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Los Angeles, Long Beach ports best positioned for cargo growth

August 17, 2011 |  3:16 pm

51416988 The latest report from global commercial real estate brokerage Jones Lang LaSalle says that the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach remain the best positioned in the nation for taking advantage of growth in international trade.

The Jones Lang LaSalle seaport index rates the nation's 12-busiest harbors on a point system that ranges from a potential low of 37 points to a high of 100 points, based on criteria such as the amount of cargo handled, the size of the local consumer population, and the relative strengths of the surrounding warehouse and distribution system. As a practical matter, the company points out that scores seldom fall below the low 70s.

The Los Angeles and its San Pedro Harbor neighbor, Long Beach, were the only two ports with scores above 90. The Port of Los Angeles, the nation's No.1-ranked cargo container port, came in first with a score of 95.1. The Port of Long Beach, second only to Los Angeles in container cargo handling, came in second with a score of 92.8.

Their closest competitors were the Port of Houston, on the Gulf Coast, at 89.5 and the nation's third-ranked container port in terms of cargo, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on the East Coast, at 88.9.

"Los Angeles and Long Beach are out in front, in part because the volume of cargo they move is dramatically higher than their nearest competitors. They are investing heavily in the future in terms of capital projects and they have the nation's strongest warehouse and distribution system. They are at the top of the heap among the nation's seaports," said John Carver, executive vice president for ports, airports and global infrastructure at Jones Lang LaSalle.

Part of the reason for Los Angeles' and Long Beach's high rankings are the extensive capital improvement projects. Los Angeles will spend $1.5 billion in the next five years to improve cargo terminals at the port. Long Beach will be spending $4 billion over the next 10 years, a spokesman said, on such projects as the replacement of the aging Gerald Desmond Bridge.

Together, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach handle more than 40% of the nation's Asian imports and rank as the sixth-busiest harbor in the world, behind Singapore; three Chinese ports--Shanghai,  Hong Kong and Shenzhen; and fifth-ranked Busan, South Korea.

The movement of such a high percentage of the nation's cargo makes logistics one of the region's most important sources of employment, accounting for nearly 565,000 jobs in Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside and Ventura counties.

Carver added that international trade has been one of the few economic bright spots in an otherwise tepid recovery.

“While natural disasters, geo-political unrest and general uncertainty have plagued the economic recovery, global cargo volumes have increased substantially,” said Carver. “In fact, $316 billion worth of U.S. international imports and exports were recorded in May, just under the all-time high recorded in July 2008.”

Also: Port of Los Angeles headed for a record export year

Also: Terminal operators agree to cut diesel emissions

--Ronald D. White

Photo: Ships are loaded and unloaded at the Long Beach Container Terminal. Credit: Los Angeles Times