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.

 

Special Coverage

US West Coast ports focus on operational improvements.

News & Analysis

17 Jun 2017
At a time when the Southern California Ports' hold on discretionary cargo is tenuous, the state's all-out commitment to mitigating climate change is taking priority over port competitiveness.
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.
17 Aug 2015
A modest spike in freight rates in the eastbound Pacific last week offers the first indication that the trade could experience a strong peak-shipping season — and the threat of marine terminal congestion.
07 Aug 2015
West Coast ports in June continued their slow recovery from labor problems that caused them to bleed cargo earlier this year, although total container volume in June was still down 7 percent year-over-year.
05 Aug 2015
Eight ports on the U.S. East Coast made substantial gains in import market share in the first six months of 2015. A booming import market, West Coast diversions tied to the recent labor crisis, and port investments helped East and Gulf Coast ports edge out all but one of their West Coast counterparts.
31 Jul 2015
After bleeding market share in the first few months of 2015 because of congestion and labor problems, the Seattle-Tacoma gateway appears to be leveling off in the competitive Pacific Northwest. Port Metro Vancouver, British Columbia, is likewise leveling off, but Prince Rupert continues to register impressive double-digit gains compared to last year.

Commentary

California's all-out commitment to mitigating climate change appears to be taking priority over maintaining the competitiveness of the state’s seaports, particularly the critical Los Angeles-Long Beach gateway.