Gapping the Bridge

For starters, look at this …

“Trade partners fear China slowdown – (AP)

“FADING DEMAND: China’s abrupt growth slowdown is sending a chill through Asian economies ans as far away as Australia and Africa as its voracious demand for imports fade. Beijing is cooling its economy with lending and investment curbs after explosive 11.9 percent first-quarter growth fed fears of overheating.

“WHY IT MATTERS: The slower growth is cutting demand for American and European factory machinery, industrial components from Asia and iron ore and other raw materials from Australia and Africa.

“THE BACKDROP: China is a major market for Asian nations. It buys 28 percent of Taiwan’s exports, 25 percent of South Korea’s and more than 20 percent of mining giant Australia’s. More than half of Hong Kong’s exports go to the mainland.” –

Then look at this …

“Ports wary of stunted holiday rush – (Los Angeles Times)

“Southern California’s twin ports enjoyed another burst of cargo traffic in July, usually the opening month of the biggest cargo shipping season of the year … But perhaps not this year.

“‘The traditional peak season may be melting away,’ said Ben Hackett, founder of Hacker Associates, which monitors cargo volumes on behalf of the National Retail Federation …

“‘I see ships out there, so it’s not waterskiing time,’ LA port’s director Geraldine Knatz quipped … ‘We just had our second-best July ever after our second-best June ever.’

“But some industry experts pointed out that … as trade dried up in 2009, cargo containers stacked where they were last delivered. Shipping lines had to move record numbers of those empty containers back across the Pacific to factories in Asia.

“‘There have been container ships that have sailed with nothing but empty containers for that reason,’ said Jock O’Connell, principle consultant at the Clark Street Group, an international economics consulting firm in Sacramento.

“At Los Angeles, the number of empty containers moved in July was up 62% compared with a year earlier. In Long Beach, the number of empty containers shipped was up 63% compared with a year earlier.” –

It’s all fudged numbers and smokescreens. And waterskiing time.

And now look at this …

“Harbor Commission approves plan to replace Gerald Desmond Bridge – (

“LONG BEACH – Port authorities approved Long Beach’s largest infrastructure project in a generation Monday with a $ 1.1 billion plan to replace the Gerald Desmond Bridge.

“It took a decade to work out the details and secure funding for the project, which is expected to break ground by early 2012.

“‘Competition is becoming a very serious issue,’ said Harbor Commissioner Mike Walter before the plan was unanimously approved by the port’s governing body. ‘We need to make this investment.’

“Plans to replace the Gerald Desmond began around 2000, when steep increases in annual cargo volumes began causing gridlock and severe wear-and-tear to the bridge, which opened in 1968.

“By 2005, the bridge was accommodating more than 15 percent of the nation’s total seaborne trade – supporting a claim by port officials that it was ‘The Bridge to Everywhere.’

“The massive environmental impact report, required before any work can begin, was several hundred pages, filled with an analysis from air pollution impacts to the effect on bats that nest on the current bridge’s underside.

“Unlike other recent infrastructure projects to modernize marine terminals and expand railyards, the bridge plan has enjoyed wide support by construction workers, ocean carriers, and even some of the 70,000 commuters who use the span every day …

“Port authorities expect the project – funded by a mix of local, state and federal funds – to employ about 4,000 annually for six years.

“The replacement will be taller than the Vincent Thomas Bridge in San Pedro, wider than the existing Desmond and less shaky than either roadway, which were built in 1963 and 1968, respectively.

“Workers will put the bridge up just feet from the current span, and when construction is complete, the old bridge will be torn down piece by piece.

“While it’s likely to take more than a year to break ground, engineering and utility work is expected to begin within a couple of months.” –

Way back on November 3rd, 2004, in our commentary, “A Bridge Too Far”, here’s what we wrote about the Gerald Desmond Bridge and its planned destruction:

“Ordinarily it wouldn’t be fair to pick out and pick on just one of the U.S. container ports, but since the Port of Long Beach plays such an important part in the movement of containers in and out of the country, and because so much is being reported about congestion and other newsworthy happenings in and around the port, this commentary will be devoted to that San Pedro location.

“A few years before container ports gained prominence, National Steel was busily scrapping decommissioned Navy vessels at the site, and the owner of National Steel, Mr. Joe Shapiro, would often go out of his way to teach and even treat the ‘navy guys’ who hung around to pick his brain. Meetings convened in time for lunch at the ‘Princess’, a much smaller regent than the Queen now reigning, and sea stories were swapped. Real sea stories. As each vessel was being dismantled Mr. Shapiro made certain that the name plates of each of the heroic naval ships were preserved and mounted in his office, and his sentimental visitors spent long hours reminiscing about service aboard those valiant warships. Some of us had even experienced the euphoria of watching those ships as they were built. And then we were forlorn as we watched them die.

“One of the most remarkable structures in all of Southern California in those days was the imposing Gerald Desmond Bridge. It took your breath away. It was state of the art and almost brand new. It would outlive us all, we thought, and our suspicions in this regard were assured when seismic improvements were undertaken and completed just a little while ago … we thought. Well, maybe it won’t outlive us after all. Word of the Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement Project has begun to make the rounds, and it appears as though port authorities are quite serious about the endeavor. When a figure of $ 700 million is published, then you know the authorities are quite serious. The funds are not yet in th bank, however, so until that date arrives there’s still time for more analysis.

“So now another man-made historic wonder is slated to be dismantled. Not scrapped, mind you, but dismantled. Those storied navy vessels were never scrapped either. That word, ‘scrapped’, is now and always will be an indignity. Like the Gerald Desmond Bridge those vessels rendered a service to society, and with the passing of those valiant ships memories of their service are fading away.

“But with respect to (and for) the Bridge, let’s wait a bit. Let the jury sit a bit. There are a few things to be considered that might sway them. San Pedro has seen the final days of many steel giants, and those moments were mostly sad ones. Don’t stand by and watch this one die. You’ll feel it in the pit of your stomach. It was born in 1968 and has yet to see its fortieth birthday, so it’s still young. The heavy burdens imposed upon it in recent years were not anticipated back in its planning days, but seismic stresses weren’t considered back then either. Accommodations for those seismic stresses were made, though, so quite possibly accommodations can be made in this present situation as well. Let’s look at a replay. The officials can reverse their decision, you know.

“$ 700 million is a lot of money.” – [So is $ 1.1 billion!]

Things have changed since those heady days in 2004. Our economic decline means that the “twin ports” have seen the last of those foreign-owned leviathans. In the future, smaller and more efficient ships will be servicing ports closer to end users. These new vessels will be owned by U.S. interests, crewed by U.S. seamen, and built in U.S. shipyards. Long live the Gerald Desmond Bridge!