2021 proved to be a banner year for ports on the East and Gulf coasts as consumer demand remained brisk amid the waxing and waning COVID-19 pandemic.
2021 ‘most productive year’ at Port of Virginia
The Port of Virginia in Norfolk handled more than 3.5 million twenty-foot equivalent units in 2021, a 25.2% increase from 2020, at a time when the broader supply chain faced pandemic-related headwinds, according to Virginia Port Authority CEO and Executive Director Stephen A. Edwards.
“This year presented challenges to world trade beyond what we, and the industry, could have ever imagined. We kept our focus and delivered a best-in-class performance with solid efficiency, customer service and a record amount of cargo,” Edwards said in a release.
Volume gains were seen across several categories: Loaded export TEUs rose 11.6% to 1.05 million TEUs; loaded imports increased 27.5% to 1.68 million TEUs; and total containers rose 25.9% to 1.96 million TEUs.
December volumes were also a record and “the most productive month in history,” with the port processing more than 325,000 TEUs, a 25% gain year-over-year.
“We own and operate the terminals and the Hampton Roads Chassis Pool and this allows for quick decision-making that ensures we are doing the right thing for the customer within the capabilities of the operation,” Edwards said. “The users of The Port of Virginia have come to understand the Virginia model and the role it plays in our success cannot be overstated.”
South Carolina Ports sees ‘best calendar year in history’
SC Ports said it handled an “unprecedented amount of cargo” in 2021, with the Port of Charleston processing 2.75 million TEUs at Wando Welch, North Charleston and Hugh K. Leatherman terminals.
The volume was a 19% increase from 2020 and a 13% increase for 2019. SC Ports also achieved year-over-year container records for 10 consecutive months, from March to December.
December volumes were also at their “strongest” on record, with SC Ports handling 246,198 TEUs at the three Charleston terminals, a 17% gain from December 2020.
“2021 was a truly banner year for South Carolina Ports,” SC Ports CEO Jim Newsome said. “Amid tremendous and ongoing supply chain challenges, we handled record-breaking cargo volumes, while consistently providing capacity and fluidity for our customers. The strength of our port continues to be in the quality of our workforce and excellent maritime community.”
Within that total, SC Ports handled 1.53 million pier containers in 2021, which was an 18% gain from 2020 and an 11% increase from 2019. Pier containers consist of containers of any size.
Imports rose 25% to 1.29 million TEUs, while loaded exports increased 5% to 814,964 TEUs.
“Big retailers continue to grow, increasing their need for a reliable partner in the supply chain. SC Ports provides capacity for retailers as record retail imports flow into the Port of Charleston,” Newsome said. “By investing more than $2 billion in port infrastructure, SC Ports provides much-needed supply chain fluidity for customers.”
Record container volumes handled at Port of Mobile in 2021
Containerized cargo volumes increased nearly 19% to a record 502,623 TEUs in 2021, according to the Alabama Port Authority.
The port’s Intermodal Container Transfer Facility also saw volumes grow significantly in 2021, with volumes of 23,776 TEUs 139% higher than 2020 volumes.
Refrigerated containers also posted a “near record” breaking lift of 790 containers, and 2021 volumes rose 50% from 2020 volumes. The port noted that nearly $74 million has been invested recently at the Port of Mobile for its refrigerated facilities.
Alabama Port Authority John C. Driscoll attributed the increase to favorable operational conditions at the port, including minimal to no congestion, no vessel delays at anchor and posted vessel-to-rail turn times within 24 hours.
Port officials also said the Port of Mobile’s volume has grown by 120% since 2015, and the port has handled over 3.6 million containerized cargo since its terminal began operations in 2008.
“Mobile continues to perform, attracting new customers seeking out terminal efficiency, services and inland connectivity to key U.S. markets,” Driscoll said.