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Port Of Long Beach’s Engineering Bureau
Examined By Consulting Firm, May Be Restructured

By Samantha Mehlinger - Staff Writer

December 3, 2013 – A consulting firm hired by the Port of Long Beach presented five organizational restructuring options for the port’s engineering bureau, along with a list of proposed goals, during a special Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners meeting on November 18. The board took no action at that time.

The firm, PMA Consultants, was hired in August of 2012 to evaluate the organizational structure and capital project delivery capabilities of the port’s engineering bureau. In February, PMA reported initial findings to the board of harbor commissioners, including that the engineering bureau did not have adequate analytical tools to forecast cost overruns and needed 35 additional staff members.

Last month, PMA representatives came back to the board with proposals to maximize efficiency and eliminate issues such as inadequate cost projection capabilities through department restructuring.

PMA’s Bruce Stephan presented a list of goals for a new engineering bureau structure including enhancing collaboration within the bureau, forecasting cost overruns as early as possible, enhancing the timeliness and accuracy of project performance data, and developing a relationship of trust between the board of harbor commissioners and engineering staff.

Noel Hacegaba, the port’s deputy executive director, did not confirm if trust is lacking between the board and engineering staff, but did say that “there is always room for improvement” in communications. “I think staff and the board are certainly aligned around the bigger goal, which is to deliver projects quickly and safely,” he said.

With two major development projects underway – the Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement project and the Middle Harbor Redevelopment project – Hacegaba said the consulting firm was hired to determine if there was enough staff within the engineering department to handle these projects and whether they could deliver the projects efficiently. “We believe that it is important to address these issues because that’s what is going to help us deliver these projects in a timely and safe fashion,” Hacegaba said.

He noted that, when PMA was hired, the harbor commission and staff were both in agreement that a consulting group would be beneficial. “The port has an outstanding engineering team, which has been severely stretched as these projects have rolled out simultaneously. This capital improvement program is unprecedented,” Hacegaba said.

When asked why the firm was not brought in before major projects broke ground, Hacegaba responded that, when it came time to “put the shovel in the ground” on the projects, port staff realized it was time to “make sure that we had an adequate number of staff organized in a fashion that would allow us to build these projects quickly, safely and at the lowest possible cost.”

Currently, there is no projected date for when an organizational restructuring of the port’s engineering bureau may be voted upon by the board and implemented, according to Hacegaba. He added, “Our plan is to work through it as expeditiously as possible because these projects are critical to our future.”