Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero delivers the State of the Port address Wednesday morning. Photos by Medina Kabir.
In his first State of the Port address, Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero spoke among hundreds of stakeholders at the Long Beach Convention Center Wednesday morning during which he discussed many new challenges and improvements the port will face in the upcoming years to make it “the world’s greenest port.”
“Where others were pessimistic, I am optimistic,” said Cordero in his speech. “I see not only the Green Port of the Future, but a port gateway driven to maximize operation efficiencies.”
Cordero called 2017 a successful year thanks to his commissioners and their confidence in the newly elected executive director. The former chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission was appointed to his current position in April.
“With their outstanding leadership, the work of our terrific port staff, and the support of our elected officials, the Port of Long Beach is unstoppable,” said Cordero.
Last year the port saw an 11 percent increase in cargo movement, a total of 7.5 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs), making it the highest total in the port’s 107-year history, Cordero said.
“With unemployment low and consumer confidence high, our outlook this year is good for both container and non-container cargo,” said Cordero. “I have no doubt we can grow our business even more.”
Cordero admitted one of the most challenging aspects to tackle was updating the Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP). Many had doubts about the port’s growing business and questioned how the executive director and commissioners would create a better port.
Last year, it was reported that port-related diesel emissions were reduced by 88 percent.
“We are the Green Port,” Cordero proudly said. “Zero emissions remains our ultimate goal.”
Last fall, the boards of Harbor Commissioners for the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles approved a major update to the CAAP.
The updated CAAP set the goal of eliminating all terminal cargo-handling equipment emissions by 2030. That same year, they hope to eliminate emissions entirely from vessels at berth and by 2035, have pledged to transform the entire port truck fleet to zero emission vehicles. However, in some instances, companies will be allowed to continue operations at the port by paying fees in lieu of meeting those zero and near-zero emission goals.
“Climate change is today one of the world’s gravest threats, and our goal is now to reduce greenhouse gases by forty percent by 2030 and cut them eighty percent by 2050,” said Cordero. “The CAAP Update is a real-world plan.”
As the years go on, new technologies will be tested for operational effectiveness, and most importantly, for cost-effectiveness, Cordero noted.
He mentioned that Tesla has priced its trucks under $200,000 and that electric semis will be able to go 500 miles between charges.
Moving forward, the implementation of technology is going to be very important in creating efficiencies, Cordero told the Post after his speech. However as the ports move forward, there will be a new skill set that will create many jobs, he said.
“The future is here, whether it’s Tesla or Toyota with its hydrogen fuel-cell trucks, zero-emission semi-trucks are coming,” assured Cordero. “I want us to be both the environmental and the operational leader for the world’s seaports. We’ve set the bar high to be the world’s greenest port.”
Cordero’s goal is to move goods in and out of the harbor faster than any other port. He envisions it to be, what he described as, the Amazon of ports.
“We are creating the port of our dreams, one that is predictable, reliable, efficient and fast,” said Cordero.
With Mayor Robert Garcia having recently urged commissioners to tackle the trucking crisis in their industry and the city of Los Angeles filing a lawsuit against a handful of port truck companies for alleged wage theft, port truck drivers could be a central issue going forward for the port complex.
For years, truckers have pleaded with elected officials to address what they call a misclassification crisis at the port, where truckers are defined as independent contractors and charged for upkeep, maintenance, and in many instances the complete costs of the trucks they need to do their jobs.
The practice has left some truckers owing money to their employers and local and national politicians have started the process of addressing the misclassification and wage theft of port truck drivers. Cordero acknowledged the importance of truck drivers but did not provide specifics about how the port might go about addressing the issue.
“Truckers are extremely vital to our success,” said Cordero.
To help truckers thrive, Cordero said he’s aiming to have faster turn times and speed up truck moves.
“This will create greater efficiencies that will be very beneficial to the trucking community,” Cordero told the Post after his speech.
Cordero said he is eager to re-imagine, re-design and build not only the Green Port of the Future, but a port that is second to none operationally.
“We must be like Amazon and Tesla…This is the new normal. I believe in this Port. I believe in our Board of Commissioners, this amazing industry and in our wonderful Long Beach community.”