In 2009, during the peak of the recession, West Coast volumes were down more than 20 percent – and many were concerned about the long-term prospects of the maritime industry. With the recently concluded summer season having rebounded by nearly 15 percent, it is tempting to think we’ve turned the corner. But just as few predicted the upswing for 2010, it is important that we not celebrate too fast as we look ahead to 2011.
Rather, we must continue to pay attention to the very things that allowed us to weather the storm: strong management, cost-containment, organized labor cooperation and an awareness of the broader transportation picture. In fact, if volumes continue to rise, we may find ourselves with a familiar set of challenges: a crunch of too much cargo moving through a system that is not fully equipped to handle it.
Regardless of volume levels for 2011, our long-term task remains to work toward a transportation system that allows the smooth passage of cargo from origin to destination. That means ports with the latest technology and automation, on-dock rail to facilitate the transfer of goods and a highway network that is quick, efficient and has fewer impacts on the surrounding communities.
These and other challenges will be with us for years to come. Meeting them will take hard work on behalf of industry leaders, policymakers and others. But our customers and the public are counting on us to keep goods flowing, whether economic conditions are good, bad or somewhere in between. We all need to do our part to make that happen.