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Port of Los Angeles

Aerial of Port of Los Angeles [image source: Port of Los Angeles]
Aerial of Port of Los Angeles [image source: Port of Los Angeles]
Pier 300 Channel -- Port of Los Angeles [image source: Port of Los Angeles]
Pier 300 Channel — Port of Los Angeles [image source: Port of Los Angeles]
Harbor Light -- Port of Los Angeles [image source: Port of Los Angeles]
Harbor Light — Port of Los Angeles [image source: Port of Los Angeles]
Maersk Evora -- Port of Los Angeles [image source: Port of Los Angeles]
Maersk Evora — Port of Los Angeles [image source: Port of Los Angeles]

A Profile of the Port of Los Angeles

As America’s premier port and an undisputed center for global trade, the Port of Los Angeles is the key to Southern California’s economic dominance. With far-sighted strategic planning, the Port sets the standard for excellence and financial stability, thus ensuring its role in the vital world trade industry.

The Port’s stature also carries with it responsibility for leadership in achieving enhancements in security, environmental responsibility, operational efficiency and community outreach. All of these initiatives, tied with painstaking dedication to customer satisfaction, are high priorities for the Port.

A proprietary department of the City of Los Angeles, the Port is not tax supported. Instead, its revenue is derived from fees from a variety of shipping services. The Port’s strong financial performance has been recognized with a AA+ bond rating – the highest credit rating assigned to any U.S. seaport operating without taxpayer support.

A landlord port, the Port of Los Angeles leases its property to customers who operate diverse facilities. With 27 major cargo terminals, including eight container facilities, the Port is well positioned to handle all types of domestic and international cargo.

More than 95 percent of all goods entering the United States arrive by waterborne transportation, and the Port of Los Angeles provides a major gateway for international goods and services. Some 180 million metric revenue tons, valued at more than $205 billion, annually pass over the wharves of the Port of Los Angeles. It is estimated that Port operations impact one out of every 24 jobs in the region, or $1 out of every $23 in regional wages.

Cargo volume is expected to dramatically increase in response to the demands of this growing regional marketplace of 17.5 million people, and the Port is enhancing its facilities to further improve operational efficiency while meeting the needs of customers, shippers, consumers and manufacturers. Currently the number one container port in the United States, the Port handled 8.5 million TEUs in 2006 and in 2020, the Port moved 9.2 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs), sustaining its top rank among U.S. ports. When the Port of Los Angeles combines its container throughput with the neighboring Port of Long Beach, the two-port San Pedro Bay complex ranks number five in the world.

Community enhancements are also at the top of the Port’s list. The San Pedro Waterfront Enhancement Project is a long-term plan to develop 400 acres of Port property along the eight-mile stretch of waterfront from the Vincent Thomas Bridge to the Federal Breakwater. The plan provides public access to the water’s edge, links the waterfront to the community, creates new harbors and marinas and the infrastructure for future growth. The Port has also developed a master plan for the Wilmington Waterfront that includes development of more than 90 acres along the Avalon Corridor between Harry Bridges Boulevard and C Street, a public park at Avalon and Harry Bridges Boulevards, enhanced waterfront access from Banning’s Landing Community Center, and redevelopment opportunities for the Wilmington community.

By complementing its busy terminal operations with green alternatives, the Port of Los Angeles remains on the forefront for environmental stewardship, unprecedented growth and economic drive. These contributions continue to make the Port of Los Angeles a balanced, flourishing organization that continues to give its customers a distinct, competitive advantage in international trade.

Cruise Terminals

The Port of Los Angeles is home to the World Cruise Center, one of the busiest cruise terminals on the United States West Coast. From its origins in the 1950s as the Matson Navigation Company Cruise Terminal in Wilmington, the Port of Los Angeles has served as a focal point for travelers looking to relax on an ocean journey. Originally, the Matson Navigation terminal serviced cruises between Hawaii and Los Angeles, and passengers would travel on the same ships as cargo.

In recent years, the terminal has undergone major renovations to include upscale modern amenities and is now located in San Pedro. Over 1 million passengers travel to and from the Port of Los Angeles World Cruise Center each year to reach exotic destinations around the world.

Home of “The Love Boat” television series from 1977 to 1986, the World Cruise Center is the premier pleasure cruise gateway for Los Angeles and Southern California. The cruise terminal’s $15 million renovation brought the Port of Los Angeles to the forefront of cruise terminal amenities with its ability to handle the world’s largest cruise ships carrying over 3,000 passengers with streamlined luggage handling and customs and immigration servicing. The facility upgrades have also supported the World Cruise Center’s role as a national model for enhanced security at the passenger complex.

Ports O’ Call Village

Ports O’ Call Village, 1200 Nagoya Way, San Pedro, CA 90731
Los Angeles’ New England-style seaside village, established 1963, Ports O’ Call Village, is located alongside ‘Main Channels’ in the harbor in San Pedro. It’s starting point for guided harbor tours, and encompasses 15 acres of shops, restaurants and attractions. A promenade of cobblestone streets connects the specialty shops.
Directions from Harbor Freeway: take 110 South (Harbor Freeway) and exit at Exit 47 Vincent Thomas Bridge/Harbor Boulevard.
Turn right onto Harbor Boulevard. Then turn left at 6th Street and immediately right onto Sampson Way.

History of the Port of Los Angeles

Port of Los Angeles, History [image source: Port of Los Angeles]
Port of Los Angeles, History [image source: Port of Los Angeles]

The first official documentation of the harbor was by Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. On October 8, 1542, Cabrillo came across a marshland and natural harbor at the northwest end of San Pedro Bay and named the area Bahia de Los Fumas or “Bay of Smokes” after the smoke that rose from the nearby hillside of Native American hunters. This fairly desolate area remained largely intact until 1769, when Spanish officials and missionaries set their sights on colonizing the U.S. West Coast. This led to the first commercial ventures in San Pedro in the mid-1800s. The rest, as they say, is history.

The harbor in San Pedro was used as a trading post by Spanish missionary monks from Mission San Gabriel Arcángel. The monks met ships at the water’s edge with provisions from Spain. The first American trading ship to call at San Pedro was the Lelia Bryd in 1805. At that time, it was illegal to conduct business with any other country but Spain. Because of the distance and loose regulations, however, trade with other countries thrived. In 1822 an independent Mexican government lifted the Spanish restrictions on trade. That led to a surge of settlement and commercial ventures in San Pedro. By the time California joined in the Union, in 1848, business in San Pedro harbor was flourishing.

A host of politicians, businessmen and community visionaries are responsible for San Pedro Bay fulfilling its ultimate destiny of becoming the largest cargo gateway into North America . One such visionary was Phineas Banning, who founded Wilmington and was nicknamed the “Father of Los Angeles Harbor.” His entrepreneurialism and influence positioned the Port for future success as the maritime and trade center for a rapidly growing west coast city.

Another person to play an important role in the development of San Pedro Bay was Stephen M. White, also called the “Savior of the Bay.” White, a senator from California, stood up to big business and political forces, pushing through regulation that led Congress to declare San Pedro Bay as the official port for Los Angeles in 1897.

A Harbor is Born

The City of Los Angeles and the Harbor Area experienced unparalleled population growth in the early 20th century. City leaders recognized the Port’s growth opportunities and created the Board of Harbor Commissioners on December 9, 1907, thus marking the official founding of the Port of Los Angeles. The cities of San Pedro and Wilmington were annexed to the City of Los Angeles on August 28, 1909, making the Port of Los Angeles an official department of the City of Los Angeles.

Various industries began popping up in and around the Port in the early 1900s. Fishing, canneries, oil drilling and shipbuilding were major industries that generated jobs and commerce to Los Angeles and its growing population. Because of increased business activities at the Port, it was extremely important for city officials to focus on port infrastructure and future development.

By 1912, dredging and widening the main channel, and completing major sections of the federal breakwater, enabled the Port to accommodate larger vessels. These expansions proved effective once the Panama Canal opened in 1914, giving the Port of Los Angeles a unique strategic position for international trade and a clear advantage over northern West Coast ports as a destination point for east-to-west seaborne trade because of its proximity to the Panama Canal.

Wartime Efforts

The Port’s growth came to a standstill with the onset of World War II. The United States military commissioned the Port to conduct only war-time efforts, and the Port did so with diligence and success. Shipbuilding became the prime economic industry at the Port. Every boat repair and shipbuilding company assisted in the construction, conversion and repair of vessels for the war effort. San Pedro Bay shipyards collectively employed more than 90,000 workers and produced thousands of war-time vessels at record pace.

After the victory of World War II, Port of Los Angeles officials again began focusing their attention to the continued expansion and development of the Port.

Post-War Growth

Up until the mid-20th century, the Port received cargo in crates, pallets, and small lots of varying sizes and shapes. Because of the lack of uniformity and security, unloading cargo was painstakingly slow and the frequency of damage, pilferage and loss of cargo was high. Providing a better solution, the containerized cargo revolution came to the Port in the late 1950s.

Containers can easily be loaded, sealed and shipped on vessels, railroad cars , and trucks . Almost every manufactured product or its components are shipped in a container. Containerization is an important element of the innovations in logistics and security that propelled the Port of Los Angeles to critical national importance.

The Port Today

The Port of Los Angeles is the number one port by container volume and cargo value in the United States, handling a record-breaking 8.5 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) first in 2006 and in 2020, the Port moved 9.2 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs), sustaining its top rank among U.S. ports. The Port prides itself on ultra-modern terminal efficiency, robust intermodal assets, and its world-class security operations which include Homeland Security operations and the nation’s largest dedicated port police force.

The Port also is an environmental leader in the industry. In late 2006, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach created the San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan. This historic plan aims to reduce emissions from port-related operations by nearly 50 percent over five years. The Port of Los Angeles is also investing in world-class waterfront development aimed at the San Pedro and Wilmington communities. In addition, the Port donates thousands of dollars a year for local community programs.

Today, the Port generates ca. 1+ million regional jobs. A proprietary department of the City of Los Angeles, the Port is self-supporting and does not receive taxpayer dollars. At the Port of Los Angeles, high priority is placed on responsible and sustainable growth initiatives, combined with high security, environmental stewardship and community outreach.

A Timeline of Landmarks and Milestones

1542: Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo discovers the “Bay of Smokes.” Little did he know that the desolate tidal flats would be transformed into one of the busiest and most successful manmade harbors in the world. Tidal flats and marshes remained pristine for more than 200 years largely because Europe was concentrating its New World colonization on America’s East Coast.

1857: Wilmingtonis founded by Phineas Banning, “Father of the Los Angeles Harbor,” and named after his hometown in Delaware. Wilmington became annexed to the City of Los Angeles in 1906 and officially joined the City of Los Angeles in 1909.

1907: Port of Los Angeles is officially founded with the creation of the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners.

1911-12: First 8500-foot section of the breakwater is completed with rocks quarried from Catalina Island. The Main Channel is widened to 800 feet and dredged to -30 feet. Southern Pacific Railroad completes its first major wharf in San Pedro.

1913: Angels Gate Lighthouse is built on the east end of the breakwater. It stands 73-feet high and over the years has endured a raging five-day storm, mountainous waves and an errant steamship that struck the jetty below. Besides a slight tilt, the lighthouse has survived this type of treacherous weather and accidents unscathed. The lighthouse was automated in 1973, thus eliminating the need for keepers. Mariners entering Angels Gate are guided by the lighthouse’s rotating green light, the only green light in a lighthouse along the West Coast.

1914: Panama Canal opens. As the nearest major American port northwest of the Panama Canal, the Port of Los Angeles becomes the natural port-of-call for most transpacific and coastal users.

1932: Cabrillo Beach Bathhouse opens. The Cabrillo Beach Bathhouse is a fixture in the San Pedro community. In the days before everyone had automobiles, people from the inner city would travel to the beach by Pacific Electric Red Car and patronize the Bathhouse, where they could pick up a swimsuit and a towel for a 10-cent rental fee and enjoy a day at the beach.

1945: The Fishermen’s Fiesta is held shortly after the end of World War II and saluted the largest fishing industry in the nation at the time. It drew such crowds that by the 1950s it rivaled the Tournament of the Roses Parade as an annual attraction. It eventually became so large, commercial and unmanageable that it was cancelled twice, but revived in 1981 on a much smaller scale. It has since been discontinued.

1961: Ports O’ Call Restaurant opens alongside the Main Channel, the first unit in what would become a picturesque village complex of shops and restaurants.

1963: Ports O’ Call Village, Los Angeles’ New England-style fishing village, opens along the Main Channel as a unique seaside plaza featuring souvenir and gift shops, along with popular and one-of-a-kind restaurants, tempting sweetshops, fish markets and quick-bite eateries.

1963: Vincent Thomas Bridge, the third largest suspension bridge in California opens. The four-lane toll bridge connects San Pedro to Terminal Island. The bridge is named after Assemblyman Vincent Thomas in recognition of his dedicated work for passing legislation that enabled the development of the bridge.

1980: The Los Angeles Maritime Museum opens at what was formerly a municipal ferry building which closed after the Vincent Thomas Bridge was built.

1981: Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, an educational, recreational, and research facility promoting knowledge and conservation of the marine life of Southern California, expands and moves to its current facility at Cabrillo Beach.

1983: Port completes dredging of the Main Channel to -45 feet to accommodate larger ships.

1985: Port handles 1 million TEUs in a year for the first time. Four years later, container traffic exceeded 2 million TEUs.

1986: Port opens the Intermodal Container Transfer Facility, an on-dock rail facility, providing for the rapid transfer of containers from the Port’s marine terminals to trains and out to the rest of the country.

1994: Dredging for Piers 300/400 begins, the largest capital improvement undertaking of any U.S. seaport, and the Port’s most ambitious development project since its founding.

1996: The Los Angeles City Council designates the Vincent Thomas Bridge as the City’s Official Welcoming Monument.

2002: The world’s largest proprietary container terminal, Pier 400 opens at the Port. Pier 400 is a nearly 500-acre complex, with a 40-acre on-dock rail facility containing 12 loading tracks, each capable of handling 8 rail cars.

2005: The Vincent Thomas Bridge officially lights up the harbor with its new and distinctive blue LED lights. Hundreds gathered on January 30 to witness the inaugural lighting of the Vincent Thomas Bridge.

2006: The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach jointly release the San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan. This historic plan aims to reduce emissions from port operations by 50 percent over five years.

2007: The Port of Los Angeles celebrates its Centennial Anniversary!

In 2020, the Port moved 9.2 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs), sustaining its top rank among U.S. ports.

Web: The Port of Los Angeles: America’s Port® | Port of Los Angeles

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