No U.S. container port ranks among the top 50 most efficient in the world, a new study reveals, in yet another indictment of lagging U.S. maritime infrastructure.
The Container Port Performance Index 2020 (CPPI), released this week, ranks 351 of the world’s container ports based primarily on dwell time, which is considered a reflection of port processes and infrastructure.
The World Bank and IHS Markit report clearly points out that Asian ports are leading the way.
Biden’s $17 billion infrastructure upgrade for ports and waterways can’t come soon enough
North American ports, on the other hand, have work to do. The top North American port, Halifax, Canada, ranked 39th and 25th, according to the two different approaches taken by the study team: the statistical approach, which makes use of factor analysis, and the managerial approach, which is “a pragmatic methodology that reflects expert knowledge and judgment,” according to the study’s authors. The top U.S. ports were Charleston, which ranked 53rd with the administrative approach (95th with the statistical approach), and Philadelphia, 83rd with the statistical approach (87th with the administrative approach).
Andy Lane, one of the report’s authors, “The report shows that many ports close to each other are somewhat clustered in the rankings.
Asian ports dominate the top positions in the rankings, which is perhaps not a complete surprise. At the other end of the regional spectrum, North American ports rank relatively low, especially those on the West Coast. There is clearly room for improvement here, which would also open up additional capacity.”
Analysis by Danish consultancy Sea-Intelligence in April referred to this capacity problem, showing that North American ports are primarily responsible for the imbalance in container shipping that has been affecting the global container shipping industry.
Speaking on the same topic at this year’s TPM virtual conference, Jeremy Nixon, CEO of Ocean Network Express (ONE), pointed out that terminal productivity in North America is lower than that of Asian ports by as much as 50% because stevedores work fewer hours. At the same event, Vincent Clerc, CEO of A.P. Moller-Maersk Ocean & Logistics, said the lack of investment in North American ports is a critical factor in the current box crisis.
Salvatore Mercogliano, associate professor of history at Campbell University in North Carolina and adjunct professor at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, also focused on the investment issue, telling Splash, “Biden’s $17 billion infrastructure improvements for ports and waterways can’t come soon enough. The U.S. has fallen behind on its ports, and seems to always be playing catch-up with terminals in Asia and Europe.”
The pandemic has magnified these problems, Mercogliano said, leaving importers waiting for delayed cargo and exporters scrambling to get their cargo out.
Turloch Mooney, associate director of port analytics at IHS Markit and the organization’s lead on the project, said he sees the report’s data as an important indicator for North American and other underperforming ports to recognize.
“The CPPI is a benchmark for governments and other stakeholders in the global economy to identify performance gaps and associated risks, and hopefully take action to close those gaps and move this essential agenda forward,” he said.