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

The 12,500-TEU MSC Fabiola broke records when it first called at California ports in 2012.
West Coast ports will spend the coming year in much the same way they spent the past year: preparing for big ships operated by big carrier alliances.

News & Analysis

10 Jul 2014
The Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex is struggling with marine terminal congestion and long trucker turn-times caused
Cotton harvesting in Texas. Source: USDA, ARS. Photo by David Nance.
03 Jul 2014
The widening of the Panama Canal could eventually lead to a 90 percent increase in cotton exports for U.S. South Atlantic and Gulf Coast ports, and a 66 percent reduction in cotton exports through West Coast ports.
Port of Long Beach
03 Jul 2014
Container volumes moving through West Coast ports in May were 4 percent higher than during the same month last year, lending support to the theory that higher-than usual cargo volumes are contributing to port congestion.
01 Jul 2014
As the hours wane on the current contract between terminal operators and longshoremen on the U.S. West Coast, most shippers are taking the silence from both parties as a sign that negotiations are going well and will result in little disruption.
Port of Oakland
01 Jul 2014
With China’s rejection of the P3 Network in mid-June, West Coast ports no longer have to fear that a single operational entity will gain huge leverage in negotiations over port calls and terminal charges.
30 Jun 2014
Contract negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association continued today, although reaching an agreement by the deadline of 5 p.m. on July 1 does not look likely.

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Commentary

It is well documented that U.S. West Coast ports face a number of competitive challenges.

Video

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.