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Complacency is not an option for U.S. ports

By Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
April 09, 2014

With the Panama canal expansion meeting its deadline in late 2015, shippers are busy determining which gateways would best serve their future needs. But even more strategic complexity has been introduced this year with consolidation of ocean carrier services. Rather than whistling in the dark, the leading ocean cargo gateways are keeping their guard up.

According to Ben Hackett, president of the maritime consultancy Hackett Associates, the P3 and G6 carrier alliances will not change the current ports comprising his monthly “Port Tracker” newsletter.

The ports surveyed in the report issued by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates include: Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Tacoma, Seattle, Houston, New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, and Savannah, Miami, and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Port Everglades.

“NY/NJ will always be a major destination because of the population concentration. The same is true of LA/Long Beach,” says Hackett. “Oakland and Savannah are important because they represent two of the best export gateways. Finally, Norfolk and Seattle/Tacoma are attractive because they have sufficiently deep harbors to handle the mega vessels.”

Hackett notes that alliance carriers will also continue to use their respective terminals, thereby ameliorating dockside disruption. He does concede, however, that drayage may be complicated in the future.

“With the influx of these massive container ships, truckers will have many more boxes to move at once,” he observes. “As a consequence, you can expect ports to demand more transparency in the drayage process.”

While relatively minor, the Gulf ports of New Orleans and Corpus Christi play a significant role as a transshipment hub, as does the Port of Boston and Philadelphia in the East. On the West Coast, the niche Port of Portland and Vancouver USA remain viable for many shippers. None of these players, however, will find a place in “Port Tracker” in the near future.

About the Author

Patrick Burnson
Executive Editor

Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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