Gulf, East Coast Port Volume Rises; West Coast Activity Lags

Sky view of Port Houston
August container volume at Port Houston was up 20% year-over-year, and total tonnage is 24% ahead of last year's pace through August. (Port Houston via Twitter)

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Container volumes at West Coast ports are beginning to moderate but remain at a strong pace, while facilities on the Gulf and East coasts are seeing increases.

The gain stems from some shippers moving cargo from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic due to labor concerns as the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Pacific Maritime Association continue to negotiate.

At the Port of Los Angeles, the nation’s busiest, volume of 20-foot equivalent units fell 15.6% in August to 805,314 TEUs compared with 954,377 a year earlier.

“Some goods that usually arrive in August for the fall and winter season shipped earlier to make sure they reached their destination in time,” port Executive Director Gene Seroka said.

Gene Seroka


Additionally, inflationary concerns and elevated inventory levels have made some retailers and e-commerce sellers more cautious.

“We’ve got capacity on our terminals and the ability to handle cargo coming in more efficiently than last holiday season,” Seroka said.

The adjacent Port of Long Beach saw volume dip 0.1% in August to 806,940 compared with 807,704 a year earlier.

The Port of Oakland also saw a decline as volume dropped 4% to 211,123 TEUs compared with 220,051 in the 2201 period. (The port has been seeking to expand its exports, especially agriculture products.)

Meanwhile, the port and Major League Baseball’s Oakland Athletics continue negotiations on using abandoned Howard Terminal for a new stadium and real estate development. However, it appears the project has run into another snag at Oakland City Hall as officials missed a self-imposed deadline to present an impact report on what the stadium and project would produce in economic development.

Rendering of proposed ballpark at Port of Oakland

A rendering of the proposed ballpark and related commercial development at the Port of Oakland's Howard Terminal. ((Bjarke Ingels Group/Oakland Athletics via Associated Press)

The Northwest Seaport Alliance, the agency that runs ports in Seattle and Tacoma, Wash., reported a 10.4% decline, processing 280,313 TEUs compared with 313,127 a year ago.

But a much different story is occurring along the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Coast, where container volumes surged in August.

Port Houston processed a record 382,842 TEUs, up 19.6% year-over-year compared with 320,086 a year ago.

According to the National Retail Federation’s Global Port Tracker, growth at Port Houston is outpacing the other major U.S. container ports.

Georgia’s Port of Savannah set an all-time record in August, processing 575,513 containers compared with 485,595 in 2021.

“The Port of Savannah’s geographic and capacity advantages remain a driving force behind current and new customers deciding to move cargo through Georgia,” Executive Director Griff Lynch.

According to port data, 44 ships are awaiting berths, but officials say that should improve over the next six weeks. A permanent solution will come on line in June 2023, when improvements to the port’s Garden City Terminal berth are completed.

Stephen Edwards


The Port of Virginia in August recorded its second-busiest month, moving 340,926 TEUs, up 10.7% compared with 307,023. August’s TEU total was just 685 units shy of the previous all-time monthly volume set in May.

“Since last July 2021, we have brought on 10 new vessel services and five of those have come online since March. Combine that with the fact that we are in our peak season for cargo, as we are moving goods in preparation for the retail season, and the result is a record-setting August,” CEO Stephen Edwards said.

Port of Charleston TEUs fell 4.8% to 223,411 containers in August from 234,688 TEUs the year before.

The facility also is nearing completion of a multimillion-dollar dredging project, taking the water’s depth to 52 feet and allowing the port to process the largest containerships without difficulties because of tides.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is the busiest port on the East Coast has not yet reported. In July, it moved 776,167 TEUs, an 8.7% increase over 758,810 the year before.

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