After a four-year delay brought on by environmentalists' virulent opposition, the Port of Los Angeles is set to move forward with an expansion of the China Shipping Container Lines Co. terminal.

The port has released an environmental impact report for the project's final phases expected to cost $106 million that will increase its cargo handling capacity threefold to 1.5 million containers per year.

The port has already spent $100 million on construction, which began in 2001 but was halted in 2004 over challenges from environmental groups. The groups were concerned about the increasing pollution of port operations and sought to block any expansion.

The port eventually settled with the groups to the tune of $50 million and paid more than $20 million to China Shipping to compensate for disruptions to their operations. The shipping company, based in Shanghai, is a Chinese state-owned enterprise.

As the landlord of the terminals, the port is responsible for expansion projects. Officials put a moratorium on growth after the China Shipping fiasco while they worked out a clean air initiative with the neighboring Port of Long Beach.

The port recently reached an agreement with a coalition of environmentalists that will allow the port to move forward with expansion projects, including the China Shipping project and nearby TraPac Inc. terminal.

Under the terms of the agreement, the port will put environmental mitigation measures into future projects and fund off-port projects that will help reduce the impact of port operations.

The revised China Shipping project includes measures that significantly reduce the terminal's particulate matter, sulfur oxide and nitrogen oxide emissions.

"This project will demonstrate how we can systematically curb port-related air emissions and reduce local impacts," said Geraldine Knatz, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, in a statement.

Port officials will hold a June 5 meeting to gather public comment.

New Terminal

The grand opening isn't scheduled until next month, but Mercury Air Group Inc. announced last week it has begun operations at a new private jet terminal in the Middle East.

The $42 million, 100,000-square-foot Royal Terminal, located at Kuwait International Airport, is the Los Angeles-based company's first in the region and will be the largest private aviation terminal in the Middle East, according to the company.

Joseph Czyzyk, Mercury chief executive and chairman, said the terminal reflects the growing popularity of corporate jets worldwide.

The upscale terminal, which features a modern design that incorporates sleek architecture and large glass windows, will cater to large business jets, such as the Airbus A320 and the Boeing 737. Czyzyk said corporate aircraft in the Middle East tend to be larger than in the United States due to the longer distances between airports.

The facility will also feature upscale boutiques and a five-star restaurant.

Mercury, a privately held company with 1,500 employees and more than $1 billion in annual sales, offers a range of services to the aviation industry, including fuel sales and air cargo handling. The company has been operating private jet terminals since the 1970s, but has not opened one since it cut the ribbon on a facility at Long Beach Airport in 2003.

In 2004, the company sold all of its terminals and agreed not to purchase another U.S. facility for at least five years.

But Mercury is becoming active overseas. In addition to the Kuwait terminal, Czyzyk said the company has pursued emerging opportunities across the Middle East and in Asia, where private aviation is gaining in popularity.

Cleaner Trucks

Richfield, Minn.-based electronics retailer Best Buy Co. Inc. and its transportation provider, Performance Team Freight Systems Inc., announced they will convert their local truck fleet to use environmentally friendly clean-diesel technology.

The companies have also joined the Coalition for Responsible Transportation, a rapidly expanding group of retailers and motor carriers using clean burning trucks.

The coalition has gained in popularity as the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports put the finishing touches on their truck replacement program, which is set to begin later this year.

Deadline Extended

Federal authorities announced earlier this month that the nationwide port security initiative known as the Transportation Worker Identification Credential program will be delayed as officials have struggled to get workers signed up in a timely manner.

Port workers including truck drivers, longshoremen and others now must obtain a pass by April 15, seven months later than the original September deadline.

Officials said the change will help the government come in line with its original goal of giving workers 18 months to sign up.

Local port officials and industry leaders were relieved at the extension.

Staff reporter Richard Clough can be reached at rclough@labusinessjournal.com or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 251.

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