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Shippers Tour Port to See How It's Done

August 19, 1994|JOHN O'DELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

With international trade becoming an increasingly important part of Orange County's economy, a group of local business people in the export-import industry took a field trip this week to see just how their goods are sent and received.

About 30 people from companies as big as Armor All Products Corp. in Irvine and as small as Hadcat International in Huntington Beach toured the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro as part of an ongoing trade education program by the World Affairs Center Assn. of Orange County.

Most goods shipped locally come and go in huge metal boxes--20- or 40-foot-long containers that are loaded at the factory, trucked or carried by rail to the port, then stacked on huge container ships by cranes that can lift 60 tons at a time and stand almost 200 feet high.

Containerized cargo has revolutionized the shipping industry, making it possible to carry more goods in fewer ships than ever before. The process also involves fewer personnel than conventional shipping. In less than two days, a team of about 60 crane operators, stevedores and others can load or unload one of the 903-foot C-10 cargo vessels that sail from the Port of Los Angeles for American President Lines.

The ship, operated by a crew of 21, can be artfully packed with as many as 4,300 of the smallest containers--which measure 8 feet square by 20 feet long--and can carry more than 40,000 tons of mixed cargo. A complicated computer program keeps track of each container, its contents and weight, and figures out the proper loading and stacking sequence to keep the ship from listing and to make sure containers with dangerously incompatible cargoes are not stored side by side.

Brenda Haddix, owner of Hadcat in Huntington Beach, called the port tour invaluable. The year-old company, whose only other employee is marketing director Doug Ducat, is intent on marketing U.S.-made goods overseas. Haddix said she and Ducat took the tour "to learn everything we can about the shipping end of the business."

Part of the tour was a talk by American President Lines representatives who urged local companies to use domestic shipping lines to transport their goods. Of the several hundred shipping companies in the world, only 16 are based in the United States, the company said. And those companies carried just 4% of the more than 850 million tons of freight moved by ship from the United States in 1992.

Of six cargo container terminals at the Port of Los Angeles, just two are operated by domestic shipping companies: Oakland-based American President Lines and Matson Navigation Co. of San Francisco.

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