Two leading East Coast ports see big volume dips in August

NEW YORK / SAVANNAH, Ga. – The Port of Savannah, the fourth-biggest port in the country and second largest on the East Coast, handled 413,000 twenty-foot containers in August, a 28% decline from last August.

Numbers dropped monthly as well, with 34,000 fewer containers moved than July.

At the Port of New York/New Jersey, the East Coast’s biggest port, container volume dropped 21.4% from last August to 662,740 TEUs. Year to date, import volume is down 21.7%, while exports are down 1.5%. Monthly volume also dipped, falling around 63,000 containers from July.

With the exception of July, which fell just 7.7%, the port’s imports have dropped by more than double digit percentages every month this year. Last year, nearly every month saw an increase from 2021.

The Port of Los Angeles, the biggest port in the country, seems to be on a more positive trajectory. August numbers climbed to 828,000 TEUs, a 3% climb from last year. Still, the outlook is on the bleaker side, with Port Director Gene Seroka predicting global trade to continue to ease.

“Overall, as we navigate through what’s expected to be a muted peak season, global trade is slower overall,” he said. “Export numbers out of Asia are declining. China’s had three consecutive months of weak exports. South Korea and Vietnam have also seen drops in volume. That’s three of our top five trading partners. Warehouse inventories across the U.S. also remain elevated.”

Why Los Angeles is seeing more success than its East Coast counterparts isn’t totally clear. One reason likely is the recent ratification of the six-year contract between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Assn., which restored some of the port’s stability and confidence. Last year, amid West Coast delays and the uncertainty caused by the lagging negotiations, East Coast ports saw their market share boom.

Spot container rates remain higher at East Coast ports. Average spot rates from Shanghai to New York are $3,398 according to Drewry, while Shanghai to Los Angeles sits at $2,254. They may be leveling out, with the New York route dropping 62% since last year and Los Angeles falling 44%.

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