Port leaders predict lasting change in retail and trade at annual address

In this Sept. 16, 2020, file photo, Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach, speaks to the media at the top of the new bridge. Photo by Thomas R. Cordoba.

Officials pointed to many of the Port of Long Beach’s accomplishments during the coronavirus pandemic — from the rebound in cargo volumes that ended up breaking all-time records, to massive infrastructure projects like the completion of the Gerald Desmond Replacement Bridge. — during the annual State of the Harbor Speech Thursday morning.

While 2021 will likely be a year of recovery, Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero predicted that it won’t necessarily be a return to the world as we knew it. “We know the pandemic will leave a lasting impact on the port,” he said. “Just as 9/11 impacted our security preparedness, COVID-19 will transform public health.”

Looking to the future, Cordero predicted one aspect of that lasting impact: a continued explosion of e-commerce that contributed to increased cargo volumes at the Port of Long Beach late last year.

“The economic calamity of the past year is certain to change many American industries, especially retail,” Cordero said.

One company, Amazon, has become synonymous with this change. “Clearly the Amazon world is here now,” Cordero said. “At Port, we must face the future with an Amazon mindset, focused on efficiency, predictability and reliability.”

Throughout the crisis, the port continued to build new infrastructure and port workers moved record amounts of cargo. With 8,113,315 twenty-foot equivalent units moved, 2020 became the busiest year on record for the port.

“If there was ever a question about the importance of the supply chain, we certainly know the answer,” Cordero said, while reiterating a call to vaccinate port workers as soon as possible. “This year, we have proven that seaports are essential to the health of our nation and economy.”

How these seaports, including the Port of Long Beach, will fare in global competition in the future depends in part on the country’s foreign trade policy, Cordero said, which is likely to change under the President Joe Biden.

“It is also an opportunity to come together to reassess the trade and tariff policies of this country,” Cordero said in reference to the new presidential administration.

Cordero touched on Biden’s call for unity before adding his summary of a tumultuous year.

“Over the past year, we have seen division, civil unrest, racial tension, economic uncertainty and a global pandemic. Life, as we knew it, has changed dramatically,” Cordero said. “But hope is on the horizon.”


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