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

With the 2008-09 economic recession and the labor problems of 2014-15 behind them, West Coast ports see 2016 as the year they will return to their normal annual growth trend of about 5 percent.

News & Analysis

28 Dec 2016
Plastic resin exports are poised in 2017 to begin a multi-year surge in volume.
07 Apr 2015
East Coast containerized imports in February almost reached parity with West Coast imports, demonstrating the profound shift in trade that has resulted from port congestion and work slowdowns by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union at West Coast ports. The coming months will determine how much of the shift will be permanent.
Lululemon store
06 Apr 2015
Shipment delays through U.S. West Coast ports, compounded by severe late winter weather, cost some retailers sales in recent months, but they believe the worst is over and say inventory levels are returning to normal.
Terminal 6 Port of Portland, Oregon
06 Apr 2015
In a development that could foreshadow the end of container-handling at the Port of Portland, Oregon, Hapag-Lloyd’s service to the Pacific Northwest port has come into question — the carrier has no calls listed in the coming weeks at the port.
27 Mar 2015
For U.S. West Coast ports, 2015 was going to be a year to solidify market share in the competitive U.S. container trades as ports on the East Coast prepared for completion of the Panama Canal expansion project. Instead, the first quarter of 2015 has been a nightmare for West Coast ports, with crippling congestion, an unsettled labor contract and declining container volumes.
27 Mar 2015
East and Gulf Coast ports have been winning the market share battle in the U.S. containerized ocean trade since 2008. What happened?

Commentary

Amid problems of port congestion and inefficiency at US ports, and the structural difficulties of changing well-established practices in the face of shipping overcapacity, are bright rays of light that indicate progress is possible even under adverse conditions.

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