Competitive working agreements among all container ports on America’s West Coast could be the answer to cargo diversions to Mexico and Canada, according to a top US regulator.
Federal Maritime Commissioner Richard Lidinsky released this week an update of a report he spearheaded in 2012 looking at competition among North American ports. The results showed that despite efforts among US ports to maintain marketshare, increasing congestion and container equipment shortages have helped ports in Canada and Mexico gain more business at the expense of the US West Coast.
“What was most interesting to me was that the fastest growing port was Prince Rupert in Canada,” Lidinsky told IHS Maritime on 10 July. “Our diversions have been Canada’s opportunity. And there’s nothing illegal about it; they’re providing shippers with additional options.”
At the same time, however, he pointed out that the primary role of the US Federal Maritime Commission was to protect US foreign waterborne trade while promoting an efficient maritime transport system.
One way the FMC has accomplished this in the past three years has been to be open to marketing alliances among US ports as a means of growing marketshare. The agency has approved two major competitive agreements so far, between Seattle and Tacoma and between Los Angeles and Long Beach.
Lidinsky sees more such agreements in the future, particularly if cargo diversions continue. “One can envision an entire US West Coast agreement someday that can deal with both the Canadian and Mexican efforts,” he said.
Lidinsky added, “Our role is to keep an eye this; but we can’t stop it, and we can’t over-regulate it. But I think it’s useful to provide a snapshot of the growing cargo numbers in Canada and Mexico. It’s up to US ports to do something about it.”