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

Total Terminals International last month set what company executives say is a new North American record by working nine cranes against a vessel, completing 2,285 container moves over eight hours. But the Long Beach terminal operator was seeking more than just bragging rights.

News & Analysis

23 Nov 2015
Truckers calling in Los Angeles-Long Beach are experiencing the lowest in-terminal service times since longshore labor issues in the fall of 2014 created the worst port congestion in more than a decade, according to the organization that represents the 13 container terminals in the largest U.S. port complex.
06 Nov 2014
U.S. Federal Maritime Commission Chairman Mario Cordero expects congestion at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to ease in the next couple weeks, but, in the meantime, he said the agency is scrutinizing the PierPass program.
05 Nov 2014
The Port of Portland is issuing a challenge to the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association: Revamp the collective bargaining model that has been in existence at West Coast ports for the past 80 years because it isn’t working.
West Coast ports chart
31 Oct 2014
Despite nine months that included historic congestion, rumblings of diversions and the lack of a West Coast port contract, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach nabbed a bigger piece of the West Coast volume pie through the first three quarters of 2014.
30 Oct 2014
Port congestion has gotten so bad in Los Angeles-Long Beach that harbor truckers are imposing congestion surcharges of $50 to as much as $100 an hour, and retailers and other beneficial cargo owners are paying the extra charges if the alternative is that they will not get their containers that day.
Port of Oakland
30 Oct 2014
Congestion at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach could result in the realization of a long-time goal at the Port of Oakland: becoming the first U.S. West Coast call for inbound cargo from Asia.


With much of our surface transportation infrastructure decaying and becoming functionally obsolete, we can’t wait 40 years for Congress to confront the threat posed to our economy by inadequate railways, tunnels, bridges and roads, including those connecting to seaports.

More Commentary


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.