News that congestion in Long Beach had caused the G6 Alliance to drop some eastbound calls at Los Angeles joined a cacophony of news that must have had the owners of the soon upgraded Panama Canal, investors in the new Nicaragua Canal which was scheduled to “break ground” on 22 December along with ports along US Gulf Coast, rubbing their hands in absolute glee.
As fingers pointed between unions and employer, while carriers began announcing surcharges up to $1,000 per TEU, Long Beach responded by opening a disused pier.
A Drewry Container Terminal Capacity and Performance Benchmarks report suggests the situation is evidence of a “perfect storm” of fundamental problems across American West Coast ports which, in company with North American terminals in general, under-perform the world in intensity of use of assets – bad news in any capital intensive business. Another report by Forbes on the ten top ports in the world showed the busiest port in the world as the Port of Shanghai but no North American ports made the list.
US terminals are 25% smaller than world average and West Coast ports are one directional, ie import focussed. Another contributing factor to the poor performance is resistance to uninterrupted 24/7 working in the US.