Ports call for national freight policy

Date: Monday, July 2, 2018
Source: American Shipper

 The United States needs a national freight policy, say the executive directors of the Ports of Long Beach and Oakland.
   “What is the common denominator that Canada and Mexico have that we don’t have? A national freight policy,” said Mario Cordero, the executive director of the Port of Long Beach, during a luncheon in Oakland sponsored by the Pacific Transportation Association. “To this day we do not have that. I think it’s extremely important that everybody in this room should be demanding of our government.”
   A former chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission, Cordero also said while Long Beach appreciates the funding it receives from the federal government, there needs to be more attention to funding infrastructure in major port gateways.
   As an example, he pointed to the new Gerald Desmond Bridge, which will be used by trucks moving to and from both the Port of Long Beach and Port of Los Angeles.
   “Why does it take 18 years to build a bridge and why does the federal government essentially invest $100 million in this $1.3 billion endeavor?” he asked.
   Chris Lytle, the executive director of the Port of Oakland, said Cordero was “absolutely right, and it starts with a national freight plan.”
    “When you look at the difference between what Canada is doing and what we’re doing, it’s very obvious and you watch it almost every month with what’s happening at Prince Rupert. And to a lesser extent what’s happening down in the Mexican ports as well.”
   Lytle said California ports operate under rigorous environmental regulations, and asked, “Why don’t we have some type of a national standard that puts the playing field a little bit more level as opposed to having a financial disincentive for people to move cargo over the state of California.”
    At the same time, he said, the California Air Resources Board and Bay Area Air Quality Management District have stepped up grants to assist the ports in reducing pollution. Earlier this week SSA Terminals, the operator of the largest container terminal in the Port of Oakland, said it would retrofit 13 diesel-powered rubber tired gantry cranes with diesel-electric hybrid engines at a cost of $6 million, with the help of a $5.1 million grant from the air district.
    Cordero noted that when the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach adopted a Clean Air Action Plan in 2006, many of the goals seemed unreachable, but that since then they have reduced particulate matter emissions by 88 percent, sulfur oxide emissions by 97 percent and nitrogen oxide emissions by 53 percent. 
    A revised version of the plan unveiled last fall by the two Southern California ports calls for “beginning in 2020 requiring terminal operators to deploy zero-emission equipment, if feasible, or the cleanest equipment available when procuring new cargo-handling equipment, with the goal of transitioning all terminal equipment to zero emissions by 2030.”
    Cordero said that in order to achieve those goals, the ports will have to collaborate with marine terminal operators and other stakeholders.
    He said Long Beach, which currently moves about 35 percent to 37 percent of containers by rail has a goal of increasing that to 50 percent eventually.
    A major focus of the Port of Long Beach is reducing dwell time, the amount of time between when a container is discharged from a ship and leaves marine terminals, and turn time, the amount of time a trucker spends at a terminal picking up or delivering a container.
   Cordero said that the port supports efforts by marine terminal operators to revise the PierPass system used in the two ports and require shippers to have their truckers have appointments when they come to terminals.
   Oakland is an export-heavy port. Last year it handled 930,826 loaded outbound containers and 919,523 loaded inbound containers.
   Containerships on transpacific voyages that call Oakland usually do so after first visiting a port such as Los Angeles or Long Beach, and many make Oakland their “last port out” on their return voyage to Asia.
   That is good for exporters, and the port has been investing in infrastructure to support them. Case in point: a 280,000-square-foot refrigerated warehouse and distribution facility dubbed Cool Port where perishable cargo such as meat and fruit can be handled.
   But Lytle said in an interview the port is still keen to attract a carrier that will make Oakland a first port of call for its ships from Asia.
   That could happen as manufacturing in the San Francisco Bay area increases, especially from manufacturers with just-in-time supply chains. He noted Oakland had first-in services when the General Motors-Toyota joint venture New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. operated in Fremont, Calif., between 1984 and 2010.
    That same factory is now owned by Tesla, which is in the process of revving up production. Tesla built 101,420 of its Model S and X automobiles last year and expects to deliver a similar number this year. But the company, which made only 1,764 of its Model 3 cars last year, has said it hopes to be making them at a pace of 5,000 per week by early next month, though recent news reports indicate the company is having difficulty getting to that level.
    The port also expects CenterPoint to begin construction next month on a 440,000-square-foot distribution center across the street from its marine terminals where cargo could be transloaded within the port’s footprint.

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