Smaller, lesser-known ports often deliver substantial benefits to shippers, letting them bypass congestion while leveraging advanced technology. Here are seven reasons to consider these less-trafficked cargo destinations.
Ask a shipping professional to name alternative, lesser-known ports, and they might mention Savannah, Houston, or Philadelphia.
But ask them about Chester, Gulfport, or Tampa, and their response might be, “Hmmm…”
North America’s smaller ports might not be top of mind with shippers, but they do quite well, thank you very much.
“Look at the Great Lakes ports,” says Walter Kemmsies, chief strategist at Chicago-based real estate and investment management services firm JLL. “They handle some agricultural exports, but they also bring in a lot of steel.”
These less-talked-about ports usually serve their region’s industries. In the Great Lakes area, ports typically import goods for nearby industrial manufacturing while in Florida, imports to smaller ports often support the state’s tourism industry.
And while the less-trafficked ports offer advantages the larger ports can’t, they also have some disadvantages, such as the size of the vessels they can handle. These aren’t destinations for the new 20,000 TEU ships—they’re better suited to handle feeder vessels.
In the end, shippers often base port decisions on a macro view. “Where is the product being shipped from and where is the end of the supply chain? That dictates what shippers will do,” says Steve Pastor, vice president of global supply chain and ports/rail logistics forcommercial real estate services firm NAI James E. Hanson in New Jersey.
Still, shippers that overlook smaller ports thinking that they extend delivery time or aren’t cost effective might be surprised to learn that these ports can save time, lower costs, and provide superior customer service.
Here are seven advantages of using ports that are off the beaten water path:
1. SMALLER PORTS ARE LESS CONGESTED THAN LARGER COASTAL PORTS.
2. SMALLER PORTS ARE COST EFFECTIVE.
3. SMALLER PORTS CAN CONTRIBUTE TO SHIPPER AND CARRIER SUSTAINABILITY GOALS.
4. SMALLER PORTS CAN MOVE FREIGHT THROUGH CUSTOMS MORE QUICKLY.
5. SMALLER PORTS WELCOME SHIPS BEING CROWDED OUT OF LARGER PORTS.
6. SMALLER PORTS OFFER PERSONALIZED CUSTOMER SERVICE.
“Cleveland has a strong sense of customer service,” Blough adds. “That’s the kind of attention you want.”