สภาผู้ส่งสินค้าทางเรือแห่งประเทศไทย (สภาผู้ส่งออก)
Thai National Shippers’ Council
  • Thai Language
  • English Language
ความเคลื่อนไหวทางเศรษฐกิจและการขนส่ง
JOC 20/2/14 - Market Share Shifts From US West Coast to East Expected to Be ‘Slow and Small’

U.S. West Coast ports will lose some container volume to East and Gulf Coast
ports once the Panama Canal is enlarged, but there is no need to panic as long
as they remain reliable and efficient gateways for U.S. trade with Asia, Tioga
Group principal Dan Smith said yesterday.

Any loss of market share will be “slow and small,” and that is a point that
even
the Panama Canal Authority has made, the industry consultant and transportation
planner told the California Maritime Leadership Symposium in Sacramento.

The canal authority projects that its container volume will increase about 3
percent per year.  At that pace, it could take two decades to fill vessels with
a capacity of 13,000 20-foot containers. The maximum size vessel that will be
able to transit the enlarged canal will be 13,000-TEU capacity.

Neither the canal authority nor the carriers want to run vessels through the
canal at 50 percent of capacity, so carriers will increase the size of their
vessels in their Panama Canal services gradually as volumes dictate. “Carriers
don’t leap from 4,000 to 13,000-TEU ships. They will build up to it,” Smith
said.

West Coast ports have been ahead of the curve for several years in terms of
preparing for the big ships that now dominate the trans-Pacific trade. They
have
a minimum of 50 feet of water depth, large terminals and good intermodal rail
service to the eastern half of the country. Los Angeles-Long Beach is already
receiving regular calls by vessels of 10,000- to 14,000-TEU capacity.

Intermodal rail infrastructure and frequent departures are important because
they are tools in attracting cargo that moves over long distances to inland
population centers such as Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta.

Dick Steinke, a former Long Beach executive director who is now director of
marine terminals at Moffatt & Nichol Engineers, said the battleground for East
and West Coast ports is not cargo that is captive to the ports, but cargo that
can transit a number of gateways. “What we’re talking about here is
discretionary cargo,” he said.

Even though the Panama Canal expansion project will almost triple its capacity,
East Coast ports do not attract enough volume to fill large container ships,
Smith said. They will gradually increase their volume of lower-value cargo,
while many of the higher-value merchandise imports from Asia will continue to
move through the West Coast because transit times to hubs like Chicago and
Memphis are five to seven days shorter than via the Panama Canal route.

The canal authority, which has been in a battle with the contractor for the
construction project because of cost overruns, is not in the mood to offer low
tolls in order to generate volume. “The [authority] is not in it for volume.
They’re in it for the money,” Smith said.

The western railroads, meanwhile, priced low-value cargo out of the West Coast
market years ago and invested heavily in efficient operations designed to
attract higher-value imports from Asia. They will do what they have to in order
to protect their market share.  “The railroads have a lot more at stake here
than the ports,” he said.

Furthermore, the spat between the canal authority and its contractor has
delayed
completion of the project until at least the end of 2015. Meanwhile, carrier
vessel-sharing alliances continue to cascade larger ships into their
trans-Pacific services to the West Coast, and their goal is to get high
utilization in order to attain significant per-slot cost reductions, Smith
said.

He advised West Coast ports to continue to invest in marine terminal
improvements and inland infrastructure connectors. They should not be overly
concerned about a loss of some market share once the canal project is
completed,
but they shouldn’t be complacent, either, about job actions by workers,
terminal
congestion and long truck lines.

The canal expansion project of itself won’t divert much cargo to East Coast
ports, but West Coast ports could surrender cargo if they present to cargo
interests a reputation for being unreliable and inefficient. “Strikes scare
customers more than anything,” he said.