Posted on January 7, 2021
The nation’s ports continued their breakneck pace in November as imported products arrived and unloaded at a record or near-record rate at facilities on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts.
The Port of Los Angeles had a strong month as the nation’s busiest facility processed 889,746 20-foot equivalent units, a 22% increase compared with November 2019, when the facility moved 728,917 TEUs.
“Since August, monthly cargo volume has averaged almost 930,000 TEUs,” Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said in a statement. “It’s unusual to see this kind of import activity this late in the year. But 2020 has been anything but normal. With consumers continuing to stay at home and purchase goods rather than services, we expect robust activity on our docks to continue for at least several months.”
From a year-over-year percentage standpoint, the adjacent Port of Long Beach had an even stronger month than its neighbor. Long Beach longshore workers processed 783,523 TEUs, a 30.6% increase over the 599,985 containers moved in the year-ago period. Port officials said it was the best November in the facility’s 110-year history.
“We’re dealing with the surge in containers by partnering with stakeholders, utilizing a temporary storage yard and prioritizing dual-transaction truck trips that balance inbound and outbound cargo flows,” Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero said.
The Port of Oakland reported a 2.2% year-over-year increase in the number of containers processed, moving 197,692 in November, compared with 193,363 in 2019.
The surge of imports at ports has drawn the attention of the Federal Maritime Commission. In a Dec. 16 letter to the World Shipping Council, FMC commissioners Carl Bentzel and Daniel Maffei wrote they are concerned that shippers are so worried about getting imports into the U.S. they may be neglecting outbound U.S. cargo.
“While we understand the current surge of import cargoes into the United States has stretched our supply chain’s capacity to handle cargo in certain seaports, it is of great concern, if true, that focus on the delivery of surge import cargoes works to the detriment of U.S. exporters,” the letter said. “We urge vigorous action, consistent within the bounds of existing law and regulation, to protect U.S. exporters.”
Also on the West Coast, the Northwest Seaport Alliance, which operates the facilities at Seattle and Tacoma, Wash., reported an 11.3% year-over-year increase when measured against November 2019. The ports processed 301,932 containers, compared with 271,178 last year. The Tacoma facility recently finished work on a new gate complex and truck staging area, designed to speed up trucks’ entry process while freeing up real estate for continued redevelopment.
On the East Coast, the Port of Virginia in November reported a 23.3% year-over-year increase as it processed 279,868 TEUs compared with 226,982 in 2019.
“Our motor carriers are moving on and off the terminals in less than 45 minutes, rail dwell for exports is in the 40-hour range and we have good flow on the barge service moving between here and Richmond Marine Terminal,” Virginia Port Authority CEO John Reinhart said. “The team and our labor partners have these terminals performing at world-class levels, and it is important to recognize their effort.”
Georgia Ports Authority, which operates the Port of Savannah, reported November numbers were almost identical to October’s, moving 464,805 containers for a 28% year-over-year increase over 362,964 in 2019.
The Savannah facility may be getting some additional business in 2021. Officials with Oakland, Calif.-based GSC Logistics told Transport Topics the company is in discussions with one of its largest customers about expanding its logistics footprint to the East Coast early this year.
“One of our largest customers that we have been doing business with for more than 20 years and brings more than 20,000 containers to this port, Oakland, has asked us to consider opening up in Savannah,” GSC Logistics CEO Scott Taylor said. “There is just a need for GSC Logistics to open up in different ports, and we’re exploring those opportunities. When a large customer says, ‘Can you please service us?’ That doesn’t happen too often.”
Taylor also announced that Dave Arsenault is joining GSC as president, overseeing day-to-day operations. GSC contracts with 275 truck drivers who transport containerized cargo on the West Coast. It’s the largest freight hauler at the Port of Oakland, controlling more than 12% of the business there.
The South Carolina Ports Authority, which operates five terminals in the state, including the Port of Charleston, reported a 12% year-over-year increase in TEUs in November processing 207,066 containers, compared with 184,928 in 2019.
Along the Gulf Coast, Port Houston processed 7% more TEUs in November, moving 262,930 containers, compared with 245,738 in the year-ago period.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey had not released November numbers by press time.