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U.S. Seaport Outlook 2013

Key findings

  • Volume is inching closer to prerecession highs: The Port of Los Angeles is the nation’s busiest in terms of cargo through put, and thereby serves as a barometer to assess world cargo volumes. Year-over-year TEU growth was flat in 2012, however, the total was a mere 5 percent under the record-setting 2006.
  • Leading the pack: Our PAGI score methodology reveals the Port of New York / New Jersey is first. The Port of Los Angeles is second, while the Port of Long Beach rounds out the top three. The gap between New York / New Jersey and Los Angeles is now nine points; this time last year the differential was only two. It leads due to consistent cargo volume and available blocks of industrial space in the immediate market.
  • Ranks are shuffled among other ports: Savannah, a gateway to the South’s population, continues to lead our second tier of ports. Charleston heads up the third bracket.
  • What could be: Several second and third tier markets have projects underway that—upon completion—will eventually elevate them in our rankings. Miami, for instance, is developing a new rail system that will give the port access to 74 percent of the U.S. population.
  • Panama is on track: Work is underway on the canal’s third lane/locks, which will handle ships with a 12,600-TEU capacity. The Panama Canal is an integral trade route to the U.S. East Coast.
  • Post-Panamax ready? April 2015 is when the Panama Canal finishes work on its new set of locks, and U.S. East Coast ports continue infrastructure work to accommodate larger vessels before this date comes. Virginia and Baltimore are ready with Miami and New York / New Jersey slated to be operational by 2015.
  • Mitigating costs and maximizing efficiencies: Ocean carriers have already deployed post-Panamax ships and are navigating the Suez Canal to reach the U.S. East Coast from Asia. The economies of scale larger vessels offer, slow-steaming, and consolidating volumes of steamship lines are helping carriers reduce costs.
  • Large available blocks are scarce: There are only 11 available spaces in excess of 500,000 square feet within 15 miles of any major seaport. Only 23 blocks are available for tenants in need of at least 250,000 square feet within five miles of a major port.
  • Opportunities to the east: East Coast port-supporting markets such as Atlanta, Charlotte and Baltimore were growth markets prior to the recession, and have spaces to fill. This spells “opportunity” as ports enhance their infrastructure to be post-Panamax ready and competitive. Higher cargo volumes will translate to more demand for industrial product.

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