Port Of Long Beach Celebrates 100th Anniversary

The Port Of Long Beach celebrated 100 years since the first cargo arrived on the s.s. IAQUA.

All photos by Shawn J. Dake,  © 2011

June 25, 2011

The Port Of Long Beach, California celebrated their centennial today with a party on Pier E, attended by an estimated 5,000 guests.  It was actually 100 years and 1 day, since the official dedication of Municipal Pier 1 on June 24, 1911.  The first ship to deliver a load of cargo was the s.s. IAQUA, bringing  280,00 feet of redwood from Eureka in Northern California.  Under the command of Captain Arthur Self, the ship arrived on June 2, 1911.  The IAQUA was a small lumber carrier with two masts, a single funnel and barely 200 feet long.  The somewhat larger s.s. SANTA BARBARA soon followed, also with a cargo of lumber, and was alongside the wharf for the official inauguration of the port.  That day the city held an all-day celebration which drew 3,000 local residents and included a parade and a performance of the Long Beach Municipal Band.

The celebration took place on Pier E, the site of past history and future development

One hundred years later the band still exists and was on hand to deliver a stirring performance that concluded the centennial celebration.  Throughout the afternoon crowds were treated to free hot dogs, refreshments, carnival rides and a photo exhibit displayed in a hall constructed of cargo containers provided by the various shipping companies that are customers of the Port.  There was an interesting section dedicated to historical  trucks and railroad exhibits which are both so vital to port operations.  A premier screening of a film featuring remembrances of workers and officials, telling the history of the Port Of Long Beach was shown in a large, inflatable theater.  At 5:15pm, it was time for the speeches to begin.  Port Executive Director, Richard Steinke began by saying “It’s amazing to think of all the people who have worked at and around the Port for 100 years.  While many other waterfront industries have come and gone, international trade has remained strong.”  That could be viewed as an understatement with the combined ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles harbors making up the largest container shipping complex in the United States.

Star of film and television, Robert Wagner was a special guest.

A special celebrity guest, actor Robert Wagner, was on hand to say a few words.  He also provided the narration for Port’s centennial documentary film.  Several other dignitaries and politicians including Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster added their comments, before birthday cupcakes were distributed to the crowd.  In a perfect bit of timing, one of the largest ships to ever call at the port, the post-Panamax containership OOCL ATLANTAdeparted from her berth at the Long Beach Container Terminal, Pier F, accompanied by a dual fireboat salute.

The containership OOCL ATLANTA departs Long Beach on June 25, 2011.

A far cry from the little IAQUA in 1911, the OOCL ATLANTA is 1,059.85 feet long (323 meters), beam of 140.5 feet (42.8 meters) and draft of 47.6 feet (14.5 meters).  It has a deadweight tonnage of 99,620 tons, gross tonnage of 89,000 tons and a TEU capacity of 8,063.  By any standards, it is a very large ship.

The Port Of Long Beach has seen a lot of history over the last century.  Major shipyards have occupied the area beginning with Craig Shipbuilding (later Long Beach Shipbuilding)  in 1907.  Their first construction projects had to be dredges to initially create the harbor out of the marshlands.  During World War II, the Navy established a major base at Terminal Island and maintained a presence there until the Long Beach Naval Shipyard was closed in 1997.  It has since become the Pier T container complex.

Once the world's largest floating crane, the TITAN, called Long Beach home before moving south to Panama.

The world’s largest floating crane, U.S. Navy designation, YD-171, but known by everyone locally as “Herman The German” made its home here for 50 years before being towed off to Panama.  What was once the largest airplane in the world, Howard Hughes’ H-4 Hercules, better known as the “Spruce Goose” flew its only flight off Long Beach harbor and was housed for years in a specially built hanger in the Port.

The QUEEN MARY which recently celebrated its own 75th birthday has been a fixture in Long Beach since 1967.

On December 9, 1967, one of the most famous ocean liners to ever sail, the QUEEN MARY, made a triumphant arrival at Long Beach, where it remains today as a popular waterfront attraction.  The Port Of Long Beach has seen many other passenger ships through the years.  In 1941, the s.s. AMERICA of United States Lines paid a visit, wearing neutrality markings prior to the U.S. joining the war.  At the time it was the largest merchant ship to visit the port.  The Pier E complex on which the Centennial celebration was held, was once known as Pier C, and will soon become part of the Middle Harbor Redevelopment.  It has seen its share of passenger ship history including a 1961 call by P&O Lines 45,270 gross ton s.s. CANBERRA; at the time the largest ship to visit the port.  The very first Princess Cruises, departed this pier at Berth 25, with the departure of the PRINCESS PATRICIA in 1965.  Other liners including the CARONIA, LEILANI, Orient Line ships such as the ORSOVA, and Swedish American Line’s KUNGSHOLM also called Long Beach their Southern California home.  Even into the 1970’s the four “SANTA” cargo-liners of Prudential-Grace Line still made calls in the Port Of Long Beach.  Today, Carnival Cruise Lines maintains their own terminal on Pier H, adjacent to the QUEEN MARY, with three departures each week.

The Port Of Long Beach can be justifiably proud of their accomplishments in the last 100 years.  If you live in the Western United States, chances are, right now as you are reading this, something you are wearing or something around you was shipped through the Port.  More than $140 billion worth of cargo moves through the Long Beach on an annual basis.  The top Asian trade partners are of China, South Korea, Hong Kong and Japan.  The next century will no doubt see many more changes that can hardly be envisioned now.  For the 100th “Berth” Day, they threw a very enjoyable party.

Shawn Dake

Shawn Dake

Shawn J. Dake, freelance travel writer and regular contributor to MaritimeMatters, worked in tourism and cruise industry for over 35 years.  A native of Southern California, his first job was as a tour guide aboard the Queen Mary.  A frequent lecturer on ship-related topics he has appeared on TV programs.  Owner of Oceans Away Cruises & Travel agency, he served as President of the local Chapter of Steamship Historical Society of America.  With a love of the sea, he is a veteran of 115 cruises.
Shawn Dake
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