2019 Conference Objective

The 2019 JOC Gulf Shipping Conference will provide information and insights that cargo owners can use to plan and execute shipments of containerized cargo through US Gulf ports. At their core, JOC Events create value for beneficial cargo owners — including retailers, manufacturers, consumer product firms, and energy agribusiness organizations — through intensive programming that addresses key operational, pricing, and strategic challenges shippers face when leveraging end-to-end container shipping services to support their supply chains. Leveraging its editorial team of veteran journalists, the JOC Gulf Shipping Conference is built out of the industry-leading news and analysis appearing on JOC.com and in The Journal of Commerce to deliver the latest data, information, and potential industry solutions to the supply chain choke points that freight interests wrestle with daily.

Theme: Meeting Shipper Demands in a Turbulent and Changing Market

When Walmart opened its 2.6 million-square-foot distribution center in Mobile, Alabama, last summer, it served as the latest catalyst in a two-year surge in imports from Asia through US Gulf ports that shows no signs of letting up. Even before the opening, containerized imports from Asia were sustaining double-digit growth year over year through the Gulf, according to IHS Markit data. That bodes well for ports to attract additional all-water services from Asia to build on the three existing weekly services from Asia operated by the 2M of Maersk and Mediterranean Shipping Co.; Cosco China Shipping; and CMA CGM, while providing shippers in the region additional capacity to handle their growing volumes.

On the exports side, the long-awaited boom in resins and other plastics products — hit by Chinese tariffs in the ongoing US-China trade war, and by slower-than-expected construction of new production facilities because of the impact of Hurricane Harvey in 2017 — should begin this year, even if the US-China dispute reins in projections of a 50 percent increase in exports by the end of 2019 and a doubling of exports by 2022. Regardless of the outcome of the US-China dispute, demand for resins in emerging economies — especially in Southeast Asia, Latin America, and Africa — should allow for the planned investment of $200 billion in more than 300 production facilities in the US, primarily along the Gulf, according to Nick Vafiadis, vice president of plastics at JOC parent company IHS Markit. “Should the tariffs remain in place, clearly these estimates will not develop as projected, but that does not mean that the US polyethylene facilities will not run at high rates and export the projected volumes,” he said in November. “It simply means those shipments will move to alternate destinations such as Europe, Asia, India, and Latin America.”

Anticipating the continuing growth in import and export cargoes, Gulf ports have launched projects to deepen their harbors and expand marine terminals, and purchased super-post-Panamax cranes needed as vessel sizes increase. But if the Gulf is to continue growing as an load center for Asia imports — the driving force to carrier routings — it must attract additional services from Asia beyond the three weekly services currently serving Houston, Mobile, and New Orleans. By comparison, Los Angeles-Long Beach, the largest US port complex, has 40 weekly services from Asia, and the West Coast ports of Seattle-Tacoma, Oakland, and Los Angeles-Long Beach still account for more than 48.3 percent of all US imports from Asia, compared to about 45 percent for the East Coast, and about 10 percent through the Gulf.

Beyond the ports, shippers face multiple challenges — and opportunities. How should exporters manage the equipment dislocations that will come with the rapid growth in resins and other products? Will import growth provide the necessary containers to keep up or should they shift more shipments to other coasts? What impact will the International Maritime Organization’s low-sulfur fuel mandate, scheduled to take effect next January, impact shipper supply chains through the Gulf versus other regions? How are shippers dealing with disruption at inland locations such as Dallas, Memphis, and Chicago, and what solutions does the Gulf provide? How is the capacity crunch on drayage and longer-haul trucking shaping shipper decisions? With the US and China back at the bargaining table, what will a potential trade deal look like — assuming there is one — and what impact will that have on imports and exports? Where does technology fit in for shippers at the ports and in the broader supply chain?

Now in its fourth year, the JOC Gulf Shipping Conference will examine these and other topics, with a view to the full scope of the region, from the west coast of Florida to the east coast of Texas, and how the region fits within shippers’ broader North American supply chains.


Topics to be Explored:

  • Market Analysis: Examining the import-export outlook

  • Resins 2019: Is the long-awaited boom upon us?

  • IMO 2020: How should Gulf shippers adjust?

  • Inland Distribution: Dealing with trucking and intermodal disruption

  • Logistics Technology: What’s ready for prime time — and what isn’t?

  • Port Productivity and Efficiency: Solving shipper pain points — or not

  • The Cross-Border Challenge: A new US-Mexico dynamic