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Are LA’s ports falling behind?

Tuesday, June 2, 2015, 7:00pm - 8:30pm
The Queen Mary 1126 Queens Highway Long Beach, CA 90802 Map and directions

On Tuesday, June 2, KPCC & AirTalk hosted the AT30 event “The future of LA’s ports” aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, where Larry Mantle and his guests discussed the possible trajectories, challenges, and impacts of California’s ports, specifically the Port of LA and the Port of Long Beach. Panelists, ranging from shipping CEOs to union leaders to environmentalists, included Jon Slangerup, Nick Weiner, Bobby Olvera, Jr., Goetz Wolff, Dave Arian, Morgan Wyenn, and T.L. Garrett.

"If we're going to make it in the age of modernization, we have to change the entire infrastructure." -T.L. Garrett, Vice President, Pacific Merchant Shipping Association in Long Beach

The Los Angeles/Long Beach port complex is the nation’s busiest container port, handling about 43 percent of goods entering the United States and about 27 percent of exports. Though the twin ports are the two largest in the country, the number of imports they handle have been dropping recently

Airtalk host Larry Mantle brought together a panel of experts and port leadership to discuss the recent changes. 

The reason for the decline? Massive change in the way shippers are moving goods and the increased volume of shipments. That, coupled with the slow rate of change, has created inefficiencies in Southern California ports’ systems.

So what’s the current state of the ports, and what are the issues?

Workers at the port say the complex still holds an advantage over its competitors, with more capacity to deal with the new, bigger ships than ports on the East Coast.

“Despite these issues, we're still faster and quicker in the Port of L.A. than anywhere in the U.S.,” said Bobby Olvera, Jr., president of the Local 13 of the International Longshore Warehouse Union (ILWU13), which represents 7,000 members in the Southern California area.

Problems with modernization are not unique to Southern California, and ports around the world are having to find ways to meet the calls and demands of these large ships.

And though neither of the the port of Long Beach nor L.A. has plans to completely reinvent their aging infrastructure, they are taking smaller steps towards modernization. Those include the introduction of what boosters call the most technologically-advanced crane training program in U.S. to our coastline, said Olvera.

"We're still the best at what we do. You pick a ship, a cargo, I'll bring my guys and you bring yours...we're going to do better,” said Olvera. "If we had the tools, training, and bodies that we need, we'd have nothing to fear."  


Larry Mantle


Jon Slangerup, president and CEO of the Port of Long Beach

Nick Weiner, campaign director for Justice for Port Drivers/Teamsters Port Division

Bobby Olvera, Jr., president of the Local 13 of the International Longshore Warehouse Union, which represents 7,000 members in the Southern California area

Goetz Wolff, lecturer of urban planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs

Dave Arian, vice president of the Los Angeles Harbor Commission, which oversees the Port of Los Angeles

Morgan Wyenn, staff attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council

T.L. Garrett, vice president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association in Long Beach

This event is part of the AirTalk 30th anniversary tour.