Press-Telegram: Gov. Newsom visits LA, Long Beach ports as focus shifts to supply chain fixes

November 17, 2021


California Gov. Gavin Newsom and White House appointee John D. Porcari toured Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach terminals on Wednesday, Nov. 17, as attention shifts to a new phase in fixing the supply chain logjam — identifying the funding and projects that will be needed quickly.

California will have to fight for its share of the $17 billion included for ports and waterways in the infrastructure bill President Joe Biden signed this week, Newsom said about will be a competitive grant process for those funds.

“We’re going to have to step up our game,” he said. “We’re going to be front and center. We’re going to be bold.”

Government spending at smaller ports throughout the nation has often eclipsed funding at the twin ports, where some 40% of the nation’s imports arrive. Now, port officials have often said, it’s time to reinvest in the major gateway of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

That will include state funding, Newsom said.

“We’re going to substantially increase our one-time investments in infrastructure” with the next budget round, the governor said.

Newsom also said the state had extended operations at 15 Department of Motor Vehicles sites to allow the state to bring needed truck drivers into the workforce. The extension will allow the number of commercial driving tests to increase from 500 to 970 a month, he said.

Land also is being sought — with 42 parcels so far identified — to help shoulder the burden of moving and housing cargo, along with empty containers, Newsom said.

“This is unfolding in real time,” he said of the ongoing efforts to address the crisis.

Newsom and Porcari were accompanied by an entourage that boasted most of the area’s lawmakers, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia; Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn; state Sens. Lena Gonzalez, D-Long Beach, and Steven Bradford, D-Gardena; and the long short union’s international president, Willie Adams. Also attending were the executive directors for both ports, Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners President Steven Neal and Commissioner Bonnie Lowenthal, as well as several other officials with the port and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

Before the news conference, Newsom and Porcari, the envoy to the Biden-Harris Administration’s Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force, toured the Fenix Marine Terminal in San Pedro at the Port of Los Angeles.

Later, standing before towering stacks of shipping containers — and, at times, nearly drowned out by the sound of machinery at Long Beach’s Total Terminals International, where a  pilot program expanding gate hours currently is ongoing — Newsom said funding will also come from state and other sources as the push to end the bottlenecks gets seriously underway.

Also on Wednesday, Newsom announced in a tweet that the state was issuing a temporary truck weight exemption on highways to keep goods moving.

“The momentum is starting to shift,” said Port of LA Executive Director Gene Seroka following the governor’s remarks.

As evidence that the various supply-chain sectors are beginning to pull together to address the bottleneck, Seroka cited the 30% decline in older cargo at the docks since Oct. 28, when the twin ports announced a fee that would be charged to ocean carriers for containers that stay too long at terminals. The fee has been delayed twice — now until Monday, Nov. 22 — because of that progress.

Building more on-dock rail facilities will be among the future game changers, Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero said following formal remarks made at the TTI Terminal in that port.

Officials have also said they hope some of the funding from the $17 billion in the infrastructure bill can be fast-tracked.

The bill, Porcari said, “is just a beginning.”

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