Shipping methods changed dramatically with the advent of containerization after World War II. Cargo loading was previously labor intensive, as pieces of cargo, drums, boxes, bags, or crates were loaded individually into ships. Using containerization, appropriate cargo is shipped in standard-sized, sealable, steel boxes, typically 20- or 40-feet-long and designed to be placed on special trailers and transported to and from the Port by trucks or by rail.
Aerial of Berths 171-173
In August 1958, the Hawaiian Merchant made its first shipment of 20 cargo containers from Berth 135, marking the beginning of the containerized cargo revolution at the Port. Matson Navigation Company began full container service in 1960 with the Hawaiian Citizen, and the Port handled 7,000 containers that year. Other shipping lines soon followed Matson's lead.
Car carriers also became a common sight in this period. In 1963, the landmark Vincent Thomas Bridge opened, replacing passenger ferry service across the Main Channel. Several other developments occurred during this period that would secure the Port's worldwide prominence. It had become financially infeasible, and in many cases impossible, for large ships to pass through the Panama Canal. One viable and economical solution to this problem was the creation of a "land bridge" from the Port to destinations throughout the United States via cargo-carrying trucks and trains. This innovation would be made even more economical when the Port opened its Intermodal Container Transfer Facility in 1986. In 1985, for the first time the Port handled 1 million containers in a 12-month period. Only 4 years later, container traffic exceeded 2 million containers.
Aerial of Pier 400
In late 1994, the Port launched its $650 million Pier 300/400 Implementation Program. In just 3 years, the Port completed Stage I of a dredging project that produced 29 million cubic yards of dredged soil for the first 265 acres of the new Pier 400 landfill.
The dredging project also deepened shipping channels for vessels calling at two new cargo terminals on Pier 300–the 262-acre Global Gateway South container terminal and the 120-acre Los Angeles Export Terminal for coal and petroleum coke.
Containers and Trains
Both facilities opened in 1997, as did the Terminal Island Container Transfer Facility, bridges, railways, and grade separations, all key elements of an interlinked infrastructure system.
The Port's mission to build the world's most efficient intermodal cargo transportation system continues today. By 2001, the $2 billion Alameda Corridor will be completed as a 20-mile cargo expressway for trains and trucks shuttling cargo between the Port and major transcontinental rail facilities in Los Angeles. Two years later, the Port will complete construction of a 315-acre container terminal on Pier 400–the largest proprietary container complex in the world. From swampy desolate marshland to modern global seaport serving the entire nation—this is the continuing legacy of the Port.