New data shows trend in imports from China away from U.S. West Coast ports

According to new data from trade intelligence firm Zepol, importers diverted significant cargo away from West Coast to U.S. East Coast and Gulf ports. Data reflecting China imports from January 2015 to June 2015 shows a 15 percent increase in business at U.S. East Coast ports.

  • U.S. Atlantic ports show a 20 percent increase in imports from China.
  • Gulf ports spiked with a 43 percent increase in imports from China.
  • Imports increased 26 percent year over year in Savannah and Houston.
  • Houston alone increased 53 percent over 2014 for the same period from China.
  • Carriers are responding by adding more vessels and services via Suez Canal and Panama Canal.

Importers started shifting more imports through U.S. East Coast ports early in 2014 to avoid the predicted backlogs and work slowdowns caused by the labor negotiations at USWC ports in 2014.  Many importers may be ready to keep the diverted cargo with U.S. East Coast ports even though the labor contracts were ratified in May. 

In a survey conducted by American Shipper, a third of retailers and a quarter of manufacturers say they planned to shift at least 20 percent of their imports to East Coast ports as a result of the West Coast port disruptions. 

It will be interesting to see the impact as the Panama Canal prepares to open to 13,000 TEU vessels in April 2016, which will provide even more incentive for shippers to move cargo away from the West Coast.