Passengers of the Harbor Breeze's "Caroline" take photos of trash being processed along the coastline of Long Beach, Calif. The Urban Ocean Cruise allows voyagers to get a first-hand look at the inner workings of the nation's largest ports.- Caitlan Carroll
Harbor Breeze's "Caroline" ferries people along the Long Beach, Calif. coastline, home to Los Angeles's main port.- Caitlan Carroll
Cranes along the harbor move cargo from ship to port and vice versa.- Caitlan Carroll
Caroline ferries by the NYK Line, one of many container ships which deliver goods to U.S. stores.- Caitlan Carroll
Jerry Schubel, head of the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific, talks to tour guide Dominique Richardson aboard the Caroline. Schubel adds his own take during the tour on how commerce and ecology intertwine.- Caitlan Carroll
Passengers enjoy the sun on deck aboard the Caroline. Harbor tourists are also privy to occasional shots of sealife, including dolphins, whales and sealions.- Caitlan Carroll
LA cruise takes wild ride on commerce side
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Steve Chiotakis: A lot of folks really get into cruises to Alaska. Or a romantic oceanliner off to the Caribbean. Even a riverboat ride up the Mississippi. Now there's a new boat trip that explores commerce instead of just the coastline. From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Caitlan Carroll takes a ride on the first "Urban Ocean Cruise".
Caitlan Carroll: On a sunny afternoon in Long Beach, Calif., dozens of tourists and locals board a small passenger boat. It's moored outside of an aquarium.
Jerry Schubel: This is the Caroline and we're getting ready to go on the very first urban ocean cruise.
Jerry Schubel is director of the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, about a half hour south of Los Angeles. Schubel started the Urban Ocean Cruise to educate passengers about this piece of very productive but also very fragile coastline.
Schubel: We will be going into the inner parts of the nation's two largest ports, and so we will take them places that they would probably not notice on their own.
The cruise covers the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach which handle almost 40 percent of all U.S. cargo traffic. Passengers pay $30 for a view of rusty cranes, massive container ships and hulking power plants.
High school senior Natalie Delossa is unimpressed. She thinks the ports are kind of a gross place to visit.
Natalie Delossa: I think it's kind of like how Paris has tours of the sewers. I think it's a lot like that.
The Urban Boat Cruise does mention sewage and other environmental concerns. The aquarium talked to fishermen, longshoremen, shipping companies and even surfers to understand how people and wildlife interact with this busy harbor. The tour highlights ways the ports try to cut down on pollution. And passengers also hear how *they can keep sea life swimming in cleaner waters.
Any trash, chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides that end up in our streets get washed down storm drains and carried out right here where the LA River meets the Pacific ocean.
But for some passengers the Urban Ocean Cruise is just a big boat ride. William Buresh is seven years old:
William Buresh: You get to go under a draw bridge. See trains, see sea lions playing with seagulls. It was a very fun cruise!
Schubel needs at least 50 passengers every cruise to make the harbor tour viable long term. He'll wait until Labor Day to decide whether to change course or continue full steam ahead.
In Long Beach, I'm Caitlan Carroll for Marketplace.