Doin’ the “California Side Step”

All eyes are on the chaos in Southern California. The shortsighted officials responsible for the mess out there, and who failed to heed the many warnings given by maritime analysts, are still obsessed with the idea that they can modernize a fleet of almost 17,000 trucks, and presto!!, the monkey will be off their backs. These officials are also obsessed with the idea that somehow, while they’re trying to clear up the traffic congestion and cancer-causing pollution they’ve introduced into “The Bay of Smoke”, they’ll be able to “grow the port” to three-times its present size and volume over the next 10 or 15 years. Not for a moment has it crossed their collective minds that solutions to today’s problems — if solutions can be found — couldn’t possibly deal with the terrible consequences resulting from operations three times the size of today’s LA/Long Beach terminal facilities.

Even though taxpayers and consumers will be the source of the $ 1.6 billion needed to replace those 17,000 trucks, and even assuming that the taxpayer/consumer doesn’t catch wise and complies with the scheme, like unsuspecting sheep being shorn, do officials actually believe that the amount of funding, the $ 1.6 billion, and the number of trucks,17,000, will remain as constants in the equation?

Because the handwriting has been on the wall for years, players in the industry have already taken steps to avoid Southern California. LA and Long Beach authorities don’t seem to notice, however.

• The 5,400-TEU Cosco Antwerp, the first of many, has already docked at the new Canadian Port of Prince Rupert. Cosco anticipated the LA/Long Beach mess more than ten years ago and knew that additional facilities on North America’s west coast would be required in order to service inland sectors of Canada and the U.S.
• Hutchinson Port Holdings (HPH) recently opened its $ 244 million Phase I expansion of Lazaro Cardenas Terminal (LCT) on the west coast of Mexico. Like the new container terminal at Prince Rupert in British Columbia, LCT hopes to take cargo from overstretched LA/Long Beach, and train links meanwhile are being upgraded to speed the flow of this cargo to the southern United States.
• Aware that the largest west coat ports are handling about as many ships and containers as they can, APM Terminals is thinking seriously about building a $ 500 million terminal in Coos Bay, Oregon, that would bring in about 2 million containers annually. That’s about 5 times the volume shipped into Portland every year.

Have any of these reactions affected the thinking of Californian officials? Apparently not. Instead of directing container volumes to a number of under-utilized ports, thereby creating thousands of job opportunities in neighboring port communities and relieving the stress being endured by residents in Southern California, they’ve decided to go to the well again and impose still another container fee.

But that’s just the beginning. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has just awarded a $ 22.7 million contract to a large engineering firm to design proposed improvements to the I-710 Long Beach Freeway Corridor. Those officials could have set up another container handling port with that $ 22.7 million. Instead, they insist upon compounding their problems.