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Trans-Pacific Trade

The trans-Pacific ocean shipping market is by far North America’s largest trade lane, accounting for nearly 20 million 20-foot-equivalent container units in the U.S. trade alone in 2012.

The market is dominated by imports by large retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, Home Depot and Lowe’s, which, unlike in other markets, tend to contract directly with ocean carriers rather than through forwarders, as is typically the case in the Asia-Europe market. As a result of the one-year contracts that retailers and other large shippers typically sign as of May 1 each year, freight rates in the trans-Pacific eastbound trade tend to be less volatile than in Asia-Europe.

Key developments in the trans-Pacific include the approaching 2015 expansion of the Panama Canal and its potentially huge impact on routing of Asia goods into North America, Canadian West Coast ports’ growing success in attracting U.S.-bound cargo, and West Coast ports’ expected response to these competitive challenges.

Exports moving to those markets typically are lower-value commodities such as wastepaper and scrap that keep China’s manufacturing and packaging industries humming.

News & Analysis

30 May 2018
Sponsored: Panalpina's Frank Hercksen on the global rollout of the SAP Transportation Management and trans-Pacific objectives.  
18 Apr 2018
Sponsored: APL Chief Executive Nicolas Sartini gives his outlook on the maritime trade industry for 2018 and areas of market growth. At the JOC TPM Conference in March he discussed the launch of a new EXX service for APL, an 11-day service from Shanghai to Los Angeles, designed as a speed-to-market alternative for air freight.
12 Apr 2018
Sponsored: Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero and JOC Senior Content Editor Alessandra Barret discuss how the speed-to-market demands of e-commerce impacts ports.
14 Jan 2018
ILA and USMX officials had hoped to agree on a contract extension that would reassure the hundreds of shippers who will attend the JOC’s annual Trans-Pacific Maritime (TPM) conference March 4-7 in Long Beach, California.
13 Dec 2017
Trans-Pacific rate volatility is likely to continue through 2018, as carriers add capacity and the Transpacific Stabilization Agreement loses another member.
21 Jul 2017
West Coast rates have already fallen behind the spot rates in mid-July last year.

Commentary

Rates in the trans-Pacific eastbound trade from Asia to North America are starting to resemble the paltry Asia-Europe and trans-Pacific westbound numbers. Within a couple weeks, we may have three-digit numbers for spot rates for 40-foot containers moving from China-based ports to Los Angeles and Long Beach. I can’t recall seeing rates this low in my 42 years in the business.