#126 – Inside Our Industry – East Coast Ports Gain Ground

Posted on | Inside Our Industry

In September we shared that there were Only 8 Ships Waiting off Southern California coasts. The declining numbers of containers coming into the southern California ports continues, while the East Coast and Gulf Coast continue to see increased activity.

Los Angeles imports keep sinking as East Coast gains more ground
Greg Miller  |  FreightWaves.com  |  November 15, 2022

The Port of Los Angeles reported yet another month of falling volumes on Tuesday, as the import pendulum continues to swing away from the West Coast and toward container shipping gateways on the East and Gulf coasts.

Los Angeles’ total throughput for October came in at 678,429 twenty-foot equivalent units, down 25% versus October 2021. Imports totaled 336,307 TEUs, down 28% year on year.

It was the lowest October import tally since 2009 amid the global financial crisis and the lowest monthly imports since May 2020 at the height of the COVID lockdowns. This October’s imports were down 14% from October 2019 prior to the pandemic.

On a positive note, the huge month-on-month slide seen in Los Angeles in September has slowed. October’s imports declined only 7,155 TEUs (i.e., a single shipload) or 2% versus September.

Declines in Los Angeles were mirrored in the neighboring Port of Long Beach, highlighting the pressures facing West Coast ports.

On Thursday (November 10th), Long Beach reported a 24% year-on-year drop in imports to 293,924 TEUs. It was the port’s lowest import number in any month since April 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic. It was Long Beach’s lowest import total for the month of October since 2012 and was down 13% from October 2019, pre-pandemic.

East Coast ports take more market share

The import picture at East and Gulf Coast ports remains in stark contrast to the situation at West Coast ports. These ports are still near their all-time highs.

On Monday (November 14th), Savannah, Georgia, reported October imports of 263,828 TEUs, its second best monthly total ever behind the record reached in August. It was the port’s best-ever October for imports, up 2% year on year and up 32% from October 2019, pre-COVID.

Savannah posted an increase of 53,461 TEUs or 25% in October versus September, when imports were depressed by the Hurricane Ian closure.

In its monthly release in October, the port said it expected to clear its anchorages by the end of November. That is proving too optimistic: As of Tuesday, there were still 33 container vessels at anchor off the coast of Georgia.

The Port of Charleston in South Carolina also reported its October throughput on Monday. Loaded imports came in at 121,305 TEUs, up 13% year on year, 7% month on month and 27% versus October 2019, pre-pandemic. It was Charleston’s best October for imports ever and its fifth-highest monthly import total.

Full report with charts