Port of LA positioning to aid economic recovery

Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka is planning for a post-coronavirus world.

“While our nation battles with this global pandemic and the economic headwinds of these challenging times still exist, there is a strong desire among many of us to look toward the future. That future focus is a constant here at the Port of Los Angeles and it must be,” Seroka said in a video update Thursday on the COVID-19 impact on the port.

“Like many public entities, we are balancing our budget in line with the significant drop we are seeing in cargo and revenue,” Seroka said.

The nation’s busiest port earlier this month reported a year-over-year March volume drop of 30.9%. That plummet was blamed in large part on the coronavirus pandemic and shutdown of factories in China.

“However, despite the necessary cost cutting, we continue to invest in our cargo operations and our public waterfront,” Seroka said Thursday. “In fact, our current pipeline of active projects totals $367 million in capital spending and will generate more than 3,000 construction jobs from start to finish.

“A number of these projects are critical to the future growth of cargo and jobs here at our port, and they also support our desire to look for opportunities to help expand markets as we help America’s economy recover,” he said.

Seroka said those projects include deepening berths at Everport Container Terminal to accommodate larger vessels and upgrading marine oil terminals for safer and more efficient operations.

“We’re also making substantial investments in rail operations that will expand the port’s on-dock rail capacity and improve rail transit to and from the 20-mile below-grade Alameda Rail Corridor,” he said.

Seroka has a particularly close tie to front-line workers battling the spread of the coronavirus. Late last month LA Mayor Eric Garcetti named Seroka the city’s chief logistics officer and tasked him with the procurement and distribution of medical supplies critical in the fight against COVID-19.

The Port of LA has remained operational throughout the coronavirus crisis. “Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise,” Seroka said during one of his earlier video updates on COVID-19 response efforts at the port.

He reiterated in Thursday’s update that all terminals are open and operating and said the port is looking forward.

“While the health and economic state of our nation are very troubling right now, we are conferencing weekly with business stakeholders who are looking to future expansion opportunities as market conditions improve,” Seroka said. “We have an opportunity, for example, to capitalize on the recent Phase One trade deal with China where we can help exporters of U.S. goods and agricultural products regain and expand their presence overseas. We are also working with supply chain stakeholders in preparation for a rise in cargo as economies in Vietnam and other Southeast Asia countries continue to grow.”

The port has said it facilitated $276 billion in trade during 2019. 

“Even in the midst of this crisis, we are focusing on how we can improve end-to-end visibility and fluidity across the supply chain. We have the technology to elevate the competitiveness of this trade gateway and we’re ready to help position America’s industries for future success,” Seroka said.