Drewry Says U.S. Ports Will Be Vigilant in Pursuit of Carrier Calls

Even the most dominant U.S. ports can’t afford to become complacent in the face of several competitive factors converging at mid-year, say industry analysts.

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Even the most dominant U.S. ports can’t afford to become complacent in the face of several competitive factors converging at mid-year, say industry analysts.

According to Neil Davidson, Senior Analyst - Ports & Terminals for Drewry Research, the newly created/expanded alliances will certainly review and revise port calls, so there will be changes.

“However, it is in their interest to serve as many ports directly as possible in order to offer the best service to cargo owners,” he says.

“Furthermore, adds Davidson, carriers will still call at key cargo generating ports.

“So in this sense there may not be much change to the list of ports called. But bigger ships do mean reduced service frequency, or at least less port calls per year, leading to more peaking of port volumes.”

Davidson says a anticipation of a breakdown in dockside labor contracting on the U.S. West Coast should also be considered when talking about ports.

“I imagine that most shippers, through past experience of similar issues, have contingency plans in place for diversions if necessary. They will adopt a wait and see approach though,” he says.

Finally, Davidson says the impact of the expanded Canal still remains to be seen.

“East Coast U.S. ports are hoping to gain share from the West Coast ports but they won’t give it up easily,” he notes. “Plus, it’s not just about port capacity, but also about inland/intermodal capacity.”

In addition there are two key unknowns about the future, says Davidson.

First, the level of the new Canal vessel tolls is yet to be determined, and we have yet to see how the US and Canadian railroads will react to the expanded Canal.

“Both of these will have a big influence on which way cargo is routed,” says Davidson. “Most likely time sensitive cargoes will continue to move via the West Coast, but cost sensitive cargoes will be more tempted to use the Canal.”

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 [email protected]

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