'Huge jump' in larger ship calls to US East coast ports: report
US East Coast ports are enjoying stronger growth in import volumes with the ongoing sourcing shift for US shippers hit with tariffs and the ports' increasing ability to service larger ships
18 September 2019 - 19:00
Through July, the five largest East Coast ports from New York-New Jersey down to Savannah reported total container imports of 5.58 million TEU, up 6.6 per cent from a year earlier.
West Coast ports stretching from Los Angeles-Long Beach through to Vancouver, Canada, saw container imports of 7.25 million TEU, down just over 1 per cent from a year earlier, reports New York's FreightWaves.
Assistant director at the Port of New York and New Jersey, Beth Rooney, said that as the US trade war with China keeps a lid on trans-Pacific shipping demand, other all-water routes into the US East coast are keeping import levels growing. The port reported July 2019 was the third highest monthly import total, reaching 336,972 TEU.
Year to date through July, imports are up 5 per cent and NY-NJ displaced Long Beach as the second busiest import gateway.
Despite losing some volumes from the trade war, Ms Rooney said a fair amount of Chinese cargo has been replaced by cargo from India, Vietnam and other countries.
While the 2016 widening of the Panama Canal was heralded as a growth driver for the East Coast ports, NY-NJ is now getting more cargo via the all-water route through Suez.
Last year, the share of cargo coming via the Suez, Panama and from South America was split roughly in thirds. But this year, 30 per cent of cargo is coming via the Suez while 20 per cent is coming via Panama. Interestingly, a growing share of 'around the world services', which travel eastbound through Panama and back to Asia via the Suez is now a growing portion of port traffic at roughly 14 per cent.
New York-New Jersey saw freight coming from China in July drop 6.3 per cent from a year earlier, according to Ms Rooney. But containers originating in Vietnam increased 28 per cent over the same time frame. July also received a boost as shippers ramped up imports ahead of the first set of 15 per cent tariffs on US$300 billion in Chinese goods.
Ms Rooney also pointed out that the port is unloading more freight with each vessel move, adding that there's been a 'huge jump' in the number of vessel calls by container ships in the 13,000 to 14,000-TEU range. The number of ships at or above 13,000 TEU that have called on the port year-to-date through July was 114, up from 61 in the same time last.
Outside of the port's ability to serve bigger ships with the raising of the Bayonne Bridge in 2017, Ms Rooney said shippers have had to also adjust their schedules to fit the larger vessels. Instead of having to move boxes to smaller ships on separate days, now shippers prepare to have all their boxes ready on one day for a larger ship. That also means ocean carriers are getting better utilisation on East Coast services.
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