Pacific, Atlantic Ports report strong june volumes
More than six months into the economic recovery, the nation’s ports on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts continue to see record or near-record cargo loads, and port officials and economists forecast the substantial numbers likely will continue well into 2022.
The Port of Los Angeles, the nation’s busiest facility, reported a 26.7% year-over-year increase in June, processing 876,430 20-foot-equivalent units compared with 691,475 the previous year.
“Key economic indicators all suggest that U.S. consumer spending will remain strong through the remainder of 2021,” port Executive Director Gene Seroka said. “Even as Americans return to airline travel, vacations and in-person events, retail sales and e-commerce remain robust. Fall fashion, back-to-school items and Halloween goods are arriving on our docks, and some retailers are shipping year-end holiday products early.”
The number of ships sailing to Los Angeles and the adjacent Port of Long Beach continues to be up, but delays to anchor have declined by 40% over the past six months.
Seroka said now the port is processing 15 cargo ships a day, up from 10 six months ago.
Long Beach reported a 20.3% year-over-year increase, handling 724,297 TEUs compared with 602,180 in 2020.
“We anticipate e-commerce to drive much of our cargo movement through the rest of 2021 as retailers plan for a busy summer season,” Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero said. “However, June serves as an indicator that consumer demand for goods will gradually level off as the national economy continues to open up and services become more widely available.”
The Port of Oakland processed 222,483 containers in June, which is almost identical to the numbers posted in April and May. The 2021 figure is up 43.3% year-over-year.
Halfway through the year, the port is up 11.4% compared with 2020.
The Northwest Seaport Alliance, which operates port facilities in Seattle; Tacoma, Wash.; Alaska and Hawaii, saw volume jump 19.9% year-over-year to 344,280 containers compared with 287,036 in the year-earlier period.
In addition, port officials said at the Seattle facility, four new super post-Panamax cranes are being prepared for installation. Phase 1 of the two-phase modernization will be completed early next year. When finished, the 185-acre, on-dock rail terminal will handle the largest vessels in the transpacific.
IHS Markit Transportation economist Paul Bingham told Transport Topics at the halfway point of the year, ports on both coasts should continue to see double-digit growth for the rest of 2021.
“The numbers are still strong. The consumers and businesses are still spending,” he said. “There is a lot of latent demand that’s going to keep coming. There’s a lot of businesses restocking inventories. I’m not shocked by the strength of this.”
On the Atlantic Coast, ports also are reporting record numbers. The Port of Virginia notched a 33.5% year-over-year increase in volume, moving 281,346 TEUs, compared with 210,669 in June 2020. Officials said June marked the 10th consecutive month of record-breaking volumes, which pushed Port of Virginia’s fiscal 2021 number to a record 3.2 million containers. Since fiscal 2019, volume is up more than 25%. The port’s fiscal year begins July 1 and ends June 30.
Port officials said turn times for trucks and dwell time for rail cargo was higher than industry standards, and in June, no workdays were lost to the pandemic.
“For much of the fiscal year, we were handling record volumes under COVID-restricted conditions, and we did so safely, swiftly and sustainably,” Port of Virginia Executive Director Stephen Edwards said. “We consistently handled record-breaking volumes at industry-leading performance levels.”
The Port of Savannah in Georgia saw a 32% year-over-year increase, moving 446,815 containers in June. In 2020, the port processed 338,287.
To facilitate the additional business, the port is moving ahead with plans to add 1.4 million TEUs of annual container capacity by 2023 and expand the Garden City Terminal docks to accommodate four 16,000-TEU ships and three other smaller ships simultaneously.
Port of Charleston saw a 40% year-over-year volume increase in June, moving 231,758 TEUs compared with 156,494.
In fiscal 2021, ending June 30, Charleston handled 2.55 million TEUs, a 9.6% increase from fiscal 2020.
With five automobile, truck and military vehicle plants in South Carolina, the port handles tens of thousands of vehicles each year. The port said roll-on, roll-off cargo increased nearly 61% compared with 2020, moving 23,096 vehicles.
Along the Gulf of Mexico, Port Houston reported a 39% year-over-year increase, handling 292,627 containers in June compared with 210,932 in 2020. Through the first six months, the port is running 13% ahead of last year’s rate.
“Houston is a growth market, and at Port Houston, we’re poised and ready for continued growth,” Executive Director Roger Guenther said. “As an operating port, we are here to meet the changing needs of vessels and businesses, and continue adding new services and additional capacity to move the world and drive regional prosperity.”
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the Port of Baltimore, and the Port of Savannah, Ga., said June numbers were not available at press time.