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.


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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

26 Oct 2016
As good as Los Angeles and Long Beach are in attracting strong demand, they must contend with the fractured nature of 15 million TEUs being spread out over 13 terminals.
Chicago business
27 Feb 2015
A broad measure of business activity for the Chicago are plunged in February with much of the blame being laid at the door of the West Coast port labor standoff.
25 Feb 2015
Retailers continue to feel the hangover of West Coast port gridlock that will persist for weeks despite tentative agreement on a coastwide longshore labor contract.
25 Feb 2015
WASHINGTON — California Rep. Janice Hahn called on the House Budget Committee Wednesday to increase funding for U.S. ports, which will see financing fall millions of dollars short of targets Congress and the White House agreed on last year.
25 Feb 2015
The credit ratings of major West Coast ports will not be significantly impacted in the short to medium term by the cargo-handling disruptions that occurred during the protracted dockworker contract negotiations, but continued labor problems would cast the ports as unreliable, and would likely lead to permanent cargo diversion, Fitch Ratings stated Wednesday.


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.

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