West Coast Ports

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

20 Aug 2014
Port Metro Vancouver is receiving a modest windfall in container volume thanks to the uncertainties surrounding longshore contract negotiations on the U.S. West Coast, but it might have profited even more if its terminals had more capacity to handle diverted cargo. Projects are planned to expand its capacity substantially over the next 10 years.
APL loading at Port of Los Angeles.
22 Oct 2013
The market for premium service in container shipping is fading, and that means carrier cost-cutting initiatives such as slow steaming with large, efficient vessels will trump rapid transit times...
Oakland Market Share of Major West Coast Ports. Source: Individual Ports
22 Oct 2013
Port of Oakland managers were bracing for possible trouble Tuesday morning, uncertain whether protesting truckers who shut much of the port down on Monday would return to disrupt operations for a second day.
Hanjin vessel at the Port of Portland.
21 Oct 2013
The Port of Portland will market its strategic position as an export gateway as it seeks to attract other trans-Pacific carriers to replace Hanjin Shipping Co., which told port officials at the weekend it plans to discontinue its weekly service.
16 Oct 2013
A U.S. district court in Oregon on Oct. 15 issued a preliminary injunction intended to prevent the International Longshore and Warehouse Union from picketing a barge company that shuttles grain on the Snake and Columbia rivers to the Marubeni-Columbia Grain elevator in Portland.
Intermodal rail at the Port of Los Angeles
11 Oct 2013
Los Angeles-Long Beach continues to dominate the U.S. import trade from Asia, but Southern California’s market share of containerized imports has declined on average 0.8 percent per year since 2003, according to an industry consultant.


During what some are calling planned protracted ILWU negotiations, shippers who fear disruption on the West Coast are making U.S. East Coast ports a priority, fearing disruptions on the West Coast. What are the short- and long-term effects of the switch?


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.