Ports along the East Coast continued to handle record-setting cargo volume heading into peak shipping season, with officials in the Northeast and the South citing double-digit increases in containers processed in August and September. In the South, port and government leaders also were touting regional benefits as incentives for businesses to diversify their port gateway strategies in light of persistent supply chain bottlenecks, especially on the West Coast.
At the Port of New York and New Jersey, cargo volume processed through the port rose more than 13% in August to 780,782 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), the latest data available. Autos led the charge, with more than 42,000 moving through the port in August, a nearly 12% increase compared to a year ago. Imports were up nearly 9% and exports rose 0.8% during the month. January through August, imports rose more than 26% and exports were up nearly 6%, officials said.
The South Carolina Ports Authority also posted strong results, citing a 5% increase in overall volume through the port in September and an 18% increase for its fiscal year to date, due to the boom in retail imports. The port moved a record-setting 205,008 TEUs during the month, with imports up 9% and exports up 2%.
Jim Newsome, SC Ports’ president and CEO, cited additional capacity at the port from recent infrastructure improvements as an opportunity for cargo owners to diversify their movement of goods. SC Ports opened a new terminal this past spring, the first container terminal to open in the United States in more than a decade, officials said. The $1 billion phase one of Hugh K. Leatherman terminal opened this past March, adding a berth and 700,000 TEUs of capacity to the Port of Charleston. Other port investments include ongoing terminal upgrades, a Charleston Harbor deepening project, and expansion of Inland Port Greer, which will add cargo capacity and enhance rail infrastructure at the rail-served port in Upstate South Carolina.
“Capacity is the new port currency, and SC Ports has the right capacity at the right time to meet retailers’ needs to keep freight moving,” Newsome said in a recent State of the Port address. “We have invested more than $2 billion in recent years to enhance existing infrastructure and open a new container terminal.”
On Florida’s Gulf Coast, Port Manatee this week reported a 53% increase in container volume for its fiscal year ended September 30, with a record 135,660 TEUs crossing the docks. The fiscal year-end figure is more than three-and-a-half times the volume the port handled just three years ago, officials also said. Port Manatee is the closest U.S. deepwater seaport to the Panama Canal.
“The pandemic has by no means slowed the safe, efficient flow of cargo through Port Manatee as we proficiently meet demands of consumers for everything from fresh produce to forest products,” Carlos Buqueras, executive director of Manatee County’s seaport, said in a statement. “And, with completion of our expanded dockside container yard and additional infrastructure enhancements on the horizon, Port Manatee is ideally positioned to sustain its cargo volume surge.”
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been weighing in on the recent supply chain crisis, as well. He has said the state’s ports have the capacity and manpower to handle imports that are backing up at ports nationwide, and announced Tuesday that the state’s ports will offer incentives to businesses to move more cargo through the Sunshine State.