LA WATCHDOG-The Port of Los Angeles is in desperate need of new management, starting with the five Harbor Commissioners, the Executive Director, and other members of the politicized senior management team. 

For the first eight months of 2013, imports of fully loaded containers are off by 6% while exports are down 11%.  This downward trend will mostly likely continue as ports in Canada and Mexico expand and improve their operations and efficiency.

This trend will only be exacerbated when Panama completes the widening of the Canal in 2014, allowing Asian manufacturers direct access to the large population centers serviced by ports on the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Ocean. 

The Port is also considered an unreliable partner.  In the past, our high cost and inefficient port has been shut down because of work stoppages that caused major problems for retailers during their peak Christmas shopping season, resulting in billions of lost sales. 

The Port has a business unfriendly reputation in the shipping industry, ranging from retailers to shipping companies to the trucking industry.  For example, Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest importer by far that has been blackballed by the City of Los Angeles, has diverted most of its traffic to other ports around the country.  Maersk Lines, the world’s largest shipping company, has invested up to $300 million to expand its operations in Mexico as a result of its frustration with our Port, its management, and their policies.  And the trucking industry is still smarting over its protracted legal battle with the Port over the “company employee” provision of the Clean Truck Program. 

The Port has also been a dumping ground for politically connected City employees. Over the past decade, the number of employees at the Port has increased by about two-thirds while volumes of loaded imports have essentially remained flat.  Furthermore, the number of political appointees in the executive ranks has tripled, costing millions, while at the same time, replacing hard working employees who had an excellent understanding of the Port’s operations and good working relationships with the Port’s major tenants. 

There are numerous brush fires at the Port which, when taken as a whole, indicate a failure of management.  

We have recently heard about the multimillion dollar cost over run on the Angelena II, the Port’s 72 foot yacht that is used for public relations.  There are the plush executive offices that cost millions.  There is extensive last minute travel and the very expensive hosting of the conference for the International Association of Ports and Harbors in Downtown LA.  There are numerous below market leases and over the top community benefits to please the political establishment.  And do not forget the failed investments in Balgon and Vision Industries. 

The Port is too important to the economy of Southern California and the City of Los Angeles to be left in the hands of political hacks and quacks. 

If Mayor Eric Garcetti is serious about reforming how government works in LA, the place to start is with the Port of Los Angeles.  We need five independent Harbor Commissioners that have the expertise and experience to understand this very competitive industry that is both capital and labor intensive, to help mend the relationships with shipping community, and to provide guidance to the new Executive Director. 

We also need a new General Manager for the country’s largest port that has the respect of the nation’s retailers and the shipping community, is willing to tackle the problems facing the Port in this era of significant change, and has the wherewithal to implement change, even if it annoys City Hall and its cronies. 

Eric, the ball is in your court. 

(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee,  the Ratepayer Advocate for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, and a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. Humphreville is the publisher of the Recycler Classifieds -- He can be reached at:  [email protected]. Hear Jack every Tuesday morning at 6:20 on McIntyre in the Morning, KABC Radio 790.) 





Vol 11 Issue 78

Pub: Sept 27, 2013