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Despite trade war, cargo loss, Long Beach says it still delivers more

DEPENDENCE on the transpacific trade - which means China - the Port of Long Beach has been hit hard by the trade war, says its executive director, Mario Cardero in a year-end interview with London's Lloyd's List

02 January 2020 - 19:00

DEPENDENCE on the transpacific trade - which means China - the Port of Long Beach has been hit hard by the trade war, says its executive director, Mario Cardero in a year-end interview with London's Lloyd's List.

'If you compare to the first six months of 2019 to the first six months of 2018 for Long Beach, that impact has been a deduction of 19 per cent in cargo volume from China,' said Mr Cardero.



'Even worse was the export side. It's been a 41 per cent negative impact. So you know, I think you can most definitively state that it has been a big impact,' he said.



Still, he sees the recently announced phase one agreement between the US and China as 'good news'.



'It's a positive development and on both sides. I think once we start having specific commitments to this agreement, particularly on the export side, it's good for the American consumer', he said, adding that it is good for the American farmer too.



'So going forward to 2020, we're hopeful. We look to the culmination of what those specifics are in phase one. And then of course, start moving towards phase two,' he said.



Mr Cordero acknowledges that events other than the trade war have also adversely affected the port of Long Beach, in particular the widening of the Suez and Panama canals that have siphoned cargo from US west coast to Gulf and east coast ports.



Still, he is not prepared to concede an also-ran status, especially the twin ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.



'I can't worry about what the east coast ports are doing or the Gulf are doing. I need to focus on what we need to do to continue to be a port of choice and be leaders in sustainable development and operational excellence,' he says.



'There is no port complex in the nation that even approximates what we move here in the San Pedro Bay ports,' he said.



'No one comes close to that number,' he said. 'You could argue New York may move 7.4 million or whatever that number is. That's not even half of what we move here. So, I want everybody to be aware that you understand that dynamic before we make any assumptions in terms of who's the leading gateway here now.'



Mr Cordero understands the nature of the competition with rival ports on the east and Gulf coasts. In his view the aim is to 'be a port of choice to the most important region to this country, which is Asia'.



He does not think it is enough for the San Pedro Bay ports merely to accommodate the regional market of 40 million people that California offers.



'In addition to that,' he says, 'the battleground is the Midwest, the Ohio Valley. And, and with that, you know, we have in the west coast, the best railroad infrastructure - far superior than any other region in United States.'



'We can move that container from Shanghai to Chicago and get it to Chicago 11 days earlier than if that container goes direct water to the east coast. We could move that container to Columbus, Ohio, nine days earlier as opposed to the direct water route to the east coast.



'So, the question for us again is continuing with the productivity numbers that remain competitive and also for us to ask ourselves the hard questions: 'How do we become more cost-effective?' And I think that's the $64,000 question for us in the year of 2020.'


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