US East Coast Ports Pinch Canada’s Market Share

US East Coast Ports Pinch Canada’s Market Share

Market share of container volumes: U.S. vs. CanadaU.S. ports continued to expand their share of North American east coast container volumes.

U.S. ports outpaced their Canadian rivals on the east coast of North America during the first quarter, with solid growth in container volume at Savannah helping the U.S. Southeast surpass other regions.

The volume of all containers handled by the U.S. and Canadian east coast ports in the first quarter of 2014 increased 2.9 percent year-over-year to 4.3 million TEUs, according to port-published data collected by the JOC. The first-quarter bump in throughput of imports, exports and empties was better than at all ports on the west coast of North America, where total throughput slipped 0.1 percent year-over-year.

Volume through the major U.S. East Coast ports totaled 3.9 million TEUs in the first quarter, up 3.8 percent from the first quarter of 2013 and 10.6 percent from the first quarter of 2012. U.S. East Coast ports performed better than U.S. West Coast ports, which saw a less healthy 1.2 percent gain in total throughput. U.S. ports dominated the market share of total North American east coast port traffic with a 90.8 percent share of the market during the first quarter of 2014, the highest level in the last three years, further enhancing their position with a 0.8 percent year-over-year increase.

Southeastern U.S. ports led growth in market share, driven by gains at Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina, although the ports of Miami and Jacksonville, Florida, saw declines. Overall market share of U.S. Southeast ports rose 0.5 percentage point, from 42.6 percent to 43.1 percent of the overall east coast market, the largest market share gain of any east coast region.

Savannah’s share rose 1.0 percentage point to 17.8 percent in the first quarter, and its volume increased 9.0 percent — the largest volume increase of any east coast port — to 768,377 TEUs. Savannah recently invested in new cranes at its Garden City Terminal in anticipation of future growth from mega-ships. The market share of Charleston grew two-tenths of a percentage point year-over-year to 9.5 percent; its volume increased 5.1 percent to 409,826 TEUs in the first quarter. Charleston has also been investing in upgrades for its facilities in an era of carrier alliances and huge ships.  

Volume growth at North American east coast portsSavannah led the pack in first quarter growth, up 9 percent.

Miami lost five-tenths of a percentage point in market share, dropping to 4.9 percent, and its container volume saw the steepest decline among the U.S. East Coast ports, falling 7.0 percent to 258,749 TEUs. Jacksonville’s volume decreased 1.3 percent to 214,495 TEUs, bringing down its market share by 0.2 percentage point to 5.0 percent. The Water Resources Reform Development Act, which was passed by the U.S. House and Senate last week and is now on the president’s desk for his likely signature, would authorize major port and inland waterway projects, including Jacksonville’s $37 million project to fix a tidal issue that prevents large, fully loaded container ships from calling on the port nearly two-thirds of the day.

The mid-Atlantic ports, including Baltimore and Virginia, experienced the second-largest increase in market share of North American east coast ports during the first quarter of 2014. Virginia’s share increased from 12.1 percent last year to 12.6 percent this year, and its volume rose 7.3 percent to 544,629 TEUs in the past year. Baltimore’s market share was 3.9 percent, down 0.1 percentage point, while its TEU volume was up 0.1 percent to 168,528. As a result, the mid-Atlantic region’s market share rose 0.4 percentage point, from 16.1 percent in the first quarter of 2013 to 16.5 percent in 2013.

New York-New Jersey retained the largest market share, at 31.2 percent.

Northeastern U.S. ports’ market share slipped 0.1 percentage point in the first quarter to 31.2 percent, from 31.3 percent in the first quarter of 2013 and 34.4 percent in the first quarter of 2012. The Port of New York and New Jersey, No. 3 on JOC’s ranking of the Top 25 North American Ports in 2013, continued to see the highest throughput volume of any North American east coast port in the first quarter with 1.3 million TEUs, up 2.4 percent year-over-year, although its market share slipped 0.1 percentage point. New York-New Jersey’s share has fallen 3.3 percentage points since the first quarter of 2012 to 30.1 percent in the first quarter of 2014, pulling down the overall Northeast, as Boston’s market share inched up 0.1 percent in the first quarter, and its volume surged 7.8 percent to 47,587 TEUs.

The major east coast Canadian ports — Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Montreal, Québec — saw throughput volume totaling 399,837 TEUs in the first quarter of 2014, down 5.7 percent from 423,911 TEUs in 2013. The overall market share of Canada’s east coast container ports slipped 0.8 percentage point to 9.2 percent in the quarter, the lowest market share in the last three years.

Halifax’s throughput declined 13.2 percent year-over-year in the first quarter — the biggest drop of the major North American east coast ports — to 97,799 TEUs, and its market share slipped from 2.7 percent to 2.3 percent. Montreal saw throughput fall 3.0 percent year-over-year this quarter to 302,038 TEUs; its market share decreased from 7.4 percent to 7.0 percent.

Contact Grace M. Lavigne at and follow her on Twitter: @Lavigne_JOC.