By 2020 there will be a gradual shift of US imports from the US west coast ports to the east coast ports to a point where the proportions will be 50:50, said Zim Integrated Shipping Services president and CEO Rafi Danieli in a keynote address at the 9th TPM Asia Conference in Shenzhen.
Danieli noted that the imbalance of roughly two thirds of the Far East-US trade volume that goes through the former will be reduced to an equal share by 2020. Danieli added that he believed the US east coast (USEC) and US Gulf Coast (USGC) gateway ports will see higher growth than the US west coast (USWC) ports.
Already the USEC volumes have increased by about 20% over the past two years. This shift to USEC has been accelerated by the labour dispute issues at the west coast ports earlier this year.
Danieli noted that USWC ports market share has fallen from 67% in June 2014 to 62% in June 2015. Some of the lines that moved more volumes via USEC ports as a solution to the west coast issues have not come back, he said. Danieli estimated that up to 10% of Pacific Southwest (PSW) ports cargo amounting to about 15% of US GDP will be in play between the west and east coast by 2020.
The situation will be further complicated by the opening of the expanded Panama Canal, expected by the third quarter of next year, he said. The ability to transit TEU13,000 vessels through the new locks may mean that inland destinations such as Chicago and Memphis might be better served through the USEC ports instead of the traditional USWC and rail connections.