Altamira, Prince Rupert fastest-growing North American ports in 2015

Altamira, Prince Rupert fastest-growing North American ports in 2015

For the second consecutive year, none of the U.S. ports on the West Coast achieved double-digit growth or even made the Top 10 fastest-growing ports among the JOC Top 25 North American container ports in 2015. This wasn’t a surprise.

The numbers show the importance of labor stability and port performance in directing growth or decline in container port market share and, significantly, shippers’ intent to route their goods through the path of least resistance.

Q: What North American ports led in combined outbound and inbound container trade growth in 2015?

The fastest-growing port in North America in 2015 was Altamira, the northern-most major Mexican container port on the Gulf of Mexico, where volume grew 16 percent year-over-year. Prince Rupert, British Columbia, followed in the No. 2 spot with 14.3 percent year-over-year container growth. Rounding out double-digit growth in 2015 total trade were the ports of Miami at 13.4 percent and New Orleans, 10.4 percent.

Collectively, Mexican ports led the North American container trade in 2015 with 5.1 percent year-over-year growth, followed by Canadian ports, up 4.1 percent. U.S. ports trailed with 0.8 percent growth. Together, volumes advanced 1.6 percent at North America ports.

U.S. West Coast congestion, particularly in late 2014 and into the first quarter of 2015, crippled cargo flow, forcing dozens of ships to anchor off the West Coast. Traditional U.S. West Coast shippers rerouted some of their cargo to other U.S. ports, as well as to ports in Mexico and Canada, utilizing cross-border rail or trucks and, at times, routing time-sensitive cargo via international air.

Although the Pacific Maritime Association-International Longshore and Warehouse Union debacle began to ease in late February 2015, freight diversions continued as U.S. West Coast ports worked to untangle the coastwide congestion and begin to win back unhappy shippers.

U.S. ports handled 78.5 percent of the laden North American container trade, with Los Angeles-Long Beach, the continent’s largest port complex, accounting for 30.3 percent of North American inbound cargo, 18.1 percent of outbound cargo and 25.6 percent of total trade.

Q: How big is the North American container trade? How do the countries and the biggest ports stack up?

Overall North American trade totaled 40.6 million laden twenty-foot-equivalent units in 2015, led by U.S. ports with 31.9 million TEUs. Canadian ports handled 4.9 million TEUs, representing 12 percent of the market, and Mexican ports held a 9.5 percent share of the volume with 3.9 million TEUs.

Q: How big is the North American outbound trade?

U.S. ports handled the majority of North American outbound cargo in 2015. Of the total 15.6 million TEUs moving overseas, U.S. ports handled 12 million TEUs, or 77 percent. Outbound cargo through Canadian ports totaled more than 2.1 million TEUs, for a 13.3 percent share, and Mexican ports moved 1.5 million TEUs for a 9.7 percent share.

Total 2015 North American outbound cargo declined 3 percent year-over-year. Despite a 1.3 percent gain by Canadian ports, Mexican port outbound volume declined 1.6 percent, and U.S. port export traffic tumbled 3.6 percent.

Q: How does that compare with the North American inbound trade?

Mexican ports led the growth in inbound container cargo with a 9.9 percent year-over-year increase, outperforming overall North American inbound growth of 4.6 percent. Inbound cargo grew 6.2 percent through Canadian ports and 3.8 percent through U.S. ports.

Overall North American inbound cargo in 2015 totaled 25 million laden TEUs, led by U.S. ports at 19.9 million TEUs, a 79.4 percent market share. Canadian ports handled 2.8 million TEUs of North American inbound cargo, good for an 11.2 percent share, while Mexican ports held a 9.4 percent share with 2.3 million TEUs.

Q: How does inbound cargo compare with outbound volume in total North American trade?

The overall trade is a 62-to-38 inbound-outbound cargo split. Inbound cargo drove North American trade in 2015, representing 61.7 percent of overall volume, 62.4 percent of U.S. port volume, 60.8 percent of Mexican port volume and 57.6 percent of Canadian port volume.

Contact Marsha Salisbury at and follow her on Twitter: @marshsalisbury.