East Coast ports posted record-setting volumes in 2021, driven by imports and strong consumer demand for retail goods, officials said this week.
The Port of Virginia posted its most productive year on record, processing more than 3.5 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in the calendar year, a 25% increase compared with 2020. December volumes also rose 25% year-over-year, with the port moving 325,000 TEUs during the month compared to 318,000 in December 2020.
Port officials said more ocean carriers are shifting service to Virginia, thanks in part to infrastructure investments that are helping to improve efficiency and capture more cargo. Investments in dredging, new equipment, offshore wind energy, and rail yard expansion are ongoing.
“In addition to our volumes, we made significant gains on many fronts,” Stephen A. Edwards, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority, said in a statement Tuesday. “In roughly two years this port will have the capacity to process more than one million rail lifts annually. Our progress on dredging has us tracking to make Virginia home to the deepest port on the U.S. East Coast by late 2024. We’ve fostered private investment on our terminals that is helping to support an entirely new industry—wind energy—in Virginia. And, we are investing in equipment to ensure that we are ready for the future.”
Port officials in South Carolina posted similar results this week. The South Carolina Ports Authority (SC Ports) reported its best calendar year in history, driven by retail imports and consumer buying momentum. SC Ports handled 2.75 million TEUs, up 19% over 2020 and up 13% compared with 2019, officials said. The port set monthly year-over-year records from March through December. Imports were up 25% and exports rose 5%.
“2021 was a truly banner year for South Carolina Ports,” SC Ports CEO Jim Newsome said in a statement Monday. “Amid tremendous and ongoing supply chain challenges, we handled record-breaking cargo volumes, while consistently providing capacity and fluidity for our customers. The strength of our port continues to be in the quality of our workforce and excellent maritime community.”
Officials also pointed to $2 billion in infrastructure investments as crucial to the port’s growth. This year, the port will: deploy 15 ship-to-shore cranes with 155 feet of lift height at its Wando Welch Terminal; see full utilization of the phase one expansion of its Leatherman Terminal; complete a Charleston Harbor deepening project; begin construction on the rail-served Navy Base Intermodal Facility and inner-harbor barge project; and advance toward completion of an Inland Port Greer expansion project, officials said.
Separately, port officials on the West Coast announced new investments aimed at improving port efficiency and sustainability. California Governor Gavin Newsom has included a record $2.3 billion for California ports in his 2022-23 state budget proposal, officials said Monday. The investments will address supply chain bottlenecks, decarbonization, and workforce development. They include $1.2 billion for port infrastructure and goods movement projects; $875 million for zero-emission equipment and infrastructure; $110 million for workforce training; $40 million to enhance California’s capacity to issue commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs); and $30 million for operational and process improvements at the state’s ports.
“These funds, together with our own dollars, private investment, and new federal port investment in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, will prove to be a powerful combination that accelerates delivery of critically needed projects like a first-of-its-kind goods movement workforce training campus, cargo support facilities, digitalization enhancements, and zero-emission equipment and charging infrastructure,” Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said in a press statement. “This suite of investments positions California’s system of ports to be leaders in operational efficiency, sustainability, and job creation.”