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US east coast ports continue to siphon containers from west coast

2019-11-29

NORTH American west coast ports are continuing to lose container shipping market share to rival east coast ports, a trend that is fuelling a rising in trucking demand at the expense of intermodal rail freight volumes.


Trucks are now hauling volumes westward from east coast ports that were previously served by transcontinental rail eastwards from California. Furthermore, intermodal rail cargo travels shorter distances from east coast ports westwards than it does from Pacific ports eastward, reported New York's FreightWaves.


October data from port authorities confirms that California throughput is underperforming throughput at eastern ports.


Plus, a more immediate way to gauge this trend is US Customs import data. FreightWaves' SONAR platform provides a seven-day moving average of maritime import shipments - a shipment defined as one customs' filing.


The latest data available on the SONAR platform shows that customs filings decreased by 18 per cent year on year in Los Angeles, whereas they have risen by 21 per cent in Elizabeth, New Jersey.


Another way to assess the shift in container volumes from west to east coast ports is to analyse intermodal rail moves of loaded 40-foot containers that come off the ships.


Loaded volumes to Chicago are an important indicator of coastal preferences because both coasts have high-volume intermodal rail connections to the Windy City.


At present, the volume of FEUs moving from Elizabeth to Chicago is up 70 per cent year on year, while the volume from Los Angeles to Chicago dropped by 33 per cent.


Yet another way to examine the trend of switching to east coast ports is to consider the cost to ship an FEU by sea.


The Freightos Baltic Daily Index shows that the average price to ship a box from China to the North American west coast is down 44 per cent year on year, while rates to the east coast are down by a smaller 31 per cent.


 
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