As shippers discovered once again during the U.S. West Coast port slowdown in the winter of 2014/2015, disruptions at ports can have far-reaching effects on even the most efficient and well-planned supply chain. Imports into the West Coast shrank 4.4 percent to $221.7bn during the month of February 2015 alone, according to data from the U.S. Commerce Department. Further, The Wall Street Journal predicted that “the disruption is expected to redraw the trade routes that goods take to reach U.S. factories and store shelves.”

But the importance of having options in ports of origin, not just destination, has often been overlooked. Generally, the focus has tended to be on disruptions at U.S. ports that receive imports, but the ever-increasing complexity and time-sensitivity of current international supply chain operations means that shippers should be increasing their options — and therefore their agility in responding to changing conditions — at ports of origin, too.

“To fully manage and utilize your end-to-end supply chain, it’s very important to have strong relationships with both ends,” says, Jeff Evanoff, Inbound Logistics, Bobs Furniture Discount Stores, Inc. “Port of NANSHA has done an extremely good job in helping our vendors deliver our goods, dispatch empties, and provide us with origin port options.”