California ports facing new challenge

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, Dec. 30, 2013 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

The prosperity of California’s ports is integral to the economic recovery of California’s manufacturing sector and the State’s economic competitiveness as a whole. Our public ports facilitate shipments of over $350 billion in goods, generate close to 100,000 jobs in the state and raise $3.6 billion in state and local tax revenues. Manufacturers depend on our ports to obtain their raw materials and to ship their goods efficiently around the world.

While the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach comprise the country’s largest port complex by volume, our ports are facing numerous challenges. Pacific Northwest ports began marketing against us four to five years ago, promising quicker transit times from Asia and fewer environmental restrictions on trucks. In addition, Mexico began developing new West Coast port infrastructure.

Higher container fees and stricter California-only environmental regulations on port operations have added to cost and kept some restricted ships from docking. Diesel truck regulations have narrowed the availability of trucks to carry goods in and out of the ports and increased costs. Mandated “cold-ironing” for ships has limited the type of ships that can visit our ports. (“Cold ironing” refers to a requirement that ships plug into onshore power when they are at berth rather than using their boilers to generate power). 

An upcoming challenge to California’s port supremacy as a gateway will be upon us in 2015 as Panama prepares to expand its lock system to speed ship travel to the southern and eastern coasts of the U.S. The expansion is made up of the construction of two new sets of locks - one on the Pacific and one on the Atlantic side of the Canal. Each lock will have three chambers and each chamber will have three water reutilization basins. The program also entails the widening and deepening of existing navigational channels. Cargo ships as large as aircraft carriers will be accommodated.

California needs to stop taking its ports and international trade for granted. In light of that, CMTA has been an active participant in CalTrade, a coalition of port, rail, transportation and trade associations, dedicated to keeping California competitive in international trade. In recent months, CalTrade has been focused on recommending to CalTrans potential policies for incorporation in developing a National Freight Policy.  

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