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The Shipping Antitrust Law is Dead, while Long Beach's Reputation is at Stake

Posted to Martin Rushmere (by on November 4, 2010

Oberstar gets the heave from Congress

The TransPacific Stabilization Agreement is beaming with satisfaction while the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association is unhappy, following the national and state elections this week.
James Oberstar's fall from power in Congress means that the anti-trust shipping law is all but dead. No matter how much lobby groups like the National Industrial Transportation League holler for the TSA to be controlled, there is no hope of this happening before the next presidential elections. (This is the view of analysts and economists, not my personal opinion)
The shipping association has lost its campaign to persuade Long Beach to reject a proposal that gives the city council the right to levy more money from the port, using a different accounting method. (Voters passed the proposal by 55-45 percent).
The association says the change means that less money will be available for maintenance and capital development; there will be greater political control over the port (which I strongly agree with) and that port customers and shipping lines will become wary of going through LB as a result.  
Says association president John McLaurin:" “Throughout the campaign, Measure D has been described as a modest proposal that would at most divert around $1.5 million from the Port to the City. Indeed, city officials campaigned on this fact. As such, we intend to hold the City to this estimate and fight any transfers of property or money as a consequence of Measure D over and above the amounts that were the basis on which this measure was sold to the voters.”
He's dead right. Anyone who believes there will be only a $1.5 million difference in income either has little understanding of what has changed (the city is deducting money from gross revenue instead of overall profit) or has been hoodwinked.
One maritime commentator reckons the port's credit rating could suffer because of cutbacks in expansion and maintenance – which could have serious consequences.
There is also concern over where the money taken from the port has gone in previous years. Regulations stipulate that it must go into a fund for specific port-related amenities, but there is speculation that the fund is close to bankrupt, leading to calls for an investigation.
That should lead to some intense maneuvering and infighting at City Hall. Voters may have approved the measure, but the real jousting is about to begin.

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