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

27 Apr 2016
A California Senate committee Wednesday approved legislation that will provide a partial tax exemption for terminal operators that purchase zero- or near-zero-emission cargo-handling equipment, expediting the progress California’s ports are making toward becoming the greenest in the world without significantly increasing the cost of shipping through the ports.
Hapag-Lloyd container ship in Port of Los Angeles
29 Dec 2014
International Longshore and Warehouse Union President Robert McEllrath has challenged ocean carrier executives to become directly involved in contract negotiations in order to end the impasse that has existed since the previous West Coast waterfront contract expired on July 1.
container ships docked at the Port of Oakland
29 Dec 2014
Vessels on Monday continued to back up at anchor at the Port of Oakland and truck turn times were three hours or longer now that the International Longshore and Warehouse Union has chosen the Northern California port as its latest target for work slowdowns on the West Coast.
Yang Ming ship in Port of Los Angeles, August 2014
27 Dec 2014
West Coast newspaper editorials are jumping in on the side of federal mediators joining the stalled West Coast longshore talks, in a sign that public patience is wearing thin as losses mount for importers and exporters amid continuing delays at ports up and down the coast.
Port of Oakland, November 2014
26 Dec 2014
The berthing delays that have seen ships back up at anchorage off the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach for the past several weeks are now spreading up the coast to Oakland, in a spillover effect from the Southern California congestion.
19 Dec 2014
Contract negotiations continued Friday between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association. As has been the case since the negotiations began in May, neither side revealed any content from the talks.

Commentary

The extent to which beneficial cargo owners are controlling the discussion in trans-Pacific contract negotiations is becoming more evident, and that leverage is greater now than at any time since the 2008-09 recession.

More Commentary

Video

Don Snyder, Port of Long Beach's Director of Business Development, on the lasting impact of the 2015 labor upset at West Coast ports. Looking to 2016, Snyder says, many processes have been improved and investments made, and productivity gains are being seen already. In this interview, he explains the response to supply chain optimization needs and working with multiple partners to ensure smooth transfers.
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.