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FreightWaves Classics: Los Angeles Harbor is the busiest port in the country!

The Port of Los Angeles and the adjacent Port of Long Beach combine to form the port facilities of San Pedro Bay. The two ports handle more containers per ship call than any other port complex in the world. (Long Beach Port is also profiled by Freight Waves Classics.)

The Port of Los Angeles sells itself as Port® in the United States. It is the busiest port in the Western Hemisphere.

Last Thursday, June 10, Los Angeles Harbor became the first port in the Western Hemisphere, processing 10 million container units in 12 months. The 10 millionth container was loaded onto CMA CGM Amerigo Vespucci, the ship of the fleet of customers of the largest shipping company in the port.

Located in the cities of San Pedro and Wilmington, about 20 miles south of downtown Los Angeles, the Port of Los Angeles is the nation’s number one port for container volume and cargo value, having been held since 2000.

As widely reported by FreightWaves, it is one of many US ports with serious congestion problems due to the true tsunami of imports. As many as 25 to 30 vessels are anchored offshore at a time, waiting for their turn to dock and unload cargo.

The Port of Los Angeles and CMA CGM celebrate the 10 millionth container processed in a year. (Photo: Los Angeles Harbor)
The Port of Los Angeles and CMA CGM celebrate the 10 millionth container processed in a year. (Photo: Los Angeles Harbor)

Early history

The first document in the area, now the port of Los Angeles, was by Portuguese explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo. He explored the area at the northwestern tip of what is now San Pedro Bay on October 8, 1542. However, it was more than 225 years later (1769) that Spanish missionaries and officials began to colonize the coast that later became California.

The natural port of San Pedro was used as a trading post by Spanish missionary monks. A Spanish ship with food met a monk at the water’s edge. The first American merchant ship to enter the port of San Pedro in 1805 was Lelia Bride. The Spanish government had declared that trade with other countries was illegal, but due to the distance and loose regulation, trade with other countries was taking place in the region. In 1822, the independent Mexican government ended Spain’s trade restrictions. That action led to a rapid increase in payments and commercial ventures in San Pedro. The port of San Pedro was prosperous when California became a state of the United States in 1848.

The freighter moored at the Port of Los Angeles is so large that the truck next to it looks very small. (Photo: Los Angeles Harbor)
The freighter moored at the Port of Los Angeles is so large that the truck next to it looks very small. (Photo: Los Angeles Harbor)

Early champion

The Port of Los Angeles celebrates the success of San Pedro Bay and honors many politicians, businessmen, and community foresights. The choice was Phineas Banning, who founded the city of Wilmington and was called the “father of the Port of Los Angeles.” According to the port, “His entrepreneurship and influence has positioned the port for future success as a maritime and trade center for the fast-growing West Coast city.”

The ban dredged the harbor’s waterways to a depth of 10 feet to Wilmington in 1871, improving the harbor’s transport capacity when the first breakwater was built between Crotalus and Deadmans. That year, the port processed 50,000 tonnes of cargo. Banning owned a stagecoach line with a route from San Pedro to Salt Lake City and Yuma, Arizona. He also built a railroad line between San Pedro Bay and Los Angeles in 1868.

When Banning died in 1885, the port processed 500,000 tonnes of transportation. The Southern Pacific Railroad wanted the Port of Los Angeles to be located in Santa Monica instead of San Pedro. In 1893, he built the Long Wharf in Santa Monica.However Los Angeles Times And US Senator Steven White sought federal approval of San Pedro Bay as the Port of Los Angeles. White is often referred to as the “savior of the bay.”

This issue was resolved in 1897 when San Pedro was approved by a committee led by Maj. Gen. John C. Walker, who chaired the Ismian Canal Commission in 1904. Construction of the breakwater began in 1899 with the support of the US government.

The aerial photograph shows the size of the Port of Los Angeles. (Photo: Los Angeles Harbor)
The aerial photograph shows the size of the Port of Los Angeles. (Photo: Los Angeles Harbor)

The port will be official

Both Los Angeles and its port areas experienced rapid population growth in the early 20th century. As a result, the Waterfront Commission of New York was established on December 9, 1907. This was about 10 years after White led the effort to designate the port as the city’s official port. Therefore, it marks the official establishment of the Port of Los Angeles. Then, on August 28, 1909, the independent cities of San Pedro and Wilmington were annexed to the City of Los Angeles. This means that the Port of Los Angeles is the official division of the City of Los Angeles.

During that period, many different industries began in and around the harbor. Fishing vessels, canning factories, oil rigs and shipbuilding created jobs and brought commerce and income to the Los Angeles region. This has led the city to focus on port infrastructure and future development.

Dredging and widening of the main channel began in 1912. With the completion of the main section of the Federal Breakwater, the port was able to accommodate larger vessels. These improvements were significant after the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914. Due to its relatively close proximity to the canal, the Port of Los Angeles occupies a strategic position in international trade, giving it an advantage over ports further north on the west coast.

Despite wanting a port in Santa Monica, the Southern Pacific Railroad completed the first major pier in the port in 1912. In the 1920s, the port surpassed San Francisco as the busiest port on the west coast. Then, in the early 1930s, a major expansion of the port took place. A breakwater over 2 miles long, 3 miles away, was built. This outer breakwater was supplemented by an inner breakwater built off Terminal Island. Similar to the small docks on Long Beach, docks for nautical boats were built.

Overall view from Bath 86 to the east. Shows SS Mariko (in front of sprinkler tank) docked to Bath 232-E. Battleship USS New York is moored at Bath 231. SS Mariko carried the first non-priority private cargo to and from the Port of Los Angeles after the end of World War II. (Photo: Los Angeles Harbor)
Overall view from Bath 86 to the east. Shows SS Mariko (in front of sprinkler tank) docked to Bath 232-E. Battleship USS New York is docked at Bath 231. SS Mariko carried the first non-priority private cargo to and from the Port of Los Angeles after the end of World War II. (Photo: Los Angeles Harbor)

Second World War

As the main port on the west coast, the Port of Los Angeles was asked by the US military to make only wartime efforts. It was a major embarkation point for men fighting in the Pacific War, with millions of tonnes of war supplies and equipment.

In addition, shipbuilding has become a major port industry. All boat repair and shipbuilding companies in and near the harbor assisted in the construction, remodeling, and repair of vessels for war effort. More than 90,000 workers have produced thousands of war-related vessels at the San Pedro Bay shipyard. After World War II, port authorities again began to focus on the continued expansion and development of the port.

This photo shows a container ship and cargo that was unloaded from the ship before the era of container ships. (Photo: Los Angeles Harbor)
This photo shows a container ship and cargo that was unloaded from the ship before the era of container ships. (Photo: Los Angeles Harbor)

Postwar growth

Until the mid-20th century, the port received cargo in crates, pallets and small lots of various sizes and shapes. Due to the lack of uniformity and safety, cargo unloading was painstakingly slow, with frequent damage, theft and loss of cargo.

Guided by Malcolm McLean and SealandThe container freight revolution began on the east coast in the mid-1950s. The Hawaiian Merchant, a ship of Matson Navigation Company, delivered 20 containers to the port in 1959. As a result, the port began to shift to containerization. The port’s first container facility was built in 1960 at a cost of $ 1.8 million.

Marine containers can be easily loaded, sealed and shipped on ships, rail vehicles and trucks. Therefore, in today’s global economy, almost all manufactured products or their components are shipped in containers. Containerization is a major reason for logistics and security innovations that have driven the Port of Los Angeles to its national and global importance.

By 2013, more than 500,000 containers were passing through the port each month.

Malcolm McLean in the foreground and Sealand container in the background. (Photo: NCpedia.org)
Malcolm McLean in the foreground and Sealand container in the background. (Photo: NCpedia.org)

Economic impact

As expected, the Port of Los Angeles is a major economic factor at the local, regional and national levels. It is also one of Southern California’s leading employment, commercial and tourism creators. In California, nearly one million jobs are associated with trade through the harbor. It is estimated that one in nine jobs in the Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura counties is linked to the San Pedro Bayport Complex, a port in Los Angeles and Long Beach. In addition, the complex creates nearly 3 million American jobs, which has a national economic impact.

Freight entering the port accounts for about 20% of all cargo entering the United States. The port’s largest imports in 2019 were “furniture, auto parts, apparel, footwear and electronics.” That year, the port’s largest exports were “waste paper, pet and animal feed, scrap metal and soybeans.” The major trading partners of the port in the same year were “China / Hong Kong, Japan, Vietnam, South Korea and Taiwan”.

The port is self-funded by income from transportation services and leasing charges for the port’s assets. The port has an AA bond rating. This is the highest rating given to ports that do not have tax authorities.

A harbor police patrol boat passes through a huge sign on the side of the harbor building. (Photo: Los Angeles Harbor)
A harbor police patrol boat passes through a huge sign on the side of the harbor building. (Photo: Los Angeles Harbor)

Facts and numbers

The Port of Los Angeles covers 7,500 acres (4,300 acres of land and 3,200 acres of water). It has a 43-mile waterfront. The depth of the main channel of the harbor is 53 feet. It can handle the world’s largest container ship.

Port facilities include 9 container terminals, an automobile terminal, 2 break bulk cargo terminals, 2 dry bulk terminals, 7 liquid bulk terminals and 2 passenger terminals. A container crane from 82 ships to the shore. 116 miles on-dock rail and 6 depots.

All container terminals are equipped with Panamax cranes and post-Panamax cranes.

The lighthouse marks the entrance to San Pedro Bay and the Port of Los Angeles. The Maersk container ship passes by. (Photo: Los Angeles Harbor)
The lighthouse marks the entrance to San Pedro Bay and the Port of Los Angeles. The Maersk container ship passes by.
(Photo: Los Angeles Harbor)

Los Angeles Harbor today

The Port of Los Angeles is a major gateway to trade between the United States and Asia (especially China, Japan and South Korea). The port and its supply chain partners provide effective cargo transportation using state-of-the-art maritime terminal facilities capable of accommodating the world’s largest vessels. The workforce of skilled coastal workers. Warehouse and transshipment center. Large and new Drage Fleet. A railroad facility that provides quick market access to major US freight hubs.



https://www.freightwaves.com/news/freightwaves-classics-port-of-los-angeles-is-the-nations-busiest FreightWaves Classics: Los Angeles Harbor is the busiest port in the country!

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