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Port of L.A. to lose 3 cargo lines

August 24, 2007|Ronald D. White | Times Staff Writer

A terminal operator at the Port of Los Angeles will lose three customers that move about $40 million in cargo each year when those shipping lines shift their business to the neighboring Port of Long Beach in November, officials said Thursday.

The decision represents a loss for TraPac terminal and the Port of Los Angeles. The three companies, all based in Asia, send 12,000 cargo containers a month through the terminal, and the ports gain $75 in income from each container.

The three shipping lines said they grew tired of waiting for a long-planned expansion of TraPac, which sits in the cramped West Basin section of the port. The terminal, with a 1,000-foot-long dock, is unable to handle the largest cargo ships.

Approving any major project at the two ports can grind on for years because of concerns about pollution and traffic.

The Los Angeles port is conducting a complicated environmental review to decide on the best options for TraPac, most of which involve expanding its capabilities. But that effort is still in the public comment stage, an early step in the review that ends Sept. 26.

The three companies "have no choice but to leave TraPac" because they need to make their operations more efficient, according to a recent letter from Sinotrans Container Lines of Shanghai, Norasia Lines of Hong Kong and Wan Hai Lines of Taipei, Taiwan.

Representatives of the shipping lines couldn't be reached for comment. Their last ship will dock at TraPac on Nov. 8.

TraPac's problems became clear in 2003, when the world's third-biggest shipping line, CMA-CGM of France, asked whether the terminal would be able to handle its new generation of 8,000-plus container ships.

"We had to say no. If we had 200 more feet of wharf, we could have handled it," said Frank Pisano, vice president of TraPac Inc.

CMA-CGM went to Long Beach instead.

Pisano said he had hoped the port would join him in creating a package of financial incentives that might stave off the switch. But the Port of Los Angeles, which grossed $368.8 million from its leases in fiscal 2005, indicated that it was moving as fast as possible.

"We hope to have this project before our Board of Harbor Commissioners for action by the year's end," Executive Director Geraldine Knatz said.

TraPac's Pisano said he was hoping for the best.

"We're going to have to sit it out and wait," he said, "and try to win some business back."

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ron.white@latimes.com

Times staff writer David Zahniser contributed to this report.

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