Here are some compelling reasons to consider changing how you route shipments originating in ASIA.
- Ports in California have been making headlines because of unprecedented delays both on the water, and then thru and beyond the ports. During this same time frame the Port of Virginia has been running smoothly. It has also been performing better than other ports along the East Coast. The Ports in Virginia have different operating structures than others, especially those on the West Coast. Virginia Ports are run by one entity, the Virginia Port Authority. If one terminal starts backing up the VPA will switch traffic and unloading to another terminal to avoid costly delays and congestion. In addition, VPA also has sole authority and control over the trucking aspect. The west coast, by comparison, has 3 different truckers that they need to deal with. This gives Virginia another advantage in managing the flow of goods thru and beyond the port. Last, but not least, the VPA has automated stacking cranes. This means fewer shifts are necessary to unload containers. Adding this all up means that Virginia is clearly winning the port war and should be considered a strong option for freight originating in Asia.
- So, let’s change gears a bit and talk about LABOR. The ILWU, International Longshore and Warehouse Union, has labor contract negotiations coming up in 2022 for its entire West Coast labor force. The last negotiation 6 years ago, produced severe disruptions. At that time, many shippers were caught flat-footed and had to divert to Gulf Coast and East Coast ports to compensate. This time around you don’t want to get caught off-guard and un-prepared. The ILW Union has already rejected an offer by the terminal operators to delay negotiations until 2023. The head of the union told its workers to “save up” as they prepare for negotiations, meaning that this time around it may be even more painful and take a “long time” to iron out. A really long time with lots of disruptions and down-time.
- The West Coast is a logjam right now and into the foreseeable future. Ships and containers are stacking up like cordwood. The port has a significant backlog of ships waiting to be unloaded. Once they are finally unloaded then there are backups in getting the containers on trucks or railcars for movement to their final destinations. Overall transit times from ASIA have tripled. What used to take 30 days, now takes 90 days. That represents a lot of idle cash, sitting unused.
Time is money, if for example, your cost of capital is 3-4% and your carrying costs are 25%, then each day, each dollar of inventory sits for longer than it used to or should, then it ends up costing you $35 per $50,000 of in transit inventory value per day, more than it should. This adds up very quickly and turns into big dollars wasted. One container on the water for 60 extra days could cost $2100 more with the longer transit. If you ship 100 containers annually then that’s over $200K in additional cost to you each year. Safety Stock levels would be lower for a 30-day transit than for a 90-day transit pipeline. Safety stock is money sitting too, not being converted back to cash, not generating sales. These costs add up fast and are very un-productive.
- Since the ultimate customer maybe closer from the east coast than the west coast, domestic transportation costs will be lower and transit times faster. More than 2/3rds of the US’s domestic population is within 2 days of the Virginia Ports. Unit costs (per carton, per lb., etc.) will be lower. Damage and loss risk is lower on the domestic pipeline when using east coast unloading vs west coast unloading. The longer the transit, the more opportunity exists for damage and loss. Damage and loss will create unhappy customers, and unhappy customers will create lower sales and less profits.
Now let’s look at Norfolk and Richmond as destination ports versus other east coast facilities.
- Virginia serves 2/3rds of the US population within 2 days. Virginia is a crossroads to the west, the south and the northeast either by truck, intermodal or rail modes. Its central location makes it ideal as a distribution point for the entire East coast, Southeast and Midwest.
- Warehouse rates for inventory are lower and more space is available in Virginia than anywhere on the east coast. Labor costs and insurance costs are extremely competitive.
- Trucking rates outbound from Virginia are very competitive with other east coast ports. If you ship south from Virginia, vs more northern ports, you costs will be substantially lower. If you ship to the Midwest rates will be competitive.
- The availability of transportation alternatives is very high in Virginia. The ratio of loads to trucks is balanced better here than at other east coast locations.
All in all, the east coast is an attractive alternative to the west coast as a destination port from Asia. Out of Europe it’s a no brainer, transit is substantially shorter and freight rates are much better. Virginia has some key advantages over other east coast ports, that will produce a competitive edge for shippers. Depending on the distribution of your customer base and its density in proximity to Virginia, you may have a real opportunity to advance your competitive position by shipping thru and stocking product In Virginia.
One last point. Although breaking up your inventory into east coast and west coast lots makes for a more difficult management process, it may allow for enhanced supply chain risk as well as increased leverage when dealing with warehouses, carriers, and vendors. Depending on your business model, you may decrease your inventory pipeline, lower your supply chain risk, enhance your competitive position, and provide a higher level of customer service. It’s worth looking into and Riverside Logistics will be happy to help you make a decision. Now is the time to be working on this before it is too late to make changes.
About the author
Vice President Business Transformation
Headquarters: Riverside Logistics, Inc. , 5160 Commerce Road, Richmond, VA 23234
Riverside Logistics is a full-service third-party logistics company (3PL), delivering world-class supply chain management solutions.
If you would like more information or have questions about this article, please call Jim at 804- 474-7700 Option #4.