U.S. Long Beach Port executives upbeat about trade this year after downturn
Looking ahead into 2020 and beyond, U.S. Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero anticipated “better times ahead” in which markets will open again to U.S. goods, and energy exports will increase as well.
At the Port of Long Beach annual State of the Port luncheon on Wednesday, Cordero acknowledged that the trade dispute with China had put a spoke in the port’s wheel this past year.
The U.S.-China trade dispute caused a reduction in trade with China, by far the port’s largest trading partner and comprising 41 percent of the Port’s business, causing a tumble in the port’s import and export orders last year, Cordero said.
“Our overall cargo tonnage also dropped. Because much of our trade is with China, our volumes fell behind the pace of other U.S. ports less tied to the trans-Pacific trade route,” he said.
To the 750 partners, stakeholders, tenants, local community and press attending the annual event, Cordero expressed cautious optimism about the recently-signed China-U.S. phase-one economic and trade agreement.
But he said he saw further challenges ahead as business investment continues to drop off and trade uncertainty remains.
“We need to compete. We need to innovate. We need to lead. And most of all, we need to collaborate,” Cordero said.
Long Beach Harbor Commission President Bonnie Lowenthal took the podium and suggested that a look at history could show the importance of trade in all our lives.
“Global trade has brought the world together and improved our lives,” she noted, adding she firmly believes that trade brings benefits to Long Beach, the United States and the entire world.
“Ours is the task of promoting trade so that this city, region, state and nation can thrive,” she said. “It’s our responsibility to see that Port resources are used wisely to keep us competitive and a leader in goods movement.”
Despite the downturn, 2019 was the port’s second-busiest year on record, moving 7,632,032 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs).
December saw a larger decrease of 10.3 percent in TEUs moved year-on-year. Imports in the month were also down 13.4 percent to 323,231 TEUs, while exports jumped 10.6 percent to 125,395 TEUs.
Cordero expressed confidence that Long Beach will continue to be the best choice for shipping because of the port’s commitment to operational excellence and its 4-billion-U.S.-dollar capital improvement program that has enhanced their ability to service supersized ships, some carrying up to 19,500 containers, more than double the 8,000 containers per ship the port was previously limited to.
Other portions of the major capital improvements initiated at the port over the last decade are sailing toward the finish line, including the new cable-stayed Gerald Desmond Bridge scheduled to open to the public this year.
Construction on the final phase of the Long Beach Container Terminal is slated to finish in 2021, which will make the port the greenest, most technologically-advanced terminal in North America.
The port’s ambitious rail program is also getting a massive overhaul, with an investment of an additional billion dollars over the next decade into rail improvements that will speed up the movement of goods from ship to shore and to other regions and reduce traffic burdens locally.
Commissioner Lowenthal also highlighted the port’s superior levels of community engagement.
“We employ 1 out of every 5 people in Long Beach,” she said. The port supports about 2.6 million jobs in the United States.