This year, U.S. East Coast ports will be focused on making the infrastructure investments necessary to remain competitive in an evolving international marketplace, especially in light of the expansion of the Panama Canal.
Additional terminal capacity and improved transportation via road and rail are critical, as well as the maintenance and deepening of harbors to handle an influx of larger container ships. While post-Panamax vessels are already on the East Coast via the Suez Canal, the Panama Canal expansion will increase the frequency of calls by these larger ships.
The up-front investments required for these preparations are significant, however, the pay-off is substantial in the form of long-term reductions in shipping expense. This benefit will be enjoyed by U.S. companies and workers producing goods for export, and American consumers in the form of lower prices.
In addition to the support of existing jobs, a more efficient logistics network (and the related cost benefits to business) will fuel the trend of corporations bringing manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. As domestic production becomes more cost effective, the variety of customers and the volumes they produce should have a positive impact on the business of ports and their trucking and railroad partners.
Competition for this increased business will remain fierce as customers weigh the comparative efficiencies of each port. Important questions will center on a port’s flexibility, reliability, cost effectiveness and speed to market. Which port has the greatest number of services? Which is best able to handle changes in vessel arrival times? Which port provides fastest service by rail to major population centers? Which has immediate interstate access to best reach the key cities and manufacturing points throughout the U.S.?
U.S. ports that make critical investments to improve performance will enjoy successful growth for years to come.