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.
Timeout
07 Jul 2014
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union and U.S. West Coast waterfront employers have agreed to take a 72-hour break from negotiations to allow the union to attend “an unrelated negotiation” in the Pacific Northwest.
07 Jul 2014
Cargo-handling and gate operations at marine terminals in Los Angeles-Long Beach continued without interruption today despite threats by the Teamsters union to initiate an “indefinite strike” against three trucking companies that serve the United States’ largest port complex.
07 Jul 2014
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has updated its guidelines for ship and cargo contingency plans in the event of any West Coast port disruption arising from longshore labor union contract negotiations.
07 Jul 2014
A threat by the Teamsters union to launch a strike at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach got off to a slow start today as truck drivers were passing out informational flyers in the harbor, but were not setting up picket lines.
06 Jul 2014
With no contract in place and a tradition of bucking its leadership to make a point, Southern California members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union may choose to honor Teamsters’ pickets on July 7 despite a pledge by its leadership in San Francisco that “cargo will keep moving” on the U.S. West Coast.

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.