Port of Los Angeles Makes History Once Again
LOS ANGELES, CA The Port of Los Angeles welcomes the largest container ship ever to call at a North American seaport. The vessel, the CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin, is built to carry nearly 18,000, 20-foot Equivalent Units (TEUs or 20-foot containers); that's about a third more cargo than any container ship currently calling in San Pedro Bay or other U.S. ports. CMA CGM named the vessel in honor of one of the United States' founding fathers, and are honored that they chose Los Angeles as the Benjamin Franklin's first U.S. port of call.
For the Port of Los Angeles, the arrival of the Benjamin Franklin says that the nation's number one gateway for containerized trade is preparing for a new era of international trade; but it also sends a powerful message to the nation as a whole about what it will take for our nation to compete in the global economy.
Trade activity through America's ports supports more than 23 million jobs and generates more than $321 billion in tax revenue. Valued at more than $4.6 trillion, international trade through seaports accounts for about one-quarter of the U.S. economy. Seaports - together with roads, railways, and distribution centers - form a complex, multi-modal system that links American businesses and consumers to global markets.
Maintaining and modernizing the entire freight transportation network is vital to American competitiveness.
Few things deliver this message home like the sight of the Benjamin Franklin. More mega or ultra large, environmentally friendly container vessels like it are entering the world fleet, simultaneously setting the stage for greater economic opportunity while casting an unfiltered spotlight on the adequacy of our freight system. Keeping up with these new realities requires dedicated attention to enhancing the capacity and efficiency of our nation's freight system.
The United States' key gateways need to make necessary infrastructure investments to accommodate these vessels, and the domestic freight system that connects ports to destinations across the U.S. must be able to handle the stronger flow and volume of cargo.
Fortunately, the recent Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act provides dedicated funding for freight infrastructure, including multi-modal infrastructure. This funding is critically important, as we at the Port of Los Angeles will readily attest.
Funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has helped to keep up with a rapidly evolving maritime industry. In early 2015, the Port of Los Angeles opened a new $160 million on-dock rail facility, the Berth 200 Rail Yard, which would not have happened without Federal investment.
DOT also contributed funds to key roadway projects to improve critical junctures between surface streets and the Harbor I-110 Freeway. Due to be completed in 2016, these projects make our streets and freeways safer and more efficient for both commercial and commuter traffic.
Additionally, investment in information technology to optimize goods movement across the supply chain is only growing in importance. Funding from DOT's Dynamic Mobility Applications program is advancing smart transportation solutions currently in test at the Port of Los Angeles, which alone moves more than $290 billion of cargo annually and supports upward of 1.7 million jobs across the U.S.
However, new and dedicated sources of funding must be coupled with comprehensive and integrated freight policy and planning. DOT's draft National Freight Strategic Plan and the forthcoming National Maritime Strategy establish a valuable framework for addressing the challenges to our nation's freight readiness, including the challenge of being mega-ship ready. Similarly, the Department of Commerce's Advisory Committee on Supply Chain Competitiveness has provided a venue for system users to provide advice on enhancing supply chain efficiency.
Having just seen --through the Benjamin Franklin-- all that the future of seaborne cargo carries in its holds for us, we welcome these efforts.
While the arrival of the Benjamin Franklin reflects CMA CGM's assessment of the transpacific trade's long-term growth potential, it also reflects their trust and faith that the U.S. will keep up with this ever-changing industry. As we enter 2016 and the new era of mega-ships, the Port of Los Angeles looks forward to welcoming more of these vessels and collaborating with industry, labor, community, and government partners to ensure this faith and trust is well placed and that international trade through port gateways delivers opportunity and prosperity to all.