A record-breaking amount of freighters, trains and trucks – and dockworkers – have moved across the US from overseas since the coronavirus pandemic began, the need for those involved in international trade to adapt to climate change, and a proposed $1 trillion The federal infrastructure bill hit the talking points on the first day of the Intermodal Expo in Long Beach on Monday morning, Sept. 13.
Transportation leaders, advocates and elected officials gathered at the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center along with dozens of others for the opening ceremony of the three-day expo, where they discussed the industry’s importance to the national economy.
Long Beach is home to the second busiest port in the United States, behind only the Port of Los Angeles. Combined, the San Pedro Bay port complex creates approximately 3 million jobs across the US, including more than 900,000 in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties, according to the Port of Los Angeles. The twin ports also account for 31% of the country’s trade market share.
According to the Port of Long Beach, they generate $5 billion in US customs revenue annually.
And the intermodal industry is a key part of this – ensuring that all incoming goods from abroad make it to their intended destination.
In the US, the intermodal industry includes five Category 1 railroads, 46 shipping lines, more than 7,000 trucking companies, and more than 10,000 third-party logistics companies.
The annual expo brings together members from every corner of the goods supply chain for three days of exhibitions, open dialogues and engaging discussions about the industry.
Noel Hasegaba, Deputy Executive Director of Long Beach Port, began the ceremony by discussing the industry’s historic year amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Every segment of the intermodal supply chain stepped up, masked and showed up to work to push cargo into our economy,” Hasegaba said. “Few industries benefit the local, state and national economies as much as the combined freight transport network.”
And it was evident in Long Beach, Hesagaba said, with the port repeatedly breaking monthly cargo records.
For example, dockworkers and terminals moved more than 800,000 twenty-foot equivalent units — or TEUs, the industry’s standard cargo measurement — in August, an 11.3% increase from the same month a year earlier. It was the port’s best August ever.
Long Beach will be just shy of about 500,000 TEU for the fiscal year, which ends this month in the city. Earlier this year, the Port of Los Angeles, which will release its August data later this week, became the first port in the Western Hemisphere to move 10 million TEUs over a 12-month period.
Together, Hesegaba said, the twin ports will process 20 million containers this year — more than ever before.
“That’s an increase of 17%,” he said, “breaking last year’s record.”
Representative Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, who is on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, stressed the importance of addressing climate change and provided an update on President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan.
The $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act would implement billions of new spending on roads, bridges, waterworks, broadband and other projects in nearly every corner of the country.
“This is an exciting time for the movement of goods as we have been investing for a long time in our country’s infrastructure to prepare for the future,” Lowenthal said. “It has become a national priority.
“And freight,” he said, “is a major part of that investment.”
For their part, ports have long focused on climate change and reducing their carbon footprint. The two ports – which are competitors for enticing shippers – have worked together on a Clean Air Action Plan since 2006 and are trying to get the entire truck fleet to zero emissions by 2035. Ports are also trying to get their overall greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80% by 2050.
The Port of Long Beach reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 19% from 2005 to 2019, according to its website. The LA port, according to its website, reduced GHG by 15% during that time.
Officials of both ports have repeatedly said that more work still needs to be done.
“If we are going to be successful in future generations, we have to build a sustainable system,” Lowenthal said, “a system that is efficient and a federal government has a part in building that infrastructure.”