Big ships, competition challenge West Coast ports

Published on Wednesday,09 January 2019

North America’s West Coast ports in 2019 are addressing challenges such as late vessel arrivals and explosivecontainer discharges from mega-ships through efficiency enhancements that include extended gates, trucker appointments, and container peel-off piles. That’s proving to be a balancing act as they compete for discretionary cargo with East and Gulf coast ports whose fortunes have greatly improved from the expanded Panama Canal.

The ports of Prince Rupert, Vancouver, the Northwest Seaport Alliance of Seattle and Tacoma, Oakland, Los Angeles, and Long Beach are investing billions of dollars in terminal, road, and rail infrastructure. The competition for discretionary cargo moving to the continent’s vast interior, however, won’t be determined by infrastructure but by the efficient transfer of containers from vessels to trucks and trains. Because East Coast ports are much closer to the largest population centers, “We have to do everything perfectly” to compete, Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles told the Harbor Association of Industry and Commerce on Sept. 28.

The West Coast's niche advantage

West Coast ports have a clear advantage in capturing high-value, time-sensitive imports from Asia. Compared with East and Gulf coast routings, importers reach their destinations 10 days to two weeks faster by shipping via intermodal rail through West Coast ports. That advantage erodes, however, when vessels arrive late because of port congestion or weather events in Asia.

Rail departures from the West Coast are compromised by excessive container dwell times, weather events, or rail service issues, as evidenced by delays last winter in Vancouver and Prince Rupert. Cost is also a determining factor in cargo routing, and all-inclusive costs from East and Gulf coast ports are lower than via intermodal rail from the West Coast.

Read More: https://www.joc.com/port-news/mega-ships-and-competition-challenge-west-coast-ports_20190109.html