Berth 147 Berths 150-151 Berths 171-173 Berth 240
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The California Petroleum Co. - the People

What trends occurred at the Port in the early part of the 20th century and how did they affect the use of these facilities?

Imports and Exports of Oil - 1920s
Click on the image to view a larger map

Within the first decade of the 20th century, oil companies realized the need for port facilities able to handle the increasing quantities of oil and refined petroleum products leaving the Los Angeles area for the east coast and other world destinations. In 1909, the Union Oil Company authorized the financing of the Outer Harbor and Dock and Wharf Company. Union Oil helped organize the Outer Harbor in order to create a terminal at San Pedro Harbor to accommodate the larger and heavier ocean-going steamers operating at the time. In addition to the terminal facility, the new company also provided other improvements such as new sea walls, wharves, and industrial sites.

Aerial of Berths 171-173
Aerial view of berths north of Turning Basin

During the early 1920s, petroleum product shipping and manufacturing became a dominant industry at the Port of Los Angeles, partly because the Port lowered wharfage rates to encourage oil trade. Exports of oil from the Port of Los Angeles made it the largest oil port in the world at the time. In 1925, the value of oil refinery products was twice as much as California's second-largest branch of manufacturing, the canning and preserving of fruits and vegetables.

View of 'Dilworth' at Berth 173
View of 'Dilworth' at Berth 173

Several larger regional producers, particularly Standard Oil of California (now Chevron) and Union Oil (now Unocal), dominated the early oil industry at the Port. The smaller, independent producers operating transshipment terminals included California Petroleum, Julian Oil (later Sunset Oil), Hancock Oil, General Petroleum, Pan-American Oil (later Richfield Oil), and Associated Oil. Two of the larger out-of-state producers with a presence in the region included The Texas Company and Shell Oil.

Aerial of Berths 171-173
Aerial of Berths 171-173

Following the increased production in the Los Angeles Basin in the 1920s, many of the major oil companies drafted plans to improve their storage facilities in the southern region of the state. Due to the growing rate of production, new storage facilities usually had to be expanded or constructed after a year or two. Many oil companies produced new terminals to counteract the storage problem, some costing as much as $1,000,000.