Competing Ports of LA and Long Beach Deepen Their Cooperation

Port of Long Beach (file image)

Published Feb 24, 2020 10:03 PM by The Maritime Executive

The neighboring ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach cooperate on environmental issues, but they've always been competitors when it comes to business. On Monday, they announced that they will deepen their partnership - including areas that are central to their operations, like cargo movement efficiency, port infrastructure, connectivity, workforce development, cybersecurity and metrics.

"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.”

Individually, LA and Long Beach are the first- and second-biggest container ports in the U.S. If measured collectively as the San Pedro Bay complex, they would have more than twice as much volume as the third-biggest, the Port of New York and New Jersey. Together, they move about 37 percent of the nation’s containerized imports and 25 percent of containerized exports.  

Both San Pedro Bay ports face competitive challenges for market share. Since the New Panama Canal was completed in 2016, U.S. East Coast ports like Jaxport and Port of Savannah have seen rapid increases in traffic - some of which would have otherwise gone through West Coast seaports. In Canada, the Port of Prince Rupert and the Port of Vancouver are working to peel off transpacific cargo destined for the U.S. heartland via intermodal rail. And in the Pacific Northwest, the Ports of Tacoma and Seattle have formed the Northwest Seaport Alliance to coordinate and jointly market their capabilities.  

The next steps will be for the ports' staffs to establish a work plan in collaboration with stakeholders from marine terminals, labor, drayage, railroads, shipping lines and cargo owners. The ports have an existing antitrust waiver from the Federal Maritime Commission which allows them to cooperate with each other, within limits.

“In today’s competitive environment, where cargo owners have more choices, the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles are stronger when working together, collaborating with all of our labor, industry, environmental and community stakeholders,” said Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners President Bonnie Lowenthal.