Research

Does Environmental Compliance Impact Port Competitiveness?
METRANS International Urban Freight Conference October 18, 2017
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This paper addresses the question: Does environmental compliance impact port competitiveness? This requires examination of two issues: the impact of relative transportation costs on the volume of containerized imports through the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach (i.e. the demand elasticity), and the portion of costs attributable to environmental initiatives.


Container Terminal Reservation Systems – Design and Performance
Presented at the 5th METRANS International Urban Freight Conference in Long Beach, California on October 8, 2013.
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The paper analyzes reservation systems for trucks at container terminals in Port Botany, Australia; Southampton, UK; Vancouver, BC; and the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. System performance is assessed based on the uniformity of drayage activity throughout the day, and total turn times for trucks. Port Botany outperformed the other examples on both measures, based on a highly regulated system performance standards enforced by financial penalties for both drayage carriers and terminal operators.


Market Segmentation and Competitiveness for the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach
Presented at the 5th METRANS International Urban Freight Conference in Long Beach, California on October 9, 2013.
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The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have dominated the TransPacific container trade from its inception. However, the two ports’ share of containerized imports from Pacific Rim countries has been in steady decline since 2003. This paper uses U.S. trade data to analyze market share performance of the Los Angeles/Long Beach gateway and competing ports, including detailed analysis of specific product groups and origins, and shifts in traffic over the last decade. It includes a more detailed case study of auto parts imports.

The broad-based nature of the decline in LA/Long Beach market share suggests that cost increases over the last decade have affected traffic in almost all product groups, regardless of product value or service advantages offered by the Southern California ports. The example of vehicle parts imports shows that traffic routing for some products can be decisively influenced by service characteristics. An active market segmentation approach may provide opportunities to recapture market share for specific product groups.


Exchange Rate Impacts on West Coast Container Port Traffic
Presented at the Transportation Research Board 2013 Annual Conference in Washington, DC on January 14, 2013
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The impact of exchange rate changes is explored through a regression analysis of port market shares on Canadian Pacific Rim imports and relative rail costs. The results indicate that while the appreciation of the Canadian dollar had a negative impact on Lower Mainland container traffic due to higher inland costs, the effect was outweighed by increases in import volumes due to the reduction in the prices of imported goods. Estimates of Canadian Pacific Rim imports transhipped through U.S. ports suggest that the share of U.S. ports in Canadian traffic increased substantially over this period as a result of higher relative inland transportation costs. The paper highlights the influence of the differential impacts of changes in macroeconomic variables on port competitiveness.


Thinking Outside the Box: Macroeconomic and Inland Network Impacts on Port Competitiveness January 2013.
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This paper analyzes the market performance of two West Coast port complexes – Vancouver BC and the Southern California ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach – based on macroeconomic factors and the competitiveness of inland transportation networks to derive alternative estimates of price elasticity for West Coast container traffic. In both cases the results suggest that traffic is much less sensitive to relative cost differentials than conventional wisdom suggests. The paper also analyzes potential impacts of the Panama Canal expansion on US container traffic, and highlights the implications for West Coast ports in developing strategies to maintain competitiveness.

An earlier version of this research was presented at a METRANS seminar at the University of Southern California on September 12, 2012. The presentation slides and a video of the presentation is available on the METRANS website.


US and Canadian Port Competitiveness for Asia-Pacific Import Traffic
presented at the 5th Annual METRANS National Urban Freight Conference, Long Beach CA, October 12, 2011.
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In June 2011 the Bureau of Transportation Statistics released a new database on U.S. cargo transhipped through Canadian and U.S. ports. This study reviewed the BTS data and found that it significantly understates transhipments through Canada. The analysis estimated that Canadian transhipments of US containerized imports by rail accounted for only 400,000 TEU’s in 2010, 1.7% of total US West Coast container traffic, or 2.5% if transhipments by truck are included. These results were essentially confirmed by the findings of the Federal Maritime Commission Study of U.S. Inland Containerized Cargo Moving Through Canadian and Mexican Seaports (2012) which noted that Canadian shippers tranship a larger share of imports through US ports.


Cost Elasticity and Port Choice for West Coast Container Traffic
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Two phases of a major study on port and modal elasticity have been conducted by Leachman and Associates LLC for the Southern California Association of Governments to assess the impact of gateway costs on container traffic levels through West Coast ports. The study concludes that certain portions of this traffic – particularly low value commodities transported inland in marine containers (Inland Point Intermodal or IPI traffic) is highly sensitive to additional costs.

This result is difficult to reconcile with the increase in the market share of the BC Lower Mainland ports from around 8% in 2001 to 11% in 2009. Over this period the value of the Canadian dollar increased by 36% against the U.S. dollar, and this change was reflected in the relative cost of moving containers through the Lower Mainland gateway. This paper assesses the relative performance of major West Coast ports with a focus on the costs and market share performance of the Lower Mainland ports. The results suggest that the negative impact of increased inland costs was outweighed by an increase in Canadian imports from Pacific Rim countries, and that the Lower Mainland has actually lost market share in its core Canadian market.


Container Terminal Reservation Systems Paper
presented at the 3rd Annual METRANS National Urban Freight Conference, Long Beach CA, October 22, 2009.
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This paper profiles industry experience with the introduction of truck reservation systems at container terminals in the UK, Australia, Canada and California. The survey compares reservation system parameters, highlights the reaction of the drayage sector to the new operating environment, and discusses potential technical and policy implications related to mandatory truck reservation systems at container terminals.

While container terminals appear unequivocally to benefit from truck appointment systems, the impact on the drayage sector is not so clear. There are potential benefits which may arise from reduced queuing time at terminals, or greater reliability in terminal turn times. However, there are also potential drawbacks including additional complexity of dispatch operations, inefficiency in fleet management, and financial impacts of booking fees and penalties charged by terminal operators.

The presentation was reported in the October 23, 2009 issue of the Journal of Commerce( “Truck Appointments Boost Port Efficiency“)