Marginal changes in container imports market share show U.S. East Coast ports slowly took business away from their West Coast competitors in the first half of 2014.
Data from PIERS, the data division of the JOC Group, shows East Coast ports gained 0.3 percent of the market share during the first half of 2014. Of the 8.4 million containers that came into the United State from January to June, East Coast ports handled 42.9 percent, while West Coast ports handled 57.1 percent.
Pacific Maritime Association President Jim McKenna said this spring that the past several years have shown renewed competition between West Coast ports and Canada, Mexico and the Panama Canal. PIERS data shows East Coast ports have increased their share of the first-half imports market by 1.8 percentage points in the years since 2010.
The switch could be, in part, because of cargo diversions from the West Coast, as shippers feared disruptions and slowdowns there during labor negotiations between longshoremen and employers. Shippers changed cargo destinations, giving East Coast ports a volume boost.
On the East Coast, the growth was concentrated mostly in January, February and April. Although that is not around peak season, some shippers began diverting cargo early after making their yearly transport plans the previous fall.
Import volumes on the East Coast were up 5.4 percent compared with the first half of 2013, while West Coast containerized imports grew at a slower rate of 4.1 percent. East Coast containerized imports rose 3.6 percent year-over-year in May and 3 percent in June, according to PIERS.
The East Coast was also home to three of the fastest-growing ports in the United States in terms of import container volume in the first half of 2014. The Port of Savannah, topped the list, with containerized imports up 12.1 percent compared with the first half of 2013, followed by the Port of Virginia, up 11.4 percent year-over-year. Port Everglades and the Port of Tacoma experienced growth of 10.7 percent. New York-New Jersey’s import container volume rose 2.6 percent.
According to PIERS data, four ports saw volumes decline in the first half. The Port of Baltimore’s containerized imports slid 1 percent, while PortMiami import numbers dropped 8.6 percent, and imports via the Port of Philadelphia declined nearly 12 percent. The Port of Seattle saw the largest drop, with a decline in containerized imports of nearly 30 percent.
Containerized import volume at the Port of Los Angeles grew 10.5 percent, and Jacksonville’s volume jumped 10 percent, while Charleston’s container import volume rose 9.7 percent. Containerized import volumes at the West Coast ports of Oakland and Portland grew 8.3 percent and 6.1 percent respectively, while Long Beach eked out just a 0.3 percent year-over-year gain in the first half.