A high-powered team from Port Miami will meet more than 70 mainland manufacturers, investors and government bodies in Beijing today in a bid by eastern American and Gulf coast ports to attract Asian maritime interests.
The meeting, supported by the US ambassador to China Gary Locke and the US Chamber of Commerce, comes as eastern US ports are tussling for cargo when the expanded Panama Canal opens in 2015.
The talks will focus on Port Miami's plans to build a World Trade Centre Tower for Chinese multinationals, according to Kevin Lynskey, assistant port director for Port Miami. But they are also expected to include the development of a large complex in Florida, while Cosco Container Lines is thought to have approached Port Miami to launch services at the port.
Anshan Iron and Steel, car and bus maker BYD, China Communications Construction, CNOOC, white goods producer Gree and Dalian Wanda Commercial Properties are among the organisations taking part.
The event comes seven weeks after several US eastern ports and transport interests, including Port of Tampa and Florida East Coast Railway, participated for the first time in the Journal of Commerce's transpacific maritime conference in Shenzhen. Several other east and Gulf coast ports came as repeat participants, as they try to attract cargo from US west coast ports, including Los Angeles and Long Beach, which, together, handle about 40 per cent of US imports from Asia.
South Carolina Ports Authority spokeswoman Allison Skipper said the Panama Canal expansion will afford the US east coast a "tremendous opportunity". She called it "a game-changer for the shipping industry. It truly is the most significant thing to happen to shipping since the advent of the container."
Skipper added: "The key advantage to all-water routes is in cost. The US east coast can handle freight more cost-efficiently and at a lower carbon footprint. With the Panama Canal expansion coming online, ports like Charleston will ultimately benefit from more direct, all-water calls by larger vessels.
"Since about 70 per cent of cargo destined for our end-market is offloaded in west coast ports today, all-water routes provide a tremendous opportunity for the east coast to get a greater share of cargo that serves this region."
Her views were echoed by several other US port executives, including John Moseley, general manager for trade development at the Port of Houston Authority, who said: "Competition is intensifying to secure direct services and volume to respective ports."