AAPA Seaports Advisory

Port Traffic Metrics: Georgia, Northwest Seaports, Oakland

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Tacoma/Seattle: NWSA August Container Volumes Grow, But Total Volumes Flat For the Year

The Northwest Seaport Alliance reports container volumes at its Tacoma and Seattle terminals increased last month, giving the ports’ their best August total since 2012.

Full imports alone increased by 4 percent and exports by 15 percent from their August 2015 levels. Year to date, full imports rose by 3 percent to 879,435 TEUs and exports by 13 percent to 625,523 TEUs.

Total container volumes were flat year to date through August, falling less than one percent to 2,322,999 TEUs, mainly because of a persistent decline of empty containers and lagging domestic volumes.

In other cargo news:
  • Breakbulk cargo fell 29 percent year to date to 128,545 metric tons due to the global downturn in agricultural, mining and construction equipment, and a strong U.S. dollar.
  • Log exports declined 48 percent year to date to 92,840 metric tons due to decreased demand in China and competition from New Zealand.
  • Autos fell 5 percent to 119,758 units as vehicle manufacturers move factory locations and shift the supply chain.

For details, see Container volumes – August 2016 and Cargo statistics – August 2016.

Oakland: Export Upsurge Continues in August

The yearlong rally in containerized exports at the Port of Oakland continued in August, with the TEU count up 7 percent from August 2015. It was the seventh increase in eight months. Year-to-date exports exceeded last year’s by 8.8 percent.

"We’ve had solid cargo production across the board," said Maritime Director John Driscoll. "But so far in 2016, exports are the star performers."

The port attributed much of the export increase to a softening U.S. dollar, which makes American goods more affordable overseas.

Exports account for more than half of Oakland’s total cargo volume. The port is near California’s Central Valley and most of its wine-producing areas, providing them with a gateway to markets in Asia.

Total cargo volume – imports, exports and empty containers – increased 1.7 percent in August. Import volume decreased 4.9 percent. Throughput for the year is up 4.9 percent compared to the first eight months of 2015. Complete cargo statistics are available here.

Georgia Ports Mark Record August for Container Volumes

The Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) reports container throughput last month at the Port of Savannah set an August record of 330,846 TEUs, a 5 percent increase compared to August 2015.

"August container unit volumes were the third highest in the authority's history, behind April and May 2015 at the height of diverted cargo from the West Coast," said Executive Director Griff Lynch. "Loaded imports continue to perform well, demonstrating a high level of diverted cargo retention."

Total cargo across all terminals reached 2.62 million tons in August, an increase of 117,470 tons, or 4.7 percent.
Mr. Lynch anticipates sustained market strength for GPA and expects a long-term boost from GPA's newly announced Mid-American Arc rail strategy. The initiative will focus on the growth of intermodal rail, extending the Port of Savannah's reach to capture new markets ranging in an arc from Atlanta to Memphis, St. Louis, Chicago and the Ohio Valley.

Of special significance, Mr. Lynch explained, is a "game-changing" rail expansion at Garden City Terminal. "We anticipate construction on our new, mega intermodal terminal to begin this March."

He said additional track will allow the GPA to build unit trains 10,000 feet long on terminal. Hauling 500 containers by a single locomotive will make more efficient use of track, lower the per-container cost of transportation for GPA’s rail partners CSX and Norfolk Southern and, in Mr. Lynch’s words, give them "a powerful incentive or them to offer faster, more frequent service to vital inland markets."

The Port of Savannah International Multi-modal Connector will link Garden City Terminal's two rail yards, improving efficiency and growing the terminal's rail lift capacity to approximately 1 million containers each year.

"The project is a multi-phased program that will reconfigure the Port of Savannah's on-dock intermodal container transfer facilities to bring rail switching activities inside the port," Mr. Lynch said.

The multi-modal connector includes five major improvements. The first is construction of two arrival/departure tracks and extension of the track east from Chatham Yard to new arrival/departure tracks. Second, the project includes rebuilding a bridge over new yard tracks and the Pipemakers Canal. "The bridge on SR 25 is the linchpin of the project, allowing us to operate linked rail yards without disturbing neighborhood traffic," he said.

Running beneath the overpass will be tracks from the Chatham Yard on the south end of the terminal extended as working tracks at Mason Yard, as well as two additional arrival/departure tracks. At the Mason Yard, the project will add two new working tracks, new storage tracks and high-capacity rail mounted cranes.

Schedule milestones to be complete by the fourth quarter of 2020 include:

  • SR 25 Overpass
  • Rail track connection between Chatham and Mason ICTF
  • Mason ICTF expanded to service both CSX and NS
  • Rail Mounted Gantry Cranes delivered and commissioned
Funding for the $128 million rail project is coming from a $44 million federal FASTLANE grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation and $84 million from GPA internal capital funds.

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