Long Beach Looks to Derail from Past Bottlenecks

The Port of Long Beach’s Executive Director Mario Cordero has not forsaken any optimism for the southern Californian port. Rather, it’s rumored Cordero’s glasses fog up when sharing the forward-thinking vision he has for America’s busiest freight hub.  

When combined with its sister port, the Port of Los Angeles, the two San Pedro Bay ports handled over 20 million containers in 2021. Other U.S ports can try, but none come even close to such numbers.

And, even though Long Beach is in the doldrums of muted freight activity and an unresolved labor deal, the port is not deterred from furthering its streak of ambition.  

In his “State of the Port” address, just a bit more lowkey than the U.S. president’s State of the Union, Long Beach’s Cordero touched base on how the port can improve its operation.

Upcoming rail project is “going to be a game changer”

When Cordero announced the $1.5 billion Pier B rail project will break ground sometime in 2024, industry stakeholders in the room telepathically fist bumped one another.

Long Beach has long been plagued by rail-related bottlenecks which Cordero admits was a contributor to the infamous supply chain delays of 2021 and 2022. However, if all goes to plan, this major project will afford the port faster transitions from moving containers out of its facilities and on to rail transport.

Expediting the transit from when containers arrive from the ocean at Long Beach to when they are railed over to inland points will help accost these bottlenecks from posing future disruptions to the port’s container flow. A huge win for every shipper, forwarder, carrier, and their respective grandmothers, not even involved in logistics.

As a project with such ambition would, Pier B will be implemented through phases. Cordero alludes to the first phase, which should rollout in 2025, as an introduction of additional tracks improving both the arrival and departure of trains through the port.

2032 is the eyed completion year where the port hopes to have 46 tracks available at its facilities. Right now, that number is only at 11. “It’s going be a game changer,” Long Beach’s boss noted.

A new intermodal facility to boot

Pier B has a keen sense of timing as a proposed intermodal facility, planned to be built in Barstow, CA, will greatly compliment the port’s rail project when fully operational.

Last October, railroad BNSF announced a $1.5 billion investment into the construction of this modern facility. Dubbed the Barstow International Gateway, the integrated rail facility will be around 4,500-acres and will include a rail yard, intermodal space, and warehouses for transloading international containers to domestic containers.

The Barstow hub will also be capable of direct container transfer from containerships to trains via the railroad’s mainline. From there, the freight can move further inland courtesy of BNSF’s network.

Outbound freight can enjoy a similar experience as the process can be mirrored. This counterpart will especially help forlorn farmers get their agriculture exports to Asia in a timely manner. If any group were to be singled out as a supply chain casualty of the last two years, ag exporters would be at the top of the list.

In the works is another project primed to assist with container flow at Los Angeles and Long Beach. The Mojave Inland Port project is aiming to build an inland port complex in Mojave, CA (about 100 miles north of the ports). Please refer to our blog, “We’re Sending Freight Where? A Dry Port in the Mojave Desert”.

Final Thoughts

Yes, us experts at Commerce Express Inc. are well aware of our domestic footing, but we thought it’d be worth dipping our toes offshore to point out Cordero’s ambitious vision for Long Beach.

The port’s executive director is an advocate for 24/7 operations at U.S. ports. After a visit to South Korea’s Port of Busan, Cordero was inspired by Busan’s capabilities, highlighted by a fully around-the-clock operation, and giggled the port operated “like a jewel”.

Could U.S. ports operate 24/7? Or is Cordero a logistics madman?

Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this topic or any others in domestic logistics. In addition, stay up to date with weekly headlines from both trucking and rail via our Road Map newsletter.

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