Trans-Pacific Trade

Trans-Pacific Trade

The trans-Pacific ocean shipping market is by far North America’s largest trade lane, accounting for nearly 20 million 20-foot-equivalent container units in the U.S. trade alone in 2012.

The market is dominated by imports by large retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, Home Depot and Lowe’s, which, unlike in other markets, tend to contract directly with ocean carriers rather than through forwarders, as is typically the case in the Asia-Europe market. As a result of the one-year contracts that retailers and other large shippers typically sign as of May 1 each year, freight rates in the trans-Pacific eastbound trade tend to be less volatile than in Asia-Europe.

Key developments in the trans-Pacific include the approaching 2015 expansion of the Panama Canal and its potentially huge impact on routing of Asia goods into North America, Canadian West Coast ports’ growing success in attracting U.S.-bound cargo, and West Coast ports’ expected response to these competitive challenges.

Exports moving to those markets typically are lower-value commodities such as wastepaper and scrap that keep China’s manufacturing and packaging industries humming.

Special Coverage

The results of the 2014-15 service contracting season in the eastbound Pacific are in, and from the perspective of ocean carriers, they’re not pretty.

News & Analysis

30 Jul 2014
Expectations of a solid peak season from Asia to both Europe and North America could lead to higher ocean container freight rates in the third quarter, but the gains are likely to be only temporary.
Drewry’s Hong Kong-Los Angeles container freight rate benchmark this week dropped to its lowest level since December 2013.
04 Jun 2014
Trans-Pacific spot rates continued a downward spiral this week, with the Drewry benchmark rate for shipping from Hong Kong to Los Angeles falling an additional $50.
The Drewry benchmark rate for shipping from Hong Kong to Los Angeles fell 10 percent in the week of May 28.
28 May 2014
Rates in the trans-Pacific moved downward this week, with the Drewry benchmark rate for shipping from Hong Kong to Los Angeles falling 10 percent.
The SCFI for North Europe fell 7.7 percent in the week of May 23.
23 May 2014
Spot container freight rates as measured by the Shanghai Containerized Freight Index dropped on the Asia-Europe lane for the second straight week, and Asia-U.S. rates declined after a week of minimal gains.
Drewry's Hong Kong-Los Angeles Container Rate Benchmark
21 May 2014
The Drewry benchmark rate for shipping from Hong Kong to Los Angeles rose by $150 in the week of May 21, the first movement in the rate in three weeks.
16 May 2014
The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which combined handle more than 40 percent of U.S. container trade, both reported double-digit monthly container import growth in April.


If there’s a theme to this year’s TPM Conference, it’s that 2014 is the year of the game-changer in international logistics. The changes the industry is grappling with as we congregate in Long Beach this week are profound and will define the main challenges confronting shippers, carriers, third-party logistics providers and others possibly for years.


William Rooney, Kuehne + Nagel vice president, responds to questions about the current slower growth environment and the NVO ability to provide “something broader than rates” as the trans-Pacific trade evolves.
Stephane Rambaud, senior vice president at C.H. Robinson, discusses the integration of Phoenix International, which the logistics firm acquired in 2012, the company's consolidation services, and the challenges of volatility in the trans-Pacific trade.
Steven Cernak, chief executive and port director of Port Everglades, and James Hertwig, president of Florida East Coast Railway, discuss their organizations’ recent performance, their partnership in a new intermodal container transfer facility, and the opportunities they see and projects they are pursuing for further growth.