Source: adapted from M. Rahimi, A. Asef-Vaziri and R. Harrison (2008) “An Inland Port Location-Allocation Model for a Regional Intermodal Goods Movement System”, Maritime Economics & Logistics, Vol. 10, No. 4, pp. 362-379.
The challenges of connecting a port to its hinterland are particularly acute for large gateways such as the Los Angeles / Long Beach port cluster. About 68% of the traffic is bound to long-distance inland locations. In particular, local congestion and constraints for infrastructure expansion incite mitigation strategies that must consider where the cargo is bound to, but also its logistics. For Los Angeles and Long Beach, there are two main options in the routing of inland flows:
- Rail option. Maritime containers are brought to an intermodal railyard and placed on a unit train. This can be done directly within the maritime terminal where containers are brought to an on-dock rail yard. Alternatively, maritime containers can be drayed to a near dock or and off-dock rail yard. The containers thus enter the local road system with the ensuing externalities (noise, particulates). To mitigate this issue, the Alameda corridor, a 20 miles (32 km) rail corridor linking the port cluster to the major rail yards of BNSF and UP near downtown, was opened in 2002.
- Transloading option. Mainly because of container leasing agreements and a larger inland transportation load unit in North America (the 53-foot domestic container) a significant amount of transloading activity takes place in the vicinity of the port cluster. Maritime containers are brought to a distribution center (transload center) where the contents of three maritime containers are transloaded into two domestic containers. The maritime containers are then brought back to the port terminals. The domestic containers can either be trucked to their final destination or brought to a rail terminal to be loaded for an inland bound train (e.g. Kansas City or Chicago). In 2009, about 45% of the containers imported through Los Angeles / Long Beach were transloaded into domestic containers.