August 9, 2013 - From the August, 2013 issue

Port of Long Beach Continues to Green and Expand Facilities, Operations

In late July MIR visited the Port of Long Beach to discuss plans for expanding and greening port infrastructure as well as changes in the port’s leadership. With the expansion of the Panama Canal, the Port of Long Beach, like its sister the Port of Los Angeles, has had to invest in infrastructure that can efficiently and cleanly accommodate the largest ships coming from Asia. The aim is to remain competitive while greening operations.  Answering were Al Moro, PE, Acting Executive Director, Port of Long Beach; Richard D Cameron, Acting Managing Director of Environmental Affairs & Planning; Dr Noel Hacegaba, Acting Deputy Executive Director; and Thomas Fields, President, Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners.

Thomas Fields

“One of the Board’s first priorities is to fill vacant top-management positions, and during the next few months we will be visiting with each of our Port stakeholders to learn how we can provide them the very best customer service and results.” -Thomas Fields

With 140 shipping lines connecting Long Beach to 217 seaports worldwide, the port handles trade valued at $155 billion each year and supports hundreds of thousands of jobs in Southern California. Given its importance and scale, how did you map out the $4.5 billion in infrastructure improvements that will be taking place at the port over the  next decade? How can we understand the returns on those investments?

Al Moro, P.E., Acting Executive Director, Port of Long Beach: The projects in our capital improvement program were selected and prioritized to allow us to accommodate, as soon as possible, the bigger and bigger ships that are coming into service.  We already have some of the nation’s deepest water and can handle today’s biggest ships, but we need to add infrastructure to remain competitive in the years ahead. The economy of scale makes these giant ships environmentally cleaner and more efficient for the cargo owners and shipping lines. These improvements all include components to enable us to meet the commitments we have made to our community to reduce port-related pollution with green technology and sustainable operations. As an example of the returns we are expecting, the Middle Harbor terminal will reduce overall pollution by 50 percent while increasing cargo capacity from 1.3 million TEUs annually to 3.3 million. We already have a record-breaking, 40-year, $4.6-billion lease in place for Middle Harbor with our longtime tenants OOCL and LBCT.

Meanwhile, improvements to other terminals in Long Beach have enticed the world’s second- and third-largest shipping lines to establish their West Coast bases here.

The Middle Harbor Project is a nine-year, $1.2 billion effort to upgrade two aging container terminals. How does the project figure into the Port of Long Beach’s long-term infrastructure plans?

Al Moro, P.E.: This super-terminal will be the centerpiece of the Port of Long Beach’s new infrastructure in the era of big ships, allowing the Port to accommodate the largest vessels that will go into service in the years ahead. It will be one of the most technologically advanced and cleanest container terminals in the world. Upon completion, it will cut air pollution in half and double the capacity of the two terminals it replaces.   

In keeping with the Port’s Green Port Policy and the San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan, the project will minimize or eliminate negative environmental impacts from shipping operations. What features of the Middle Harbor Project make this possible?

Richard D. Cameron, Acting Managing Director of Environmental Affairs & Planning: The environmental measures at Middle Harbor will include the use of clean trucks and yard equipment, shore power at each of three berths, low-sulfur fuels, vessel speed reduction and clean switching locomotives. On-dock rail access will allow cargo to be loaded directly on trains, eliminating the need to increase truck traffic.  One train eliminates about 500 truck trips.  Bigger and cleaner ships are now the industry standard. They carry more cargo with less fuel and are outfitted with clean Tier 2 engines that cut pollution. In construction, the facilities at Middle Harbor are incorporating the reuse of demolition materials, and slip fill is being accomplished with dredging material from elsewhere in the port and other Southern California locations. New construction includes Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building standards, “xeriscape” drought-resistant landscaping and lighting control. The project will also incorporate renewable energy strategies such as the installation of solar panels.

Highlight for us some of the new technologies that are appearing at the port.  What’s improving efficiency, goods movement, logistics, and sustainability?

Richard D. Cameron: The Port has completed installation of shore power hookups at half of our docks and will spend a total of $100 million completing the job at all our docks. Shore power allows ships to shut down auxiliary diesel engines while docked. It cuts emissions at dock by 95 percent. And for when shore power is not available, we’re preparing to test a portable system to attach a bonnet to ship smokestacks to trap their emissions. The project is part of our Technology Advancement Program, which has also funded the creation of world’s first hybrid-electric tugs and an pollution-scrubber for oceangoing vessels. Our Clean Trucks Program, begun in 2008, reduced truck pollution 90 percent by 2010 by removing old, dirty trucks from the fleet. And we’re building in new rail to maximize the use of on-dock rail, which eliminates truck trucks by taking containers directly to and from the terminals.  

The Port of Long Beach is the second largest port in the US, after the Port of Los Angeles. With the expanded Panama Canal set to open in 2015, what changes in traffic do you anticipate with the new competition? How is the port preparing to maintain its position?

Dr. Noel Hacegaba, Acting Deputy Executive Director: We don’t expect the expanded canal to change Long Beach’s market share much, if at all.  About 70 percent of Asian cargo comes through West Coast ports, and that’s likely to remain relatively stable. The game changer for the industry is not the Panama Canal, but the continuing orders for bigger and bigger ships. The Port of Long Beach is already welcoming ships that are too big to fit through the new, expanded canal. However, while trade with Latin America accounts for a small percentage of the Port’s current annual trade volume, we hope to expand service to emerging markets to boost future trade. To that end, the Harbor Commission signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Panama in 2010, which was renewed in 2012, to share marketing ideas aimed at boosting trade between Long Beach and countries along South America’s east coast and into the Caribbean, via the Panama Canal. We will also be sharing technical expertise in several areas, including engineering, training and environmental programs.

Thomas Fields, the Board of Harbor Commissioners sets policy for the Port of Long Beach.  Commissioners are appointed by the Mayor of Long Beach and are confirmed by the City Council. In June you were elected Commission President by your colleagues. Tell us about your goals and what lies ahead for this year.

Thomas Fields, President, Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners: This Board has a century-old culture of culture of integrity, and it is a great honor and privilege to serve as its President. The Board has been especially instrumental in introducing green practices that are now being adopted throughout the world. 


It is our long-term goal to be the world’s first zero-emissions port. Since the Board adopted our Green Port Policy in 2005, overall diesel pollution has been reduced by a whopping 75 percent, and we are continuing to look for new green technology to help us meet our goal. We are in the midst of a capital improvement program to maintain our competitive edge. At $4-plus billion, it’s the most expensive program ever undertaken by any seaport. It includes the $1.2 billion Middle Harbor Terminal Redevelopment that broke ground in 2011 and the $1.1 billion Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement project that broke ground this year. A $470 million makeover of our Pier G terminal was recently completed. Shore power installations are ongoing at a total cost of $100 million. 

The Commission’s job is to insure that these projects and many more are completed on budget and on or ahead of schedule. As the primary economic engine for this city and the region, another mission is to create jobs. We are researching the possibility of creating a Maritime Industry Cluster in Long Beach with the goal of attracting more maritime-related companies to our city. I have met in Washington D.C. with the Small Business Administration’s Director of Innovation Clusters, who strongly supports this concept for Long Beach. 

One of the Board’s first priorities is to fill vacant top-management positions, and during the next few months we will be visiting with each of our Port stakeholders to learn how we can provide them the very best customer service and results.   

The Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles operate independently, with policies being set by separate commissions and city councils. At the same time, both ports recognize the regional nature of the shipping industry and that the ports’ interests often align. How do you, as Port of Long Beach Commission President, work with your colleagues over at the Port of Los Angeles?

Thomas Fields: The Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles are competitors. For more than 100 years we have been in friendly competition. Although Los Angeles is now the busiest container seaport in North America and Long Beach the second busiest, we have also held the No. 1 spot and may again. But we have developed solid partnerships when it comes to improving the environment, and other issues affecting the industry nationally and internationally. In 2005, the Board adopted a Green Port Policy that is now fully integrated throughout the Port. In 2006, we joined forces with the Port of Los Angeles and various environmental agencies to address issues throughout San Pedro Bay with the San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP). An element of the plan is a Technology Advancement Program (TAP). A Water Resources Action Plan (WRAP) ensuring that the two ports collaborate to find the best practices for maintaining and improving water quality in the harbor, allowing native wildlife to thrive.

Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners

Thomas Fields, President, a Long Beach advertising executive and former planning commissioner, was appointed to the Board of Harbor Commissioners in December 2009 by Mayor Bob Foster. This is his first six-year term. Fields was elected Commission President by his colleagues on the Board in June 2013.

Nick Sramek, Vice President, a senior project leader in system engineering for The Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, was appointed to the Board in July 2007 by Mayor Bob Foster. Sramek served on the City of Long Beach Planning Commission for seven years before his Harbor Commission appointment.

Doug Drummond, Secretary, was appointed to the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners by Mayor Bob Foster in July 2011. Drummond represented the Third District on the Long Beach City Council from 1990 to 1998 and was a Long Beach police officer for more than 29 years.

Susan E. Anderson Wise, Commissioner, is President of the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners, the five-member governing board for the Port of Long Beach. A longtime resident and attorney in Long Beach, Wise was appointed to the Board of Harbor Commissioners in December 2008 by Mayor Bob Foster.

Rich Dines, Commissioner, a longshoreman at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, was appointed in July 2011 by Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster to a six-year term on the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners. Dines is an advocate for increased port infrastructure development and clean-air programs, and has provided strong leadership in efforts to increase collaboration among business, labor and government agencies


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