Los Angeles, Long Beach Port Terminals to Extend Hours of Operation
New plan expected to ease congestion at nation's two busiest ports
LOS ANGELES - 08/24/04 - Ocean terminal operators at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have said that they will extend their cargo operations to nights and weekends in an effort to ease congestion at the nation's two busiest container ports and reduce truck traffic on the region's overburdened freeway network.
The new plan goes into effect November 1 and reportedly will be paid for by fees assessed on individual cargo shipments.
The extended hours will initially be on Saturdays while the complete plan is phased in over six months.
From December on, another extended shift will reportedly be added.
Currently, about 17% of all the cargo that moves through the ports do so at off-peak hours. But it's mostly cargo controlled by the larger importers, who specifically order and pay for cargo operations to be conducted after hours.
A new company, PierPass Inc., will administer the program and collect the fees - $20 for every 20-foot cargo container and $40 for 40-foot containers. The assessments are expected to raise an estimated $150 million annually over three years.
The fees are expected to be phased out after three years, when the volume of cargo at the port will have grown enough to offset the cost of the extended hours.
Companies that decide to move their shipments through the ports' terminal gates during off-peak hours or via the Alameda Corridor - which links both ports with the intermodal rail facilities located more than 20 miles away near downtown Los Angeles - will have the fee refunded.
The new program will require the hiring of around 500 additional port workers on top of the 3,000 the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) is hiring to deal with an increasingly serious backlog of cargo.
The?decision to extend the terminal hours at the ports comes as transportation officials are proposing the construction of new highway lanes exclusively for trucks hauling cargo inland from the ports, as the much-touted Alameda Corridor is attracting far less freight than originally planned.
The $2.5 billion Alameda Corridor rail line, which opened in 2002, was intended to carry half the cargo that comes into the nation's largest port complex, but has been underused.
The Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority (ACTA) - the quasi-governmental agency that manages the transportation corridor - supports the idea of building one or more "truckways."
Three truck congestion proposals are reportedly being developed.
One involves a $4 billion plan would expand the Long Beach Freeway (I -710) to 10 lanes for commuters and add four extra lanes specifically for trucks, while another - with an estimated cost of tens of billions of dollars - would extend a single truckway as far as Barstow in the Mojave Desert, northeast of Los Angeles.
A third, far cheaper proposal estimated to cost about $450 million would utilize part of California Highway 47 for the exclusive use of trucks moving cargo near the ports, according to press reports.
In another move aimed at easing cargo congestion, the Port of Los Angeles' Board of Harbor Commissioners recently?approved a first-ever comprehensive rail policy plan that focuses?on increased rail usage at the nation's busiest port.
Details of the plan haven't been disclosed, but sources said it?clears the way for the development of additional rail facilities to accommodate the forecasted surge in cargo expected at the port over the next decade.?
The port currently has five on- and near-dock rail facilities including the Terminal Island Container Transfer Facility (TICTF) - completed in 1997?which serves the terminals operated by Evergreen Marine Corp.?and NYK - and'the Pier 400 Intermodal Container Facility that can accommodate 222 double-stack rail cars.
An improved national economy, a shortage of trained dock workers, and poor infrastructural planning by the rail carriers that serve Southern California are seen as some of the causes of the ongoing cargo logjam.?
But, observers have said the primary cause is the?huge influx of cargo from Asia, and, in particular China,'that has reached record volumes over tha past year.?
Last year, more than $60 billion worth of goods from China were imported through the US Customs District that encompasses both ports, in addition to the region's international airports and Las Vegas.
That's the largest share of imported cargo from any foreign country and a full 36% of all goods imported locally.
The 2003 total figure was nearly 23% from the previous year and three times the amount from five years ago.
Japan ranked as the Los Angeles regions second largest source of imported goods with shipments valued at $29.6 billion last year.
Of the top 10 foreign exporters through the Customs District, all but one is from Asia, while Hong Kong, Vietnam, and India rank 12th, 14th, and 15th, respectively.
Together, $138.5 billion worth of goods from east and south Asia came through the Los Angeles area, out of a total of $167.2 billion, in 2003.
More than 90% of the $90 billion of goods that came through the Port of Long Beach alone in 2003 were from East Asia.
Regional economic analysts predict container traffic to rise 11% this year and another 10% in 2005.
Cargo volumes at the Port of Long Beach reached record highs over the last three months, culminating in a 23% rise in containers last month over July 2003.
The planning staffs at both ports have said they're expecting to see current cargo volumes triple by 2020.
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