Source: Journal of Commerce
July 7th 2015
The Port of New York and New Jersey handled record import container volume in May, the latest sign that diversion from West Coast ports is lingering months after their congestion cleared.
Loaded imports at the East Coast’s largest port rose 13.4 percent year-over-year to 282,030 twenty-foot-equivalent units, driven by a strengthening U.S. economy in addition to reroutings to avoid the West Coast. Through the first five months of 2014, the port handled 1.3 million loaded import TEUs, a 12.6 percent increase.
Including empty containers, New York-New Jersey’s May volume was 558,991 TEUs, just 273 TEUs shy of March’s record. Container lifts of all sizes totaled 322,681 boxes in May, which exceeded March’s previous record 321,581 lifts.
New York-New Jersey is among several East and Gulf coast ports that have set monthly records this year with double-digit growth in container volume, largely due to West Coast gridlock that reached crisis proportions during longshore labor negotiations last fall and winter.
In the first half of 2015, East and Gulf coast ports increased their share of U.S. container imports from a year earlier, according to PIERS, a sister product of JOC.com within IHS Maritime & Trade. East Coast ports increased their share by 3 percentage points, to 43 percent. Gulf Coast ports’ share rose to 6 percent from 5 percent. West Coast ports' share fell to 50 percent from 55 percent.
The East Coast’s volume surge hasn’t been problem-free. Most days, at least one or two New York-New Jersey terminals experience slow truck turn times due to high volume and chassis unavailability. Farther south, the Port of Virginia also has struggled with severe congestion.
Port truckers’ difficulties have been aggravated by restrictions on the returns of empty containers. With space tight, terminals often require empties to be returned to off-dock depots, which requires drivers to make an extra stop and creates mismatches with chassis supply.
New York-New Jersey’s increase in loaded import volume has been accompanied by record outbound shipments of empty boxes. Port terminals loaded a record 147,718 TEUs of empty boxes in May, a 15.1 percent year-over-year increase.
Through the first five months of the year, exports of empty boxes from New York-New Jersey terminals totaled 640,814 TEUs, a 22.6 percent increase, and exceeded the 583,751 TEUs of loaded exports moving through the port.
New York-New Jersey terminals handled 126,641 TEUs of export loads in May, virtually flat with the 128,260 TEUs in May 2014. January-May export loads were 583,255 TEUs, down 3,496 TEUs during the first five months of 2014.