“While the present downturn and the recession that might follow will hurt everybody, the ports of the U.S. West Coast will not recover so easily because their decline is part of a deeper malaise”

West Coast port volume drop likely to worsen in next decade, study says

Cargo volumes at West Coast ports will continue to decline because of higher intermodal transportation costs. That’s the latest forecast in a study conducted by Drewry Shipping Consultants, a United Kingdom-based maritime advisory firm.

The U.S. Pacific Coast will lose its leadership position in the import cargo market because it’s cheaper to transport goods via Gulf Coast and East Coast ports, according to the study.

The “complacency of inland transport providers,” especially U.S. railroads, is driving the shift, the study claims. Although railroads continue to invest in infrastructure, the nation’s rail system is faced with a tightening market and rising demand.

“Railroads have chosen to up their prices rather than invest in significantly more capacity, in the mistaken belief that they had a captive market,” said Drewry Supply Chain Advisors’ Philip Damas in a statement.

The West Coast cargo decline likely will intensify during the next decade, with intermodal costs continuing to rise and all-water costs continuing to fall, the study predicts.


And: Changes threaten US intermodal route: Report

Updated October 28, 2008 3:36:28 PM


After years of dominating the United States maritime trade, the intermodal route connecting the major West Coast ports with interior regions is coming under threat, according to a logistics white paper published by Drewry Supply Chain Advisors.

While the recent decline of containerized imports through West Coast ports looks like the natural result of the U.S. economic slowdown, the white paper argues that these changes are structural and long-term.

The white paper, “U.S. Intermodal Today and Tomorrow,” says that several factors have combined to undermine the position of America’s Pacific Coast ports, not least of which is the complacency of the U.S. railroads.

For many destinations in the eastern U.S., the route via the West Coast ports is now much more expensive than the route via East Coast and Gulf Coast ports.


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