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.

News & Analysis

21 Jul 2017
West Coast rates have already fallen behind the spot rates in mid-July last year.
Audience at the opening session of TPM 2013 in Long Beach, Calif.
12 Mar 2013
There were many takeaways from this year's TPM Conference in Long Beach, Calif. Here is some of what we learned.
If genuine, the seized handbags had an estimated manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $14.1 million.
08 Mar 2013
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and import specialists assigned to the Los Angeles-Long Beach seaport complex have seized 1,500 high-fashion leather handbags bearing counterfeit “Hermés” listed trademark.
08 Mar 2013
Maersk Line has announced several rate increases that will all take effect on April 1.
SCFI container spot rates through March 8, 2013. Source: Shanghai Shipping Exchange.
08 Mar 2013
The Shanghai Containerized Freight Index continued its decline in the week of March 8 across all trade lanes, with European lanes dropping below the $1,000 per 20-foot container mark, according to data issued by the Shanghai Shipping Exchange.
TPM 2013 was held in Long Beach, California.
08 Mar 2013
The Twitter feed from TPM 2013 was on fire through the three-day conference. Here are just some of our favorites.


Rates in the trans-Pacific eastbound trade from Asia to North America are starting to resemble the paltry Asia-Europe and trans-Pacific westbound numbers. Within a couple weeks, we may have three-digit numbers for spot rates for 40-foot containers moving from China-based ports to Los Angeles and Long Beach. I can’t recall seeing rates this low in my 42 years in the business.


The industry has needed consolidation for years, said Maersk Line North America President and CEO Michael White.