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.


News & Analysis

14 Oct 2016
Hanjin Shipping’s failure put a noticeable dent in US import volumes.
11 Oct 2016
US exports may be finally on track for growth after two down years.
An agreement to extend contracts early from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and International Longshoremen’s Association would usher in an unprecedented era of labor peace at US ports.
27 Sep 2016
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Pacific Maritime Association on Tuesday raised shippers’ hopes for a longer period of labor peace at US West Coast ports.
22 Sep 2016
A stronger export season is taking shape  in the westbound trans-Pacific.
Extended gate hours at the Port of Oakland, pictured, are pulling down costs for shippers and driving up productivity.
20 Sep 2016
Beneficial cargo owners and truckers in Northern California support extended gate hours at Oakland's largest terminal.
The larger locks of the Panama Canal, pictured, have made it possible to reroute large amounts of cargo destined for the interior United States away from West Coast ports.
19 Sep 2016
Irrational exuberance could result in inflated expectations and overbuilding of transportation infrastructure to the US interior if the cargo volumes don’t materialize.


An early contract extension at West Coast ports would present an opportunity to restore shipper trust and regain cargo they have diverted to the East and Gulf coasts.