L.A. port officials discuss prioritizing supply, cybersecurity

Gene Seroka, executive director, Port of Los Angeles (right) and Tom Gazsi, deputy director and chief of police for the Port of Los Angeles.
Gene Seroka, executive director, Port of Los Angeles (right) and Tom Gazsi, deputy director and chief of police for the Port of Los Angeles.

Port of Los Angeles’ Executive Director Gene Seroka and Deputy Director and Police Chief Tom Gazsi provided an update on the current status of the port and the supply chain Tuesday at Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week 2022.

Today the port is working 16 container ships, about 60 percent more than normal in pre-pandemic times and the industry has 97 ships on the way, either just departing Asia or ready to come into the port complex in Southern California, according to Seroka. “We came in at 10.7 million container units for 2021 — that’s the best year on record for this 115-year-old institution and it beat our previous best back in 2018 by 13 percent.”

There’s still a lot of work to do but Seroka says the port has done a good job of getting cargo flows out of the port and into the domestic economy.

“We need to do a better job of segmenting products so we know what parts and components have to get to factories … to understand the cadence by which we need to push the cargo through, and we have to do a better job with the American exporter. All of that is in process today,” he says.

“At the beginning of COVID-19 we saw our business shoot up 50 percent in the third quarter of 2020 compared with what we had witnessed in the first two quarters. Just an unbelievable surge. We have folks going all out trying to manage this huge flow of cargo and we’ve never moved this much cargo than we have in the past 18 months. Costs have changed quite a bit whether it’s how much importers paid for ocean freight on those containers, warehouse space, trucking services, etc.,” Seroka said.

“For the members in the audience, we need to keep segmenting cargo to make sure we have an understanding of what needs to get to market,” he said.

Seroka’s recommendation is to isolate cargo that has got to get to the factory level as well as the distributor level.

“That’s why we created the first and still only port community system here in the U.S. The port optimizer gives us the ability to front load information so we know how to prepare staffing and equipment to move your cargo more succinctly and bring certainty back to the supply chain. We’re happy to work with [industry] leadership to see what we can do to bring this group into our data sharing platform,” he said.

Seroka said the port authority needs to be more intuitive — to be able to see around corners and plan for unexpected issues within the supply chain to be more resilient.

“The use of digitized information and being able to see upstream, from a merchandiser’s order of parts through a purchase order to a factory in Asia, so we can track and trace. We have the ability to make changes more quickly, knowing we have a large portal that captures this data with sharing as its focus to make sure service providers, importers and exporters, alike, are on the same page,” Seroka said.

With the collection of all this digitalized data, the Port of Los Angeles must be vigilant to protect this data through cybersecurity measures.

“In 2014 the port [instituted] what we call the cyber security operations center. Since that time and up to pre-COVID times, we experienced between 12 million and 20 million intrusion attempts a month here at the Port of Los Angeles,” said Gazsi. “Presently we’re seeing between 40 million and 44 million attempts a month. So that’s a 100 percent increase here in Los Angeles.”

Gazsi said it was Seroka’s idea to expand that program throughout the port complex to better protect the data and have an early detection of cyber threats throughout the entire port complex. The result was what is referred to as the Cyber Resilience Center. It’s an early detection center to detect, identify, mitigate and assist in the recovery of any cyberattacks.

Regarding the supply chain, Seroka said, “We need to be optimistic about the future and we’ll come out of this [pandemic] probably in the next 12 months and see things get back to normal and, along with that, the supply chain leveling off a bit.”

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