Cargo Trends: Long Beach sees cargo decline, while Savannah’s numbers rise

Port of Savannah ranks fourth in the nation's Top Ten ports
Port of Savannah ranks fourth in the nation's Top Ten ports

LONG BEACH, November 15 – The Top Ten US ports have begun to release their October containerized cargo throughput statistics, a process that will reveal new comparative rankings over the current month.

The Port of Long Beach, perennially among the country’s top three ports, saw a downturn in its throughput for the month of October, reporting 658,428 teu crossing its marine terminals.

The port said that imports were down 23.7% to 293,924 teu, that exports decreased 2% to 119,763 teu and that the number of empty containers dropped by 13.4% to 244,743 teu.

October numbers decline

The October figure represented a 12.67% drop over the month of September, when Long Beach saw throughput of 741,823 teu. The October figure also was down 16.62% from October 2021, when 789,716 teu passed through.

Despite the downturn, Port of Long Beach remains on par with throughput year-over-year to date, with 8,000,811 teu so far in 2022, a 1.5% increase over last year’s 7,884,565 teu.

As of September, its total throughput of 7,342,383 teu was good enough for third place in the national port standings, behind Los Angeles at 7,864,514 and New York New Jersey at 7,365,036 teu. 

‘Back to normal’

Long Beach executive director Mario Cordero implicitly noted the contraction in his port’s throughput, saying that the supply chain is “returning back to normal” and that cargo continues to move.

“For a number of years, we have witnessed an incremental loss of market share,” Cordero told the Long Beach Business Journal. “The big picture from the nation’s perspective, it’s not a bad thing. [Other ports] have been engaged in their own capital improvement investments, so they offer great options for the American shipper.”

AAPA stats show investments in ports
AAPA stats show investments in ports

Still, Cordero said that “over the long term, the San Pedro Bay ports complex will continue to be a competitive, strategic and sustainable gateway for trans-Pacific trade.” 

Meanwhile, across the country, the Georgia Ports Authority processed 552,806 teu in October, a whopping 26.71% increase over September’s 436,279 teu and 9.6% over the 504,347 teu that passed through last October.

Savannah ‘outperforms’ the market

GPA Board Chairman Joel Wooten noted there has been “downward pressure” on the total US container trade related to inflation and a “shift” in consumer spending towards services such as restaurants and travel.

However, Wooten also observed that “the Port of Savannah continues to outperform relative to the national market, driving new business for Georgia.”

Pending the outcome of further October results from other ports, Savannah currently ranks as the fourth busiest facility in the country with 4,433,684 teu year-to-date as of September. 

Market share changing

As of September, Savannah had an 11.28% share of the US container market, putting it behind Los Angeles at 20%, New York New Jersey with 18.73% and Long Beach at 18.68%.

The nation’s top three ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach and New York & New Jersey – collectively processed 2,293,915 teu in September, more than 56% of the nation’s total.

However, changes are underway as, according to Cargomatic calculations, US West Coast ports have 49.92% share of the US market, a decline of 2.86% year-on-year to date in September.

By contrast, East Coast ports hold a 42.54% market share, a rise of 1.92%, while Gulf Coast ports have seen their market share rise about 1% to the current 7.53% over last year’s 6.61%.

Photo: The Port of Savannah ranks fourth in the nation’s Top Ten ports. Credit: Georgia Ports Authority / Stephen Morton