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Port of San Diego: One of only 17 strategic ports in US

Military equipment and vehicles lined up on the dock of the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal.

The Port of San Diego plays an important role when it comes to National Security: it is one of only 17 strategic commercial seaports in the United States.

"Our port’s marine terminals are important for their ability to support commercial cargo, yet they also play a vital role in terms of our nation’s defense,” said Lou Smith, chairman of the Board of Port Commissioners.

The Port of San Diego is the fourth largest port in California. Its maritime terminals provide the infrastructure and services necessary to support military deployment activities, which can range from getting vehicles and equipment where it needs to go, to shipping household goods to servicemen and their families.

"In the last two years, 18.4 million pounds of unit cargo has gone through the Tenth Street Terminal and the National City Terminal,” said Rear Adm. Dixon R. Smith, commander of the Navy Region Southwest. “That ranks the Port of San Diego, as a strategic port, as the number one Strategic Port on the West Coast."

The port had to undergo a stringent testing and requirements process before being designated a strategic port in 1995 by the U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration (MARAD).

The criteria used during the requirements process included:

· Deepwater infrastructure;

· Intermodal connections (access to railroads, freeways, and highways);

· Geographic location (San Diego is home to Naval Base San Diego);

· Covered and uncovered storage facilities;

· High security at Tenth Avenue and National City Marine Terminals.

“Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal in San Diego and the National City Marine Terminal must be prepared at any moment to accommodate the U.S. military,” said Joel Valenzuela, director of maritime operations.

The Port of San Diego is an important partner to the Navy, because of its proximity to Naval Base San Diego. The port’s terminals are also 230 miles from the Army’s National Training Center at Fort Irwin.

“As a port, you need the deepwater infrastructure that supports shipping activities. You also need to have good inland connections, which we have in terms of freeways, highways, and railroad in order to make the deployments work,” Valenzuela said.

The port’s law enforcement agency, the Harbor Police Department, serves a critical function in providing public safety for the military, as well as serving as a key partner agency to federal officials.

“We have a high concentration of military located here in San Diego Bay, and the military uses the Port of San Diego to transport vital defense equipment,” said Harbor Police Chief John A. Bolduc. “Therefore, integrating law enforcement with security at the local, federal, and state level is a key component to our jobs at the Harbor Police.”

Synergy on the waterfront

The port’s Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal is the northernmost anchor of a 10-mile stretch of bay front known as San Diego’s Working Waterfront.

The businesses there include industrial and semi-industrial, deep-water dependent industry, such as General Dynamics NASSCO, the only major ship-builder on the West Coast.

“Not only are the Working Waterfront businesses connected to each other by geography, they are also interdependent,” Valenzuela said. ”Raw materials and equipment used for shipbuilding and ship repair come in through the port’s terminals.”

The military then uses the shipbuilders and ship repair facilities along the bay as a way to deploy military equipment. The synergy that is created is vital in terms of this fabric in our region’s economy.

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