Ports on Both Coasts Report Record Volume in May

Containers at the Port of Savannah. (Georgia Ports Authority)

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The strong pace of imported goods to the nation’s ports continued in May.

The nation’s busiest facility, the Port of Los Angeles, had its third busiest month on record, processing 967,900 twenty-foot-equivalent unit (TEU) containers.

Still, that’s down 4.3% from last May’s record 1,012,047 containers.

Five months into 2022, Los Angeles has processed more than 4.5 million TEUs, equal to last year’s record-setting pace.

“Retailers replenished inventory throughout the spring and now we’ll see a transition to back-to-school goods, fall fashion and some early year-end holiday products,” said Gene Seroka, executive director at the Port of Los Angeles. “While American consumers have become more cost conscious, overall demand remains strong.”



Seroka believes his facility will have a very busy summer, as it did in 2021.

The adjacent Port of Long Beach in May reported a slight 1.8% year-over-year decline in container volume, processing 890,989 TEUs compared with 907,216 in 2021.

Meanwhile demolition work is scheduled to begin July 10-11 at the Long Beach port to take down the Gerald Desmond Bridge. It has a 155-foot clearance above the water but a new bridge that opened last year is 50 feet higher, allowing for larger ships.

The Port of Oakland saw a rebound in May, processing 224,298 containers, compared with last May’s 226,406 containers.

This May’s volume is the highest for containers the Port of Oakland has seen in nearly a year as cargo ships for much of 2021 avoided Oakland. Freight destined for Northern California was sent to Long Beach or Los Angeles as well as north on trucks or rail because shipping rates were high and it was more profitable for ocean carriers to immediately return to Asia empty and get another load of containers, rather than make an intermediate stop in Oakland.

The Northwest Seaport Alliance, which operates facilities in Seattle and Tacoma, processed 325,740 containers in May, making the month the second-busiest of 2022. Last May’s volume was 336,397. Year-to-date the facility is running 40,000 containers behind last year’s record-setting pace.

The Gulf of Mexico’s Port Houston had an exceptionally strong May, processing 335,366 containers or 12% more compared with 288,127. Year-to-date the Texas facility is running 20% ahead of 2021’s record-setting pace, having processed 16% more TEUs, and the facility finished the month at 1,573,242 compared with 1,315,166 a year ago.

On the East Coast, the Port of Savannah processed 519,388 TEUs, shattering its record of 504,347 TEUs last October.

The May record is an 8.5% increase over last May’s 478,620 TEUs. Year-to-date the port is running 4.5% ahead of last year’s record pace, having processed 2,396,986 containers compared with 2,293,729. The Savannah facility is in the midst of expansion and vehicle manufacturer Hyundai recently announced it plans to operate a new $6 billion electric vehicle plant about an hour west of Savannah, which is expected to significantly increase automobile shipments there as the plant is projected to manufacturer 300,000 vehicles a year.



South Carolina’s Port of Charleston recorded a 10.5% year-over-year increase in May, processing 255,104 TEUs compared with 230,870 in 2021. May marked the 15th consecutive month of cargo records at the Port of Charleston, driven by sustained retail imports.

“Our S.C. Ports team, maritime community and logistics partners have made significant progress on our berth and terminal fluidity during ongoing supply chain challenges,” South Carolina Ports CEO Jim Newsome said.

The Port of Virginia set an all-time record in May for processing containers, moving 340,119 compared with 314,942 a year ago, an increase of 8% year-over-year. Port officials noted May was the third consecutive month of TEU volumes exceeding 314,000 units and the combined volume of March, April and May is more than 978,000 TEUs, resulting in the busiest three-month stretch in port history. As it expands its capacity, the port is also putting into service 15 new shuttle trucks and two new ship-to-shore cranes.

TEU volume continues to be heavy at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. That sprawling facility is usually a month behind other ports in reporting container volumes, but in April it processed 802,963 containers, up 12.6% from 2021’s 712,799 TEUs. Year-to-date the port facility is 11.9% ahead of 2021’s record pace, having moved in the first four months of 2021 3,189,378 containers compared with 2,848,979 a year ago.

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