Ports of LA and Long Beach seek neighborly advice

The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have agreed to be helpful neighbors instead of San Pedro Bay rivals.

The ports’ harbor commissions have signed an agreement to collaborate on issues they both face, from cargo movement efficiency to workforce development to cybersecurity.

The ports’ respective leaders commented on their strengthened relationship in a joint press release.

“Our two ports are the fastest way to move goods between Asia and U.S. markets and manufacturers,” said Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero. “The kind of cooperation that will flow from this agreement ensures we will continue to be the most efficient gateway for shippers.”

Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said, “America’s two largest and most competitive ports have a long and successful history of collaborating on key issues. This agreement significantly expands these efforts and underscores our shared commitment to lead and succeed.”

The nation’s largest seaport complex will work in concert with industry stakeholders to identify and address operational issues to unlock additional efficiencies and lower costs for shippers while improving sustainability, business continuity and security, according to this week’s announcement.

The Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners approved the memorandum of understanding (MOU) Feb. 20. The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners OK’d it Monday. Both votes were unanimous.

The ports gave presentations and held discussions on the then-proposed MOU last summer, when Seroka told the LA harbor commission the goal of the agreement was to ensure the two ports “are the gateway of choice in North America.”

“For the first time in a generation we are taking this relationship to the next level. The fight is not LA versus Long Beach for that last container. It’s about keeping cargo here in Southern California,” Seroka said at an August commission meeting.

The San Pedro Bay neighbors move 37% of the nation’s containerized imports and 25% of its exports. But both ports say they continue to face competitive challenges for market share.

Cargo volumes at both ports currently are being affected by the coronavirus. Seroka appeared on CNBC Tuesday to discuss how the coronavirus has impacted the Port of LA.

The MOU outlines five areas of focused cooperation to enhance competitiveness: cargo transfer predictability, digital connectivity, cybersecurity, establishment of metrics and workforce development.

The ports will begin by establishing a work plan that will prioritize efforts, create work groups and define objectives for each of the areas outlined in the MOU.

Phillip Sanfield, director of media relations for the Port of Los Angeles, said the ports have successfully worked together over the years.

“The two ports have collaborated on the Clean Air Action Plan since the early 2000s. After some congestion issues in 2015, the two ports came together to work on supply chain efficiency issues. We also work closely together on security issues. So we’re looking forward to tackling the issues outlined in the recently approved MOU,” Sanfield said.

Don Snyder, acting managing director of commercial operations for the Port of Long Beach, said last September that the ports were working together to improve rail traffic flow.

“We’ve built some real nice rail yards to load containers on and off trains, on and off the ships. The problem is the terminal operators operate in one set of rules and functions, and the railroads are just a completely different animal. So what we’re doing, the two ports, we have a billion-dollar project coming up setting up staging areas that the terminals can quickly turn railcars around and take them on and off containers and put them in the staging area so when the railroads are ready to grab them, they can move,” Snyder said.