There is a general assumption that ports are massive facilities that manage very large volumes of freight. And in some cases, this is accurate; California does in fact have three of the busiest container ports in the nation.
In addition to the large container ports of Oakland, Long Beach, and Los Angeles, however, California is also blessed with eight niche ports which provide invaluable local, regional and state-wide benefits.
The Senate Select Committee on Ports and Goods Movement held a hearing on July 10th, hosted by the Port of San Diego, focused on raising awareness of California’s niche ports. Committee Chair, Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Long Beach), was joined by Senators Connie Leyva (D-Chino), Tony Mendoza (D-Montebello), Ben Hueso (D-Chula Vista), and Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), as representatives from the maritime community, including the California Association of Port Authorities (CAPA), and representatives of several of California’s niche ports, discussed market conditions and trends, facilities and activities at niche ports, and key opportunities for strategic growth and innovation.
Randa Coniglio, the newly appointed first female President and Chief Executive Officer of the Port of San Diego, hosted the hearing and provided insight on various roles her port serves in the break-bulk, produce, automobile, and project cargo markets. The Port of San Diego is also one of the premier international cruise ship ports, serving Disney, Norwegian, Princess and Holland America cruise lines. Cruise ships and their passengers provide significant benefit to the local and regional economy as tourists explore the region, shop in local businesses, and stay in hotels before and after cruises.
The Port of Hueneme was represented by Director of Business Development, Dona Toteva Lacayo, who described her port as a self-supporting entity which enforces the principles of sound public stewardship while maximizing the potential for maritime-related commerce and regional economic benefit. Activity at the Port of Hueneme generates $1.1 billion in total economic benefit, over 10,000 related jobs, and some $69 million in state and local taxes annually. The Port is currently enjoying a significant increase in ocean freight line business with the majority of cargo consisting of automobiles, fertilizer, and the port’s signature import, bananas.
Peter Dailey, Deputy Director of the Maritime Division, was on hand to provide insight on the world famous 700 acre, almost 8 mile long Port of San Francisco. Well known as a tourist attraction, the Gold Rush founded port serves as the landlord to 21.1 million square feet of retail, office, and industrial space, while also providing 23 active ship berths, extensive ferry services, and more than 1,100 recreational boating and commercial fishing slips. Freight operations at the Port include bulk cargo, aggregate, steel, break-bulk and project cargoes.
California ports serve many functions, some less evident than others, and the Select Committee’s hearing on Strengthening California’s Niche Ports served to raise awareness of the important role California’s niche ports play in serving local communities and driving regional and statewide economic development.