Trade experts at last week's "Pulse of the Ports"conference agreed that they are seeing early signs of economic recovery but they also cautioned that lingering unemployment, tight credit and the depressed housing market remain significant challenges that could keep the turnaround muted, protracted and unpredictable.
As I have discussed in other posts, several recent indicators are suggesting that the economy is beginning to rebound. And now, according to panelists at the conference, we can add ports to the growing list of positive signs. The Port of Long Beach, for example, experienced the third straight month of growth in February.
What's more, Peter Peyton, president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63, pointed out that dock workers are already busier compared to the same period last year. Even "casuals," the on-call workers who struggled to find any work during the recession, are slowly returning to the terminals.
In anticipation of the economic upturn, increased competition, stepped-up security and expanded environmental regulations, the Port of Long Beach is investing nearly $3 billion in capital improvements over the next decade. One new initiative, the Port's Clean Trucks Program, already has reduced truck-related pollution by 80 percent in two years, and the redevelopment of Middle Harbor will double capacity of two existing terminals while cutting air pollution in half. (There's a similar clean trucks program at the Port of Oakland.)