Monday, October 26, 2009

US Pac Rim Ports Plan To Fight Canadian Diversion Threat

Officials of six major United States ports from Southern California to Puget Sound are gearing up for a marketing battle to prevent a major Canadian effort to divert US containerized cargo to the ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert.

The joint move by officials of the US West Coast ports of Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, Portland, Seattle and Tacoma comes on the heels of a recently launched multi-million dollar campaign by the Canadian government to attract even more Asian container traffic away from the US Pacific Rim ports.

The six US ports have each suffered diversions of containerized cargo over the past several years to the two Canadian ports, most notably in discretionary cargo headed via rail to the US Midwest and East Coast states.

The Port of Prince Rupert, the most northern all-year ice-free deep-water port on the Pacific Coast and several days steaming time closer to Asian ports, was specifically designed around the idea of luring traffic from the American ports. In just over two years of operation, the single terminal at Prince Rupert has already maxed out at 500,000 TEUs per year, most at the expense of West Coast US ports. Expansion plans will increase Prince Rupert's maximum throughput to 2 million TEUs by the end of 2010 and 4 million TEUs by 2015.

Officials for the six US ports plan to aggressively lobby shipping customers at the World Shipping Summit in Qingdao, China, scheduled for Nov. 11-13.

Representatives from the six American ports have also been busy in Washington, D.C., recently lobbying Congressional lawmakers for the creation of a national goods movement policy as well as for goods movement infrastructure funds.

"Let me tell you, legislators were shocked to see all of us calling on them together," Los Angeles port executive director Geraldine Knatz recently told her board of commissioners. "That shock value really helped them understand the importance of federal leadership."