continuing to be overseen by the municipal government. Foster even went so far as to say that it was “mysterious,” “condescending” and “disrespectful” that the 2020 Commission never bothered to get Long Beach’s input before issuing the recommendation.

The commission’s full report, titled “A Time For Action,” can be read at http://www.la2020reports.org/reports/A-Time-For-Action.pdf.