LONG BEACH - It's official. The Port of Long Beach's Middle Harbor will be home to Orient Overseas Container Line, thanks to a historic $4.6 billion deal that is expected to double cargo movement, create 14,000 permanent jobs and potentially make it the nation's busiest seaport.

Port of Long Beach Executive Director Christopher Lytle on Thursday said the port entered into its "largest and most far-reaching terminal lease" earlier this week when it inked a 40-year lease with the Hong Kong-based container shipping and logistics service company, sealing the deal after a year of negotiations.

The long-term lease gives the company and its subsidiary, Long Beach Container Terminal, LLC, exclusive use of the 330-acre Middle Harbor. That will triple the size of the company's footprint, making it the biggest agreement of its kind in the history of container terminals in the U.S. and perhaps worldwide, Lytle said.

"It's a huge commitment from a very, very solid, well-run company like OOCL to the Port of Long Beach and the city of Long Beach," Lytle said. "It's a commitment unlike any other commitment that's been made before for one gateway. That's a terrific vote of confidence, and for us that means it's a tremendous stream of revenue over these 40 years."

Lytle also spoke of the development's low environmental impact.


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"It's going to have a lot of benefits for us financially and do a lot of positive things in terms of the environment," he said. "The terminal is practically going to be all electric and it's going to be the cleanest, greenest terminal ever constructed so far. The technology that's being utilized is going to be designed for efficiency and very ultra low pollution levels."

A Port of Long Beach customer since 1969, OOCL was one of the first shipping lines in the transpacific container business to call the Port of Long Beach home, Lytle said.

OOCL is expected to move into the new space as early as 2016.

Projected for completion in 2019, the $1.2 billion redevelopment project will connect two old shipping terminals encompassing 294 acres into a new 330-acre terminal. Improvements will include upgraded wharfs, water access and storage area and an expanded on-dock rail yard from 10,000 linear feet to 75,000, which means fewer local truck trips and less air pollution, Lytle said.

The project could help Long Beach push pass the Port of Los Angeles as the nation's busiest seaport. The twin ports have always competed for the top spot.

Latest numbers showed that Long Beach port shipping terminals moved about 6.1 million 20-foot-equivalent containers in 2011, compared to the Port of Los Angeles, which moved more than 7.94 million cargo containers last year.

If this trend continues and the Middle Harbor reaches capacity, the Port of Long Beach would top 9 million TEUs.

A ceremonial groundbreaking event hosted by the port is expected to take place in mid-May.

"OOCL has been a great business partner for the Port of Long Beach for many, many years, and I couldn't be happier that they have made another long-term commitment to the port," Board of Harbor Commissioners President Susan E. Anderson Wise said in a written statement. "With this historic lease signing, we will move forward into the next phase of our successful business relationship."

karen.robes@presstelegram.com, 562-714-2088,