GARAPAN Saipan — The possibility of having Guam and Saipan as major transshipment points for U.S.-bound cargo should be looked into in light of an increase in exports from China that caused West Coast ports to become congested an industry official said.

According to Paul Sorenson principal at BST Associates a consultancy firm based in Bothell Wash. China’s imports to the U.S. is growing at a rate of 20% a year.

“We are reaching a situation where we have a growing cargo volume coming to shore and we are not prepared for it ” Sorenson said in his presentation before some 70 delegates to the 2006 Annual Conference of the Association of Pacific Ports held at the Hyatt Regency Saipan from Aug. 20 to 23.

“The volume of growth that’s occurring is just so astounding. This is just overwhelming from Los Angeles and Long Beach and Oakland Seattle and Tacoma. And that’s forcing cargo [companies] to seek new gateways in order to get to which destination of the U.S. This creates some opportunities for other ports in the mainland and possibly the Mariana islands ” he told the Journal.

Sorenson said using Guam and Saipan as transshipment points where cargoes from China can be unloaded at the docks inspected by U.S. Customs and then flown to distribution centers in the U.S. is not far-fetched. However he said the cost associated with this should be “investigated.” 

“It needs to be explored. There are a number of factors associated with using the two islands as transshipment points ” Sorenson said.

John Santos operations manager at the Port Authority of Guam said large companies might consider this option. “They will entertain this because they cannot afford delays in the delivery of their orders ” he told the Journal.

Sorenson said there are two gateways opening up. One is the Prince Rupert port in British Columbia and the other Punta Colonet south of Mexico.

According to its Web site Prince Rupert port is located at the North American entry point of the North West Transportation Corridor and links Asian markets to one of the world’s largest industrial and consumer powerhouses.

In April Punta Colonet was being developed as a 27 000-acre multi-billion dollar deep seaport. Punta Colonet is about 150 miles south of Tijuana.

Sorenson said China’s exports to the U.S will continue to increase. China currently ranks fifth in auto parts imports to the U.S.  “But this will change. China will continue to grow in this area and they will dominate.” Sorenson also said that China is “coming on strong” in radio and TV imports to the U.S.  MBJ