No slow down for US imports as TEU traffic records broken

Aerial view of cargo ship in transit

Ports across the US continue to report record breaking TEU traffic as consumer spending does not look like declining any time soon.

For example, six months into the 2021 calendar year, overall cargo volume at the Port of Los Angeles stand at 5,427,359 TEU, an increase of 44% compared to 2020.

The Port is already beginning to see end of year seasonal goods arriving as shippers are moving stock early.

Gene Seroka, Executive Director, Port of Los Angeles, said during a 14 July media briefing, “Key economic indicators all suggest that US consumer spending will remain strong through the remainder of 2021.”

“Even as Americans return to airline travel, vacations and in-person events, retail sales and e-commerce remain robust.”

Challenges remain

Despite the growth, supply chain challenges persist. These include congestion, lack of visibility and disputes between shipping lines and other stakeholders.

The Biden administration will sign a new Executive Order to crack down on anti-competitive behaviour in rail and ocean shipping industries as supply chain transport costs continue to rise.

The index price to ship one container continues skyrocket and carrier profits are set to surpass $100 billion in 2021, according to some industry experts.

In addition to Biden’s announcement, the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) and the Department of Justice (DoJ) Antitrust Division have signed an interagency Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to increase cooperation on oversight of the ocean liner shipping industry.   

Seroka at the Port of Los Angeles described the Executive Order as “an acknowledgement that addressing the challenges of the supply chain is a national priority” and that the FMC is right to be looking into allegations of unfair practice as part of Fact Finding 29.

“The issues facing our supply chain are complex and could benefit greatly from sustained leadership,” Seroka explained.

“President Biden is taking a solutions-orientated approach to restoring reliability and predictability for American consumers and businesses alike.”

However, one shipping line, Hapag-Lloyd, defended the price hikes as down to tremendous demand from the US customer and infrastructure shortages on the land side.

Planning for the future

Meanwhile, South Carolina Ports (SC Ports) recorded its strongest fiscal year on record for containers handled at the Port of Charleston, breaking more TEU traffic records.

With the need to prepare for increased throughput more obvious now than ever SC Ports highlighted a number of infrastructure projects which will allow the port to keep up with demand. 

These include the new operational Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal, the expansion of the Inland Ports Greer, enhancements to the Wando Welch Terminal and the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project.

“We have planned our capacity well for the next decade and beyond with the infrastructure that we are delivering,” SC Ports President and CEO Jim Newsome said.

Investment to increase capacity is occurring globally and the Port of Antwerp, for example, was recently awarded EU funds to improve its container capacity.

The Extra Container Capacity Antwerp (ECA) project will carry out detailed studies to identify the most sustainable solution to increase capacity as well as optimising the use of land within the existing port area.

Extra capacity in the port of Antwerp is essential to absorb the expected growth and to consolidate its position as a key hub within a global network.

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