Most US ports boost container traffic in 2019 despite high tariffs

US top ports either surpassed or came close to topping 2018's record-breaking figures, in spite of the weaker trade environment, triggered by the US-China trade war

31 January 2020 - 19:00

US top ports either surpassed or came close to topping 2018's record-breaking figures, in spite of the weaker trade environment, triggered by the US-China trade war.

The nation's busiest port, Los Angeles, finished the year with near-record cargo volumes despite the tariffs, which port officials claim hurt business, especially in the second half, reported Global Net Logistics of Flower Mound, north Texas.

The port handled 9,337,632 TEU in 2019, representing a decrease of 1.28 per cent compared to 2018's record of 9,458,748 TEU. However, container traffic in December was down 17.3 per cent year-on-year to 746,749 TEU.

'In the face of lagging exports due to international trade tensions and tariff uncertainties, the Port of Los Angeles has maintained strong momentum and kept cargo flowing,' said executive director Gene Seroka.

'This feat was only possible because of the extensive cooperation and continued efficiency improvements by our terminal operators, supply chain partners and longshore workforce.'

The nearby Port of Long Beach saw its container throughput tumble 10.3 per cent year on year in December to 665,261 TEU. For the full year, the port handled 7,632,032 TEU, compared with 8,091,023 in 2018. While the numbers are down for both facilities, officials see a silver lining in the new US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.

Officials say they expected to see more imported component parts shipped from Asia through Los Angeles and Long Beach and then shipped by rail or truck to assembly facilities in North America.

The Northwest Seaport Alliance, which operates ports in Seattle and Tacoma, Washington, reported 2019 TEU volume is down 0.6 per cent as those gateways processed 3,775,303 TEU compared with 3,797,635 TEU in 2018. December also saw an 18.5 per cent year-on-year decrease as the ports handled 284,452 TEU.

At the Port of Oakland, container volume in December dropped 12.2 per cent, to 193,963 containers in 2019. For the year, volume dipped 1.9 per cent to 2,497,355 TEU.

The Port of Houston processed 250,946 TEU in December, a 13.3 per cent increase over the same period in 2018. For the year, this Gulf coast port handled 2,987,291 TEU, an increase of 10.6 per cent.

On the east coast, the nation's third-busiest port, the Port of New York and Jersey, finished the year 4.1 per cent ahead of 2018's record pace, but the facility saw a four per cent decline in volume in December, handling 584,743 TEU. On an annual basis, the port processed 7,471,131 TEU in 2019 compared with 7,179,788 TEU a year earlier.

The Port of Virginia also saw a decline in December, but like the port of New York and New Jersey, it finished the year with a record. For the month, container volume was down 4.6 per cent year on year as the facility processed 224,902 TEU. However, on an annual basis, volume was up 2.9 per cent to 2,937,962 TEU.

The South Carolina Ports Authority reported December's container volumes decreased by 5.9 per cent to 187,882 TEU. However, the port set a volume record for the second year in a row, handling 2,436,185 TEU in 2019 compared with 2,316,255 TEU in 2018.


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