EAST COAST CONTAINER IMPORTS STILL FAR ABOVE PRE-PANDEMIC LEVELS
East Coast ports continue to rack up wins versus West Coast rivals. Port announcements in recent days highlight just how much ground the East Coast has gained during the pandemic era. The latest stats also reveal that the sequential month-on-month volume slide from the pandemic peak may be slowing, even at some of the hardest hit ports on the West Coast.
PORT OF CHARLESTON SETS CARGO RECORD IN 2022
The Port of Charleston handled a record 2.8 million TEUs in 2022, joining other East and Gulf Coast ports that also reported record cargo volumes in 2022. South Carolina Ports announced says 2022’s TEU volume marked an increase of 1.5% over 2021. When accounting for containers of any size, SC Ports moved more than 1.5 million pier containers in 2022, a 1% increase from 2021. Port of Charleston joins the ports of Savannah and Houston in reporting record cargo volumes in 2022, with New York/New Jersey likely to follow suit. On the other hand, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach on the West Coast both had their second busiest year in 2022, behind only 2021.
GULF COAST PORTS SEE RECORD CONTAINER VOLUMES IN 2022
HOUSTON, MOBILE HIT ALL-TIME CONTAINER VOLUME HIGHS; CORPUS CHRISTI EXPORTS MORE CRUDE OIL Ports in both Houston and Corpus Christi, Texas, along with the Port of New Orleans and the Port of Mobile, Alabama, saw increased volumes in 2022 as imports of steel, automotive parts, and lumber and plywood continued to flood into the country and demand for exports of U.S. petroleum and crude oil remained strong. Port Houston set a container volume record in 2022 by moving 3.97 million twenty-foot equivalent units, its highest total ever recorded, and a 14% year-over-year (y/y) increase compared to 2021. The port also set an annual tonnage record during the year, reaching 55.1 million short tons. That’s a 22% y/y increase compared to 2021.Steel imports — including line and standard pipes, oil country goods, heavy structural shapes, and wire rods — increased 49% y/y to 5.2 million tons in 2022. It was the biggest year for steel import tonnage at the port in more than five years.
PORT OF MOBILE SETS CONTAINER CARGO RECORD
The Port of Mobile, Alabama, reported its busiest year ever for container cargo with 563,191 TEUs. The record was 11% higher than total container volumes in 2021. Intermodal rail volumes were 142% higher y/y compared to 2021.These numbers reflect shippers’ confidence in Alabama’s port, and Mobile has consistently offered supply chain stability. The port’s container terminal handled a record 312 vessels, an increase of 75 vessels from 2021.
PORT OF NEW ORLEANS REPORTS 20% INCREASE IN BREAKBULK VOLUMES IN 2022
Boosted by shipments of steel, natural rubber, plywood, and frozen poultry, the Port of New Orleans saw a 20% y/y rise in breakbulk volumes compared to 2021, reaching 2.3 million tons. The port also handled 264 vessel calls in calendar year 2022, a 14% y/y increase compared to 2021. For the month of December, the port recorded 31,955 TEUs and 63,514 tons of breakbulk cargo. During 2022, the Port of New Orleans handled 430,000 TEUs, a 12% decrease from 2021.
WEST COAST PORTS BEAR THE BRUNT AS INBOUND CONTAINERS DROP OFF
U.S. container ports experienced the largest contraction of inbound containers ever in the final months of 2022 as a slowdown in global trade continues to hammer ports volumes. Once again, East and Gulf Coast ports outperformed West Coast ports, last month experiencing a 19.1% decline in inbound container volumes for only a slight improvement from November’s 26% drop. December marked West Coast ports’ fifth straight month of double-digit percentage declines as cargo volumes continue to shift east over fears of possible labour unrest on the West Coast. For comparison, East and Gulf Coast ports saw only a 14.2% volume decline in December—marking the second straight monthly drop after consecutive monthly gains throughout much of the pandemic.