Several shippers that have diversified their U.S. port gateways for Asian imports told the Journal of Commerce’s Trans-Pacific Maritime Conference that it’s too early to tell whether the Panama Canal’s expansion will cause them to shift a higher proportion of their cargo to the East Coast
After sliding from 80 percent in 2000, the West Coast’s share of Asian imports has stabilized at about 70 percent since 2008, with the East Coast handling 28 percent and 2 percent moving through Gulf ports, said Steve Branscum, group vice president, consumer products marketing, at BNSF Railway.
The West Coast handles 93 percent of Asian imports bound for U.S. inland points, Branscum noted. Most East Coast imports are for local markets.
Shippers said it’s unclear whether that will change with the 2014 opening of wider locks at the Panama Canal.
Some 90 percent of Target’s Asian imports once moved through the West Coast but the big-box retailer’s East-West ratio now is “just short of 60-40,” said John Anfinson, senior manager, international transportation. He said it’s too early to gauge the canal expansion’s impact.
Home Depot sources 90 percent of its imports from China and Southeast Asia and uses 10 U.S. gateways, dividing its cargo about 50-50 between the East and West Coasts, said David Davis, senior manager, international logistics. He also said it’s too early to tell how the expanded canal will change things.
“The jury’s still out,” said Steve Flunker, director of international transportation at J.C. Penney, which has diversified its import gateways by expanding on the West Coast as well as the East Coast. Flunker said the company now is the largest container importer at Oakland, uses Prince Rupert in Canada and is testing Lazaro Cardenas in Mexico.
Sheila Bracken, a consultant who recently retired from Allenberg Cotton, said that although it’s too early to gauge the canal expansion’s impact, exporters welcome it because it provides more options.
Source: Joseph Bonney, The Journal of Commerce. –o0o-