East Coast, Gulf Ports Trending Up in Volume; West Coast Mostly Sees Decline

Port of Los Angeles
The Port of Los Angeles reported a 21.5% year-over-year drop in cargo volume in September. (Port of Los Angeles)

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Ports on the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico generally saw container volumes in September increase, and West Coast facilities saw significant year-over-year drop-offs.

Officials at the Pacific Ocean ports said high levels of inventories at warehouses and stores are the reason for the decline as consumers gear up for the holiday shopping season.

The Port of Los Angeles processed 709,873 20-foot-equivalent units in September, down 21.5% from 2021’s 903,864 containers, which was the port’s busiest September on record.

Port Executive Director Gene Seroka said that for the first nine months his facility is running about 4% behind 2021’s record pace.

Gene Seroka


“Despite what will likely be a soft ending to 2022, we are on track to have the second-best year in our history,” Seroka said. “More importantly, the cargo backlog that began last year has been nearly eliminated due to the diligent, combined efforts of our supply chain partners.”

At one time in 2021 and parts of this year, dozens of ships were waiting in San Pedro Bay for spots at either Los Angeles or the Port of Long Beach.

Long Beach reported a 0.8% year-over-year decrease, processing 741,823 containers in September, compared with 748,472.

“Consumers and retailers are concerned about inflation, leading to warehouses filled with inventory and fewer product orders from Asia,” Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero said.

However, at the Port of Oakland container volumes notched upward 0.9%. The facility processed 184,729 TEUs in September compared with 182,934 a year ago.

Port officials said they still are seeing a cutback in shipping calls to Oakland, and some scheduled services have not resumed because exporters are less inclined to book cargo on ships that will not arrive on a predictable schedule.

The Northwest Seaport Alliance, the port authority that operates facilities in Seattle and Tacoma, Wash., reported a 15.4% year-over-year decline in September, processing 285,315 containers in 2022, compared with 337,513.

J.B. Hunt said it will open a new transload facility in Tacoma beginning this month. The port said this operation will complement the direct, container-only service BNSF Railway launched in August between Tacoma and Chicago.

Ray-Mont Logistics will lease a terminal in Seattle focusing on agriculture exports, and World Distribution Services is opening a 300,000-square-foot warehouse in Tacoma that will support a shipping service that operates in Vietnam.

On the Gulf Coast, Port Houston continued its record-setting ways in September, processing 25.5% more containers. The port moved 53,524 TEUs compared with 281,500 in 2021. Workers there have processed more than 300,000 containers in eight of the past nine months. Year-to-date, volume is up 18% and the port is nearing the 3 million mark.

“We are doing everything we can to maintain fluidity at our terminals,” Port Houston Executive Director Roger Guenther said. “We’ve created additional temporary space on terminal grounds and accelerated our investments in additional container yards.”

For the second month in a row, the nation’s busiest facility is the Port of New York and New Jersey, which processed 842,219 TEUs in September compared with 724,418 a year ago. Officials say the port is handling 35% more cargo than it moved in September 2019.

The Port of Virginia in September continued its strong performance, moving 312,230 containers compared with 306,216 a year ago. The port is running about 10% ahead of its 2021 record setting pace.

Earlier this summer, the port announced it was starting the beginning of service with the ocean carrier CMA CGM and its Chesapeake Bay service that directly links that facility with several important Asian markets.

Georgia’s Port of Savannah saw year-over-year September volume decline 7.6% to 436,279 containers compared with 472,062. Even with the decrease, the port is running 7.1% ahead of 2021’s record pace — 4,443,685 containers compared with 4,148,117.

“A high number of ad hoc vessel calls, the addition of three new Mediterranean services and one new service to Asia contributed to the growth,” port Executive Director Griff Lynch said. “Additionally, our regular services have been arriving with significantly more cargo destined for Savannah.”

The South Carolina Ports Authority, which operates the Port of Charleston, also reported a strong month, moving 226,807 TEUs in September compared with 205,008 in the year-ago period.

Officials also announced the state of South Carolina allocated $550 million for its near-dock rail and an inner-harbor barge operations.

“This resolves the last remaining competitive disadvantage we have as a major East Coast container port,” South Carolina Ports CEO Barbara Melvin said. “This critical infrastructure project will greatly enhance SC Ports’ capacity, allowing imports and exports to swiftly move between the hinterland and the Port of Charleston.”

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