AAPA Seaports Advisory

Port Traffic Trends: Oakland, Puget Sound, Virginia

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Port of Oakland Import Rally Rolls On: Up 15% in August

Containerized imports keep growing at the Port of Oakland, with the August count up 15 percent from a year ago to 82,492 TEUs. It was the sixth-consecutive month of gains ahead of the traditional autumn pre-holiday cargo surge.

"We're building momentum before the peak," said Maritime Director John Driscoll. "It's an indication that the season could be a good one; but more importantly, it's a sign that customers are counting on the Port of Oakland to deliver."

The August total, including exports and empty containers as well as imports, was up 6 percent from August 2014. Year-to-date total volume lagged last year’s by 4.8 percent, a significant recovery from last winter’s double-digit declines. View comprehensive container traffic statistics through August 2015.

An increase in longshore labor on the waterfront is helping to absorb volume growth. About 150 more dockworkers are being deployed at Oakland's five marine terminals. With added labor, the port says it has cleared a summer backlog of ships waiting to berth.

Puget Sound Container Volumes Mark Sixth Straight Month of Growth

The Northwest Seaport Alliance’s Puget Sound terminals posted a 14.6 percent increase in container volume in August.

The increase is significant, as peak shipping season – when retailers increase inventories to prepare for the holiday shopping season – hit early last year as shippers sought to avoid possible West Coast labor disruptions during contract negotiations. Last month’s volumes hint at the beginning of 2015’s peak season.

In detail, the August TEU data show gains from a year ago for imports ( 31.4 percent), exports ( 2.0 percent), and empty containers ( 48.0 percent) and a 5.9 percent drop for domestic container traffic. August’s count brought the year-to-date total to 2.4 million TEUs and an increase from last year of 2.4 percent.

Other Alliance-cargo highlights:

  • Break bulk volumes remained flat for the year through August, up just 0.3 percent to 180,616 metric tons.

  • Nearly 130,000 auto imports have arrived through August, a 7 percent increase.

  • Grain volumes continued to decline, down 18 percent to 3.7 million metric tons as of August 31.

See container volumes – August 2015 and Cargo statistics – August 2015 for details.

The Northwest Seaport Alliance is a marine cargo operating partnership of the ports of Seattle and Tacoma.

Virginia: August Gains for Containers and Vehicle Traffic

The Port of Virginia reports container volume for August totaled 220,069, an increase from last year of 2.7 percent.  That gave the port its sixth consecutive month with a TEU-count in excess of 210,000 and put it solidly on track for another record year.

Other August data show year-on-year growth for containerized cargo ( 14.6 percent), truck containers ( .03 percent), rail containers ( 3.0 percent) vehicle units ( 94 percent), and Virginia Inland Port box moves ( 27 percent).

"We are entering the peak of the retail season, and we are handling the volume with greater efficiency and consistency than we did at this time last year," said John F. Reinhart, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority. "We have had some difficult moments and continue to face challenges, but each month we continue to get better at handling these increasing monthly volumes."

"The strategy of investing in people, technology and cargo conveyance equipment that we implemented last year is beginning to show returns," Mr. Reinhart continued. "Now our efforts will be to continue to reinvest in all of our areas of operation, make the necessary changes to improve delivery of service, create sustainability and maintain profitability. We are in the early stages of executing a long-term plan to assure those things happen."

He estimates that it will take an investment of at least $2 billion over the course of the next decade to provide the necessary infrastructure to increase capacity, remain competitive, cultivate reasonable, sustained growth and contribute to economic development within the Commonwealth of Virginia.

In May, the Virginia Port Authority Board of Commissioners approved a $135 million capital spending plan and in doing so kick-started the capital reinvestment process. The budget emphasizes investing in people, technology, and container handling equipment and reinvestment in facilities.

The port started work on the first of those capital projects in July, when it broke ground on the expansion of the North Gate at Norfolk International Terminals, a project that will tie-in to I-564 Intermodal Connector project.

Combined, the projects will increase truck velocity through NIT’s north gate, remove a significant amount of daily truck traffic from Norfolk city streets and provide motor carriers with direct, safe access to Interstate 564.


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