East Coast ports maintained their lead in containerized exports in the first nine months of 2012 and increased their share of import and export markets. And they did so despite shipper concerns at the end of September over a potential strike by the International Longshoremen’s Association and a related shift of some cargo to ports on the West Coast and Canada.
September East Coast container import volume tumbled 7.7 percent from August with a year-over-year dip of 0.4 percent. Gulf Coast ports, also mostly covered by the ILA contract that was to expire on Sept. 30, showed a month-to-month September dip of 0.4 percent with a year-over-year gain of 3.3 percent. Although import volumes were flat month-to-month in September at West Coast ports, cargo diversion helped push those ports to a 4.2 percent gain year-over-year. Total U.S. imports in September dropped 3.2 percent from August, but increased 2.3 percent year-over-year.
During the first nine months of 2012, the East Coast handled 5.4 million 20-foot-equivalent units, good for a 41 percent share of the 13.2 million-TEU import market. Although the West Coast led with a 53.5 percent share of the import market, the region’s 1.7 percent year-over-year growth lagged the East Coast’s 4.4 percent gain and the Gulf Coast’s 6.6 percent growth. Total U.S. import trade was up 3 percent.
September East Coast container export volume slipped 0.6 percent from August, with a 1.3 percent year-over-year decline. Gulf Coast ports showed a month-to-month September gain of 2 percent, with a year-over-year surge of 17.2 percent. The West Coast suffered in September as volume dropped 6.2 percent from August and 9.8 percent year-over-year. Total U.S. exports in September declined 2.6 percent from August and 3.1 percent year-over-year.
Through the third quarter of 2012, the East Coast’s nearly 4.6 million TEUs accounted for a 48.4 percent share of the 9.4 million-TEU export market.
Total U.S. exports through September 2012 were up 1.3 percent year-over-year and 1.6 percent from the same period in pre-recession 2008. East Coast exports advanced 2.1 percent year-over-year and 0.5 percent from the same period in 2008. Gulf Coast exports were up 5.1 percent year-over-year and 14.3 percent ahead of the first three quarters of 2008. The West Coast lagged, with volume slipping 0.4 percent year-over-year and flat with 2008, but it held a 40.9 percent share of the export market.
Marsha Salisbury is the JOC research editor and compiles the monthly U.S. Container Port Rankings reports and the quarterly Container Carrier Ranking reports with regional details available through http://www.joc.com/content/joc-reports. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her at twitter.com/marshsalisbury.
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