Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has nominated shipping executive Gene Seroka to be the next head of the Port of Los Angeles, serving as its executive director. Seroka now heads commercial operations in the Americas for American President Lines, the world’s seventh-largest ocean carrier.
"I'm confident that Gene will be a strong leader who will enhance our international trade agenda, increase reliability and efficiency through effective management and labor relations, and ensure our Port is a sustainable and positive neighbor to the Harbor community," Garcetti said in a statement announcing the nomination.
The Port of L.A. is the top seaport in North America in terms of container volumes. It generates 830,000 jobs in the region and $35 billion a year in wages and tax revenues. Together, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach form the fifth busiest port complex in the world.
But L.A. faces increasing competition from other North American ports, including Long Beach, as shipping lines form alliances and use increasingly larger ships.
"In order to compete for these enormous vessels to come call at your ports, you need to have somebody that knows the industry and can market the Port of Los Angeles to the customers," says Michele Grubbs, vice president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association.
Grubbs says Seroka’s the right choice, not just because he’s worked for one of the port’s top customers, but because he understands all of the issues that ports face. Seroka's bio released by the Mayor's Office says Seroka has held several jobs at APL, with postings in Phoenix, Singapore, Dubai, Jakarta and Shanghai.
The retirement of the Port of L.A.’s last executive director, Geraldine Knatz, took many observers by surprise last October. Garcetti had required the heads of all city departments to reapply for their jobs. City Engineer Gary Lee Moore served as acting general manager while the city conducted an international search for the next executive director.
The L.A. City Council must confirm Garcetti's nomination of Seroka. Councilmember Joe Buscaino, whose district includes the Port of L.A., expressed his support in a statement.
“I am most excited about Mr. Seroka’s commitment to investing in the harbor communities of San Pedro and Wilmington and feel that he understands my priority and urgency of redeveloping our waterfront which will create jobs, boost our economy and strengthen the value of our neighborhoods that surround the Port of Los Angeles,” Buscaino said.