Canada's West Coast Ports on the Rise in 2012

Canada's West Coast Ports on the Rise in 2012

Market share of U.S. and Canadian West Coast ports in 2008U.S. and Canadian West Coast ports: market share by country in 2008

Canada’s West Coast container ports saw robust growth in 2012 while for the most part their U.S. counterparts stagnated or declined, according to analysis of each port’s published data. The result is that Canada’s share of total West Coast volumes is growing.

Overall U.S. West Coast container market share as a percentage of the total West Coast slipped from 88.4 percent in 2008 to 86.1 percent in 2012, while the Canadian share of West Coast container volumes rose from 11.6 to 13.9 percent in the same period, rising 1.2 percentage points in 2012 alone. The shift in market share has been even more pronounced in the Pacific Northwest. The U.S. PNW ports (Seattle, Tacoma and Portland) have seen their share of total PNW volumes drop from 59 percent to 53 percent since 2008 while the Canadian PNW ports, including Vancouver and Prince Rupert, have seen their PNW share increase from 41 percent to 47 percent since 2008.

Market share of U.S. and Canadian West Coast ports, 2012.U.S. and Canadian West Coast ports: market share by country in 2012

Prince Rupert and Vancouver saw large increases over their 2011 volumes. Prince Rupert’s container volume jumped by 37.6 percent, from 410,469 20-foot-equivalent units in 2011 to 564,857 TEUs in 2012, which made it by far the fastest-growing port on North America’s West Coast. Prince Rupert’s growth over the prior year, at 154,388 TEUs, means that it achieved larger growth in raw volumes, not just in percentage terms, than the far larger Port of Los Angeles. Prince Rupert’s compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the five-year period from 2008 to 2012 is 32.7 percent.

The other major Canadian West Coast port, Vancouver, was the third-fastest-growing West Coast port last year, with a growth rate of 8.2 percent, increasing its volume from 2,507,032 TEUs in 2011 to 2,713,160 TEUs in 2012. Vancouver’s CAGR was 2.1 percent during the five-year period from 2008 to 2012.

The fastest-growing U.S. West Coast port was Tacoma, whose container volume jumped by 15.9 percent in 2012 to 1,711,133 TEUs, from 1,476,148 TEUs in 2011. The addition of the Grand Alliance last year made Tacoma the second-fastest-growing North American West Coast port in 2012. The volume increase of 234,985 containers between 2011 and 2012 was the highest volume increase of any West Coast port last year. The growth is a reversal for Tacoma, whose five-year CAGR is negative 2.1 percent. Despite its growth, the port handled 150,219 fewer TEUs in 2012 than in 2008.

Divergent Growth on the West Coast in 2012
Major North American West Coast Container Ports
Source: Ports’ published data

Chart showing divergent growth at North America's West Coast ports.

Los Angeles, Oakland, and Long Beach were overall relatively flat in 2012. Los Angeles grew by 1.7 percent to 8,077,714 TEUs in 2012 from 7,940,511 in 2011, a difference of 137,203. Its five-year CAGR since 2008 is 0.7 percent; it saw volume of 7,849,985 TEUs in 2008. Oakland was almost unchanged last year, with 0.1 percent growth to 2,344,424 TEUs, from 2,342,504 in 2011. Its five-year CAGR is 1.2 percent since 2008, when it had a volume of 2,233,533 TEUs. Long Beach’s volumes dropped in 2012 by 0.3 percent from 6,061,085 to 6,045,662 TEUs, a volume difference of 15,423. The CAGR for Long Beach is -1.7 percent since 2008, when its containerized volume totaled 6,487,816 TEUs.

The U.S. ports of Portland and Seattle saw the biggest drop in 2012. Portland’s volume fell 7.6 percent to 183,203 TEUs from 198,179 TEUs in 2011, a difference of 14,976 TEUs. Its five-year CAGR is -7.1 percent since 2008, when its annual volume was 245,459 TEUs. The fastest-declining port in 2012 was Seattle, which dropped 8.1 percent to 1,869,492 TEUs from 2,033,535 TEUs in 2011. Its five-year CAGR remains positive, however, at 2.3 percent.

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