Though the West Coast ports have more than recovered from the February 2015 strike and subsequent shipping divestment, and have posted record amounts of container traffic in the first quarter, a few East and Gulf Coast ports are consistently showing better annual growth numbers.
A few industry experts have speculated that the $6.9 billion Panama Canal expansion opening in June, which will allow for ships carrying up to 14,000 twenty-foot-equivalent units (TEUs), will further expand commerce to the East and Gulf Coasts. However, land-based logistical solutions have improved enough to allow goods delivered to West Coast ports to at least reach Chicago faster than a ship can transit through the slow-moving Canal, meaning the products can reach most of the country before an East Coast port is reached.
It’s likely that goods with a short shelf-life will still primarily go through West Coast ports to ensure quicker delivery, says Walter Kemmsies, managing director, economist and chief strategies for the U.S. ports, airports and global infrastructure group with commercial real estate services firm JLL. “You want the newest flat-screen TV, or cell phone, to go through Los Angeles or Long Beach because of the obsolescence factor,” he notes. “But if you’re hauling, say, lawn chairs, instead of fighting through the containers that are needing quick movement, why not use, say, Savannah?”
Regardless of which side of the country sees more TEU volume, it’s clear that the East and Gulf Coasts are currently experiencing the highest traffic growth. Here’s a more in-depth look at the five strongest ports that don’t kiss the Pacific Ocean: