West Coast Ports

West Coast Ports

Productivity is the name of the game for West Coast ports leading up to the expansion of the Panama Canal in 2015. Unlike many of the ports on the East and Gulf coasts that are deepening their harbors and enlarging their marine terminals to prepare for the mega-ships that will begin transiting the canal in 2015, the major West Coast gateways already have 50-foot harbors and terminals of 100 to more than 400 acres in size.

In order to prevent an erosion of market share to East Coast ports, the Seattle-Tacoma, Oakland and Los Angeles-Long Beach gateways must improve their efficiency in unloading vessels, moving containers through the yards and expediting the departure of containers by truck and intermodal rail.

The 25 to 26 container moves per crane per hour that mark West Coast port operations must be increased to at least 30 moves per hour. Terminal operators are exploring options for automating yard, gate and on-dock rail operations. The busiest terminals will invest in costly equipment such as dual-hoist cranes, automated guided vehicles and automated stacking cranes. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which together handle about 40 percent of U.S. imports from Asia, will spend more than $7 billion in the coming decade on larger, more efficient terminals and improved connectivity to rail and highway networks.

Offering a transit time advantage of a week to 10 days to the U.S. interior, and the potential for reducing per-slot vessel costs by hundreds of dollars with the arrival of vessels having a capacity of 13,000-TEU capacity, West Coast ports want to beat the canal by even further expanding their 70 percent market share of U.S. imports from Asia.


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But the ports should recoup much of their lost market share next year and beyond if they address their congestion and labor problems, speakers at the Port of Long Beach Pulse of the Ports breakfast said Wednesday.

News & Analysis

16 Sep 2015
Officials of the International Longshoremen’s Association and United States Maritime Alliance said they’re committed to trying to work out East and Gulf coast port labor contract that would extend to 2025.
Panama Canal
16 Sep 2015
Volume-based toll reductions for container lines that regularly deploy large vessels through the expanded Panama Canal will make the canal route from Northeast Asia to the U.S. East Coast highly competitive with West Coast and Suez Canal routings, a Panama Canal Authority executive said.
31 Aug 2015
The port of Savannah has had blistering year so far, with huge volume increases and market share gains in the Southeast and nationally. But for the leader of the Georgia Ports Authority, any optimism tied to being the fastest growth major U.S. port this year must be tempered by continuing difficulties at other East Coast ports that could end up affecting Savannah
28 Aug 2015
Just days before trans-Pacific ocean carriers aim to implement aggressive general rate increases on eastbound services to North America, average spot rates from Shanghai to the U.S. hit their lowest level in almost four years.
28 Aug 2015
The California Trucking Association tied its support of truck appointments at Los Angeles-Long Beach container terminals to creation of port-wide metrics to gauge the appointments’ effectiveness.
trucks line up at gates at Oakland port
25 Aug 2015
The Port of Oakland’s announcement last week that it intends to open its terminal gates an extra day each week demonstrates two hard, cold facts about U.S. port operations in this era of big ships. The traditional menu of five weekday gates each week is no longer adequate to handle today’s cargo volumes, but extra gates cost money, and someone — often the shipper — has to pick up the tab.


With much of our surface transportation infrastructure decaying and becoming functionally obsolete, we can’t wait 40 years for Congress to confront the threat posed to our economy by inadequate railways, tunnels, bridges and roads, including those connecting to seaports.

More Commentary


Don Krusel, Prince Rupert Port Authority president/CEO, speaks about competitiveness, labor relations and plans for expansion.
Dr. Noel Hacegaba, deputy executive director, Port of Long Beach, discusses port productivity and the impact of mega-ships, the role of infrastructure investment, and the need to emphasize system improvements to increase efficiency.
Acting Long Beach Port Director Al Moro talks about the ambitious projects to prepare the port for the big new container ships that are calling there. POLB and private investors are providing billions of dollars to build new rail lines and a huge automated container terminal, as well as to replace the Gerald Desmond Bridge, which is too low for the new ships.