On March 11, Long Beach Container Terminal (LBCT) will open the gates to the future at the Port of Long Beach.
That morning, LBCT will begin processing empty containers at Pier E, the first stage of operations at the world’s greenest, most technologically advanced marine container terminal.
The soft opening kicks off a two-month progression of increasing activity during which LBCT will phase in export deliveries, import pickups and on-dock rail operations at Pier E. By May, the terminal – the first half of a $1.3 billion modernization project known as Middle Harbor – will be fully operational.
“This represents a critical first step in ramping up for full commercial operations at Pier E,” said Port CEO Jon Slangerup. “We’re working closely with LBCT and all our industry partners to ensure a safe, smooth transition.”
Pier E, Middle Harbor and the Port
The March 11 truck activities come on the heels of more than a decade of planning and investment by LBCT, Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL) and the Port to transform two aging marine container terminals into a 304-acre marvel. At full build-out, Middle Harbor will have the capacity to handle 3.3 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) each year. The depth of OOCL’s commitment to the Port is a 40-year, $4.6 billion lease – the largest of its kind for any U.S. seaport – signed in 2012.
When completed, Middle Harbor will have improved water access with 4,250 feet of wharf for working up to three big ships simultaneously, 48,000 feet of track to move up to 35 percent of cargo via on-dock rail, two gate complexes, and 2,250 grounded plugs for refrigerated cargo. State-of-the-art cargo-handling equipment will total 14 dual-hoist Super post-Panamax cranes, 70 automated stacking cranes, 72 automated guided vehicles, five rail mounted gantry cranes, 50 terminal tractors and 250 heavy-duty bomb carts that shuttle containers within the facility.
Over the last six months, LBCT has conducted extensive testing of all the new equipment and operational protocols at Pier E. The terminal has worked closely with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, a key partner in its success.
“LBCT is committed to ushering in this new era the right way,” said LBCT President Anthony Otto. “This includes our investment in all zero-emissions cargo-handling equipment and comprehensive training.”
The massive redevelopment project coincides with the Port’s aggressive capital improvement program – more than $4 billion over a decade – to upgrade marine terminals, roadways, bridges and the rail network throughout the port. The Port’s single largest program is the Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement Project, a $1.5 billion investment involving multiple agencies.
Given Pier E’s proximity to the bridge project (the terminal is southwest of the bridge and Pico Avenue), preparations for opening the new gates have included extensive outreach to ensure the entire supply chain is well versed in the new procedures and truck routes for moving cargo through the terminal, said Duane Kenagy, Capital Programs Senior Executive Lead for the Port.
“With the ongoing bridge construction along the Pico Avenue corridor north of Pier E’s new gates, trucks calling at the terminal will be traveling through a construction zone,” Kenagy said. “Ensuring the trucking community knows where to safely enter and exit the new terminal is a top priority for us all.”
What to Expect
From Day One, 100 percent of all truck transactions at Pier E will be by appointment only. Before trucking companies can make an appointment, they must first register on LBCT’s Trucker Portal, which goes live Feb. 26. The first appointment window opens several days later on March 1. Trucking companies are encouraged to pre-register, create log-ins and begin booking appointments as soon as possible.
The terminal will be paperless. Equipment Interchange Receipts (EIRs) will only be available on LBCT’s Trucker Portal.
Trucks will be able to enter Pier E only by turning left into the terminal from northbound Pico Avenue. The intersection is signalized, and northbound Pico Avenue will have a striped turning lane dedicated to trucks entering the terminal.
Pier E itself has been reconfigured so up to 70 trucks, if necessary, can queue inside the gate. Additionally, the truck-only left-turn lane on northbound Pico Avenue can accommodate a single line of queuing trucks, separating them from other traffic so all vehicles can move through the Pico Avenue corridor safely and efficiently. The Port has created the 4,000-foot truck-only lane to provide backup as a precautionary measure.
Trucks traveling southbound on Pico Avenue are prohibited from turning right to enter the terminal because the turning radius is too tight. Instead, they must continue south and loop around the Pier G petroleum coke barns to enter the dedicated Pier E truck lane on northbound Pico Avenue.
Trucks leaving Pier E will use a separate exit gate and turn right onto Pier D Street. Trucks leaving the terminal will have the right of way, while traffic on Pier D Street in both directions will be controlled by stop signs near the truck exit gate. Due to bridge construction, Pier D curves beneath the bridge to lead back to Pico Avenue where a signalized intersection controls the flow of traffic headed in all directions.
Electronic message boards will help guide traffic, and Port staff will monitor the new routes to determine if adjustments are needed. LBCT and Port engineering, transportation planning, tenant services, communications and security staff collaborated on the measures.Download the Fact Sheet on the Pier E truck lane
“We’ve been working closely to ensure traffic flow is properly handled and there will be minimal impact on gate access to our new terminal,” Otto said.
LBCT and the Port are also conducting extensive outreach to the trucking community serving the port complex. During the last two weeks of February, LBCT representatives held six meetings, including one with the Harbor Trucking Association (HTA), to explain the new appointment and gate systems at Pier E. The Port is also notifying all licensed motor carriers in its Drayage Truck Registry – more than 1,400 businesses operating more than 16,000 drayage trucks – of Pier E’s new entrance and exit routes.
The Port and LBCT are also distributing fliers in English and Spanish with gate access information and a map of the entrance and exit routes. Another vital communications tool is the Port’s free LB Bridge mobile app, which can be downloaded for real-time traffic news, information, photos and videos of all lane closures and detours associated with bridge and nearby construction zones in the harbor.
LBCT deliberately chose a Friday (March 11) to open its gates, giving the terminal operator the weekend if any fine-tuning is needed. The terminal’s off-dock Pier B Street Chassis Yard is expected to open soon afterward at 1402 Pier B St. Operated by Pacific Crane Maintenance Co. (PCMC), the yard will be used for pickup, delivery and maintenance of chassis supporting operations at Pier E.
HTA Executive Director Weston LaBar commended the Port and LBCT for keeping the trucking community informed. “LBCT has also done an outstanding job of educating us about how the new terminal is going to work and the intricacies of moving cargo in and out of Middle Harbor once it opens.”
“As bridge construction continues, the trucking community knows we can expect some temporary disruptions and we need to be patient and not let that get in the way of overall progress,” LaBar said. “It’s a short-term inconvenience for what is going to produce more efficiencies and be a win-win for everyone. I really commend the Port and LBCT for all the time and effort and investment they’ve made to bring a world-class terminal to Long Beach.”
The Next Milestones
LBCT will phase in the remaining operations in two- to three-week intervals. “We can’t emphasize enough that all truck transactions will require appointments,” said LBCT General Manager Eric Gordon, who oversees the terminal’s yard and gate operations.
On March 23, LBCT plans to start receiving export cargo in advance for the first ship call at Pier E.
On April 7, LBCT will begin processing import cargo coinciding with the arrival of the OOCL Miami. The 8,888-TEU vessel will be the first ship worked at Pier E after it opens.
The modern terminal will make dual transactions, inbound and outbound, more convenient. Appointments must be made for both, and outbound and inbound containers must be the same size, Gordon said. “If trucks deliver a 20-foot container and want to do a dual transaction, they have to pick up a 20-footer. Likewise, if they bring in a 40-foot container and want to leave with another, it has to be a 40-footer.”
On-dock rail operations are scheduled to start in May.
What Else to Expect
For now, LBCT continues to operate Pier F as a separate terminal with no appointments. Although some preliminary construction for the final phase of Middle Harbor has begun, Pier F will remain open until 2017 when it will close to finish construction. While Pier F remains open, the off-dock chassis yard at 925 Harbor Plaza will continue to support its operations.
Middle Harbor is scheduled for completion in 2019. By then, the new bridge will also be finished and the old span may even be gone. Truck routes are likely to change again, and Port transportation planners and engineers will continue to develop the most efficient and safe routing with robust outreach.
The intensive preparation to ensure a smooth opening of Pier E is indicative of how closely the Port and all its supply chain partners are working together, Slangerup said. “As our Port of the future takes shape, we continue to collaborate to address every foreseeable detail to optimize the flow of cargo every day.”