Brian E. Clark, Executive Director, North Carolina State Ports Authority (NC Ports)
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Brian E. Clark, Executive Director, North Carolina State Ports Authority (NC Ports)

There are several near-term headwinds and macroeconomic challenges facing the broader container shipping industry, and US East Coast Ports in particular. Not only has a severe drought led to Panama Canal capacity restrictions, but high inventory levels and worsening economic conditions mean diminished consumer demand. 

In these uncertain economic times, shippers and ocean carriers must be vigilant in optimizing their supply chain network, putting a premium on flexibility, efficiency and resilience. This means considering alternatives outside of traditional, long-standing supply chains and having a willingness to adjust to ensure alignment with the optimal port partners. Factors to contemplate when choosing these partners should be based on basic economics: cost, demand and speed and proximity to market. 

Underserved markets and gateways have been ignored for too long, adding unnecessary costs and inefficiencies in supply chains. This is an important consideration during times of rising expenses and eroding profit margins. Shippers and ocean carriers have the opportunity to re-evaluate their overall supply chain design by tapping into those port partners that have the infrastructure in place to deliver unique valued-added services, cost savings and best-in-class productivity. 

It’s also important for shippers to consider population growth projections in this decision-making process as growth drives the demand for freight transport. The US South Atlantic is one of the fastest-growing regions in the country, particularly the state of North Carolina. With an understanding that population shifts imply an increased production and consumption of goods, NC Ports has made significant infrastructure investments in order to serve this growing region while providing shippers and ocean carriers with best-in-class service. In today’s competitive business and trade environment, amidst a complicated economic backdrop, the phrase “speed is money” is more pertinent than ever.