What’s wrong with this picture? The Long Beach Skyway (where the Gerald Desmond Bridge used to be) provides a welcoming archway high above the steady flow of incoming vessels. The ever increasing annual volume of the port has just passed the 15 million TEU mark and the “Santa Clause Sleighs”, the late season mega-ships, are pushing the envelope again. The year is 2020, by the way, and approximately 275 vessels are in offshore “drift boxes” each awaiting berthing space at the 6,000 acre port complex.

It won’t happen that way, that’s what’s wrong with this picture.

1. The Gerald Desmond Bridge will still be in place because updated studies revealed that there was no need to replace it after all. In addition to that, the initial cost estimate of $ 700 million for demolition and replacement was determined to be far less than what the project’s ultimate cost would be. That was the eventual result of other ambitious project around the country, such as the Alameda Corridor and Boston’s “Big Dig”, and an open-ended gamble of this nature was not an appealing one to the port authorities and the Long Beach community.

2. Any thought to doubling the size of the port area from 3,000 acres to 6,000 acres in order to accommodate the 150% increase in TEU volume turned out to be a daydream. The community had nothing left to give and the sea could surrender only so much.

3. Three week waiting periods in offshore “drift boxes”, at a cost of $ 50,000 per day per ship, adversely affected the profit picture of shipping lines and this loss of time and money led to drastic increases in shipping costs. Ship owners followed the advice of disgruntled shipping agents and end users, and began to direct smaller, less expensive vessels to smaller, more efficient ports.

4. Congestion and time-consuming breakdowns throughout the length of the supply chain and the unforeseen expense of container transshipment eventually convinced consumers, shipping agents, railroad and trucking authorities, and even port officials and shipping lines that the hub-and-spoke concept was proving to be a dismal failure.

5. In actuality, the patented storage, retrieval and delivery systems, retrofitted in almost all West Coast ports, generated unexpected ease and profit for all. Annual volume in the Port of Long Beach has been arbitrarily limited to 6 million TEU and a relaxed atmosphere prevails. The efficiencies of the installed systems and the income generated to the port authority has eliminated the need for the usual $ 450 million annual budget and has created employment opportunities and an atmosphere of good will between union and management. Less than 200 acres are now used for container handling operations and more than 2,500 acres have been made available for other uses.

6. In the year 2020 there is now general agreement that the number of TEUs handled in the course of a year is not what’s important, it’s the number of $ $ showing on the bottom line.