One of the first things a company needs to decide when importing products from Asia is the destination port. Your job as a logistics professional isn’t done until your goods make it to your customer’s door, but the tricky part is figuring out the best way to do it. This is especially true when it comes to navigating complex ocean freight shipments.

With so many potential transportation partners involved – from pier drayage, to warehouses, to the ocean carriers themselves – there is a lot to be managed. These decisions, however, are critical because these choices all impact the efficiency and speed of your delivery operations from end to end.

An underappreciated, yet important, choice is often the best port of entry in the U.S. In order to choose the right port and effectively streamline your domestic distribution processes, you’ll need to consider a range of important factors like:

     1. Customer and consignee proximity

Before you do anything else, you need to determine where your market is in relation to a port. With the introduction of services such as Amazon’s same-day deliveries, the expectations of today’s consumers are only rising, so many argue that the closer the port is to your customers, the better. This strategy not only keeps your customers happy by increasing the speed of your deliveries, but it also helps you avoid additional inland distribution costs.

     2. Transit time

Depending on where your market is, you’ve got a couple of options to choose from regarding port location: East Coast, Gulf Coast, West Coast, or a combination of the three. While each of these locations has its own advantages, each also has some drawbacks. For instance, if you go the East Coast route through the Panama Canal, you could be adding weeks to your transits. It generally takes more time to ship from Asia to somewhere on the East Coast like New York in comparison to somewhere on the West Coast like Los Angeles.

     3. Freight rates

Another key factor to consider is the price difference in over-the-road (OTR) freight rates between the areas surrounding a port of entry. While importing to the West Coast may involve shorter transits, the transportation costs to move goods back east will definitely increase. This is where you’ll need to think about what you’re shipping. High-value commodities with shorter shelf-lives typically can’t afford a lengthier transit to the East Coast because it takes them out of the picture for too long during their prime selling season. In this case, your best bet is most likely the Ports of Los Angeles or Long Beach, but for lower-value goods, it could be worthwhile to risk the longer transit and save on freight rates.

     4. Inventory and warehousing costs

Even though selecting a West Coast port can involve inflated trucking rates, getting your products to market more quickly means you can often turn over inventory faster, which decreases your carrying costs over time. Also, just like with your customer base, you’ll need to map out how close a port is to your warehousing facilities. Balancing proximity, cost, and time is ultimately always the priority in this industry.

To learn more about optimizing your importing and distribution processes, visit O’Neill Logistics.