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.


News & Analysis

14 Oct 2016
Hanjin Shipping’s failure put a noticeable dent in US import volumes.
06 Feb 2015
Some 40 container ships were anchored at ports up and down the West Coast on Friday, promising more delays into next week and well beyond that after the Pacific Maritime Association announced on Friday that terminals won’t handle vessels over the weekend in an effort to clear backlogs.
warehouse, distribution center
06 Feb 2015
U.S. retailers’ frustration with West Coast port congestion hit a boiling point on Friday after terminal operators announced they would suspend vessel work over for the weekend, in order to clear mounting backlogs of cargo.
04 Feb 2015
Pacific Maritime Association CEO James McKenna on Wednesday released details of the employers’ contract offer to U.S. West Coast longshoremen, a comprehensive offer the waterfront employer group hopes will head off the need for a lockout or strike by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union during negotiations that appear to be at an impasse.
04 Feb 2015
Growing U.S. West Coast port congestion is getting more attention in Washington, D.C., and on Wall Street, as major shippers, including Tyson Foods and Cabela’s, complain about delays and warn about further economic pain if they continue.
03 Feb 2015
Congestion in Los Angeles-Long Beach has reached a crisis stage with 20 container ships stuck at anchor Tuesday in the largest U.S. port complex — and no relief in sight.


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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