Activity Rises Sharply at Port of Los Angeles : Steamship Firms Lured From Rival Long Beach

Times Staff Writer

The Port of Los Angeles lured six steamship companies from berths at rival Long Beach last year and, as a result, handled a third more general cargo.

According to figures released this week, 22.2 million metric tons of general cargo--that is, containerized cargo and all loose cargo except liquid or dry bulk--passed through the Los Angeles port during the 12 months ended June 30, a 34.5% increased from the 16.5 million tons the year before.

Total cargo, which includes containerized and bulk cargo, such as coal and scrap metal, increased 16.5% to 45.1 million metric tons. A metric ton is about 2,205 pounds.

The increases in cargo helped lift the port’s income 17% to $48.7 million, while operating revenue increased almost 14% to $91.7 million.

Snared Two Companies

The Port of Long Beach in turn snared two companies away from Los Angeles and still handles more cargo--both containerized and bulk--despite a slowing of its previous fast growth rate.


There, general cargo tonnage increased less than 1% last year to 22.7 million metric tons. Total cargo movement rose about 1.5% to 54.1 million metric tons.

The continuing growth of imports and of the Pacific Rim as a trading hub have favored the Los Angeles port, said Rex Sherman, spokesman for the American Assn. of Port Authorities, a Virginia-based organization of port managers.

“Beyond the fact that the port has good terminals and facilities, it has the advantage of facing out from the Pacific Rim, where the real growth in international trade and the (strength) of the dollar has spurred imports,” Sherman said. “The other thing is simply that Los Angeles or Southern California is one of the richest markets in the world and that certainly gives the port an advantage.”

Increased business at the Port of Los Angeles last year created new jobs there and affects other local businesses.

Port spokesman Mike Levitt said that 350 additional longshoremen were hired last year and an additional 60 U.S. Customs personnel have been assigned to Los Angeles because of the increased cargo volume. The Los Angeles Harbor Department said the port also affects about 20,000 businesses and more than 130,000 jobs locally.

The six steamship companies that moved from Long Beach last year brought with them much of the increase in general cargo, said port officials, and boosted the volume of containerized cargo by more than 20%.

Those companies are Korea Shipping Corp., KKL Kangaroo Line, Westwood Shipping Line, Italian Line, Navieras Interamericana Navicana S.A. and a consortium of European shipping companies, including Hapag Lloyd, Johnson Scanstar and Incotrans.

The completion of several new terminals and improvements to other facilities also contributed to the increase in cargo handling, said Jack Wells, the port’s chief deputy executive director.

Those included the opening in May, 1984, of a $47-million, 110-acre cargo container terminal operated by Oakland-based American President Lines and completion of the first phase of a major expansion project at the Indies Terminal, another container cargo facility.

Wells said the port also substantially increased its bulk cargo activity last year, as more petroleum, coke and scrap-metal exports moved through the harbor. In addition, he said, more shippers have moved their base of operations to Southern California.

“We have seen and hope to see more and more cargo shifting from other ports in the Pacific range to Southern California simply because the local market is here,” Wells said.

New Rail Yard Being Built

Wells said several more large cargo terminals are scheduled to be built within the next several years, including a new auto-handling and storage facility for Nissan.

Also, he said, the new rail yard, being built by the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, is expected to be completed next year and to increase both ports’ ability to attract shippers seeking not only the Southern California market but inland markets in the Midwest and South.

At Long Beach, a decline in grain exported through its terminals contributed to the port’s slowing rate of growth, said Dean Petersen, deputy executive director at the Port of Long Beach. Numbers compiled by Long Beach officials show that 1.3 million metric tons of grain were exported at their port last fiscal year, compared to 2.2 million metric tons in the previous 12 months. Petersen traced part of the cutback to reduced grain purchases by China and India.

In addition, Petersen blamed cramped conditions at Long Beach for the transfer of some steamship companies to Los Angeles. Long Beach has closed four berths during construction of an 80-acre container terminal at Pier A, causing some companies to be shifted to other berths.

“What happened was we had no room and the congestion kept growing for the containers,” Petersen said. “And there was room at Los Angeles.”

Petersen said the Long Beach port has experienced annual cargo volume growth of between 12% to 20% during the past several years. He predicted that the port’s general cargo volume would increase next year as the amount of container cargo moving through the port increases.

Ranked No. 1 in Nation

Preliminary figures show that gross operating revenue at the Port of Long Beach increased to $63.7 million in the fiscal year ended June 30 from $61.8 million in the year before. The port’s net income rose to $31.3 million from $21 million during the same period, which port officials said included a one-time write-off for depreciated buildings.

Just two weeks ago, the Port of Los Angeles was ranked number one in the nation for handling car imports. Ward’s Automotive Reports, the auto industry trade journal, said two weeks ago that, for the first five months of 1985, 153,885 cars passed through the port, compared to 127,820 for second-place Jacksonville, Fla.

Numbers compiled by the port show that about 420,000 automobiles were imported through Los Angeles in the past 12 months, compared to about 304,000 in the previous year.

Long Beach port officials said more than 344,000 vehicles were imported through that port during the same period, compared to nearly 256,000 the year before.