Port and city officials have called for expediting planned upgrades at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to stave off the threat of losing cargo traffic when the $5.25-billion Panama Canal expansion is completed next year.
At a hearing Friday at Los Angeles City Hall, state officials heard testimony from trade economists, shipping line representatives and labor groups on how the state can promote the ports so they keep their share of U.S. cargo traffic, which harbors on the East and Gulf coasts are eager to lure away.
The two seaports, the largest in the U.S., currently receive about 40% of the nation's cargo traffic.
But as construction nears completion on two new Panama Canal locks that will be able to accommodate massive cargo vessels, Southern California officials are increasingly worried about the effect on the state economy — namely the loss of logistics jobs. An estimated 640,000 people work in trade-related jobs in Southern California.
A coalition of labor, business and government estimates that the ports could lose up to 25% of their cargo traffic when the canal upgrade is completed. Trade economists, however, say it's too early to make any reliable estimates on the economic effect on the state.
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