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

LA stacktrain
19 Sep 2014
The percent of import containers arriving at the Los Angeles-Long Beach gateway that were transloaded into domestic containers for onward rail transport into the interior U.S. continued to increase last year and is forecast to continue rising in 2014.
Containers at the Port of Tacoma.
25 Nov 2013
The ports of Seattle and Tacoma’s combined container volume in October was 285,161 20-foot-equivalent units, declining 9.9 percent from 316,371 TEUs in October 2012.
25 Nov 2013
The political climate surrounding the Port of Long Beach has claimed another victim, with Nick Sramek announcing his resi
Trucks at Port of Long Beach
20 Nov 2013
LONG BEACH, Calif. — Harbor truckers in Los Angeles-Long Beach are proposing a revolutionary plan to relieve port congestion by keeping marine terminal gates open round the clock, and paying for the increased operating costs by charging a fee on every container that moves through the ports.
Drawing of a person on a target
20 Nov 2013
LONG BEACH, Calif. — The Long Beach City Council Tuesday night voted to remove Harbor Commission President Thomas Fields from the port body, scoring a major victory for Mayor Bob Foster, but alienating the shipping lines and terminal operators who call Long Beach home in Southern California.
19 Nov 2013
Harbor truck drivers backed by the Teamsters union made a statement this week by demonstrating against alleged unfair labor practices at three drayage company facilities in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area, but their actions had no impact on cargo-handling at the port complex.


Seattle port commissioners were thinking “out of the box” in picking the first CEO from the private sector in a half-century.

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.