U.S. ports are continuing to see decreases in cargo that can be traced to the stagnant Japanese economy and the troubled European economy, although ports handling South American cargo are bustling, maritime industry specialists said.
Container volume at all U.S. ports was up 1 percent in the first four months of 1993.Statistics released by PIERS, the Port Import/Export Reporting Service of The Journal of Commerce, show that eight of the top 10 U.S. containerports experienced flat or negative growth through April.
Miami, however, which has strong South American connections, continued to see double-digit growth.
Likewise, Port Everglades, Fla., which has made a strong push for South American trade, saw its efforts pay off in 13 percent growth through the first for months of the year.
"Increased growth in cargo from Central, Caribbean and South America, and the addition of new lines, including Impresar Naverias, and smaller carriers, have helped," said Carlos Buqueras, assistant cargo marketing director for the Port Everglades Authority. "Latin America is a very promising trade lane for us."
The port is seeing more general cargo as well as rolling stock such as automobiles and tractors, he said.
PIERS' Trade Horizons, a quarterly report published by the Port Import/ Export Reporting Service division of The Journal of Commerce, forecast that the flow of containerized traffic between the United States and South America will continue to grow, said Katherine Reynolds, a Trade Horizons economist.
The major carriers, which wanted to strengthen their global status by entering the South American routes, also have performed well.
Maersk Line, Sea-Land Service Inc. and Columbus Line Inc., which serve Latin America, did well in the first quarter, along with the national-flag lines that have traditionally served the region, including C.A. Venezolana de Navegacion, the Venezuelan line, and Flota Mercante Grancolombiana, the Colombian national line.
In the PIERS ranking, Los Angeles retained its spot as the leading containerport, with Long Beach in second place, ahead of New York.
Don Wylie, director of trade and maritime services for the Port of Long Beach, said, "We show an increase in imports of Asian cargo. The gain over last April was due to an increase in imports but it was offset somewhat by a slight decrease in exports. Exports to Japan and Korea have been disappointing."
"China is still potentially a tremendous market, but it's kind of been starting and stopping," he said, because the Chinese are scaling back on buying plans for fear that their economy is overheating.
The first part of year is traditionally the slowest, he said, adding that Long Beach expects to see imports increase as the Christmas season rush begins this summer.
In addition, Long Beach expects that new services, which are about to begin, will improve the port's performance for the rest of the year and offset the loss of Zim American Israeli Shipping Co., which returned to Los Angeles.
Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd. ("K" Line) of Tokyo is starting a service in July with Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd. of Hong Kong. "We certainly expect that to add to our numbers," Mr. Wylie said.
In addition, Maersk has started a new service to southeast Asia from Long Beach.
"We're happy for any increase, and we still believe there is a fundamental strength in the Pacific Basin, so we think the flatness of the trade over the past year or so is a temporary plateau and we'll continue upward," Mr. Wylie said.
Lillian Liburdi, port director of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, said the diversion of cargo to other ports due to the bistate agency's prolonged delay in dredging its berths at Port Newark/Elizabeth Marine Terminal contributed to the port's 3 percent decline in container volume for the first four months of the year.
Silt built up at the berths over three years while the port sought a permit to remove the sediment and dump it in the Atlantic Ocean. Environmentalists opposed the plan because the silt is contaminated by dioxin, a suspected carcinogen, which has been traced to a defunct industrial plant. However, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued the permit in late May and the work was completed recently.