According to a LA Times article, Los Angeles and Long Beach ports experienced a slip in total tonnage in 2011 due to various reasons such as lower demand for Chinese imports. Asian trade accounts for about 40% of imports for these two ports.
Although LA and Long Beach have long been the largest US ports, it appears the ports are losing market share to others. Overall, Los Angeles/Long Beach’s share of international cargo containers moved by the ten largest North America ports has fallen to 41.7% this year from 42.6% last year. In fact, other US West Coast ports may be losing market share as well. Oakland and Tacoma have reported flat growth so far for 2011 while Seattle has reported a 4.8% decline in tonnage.
Shippers are increasingly using India and Singapore as hubs to East Coast destinations. This is resulting in tonnage increases for ports such as New York/New Jersey at +5.3%, Savannah at 3.6% and even Houston, along the Gulf, at +3%.
The expansion of the Panama Canal in 2014 also has West Coast port officials concerned as more cargo may continue to shift to the US East Coast. To attract the possible increase in cargo, East Coast ports are making infrastructure improvements while railroad companies such as Norfolk Southern and CSX have expanded its tracks and also made infrastructure improvements to expand intermodal usage.
This shift in port usage will probably result in not only changes in transportation patterns but also to the relocation of warehouses and distribution centers to areas closer to ports experiencing growth. Logistics hubs such as Atlanta, Memphis, Dallas and the Ohio region should benefit from this shift.