A recently completed analysis by Global Logistics Development Partners | GLDPartners details the potential for developing a large-scale inland port district on the US West Coast in California.

Undertaken with participation from the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, various air quality districts, a wide range of the shipper community, local governments and the State of California, the feasibility review analyzes the massive intra-State container market and illustrates the potential for an inland port district that would transfer some cargo from truck to intermodal rail and accelerate the evolution toward clean truck technology.  The concept envisions a clean truck fleet servicing rail intermodal facilities through central and northern California, alongside a long-haul clean truck corridor.

If advanced, the project would effectively create a new logistics paradigm that would have a massive impact to supply chain management practice on the US West Coast and provide a model for elsewhere.  Nothing like this exists anywhere in North America today.

Some key issues and facts from the analysis:

  • The California Inland Port market was defined as including the whole of the California Central Valley, including Sacramento and also the Bay Area
  • This market zone has a very large consumer population of 14.2M people – if not a part of California this would represent the equivalent of being the 5th largest US state after California, Texas, Florida, New York; and larger than Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio and Georgia
  • The intra-state California container market is 1.1 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) – for comparison purposes this would be larger than the annual import volume of the Ports of Houston or Charleston
  • This dense base of business provides a strong foundation for considering such a project
  • Over this market district-wide market volume, the split between imports and exports is almost equal
  • Generally, the outbound cargo volume flow is largely driven by huge agricultural exports, with consumption driving imports

The analysis reviewed the depth and breadth of the demand market and developed scenario-based intermodal system operational modelling.  Understanding that intermodal rail service will likely not compete well on a transit time basis, it is critical that the service compete well on a cost basis.  There are many variables, but economic modelling demonstrates that a hybrid port-rail-clean truck project could be feasible.

Importantly in California, there are significant environmental benefits associated with the project, namely a significant corollary reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.  With several California regions in the market area having among the worst air quality in the United States, in the end this may the most important benefit in the Los Angeles region as well as throughout the Central Valley and in the Sacramento region.

This project is extraordinarily complex and will take time to further vet.  Existing logistics patterns have been in-place for a long time.  The first working railroad in California was built in 1854 and California Route 99, the main commercial highway in the Central Valley was built in 1926.  Something that fundamentally changes the pattern of freight movement that has been in-place for about 100 years will not happen overnight.

With that said, the inland port concept has won extensive support from business and government and most are enthused to see an inland port proposal develop past the conceptual stage into a business proposition that blends increased use of rail with next generation electric and hydrogen trucking.  The concept will now advance to more detailed assessments of market acceptance, capital and operating costs and specific ways that business and government might work together to support each other and an overall delivery plan and partnership.

For more information, please contact Global Logistics Development Partners at info@gldpartners.com.  GLDPartners works with global shippers on supply chain strategy and site location planning and develops projects at and around strategic seaport, inland port and airport logistics assets.  The firm is based in the US and conducts project work North America, Asia and Europe.  To learn more about Global Logistics Development Partners | GLDPartners.