Gulf Coast ports most likely to be affected by further vessel rerouting


In February 2024, container import volume at the top 10 U.S. ports decreased notably by 135,850 TEUs (-7.0%) compared to January 2024.

Gulf Coast ports most likely to be affected by further rerouting of vessels
Port terminal, Bayonne, New Jersey © Pixabay

Impact on Long Beach

As WorldCargo News previously reported, compared to January 2024, imports from China experienced a decline in growth during February, which particularly affected West Coast ports, notably the Port of Long Beach.

Reduced import volumes contributed to decreased port transit delays, as the combined effects of the Panama drought and the Middle East conflict had a lesser impact on the major East and Gulf Coast ports.

The March update of the logistics metrics tracked by Descartes indicates a strong start to the year for U.S. container imports in 2024. However, ongoing conditions at the Panama Canal and Suez Canal, along with upcoming labour negotiations at ports along the U.S. South Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, may affect global supply chain performance throughout the year.

Back to the West Coast

“The Gulf Coast ports are the ones most likely to be affected by the rerouting of vessels. During the pandemic as a result of the congestion and delays, approximately 1 million TEUs shifted from West Coast ports to Gulf and East Coast ports with the Gulf Coast getting almost 75% of that volume,” explained in a statement to WorldCargoNews. “If delays and increased costs due to issues related to the Panama and Suez canals continue, this volume and possibly more could move back to the West Coast.”

“We also need to consider if shippers push more volume away from Gulf and East Coast ports due to the potential impact of a labour action if the International Longshoremen’s Association and United States Marine Alliance cannot come to terms at the end of September 2024,” concludes Descartes, a US-based supply chain and logistics management company.

Gulf Coast ports most likely to be affected by further rerouting of vessels
Industrial port, NYC

Panama Canal and Gulf Coast ports

According to Descartes, despite ongoing capacity constraints at the Panama Canal, Gulf Coast ports have maintained stability in volume. In February, particularly noteworthy as a shorter month, Gulf Coast ports outperformed both the East and West coasts. Compared to January 2024, Gulf Coast container import volumes in February 2024 increased by 1.0% to 225,858 TEUs.

Despite slightly lower volume at East Coast ports in February 2024 compared to January 2024, port transit time delays decreased, thanks to continued reductions in traffic through the Panama Canal and avoidance of the Suez Canal. The stability in volumes at Gulf Coast ports also contributed to shorter delays, with port transit times decreasing by approximately 2 days.

February vs. January port import volumes

In February 2024, container import volume at the top 10 U.S. ports decreased notably by 135,850 TEUs (-7.0%) compared to January 2024.

The Port of Oakland saw the highest increase in container volume with 4,104 TEUs, followed by Charleston with 3,581 TEUs. Conversely, the ports of Long Beach (-72,319 TEUs), Los Angeles (-31,940 TEUs), and New York/New Jersey (-23,925 TEUs) experienced the most significant declines.

In February 2024, the volume share at leading West Coast ports experienced a decline due to significant decreases in volume at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

When comparing the top five West Coast ports to the top five East and Gulf Coast ports in February 2024 versus January 2024, it’s evident that the total import container volume for top West Coast ports decreased to 40.5%, marking a 2.5% decrease, while top East and Gulf Coast ports increased to 44.0%, reflecting a 1.6% increase.

Additionally, compared to smaller ports, the collective share of the top 10 ports in February 2024 decreased slightly to 84.5%, down by 0.9% compared to January 2024.

Source: Descartes Datamyne

Vietnam on the top

In February, China accounted for 37.8% of the total U.S. container imports, marking a 2.0% decrease from January and a 3.7% decline from the peak of 41.5% recorded in February 2022.

Among the top 10 countries of origin, U.S. container import volume in February 2024 decreased by 7.9% (-132,269 TEUs) compared to the previous month.

Notably, China experienced the most significant volume decline (-96,125 TEUs), while Vietnam saw the largest volume increase (9,456 TEUs).

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