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June 7, 2017 12:00 PM, EDT

Port of L.A. Approves $1.17 Billion Budget to Help Terminals Better Handle Trucks, Ships

Nick Souza

The Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners approved a $1.17 billion budget to cover infrastructure improvements and reduce the wait time truckers face when doing business at the largest port in North America.

Port officials estimate that container traffic will grow 5.6% during the next fiscal year. On a calendar basis, Los Angeles handled 8.9 million industry-standard 20-foot-equivalent units, or TEUs, in 2016, a record for the Western Hemisphere. In 2017, the port is on pace to break the record again, up 10% through April.

“Our unprecedented cargo volumes over the last 15 months are evidence that our focus on supply chain efficiency and cargo-handling improvements are paying off,” Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said. “We continue to earn the confidence of shippers and are encouraged by the strength of our supply chain partners.

“This budget will help us stay laser-focused on targeted infrastructure improvements, technology solutions and strategic resource use to ensure that we are meeting the needs of our marine terminal customers and the carriers they serve.”

Within the $97.7 million budget for capital improvements was money for two projects near completion and two in the environmental review stage.

A project to expand the TraPac terminal will receive money in this budget. TraPac, a subsidiary of Japan-based Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd., is nearing the end of a $510 million project to lengthen its wharves to 4,600 linear feet, deepen the water at four berths, install semi-automated cranes, build a on-dock intermodal rail yard and make improvements to reduce truck turn times. The project is expected to be completed before the end of the year.

The budget also gives additional money for a $67 million project at Yusen Intermodal Terminals to upgrade three berths to a 53-foot depth and four to 47 feet. Construction will allow for the addition of 14 new Neopanamax cranes to unload larger containerships. It also will add a track at the on-dock intermodal rail yard. The project also is due to be finished before the end of the year.

Two projects under an environmental review have been covered in the budget.

West Basin Container Terminal, owned by steamship line Yang Ming, wants to expand four wharves and dredge 53 feet deep at a fifth wharf to handle 14,000-TEU vessels.

Everport has a proposed a $40 million project to dredge to 53 feet at four wharves and 47 feet at three others to handle Neopanamax vessels.

The budget also includes money to fund a pilot program announced last month with GE Transportation to digitize cargo data, which could make it easier to establish a portwide appointment system for truckers and reduce turn times.

“As we have consistently done over the last several years, this budget has been carefully aligned with the port’s Strategic Plan objectives, which continue to serve as an important guide for our spending and investment decision-making,” said Ambassador Vilma Martinez, Harbor Commission president. “This budget keeps us on track to ensure that we reach our long-term vision and mission, and continue to be the economic engine that drives growth and jobs in the region.”

Port officials said that operating receipts this year — the principal mechanism for funding day-to-day operations — are projected to total $475.4 million. Expenses are expected to be $256.5 million, a 3% increase over the previous fiscal year, driven mostly by increases in salaries and benefits, according to port information.