Container traffic may be down, but that’s not holding back American President Lines Ltd. from expanding its presence at the Port of Los Angeles.

APL, a subsidiary of Singapore-based Neptune Orient Lines, plans to increase its capacity to handle cargo from 1.3 million to 3 million containers annually.

Plans include expanding the 290-acre terminal on Pier 300 by an additional 56 acres, extending the wharf by 1,250 feet to handle larger ships, adding up to a dozen gantry cranes and dredging the berths.

APL’s commitment is noteworthy because the Port of Los Angeles has reported a 13 percent drop in cargo movement for June compared with the previous year, and gets constant criticism for costs and fees.

“Our relationship with the Port of L.A. is very good,” said John Bowe, president of APL’s Oakland-based Americas division. “This project is an expansion that was envisioned since the beginning of our lease years ago and we’re confident that when it’s done it’s going to serve our needs as trade will have picked up.”

The port is accepting public comment on the expansion until Aug. 24. The comments will be used to determine the contents of an environmental study, said Kathryn McDermott, deputy executive director of business development for the port. The report on the study should be released by January 2011.

McDermott said the project is expected to cost $150 million. The port will pay for the improvements except for some equipment that will be funded by APL’s terminal operator, another division of Neptune.

If approved, construction is expected to begin in 2011, with completion by 2013.

Operator Fined

APM Terminals Pacific Ltd., a terminal operator at the Port of Los Angeles, is facing a fine of $47,100 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for reportedly violating its storm water permit by dumping polluted water into the harbor.

The EPA alleges that between October 2004 and January 2008 APM discharged storm water at its marine shipping container terminal facility, a violation of the Clean Water Act and the California National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.

“Controlling storm water pollution is key to improving Southern California water quality,” Alexis Strauss, water division director for the EPA’s Pacific Southwest region, said in a statement. “Many tools to control storm water pollution are simply good housekeeping and continued maintenance.”

Strauss said water discharges such as those alleged at the APM facility can carry pollutants such as metals, oil and grease, acidic wastewater, bacteria, and trash into nearby waters.

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