Civil Engineering Seminar Examines Regulation of Port-Related Trade

Nov. 27, 2007 — Rapid growth in international trade over the last two decades has generated both benefits and costs. Costs — growing congestion, air pollution, neighborhood impacts — have become increasingly visible in metropolitan areas, and local communities are demanding solutions.

Congestion and air pollution associated with increased international trade have become so severe in the Los Angeles region that port-related trade is facing increased regulation by both state and local agencies. Historically, United States ports have been remarkably autonomous. Their role as economic development engines is well-recognized by local leaders. Thus, recent regulatory efforts represent a significant change in public policy.

As part of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Distinguished Speaker Series, Genevieve Giuliano, a professor in the School of Policy, Planning and Development at the University of Southern California, will examine responses by the ports, terminal operators and allied industries in Southern California to a changed regulatory regime. The talk will be held Thursday, Nov. 29 from 3:45 to 5 p.m. in the auditorium at the Harrison Institute for American History.

The Civil and Environmental Engineering Distinguished Speaker Series is open to the University community. Civil engineering undergraduate students are especially invited to attend. Preceding the presentation, there will be a reception from 3 to 3:45 p.m. at the Special Collections Library, adjacent to Alderman Library

Giuliano will discuss two examples: a state regulation requiring appointments or extended hours at terminal gates, and the PierPass extended gate hours program. She plans to use a political economy framework to explain outcomes. Actors with significant market power within the international trade supply chain were successful in staving off several regulatory attempts to force changes in operating practices. When regulations were imposed, they were able to structure responses to protect their economic interests. Results suggest that these "dominant actors" — ports, terminal operators, steamship lines and their major clients — will continue to be a strong influence in efforts to solve trade-related environmental problems.