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游 德 強

Representative Office - Greater China

United Transportation (HK) Ltd.
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Tel.: (852) 2881-5900
Fax.: (852) 2890-1396

Edward T. Yau
Representative - Greater China



Port director describes challenges ahead

Press-Telegram 03/03/2008

Richard Steinke has been the executive director of the Port of Long Beach since 1997. During that time, trade volumes have nearly doubled, presenting significant challenges with air pollution, truck and train congestion, labor shortages and quality-of-life impacts on neighboring communities.

At the same time, port growth has fueled a wave of new jobs that have helped offset losses in the local aerospace and manufacturing industries.

Steinke sat down with staff writer Kristopher Hanson to discuss challenges and opportunities in the year ahead.

Q uestion: Port-generated pollution and its impact on public health is a well-documented problem. Can the community trust the port to dramatically reduce pollution even as cargo volumes are expected to double or triple in coming years?

Answer: We've demonstrated that we're serious about that. The things we've demonstrated through our green port policy or the Clean Air Action Plan, to look at the numbers and realize we're putting our money where our mouth is. It's not just lip service, where we're saying something and doing something else. If we're able to execute the Clean Trucks Program and execute other points of the Clean Air Action Plan, we'll be able to handle more volume in an environmentally responsible way and seriously cut emissions. We're never going to get anything done if we don't implement some aggressive environmental programs. That's just the reality, and I think people underestimate the resolve."

Q: What is the port doing to promote labor peace on the waterfront as the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Pacific Maritime Association prepare to begin negotiations?

A: Our role is to try and act as a facilitator. We have forums where we meet regularly with the ILWU about different projects we have and things that are happening. There's good dialogue. Neither side wants us at the table nor do I think we should be, but what we try to do is provide information to both sides that they can use to help them in their negotiations.

Q: The port has taken a lot of hits from shippers, retailers, truckers and others upset with various provision in the Clean Air Action Plan, including container fees. How has the business community reacted to CAAP?

A: Part of the question people have is `Does it ever end, and do we keep raising the bar?' Those are legitimate questions. But everybody's got to look at the greater good here, and if we don't, we're missing the point. We're not trying to be too onerous on business so they can't operate here.

I think the enlightened customers - whether shipping lines or retailers or truckers - they realize we can't maintain the status quo and accomplish goals. That creates some pain and some uncomfortableness, but if people realize that we have to take some fairly dramatic steps different from what we've done in the past to move forward, then they will benefit."

Q: On that topic, what is the port doing to attract customers or win others back at a time of such uncertainty?

A: Again, it's the big picture. If we're able to move forward with our rail master plan, with elements of that in various terminal projects, then you're going to see much more fluidity, and that benefits everybody. You're going to move cargo more quickly and efficiently, and that can help with costs and time. We're trying to reach out through meetings and talks with our customers to give them the long view of things.

Q: What are the chances of a terminal project getting approved this year?

A: I'm optimistic that with the adoption of the Clean Truck program, and the mitigation measure on the part of the environmental impact reports, we will be able to get a document certified that will pass muster and pass appeals.

I really feel that we've made some tremendous strides in looking at the environmental impacts and recognizing what the requirements of a prospective tenant are going to be in the future. We've taken such a huge quantum leap from where we were in previous EIR approvals. I'm confident something will happen sooner rather than later.