As Long Beach residents gaze out into the Pacific Ocean, the cargo ships dotting the horizon are a common part of the view. And of course everyone is familiar with the giant cranes that reference something straight out of Star Wars. This is the Port of Long Beach; the second-busiest port in the nation, and one of the busiest ports in the world. It is as much a part of the city as the Pike, Belmont Shore, or the CSULB pyramid, yet many people have not gotten to experience the port more than just the distant views. This summer, it is time to change all of that.
Every summer since 2008, the Port of Long Beach has hosted harbor tours as a way for residents to get up close and personal with the workings of the Port. Starting in 2010, they also added sunset tours to the agenda. Tours are hosted and narrated by Port employees, so you are guaranteed to get a guide who is both knowledgeable and personal about all the inner workings of the port, as well as the steps they are taking to conserve and protect the surrounding environments.
The Port of Long Beach Harbor Tours have proven to be a big hit every summer. These 90-minute tours only happen between May and September every year, and only occur four times a month. The tours are free, yes that’s right, FREE tours, however the only way to register is through a lottery system. The Port does not take reservations, even though the demand and popularity of harbor tours is very high.
To enter into the lottery system for a harbor tour, you must register on the first of every month, the month before you wish to go on the Long Beach port website. For example, if you wish to go on a tour in July, you need to register June 1st. Registration is only open on the first of every month, from 8am – 8pm. A maximum of four people is allowed per group, so if you have a larger group, you must have another person register for the remaining people. All ages are welcome on the tour, yet each person, regardless of age, will count as 1 in the registration. After entering the lottery, everyone will be notified 5 business days later on whether they made it on a tour, or if they have a spot on the waiting list. Participants are selected at random, so it does not matter what time of day you register for the lottery. If you have been selected for the tour, you must hit “Confirm Reservation” in the email you receive. Your reservation will not be confirmed without that step.
Once you are ready to take your harbor tour, it is important to arrive 15-30 minutes prior to your time of departure, because the tours leave promptly at the scheduled time. Port of LB Harbor Tours leave from Dock 9 in Shoreline Village, next to Parker’s Lighthouse, and return to the same location. As previously mentioned, the tours are 90 minutes in length, and guests are welcome to bring food with them. Complimentary beverages such as water, juice, coffee, and soda will be provided. Guests are also welcome, and highly encouraged to take photos with phones and cameras, just leave your drones at home.
During the tour you will sail past the Queen Mary, get up close and personal to the towering cranes and cargo ships, see the most advanced and green terminal in the world, and hear about the other Green programs that are in place at the Port as well as restoration programs that are going on. You might even be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of local sea life like some California sea lions! Keep in mind that no two tours are ever the same, due to various traffic of cargo ships, and various sightings of sea life. If you are worried about seasickness, know that water within the Long Beach Breakwater is generally very smooth, so seasickness is uncommon for most guests. However if you are sensitive it is always best to be prepared.
This summer, the Port will offer only 16 tours in total, running from May to September. The daytime tours will operate on the first and third Saturday of every month from 10-11:30am. The sunset tours will operate on the second and fourth Thursday of every month from 7-8:30pm, except for September, in which the tours will be 6-7:30pm. Remember that you have to register a month in advance, so make sure you don’t miss out!
The Port of Long Beach is known as the “Green Port” due to its continued effort to become the most environmentally-friendly port in the world. Over the last few year, the Port has implemented numerous programs that reduce the environmental effect of its operations, such as hybrid-engine tugboats and shore-powered docks. The Port continues to make bold steps in reducing emissions, preserving air and water quality, protecting animal habitats, and creating an overall sustainable Port environment.
Fun Facts about the Port of Long Beach:
- The Port was founded in 1911, so it has been a staple of Long Beach for over 100 years.
- The Port of LB covers 32,000 acres of land and 25 miles of waterfront in downtown Long Beach.
- Every year the Port sees 6 million cargo containers, and moves about $180 billion worth of cargo.
- 90% of the cargo that comes into the Port of LB comes from east Asia
- The Port of Long Beach has 2,000 vessel calls per year. No wonder cargo ships are such a common sight of Long Beach’s ocean view!
- The Port of Long Beach is different from its neighbor, the Port of Los Angeles, though when combined the two ports rank as the 9th busiest shipping port in the world.