Volumes of cargo moved through US ports this year are expected to moderate back to GDP growth of around 2.5%, according to Fitch Ratings’ latest Spring Report.
The forecast comes after a stronger 2018, which saw container traffic across US ports rise 5.7% compared to the previous year, reaching a high of 6.3% year-on-year growth in the second half of 2018.
The spike, above recorded retail sales growth of 4.7%, has been explained as the result of shipments being front-loaded before trade-tariff increases kicked-in, combined with consumer spending remaining steady on the back of a strong jobs market and economy in the US.
In a recent Port Technology technical paper, Dr Noel Hacegaba of the Port of Long Beach makes the case for ports becoming logistics clusters
Ports on both East and West coasts recorded an increase in figures for 2018, although at 7.5% the yearly increase of volumes through terminals on the eastern seaboard significantly outstripped their western counterparts’ growth of 4.5%, indicating a continuing shift in the balance of trade in favour of the East Coast.
Upgrades in automation at US terminals are among the initiatives shaking up the US ports sector, according to Fitch senior director Emma Griffith.
This comes as US ports continue to prepare for larger ships, with improvements including channel dredging, major upgrades to container handling equipment, and the addition of funding for inland transportation infrastructure.
Griffith said: “Disruptors worth keeping a close eye on for US ports include terminal automation and trade policy implications on imports and supply chain decisions, with shipping preparations ahead of the roll-out of IMO 2020 fuel regulations.”