Dexter Filming Locations: The Cargo Containers


The location: The Cargo Containers.

Q. What is it supposed to be on the show?

    A. Stacks of cargo containers stored on a dock.

Q. Where is it supposed to be on the show?

    A. In the Port of Miami.

Q. When did we see it on the show?

    A. In the Season One finale, Episode 12: "Born Free".

    Dexter's sister, Debra, has been kidnapped by the "Ice Truck Killer", and the killer has left enough clues behind for "a clever monster to find him," including a record of the song "Born Free" (a reference to the gruesome incident which caused young Dexter's "rebirth" as a psychopath).

    Dexter concludes that his sister will be found in the same cargo container where those events took place.

    Checking old newspaper photos, he finds that it was container CBAN-3489, and heads down to the docks to find it.

    Dexter finds it surprisingly easy to get past the chain link fence around the docks, and makes his way past distracted guards to a small guard booth, where he accesses the computer records and learns the present location of container CBAN-3489.

    He goes there and experiences a flashback of his foster father rescuing him from the bloody scene.

    But when Dexter opens the container, expecting to find Debra inside, he finds it filled only with bananas.

    Then Dexter gets another surprise: Sgt. Doakes has followed him there.

    They get into a scuffle and Dexter gets the best of him before a security guard breaks it up - confirming Doakes' suspicions that there's more to mild-mannered Dexter than meets the eye.

Q. What is it actually in real life?

    A. Containers at a port dock, but not in Miami.

Q. Where can I find it in real life?

    A. At the Port of Los Angeles.

    They filmed the scene in San Pedro, CA, in a waterfront lot on the east side of S. Harbor Blvd, at the east end of 1st Street,

    That cargo lot is located south of the Vincent Thomas Bridge (and its World Cruise Center, at 600 N. Harbor) and north of Ports O'Call Village.

    To be more specific, its just north of the distinctive Fire Station #112, with its fireboat outside (at 480 S. Harbor).

    You can see the guard booth used in the scene when driving down Harbor Blvd (it's just inside the chain link fence), at 1st Street. (Or from the free San Pedro Trolley that rambles along the east side of Harbor.)

    Here is an aerial photo of the area (with key points labeled).  And here is a map link.

Q. How the heck did you figure out where it was?

    A. This was just difficult enough to be a good challenge.

    I knew it was the Port of Los Angeles.  I've been there too many times not to recognize it. But in a sea of thousands of cargo containers, the trick was to pinpoint the exact area in the huge port where they filmed the scene.

    Those giant freight elevators (which load and unload the containers from cargo ships) were clearly visible in the background, but there are too many identical freight elevators at the port for that to be much of a clue.

    But thank God for the pause button.

    If you're fast enough, you'll be able to catch a quick glimpse of Fire Station #112 in the distant background, at around 14:32 in Episode 12. (See the blurry blow-up from the show, to the left, below.) It's a distinctive pink/coral building that resembles half a tube, and is instantly recognizable to anyone who knows the area. Once I caught sight of the firehouse, I knew basically where they were - just north of the station.


    Then, by comparing the position of the row of freight elevators right across the channel (see the photo below), as well as glimpses of the Vincent Thomas Bridge and the cruise ship docked underneath it (see the photo to the right, above), it was relatively easy to pinpoint the exact location.

I shot this photo of the Fire Station in 2008 well as these shots of the nearby freight elevators and the security gate.

    The only tricky part was finding the right guard booth, since there is more than one in this lot. One's first instinct is to assume it's the large booth which is located just a few yards northeast of the much smaller gate booth. But by comparing the word "stop" (and the lines) stenciled on the blacktop next to the booth, it became clear that they had shot the security booth scene at the tiny booth at the entrance gate at the south end of 1st Street.

Below is a wider shot of the guard booth, the fence & lot, and the freight elevators behind it, which I shot in 2008.

(For some reason, there was a large tent erected in the lot when I shot this photo
- which is not normally there.  Maybe another movie shoot...?)

    Ironically, although virtually every lot in this port is filled with giant cargo containers, this one lot usually isn't. This lot seems to be used mostly for lighter cargo & trucks. In fact, if you'll look at all four directions on the Live Local aerial photos, you'll notice that this lot is usually empty. Which made it ideal for filming, of course.  All they had to do was move in a few containers for the scene and Voilà !

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