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October bountiful for ports on East, Gulf coasts

‘Port of Savannah continues to outperform relative to the national market’

September was the second-busiest month on record for the Georgia Ports Authority. (Photo: Georgia Ports Authority)

Fall has been fruitful for U.S. ports on the East and Gulf coasts but not as bountiful for at least one West Coast gateway. 

The Georgia Ports Authority reported Monday that it handled 552,800 twenty-foot equivalent units in October. That’s up 9.6% — 48,460 TEUs — from October 2021. Meanwhile, the Port of Long Beach, California, in October moved 658,428 TEUs, a 16.6% decline from the same month last year. 

GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch said October was the Port of Savannah’s second-busiest month on record, behind only August of this year, when the port handled 575,500 TEUs. 

“Customers continue to bring new or expanding business to the Port of Savannah, drawn by our global connectivity and the supply chain network that links Savannah to major U.S. markets,” Lynch said in a news release. “We can report that ships at anchor are trending downward, and expanded berth capacity coming online next year will allow us to serve our growing customer base with even greater efficiency.” 

The port said in the first four months of its fiscal year, 160 importers were either new or existing customers that grew their Savannah trade by 20% or more, resulting in an additional 107,000 TEUs from July through October compared to the previous year. 

“There has been downward pressure on the total U.S. container trade related to inflation and a shift in consumer spending toward services such as restaurants and travel,” said Joel Wooten, chairman of the GPA board. “However, the Port of Savannah continues to outperform relative to the national market, driving new business for Georgia.” 


The GPA said recent data showed East Coast ports have increased their market share of the container trade from 47% in July 2021 to 48.4% in July of this year. 

October’s numbers also showed significant growth at the Port of Brunswick. The GPA said Colonel’s Island Terminal handled 70,233 units of roll-on/roll-off cargo in October, a year-over-year increase of 22,045 units — or nearly 46%. 

Much of that increase could be attributed to an easing of the semiconductor shortage. 

“Greater availability of computer chips has allowed carmakers to increase production,” GPA Chief Commercial Officer Cliff Pyron said. “This, combined with manufacturers’ traditional end-of-the-year push, yielded strong results for our October auto volumes.”

Container volume increases in South Carolina

According to its website, the South Carolina Ports Authority moved a total of 256,879 TEUs last month, up from 226,807 TEUs in September and 234,923 TEUs in October 2021.

As of 2 p.m. EDT Monday, South Carolina Ports had not issued a news release with its October volumes, but its statistics page showed it handled 132,639 TEUs of exports in October and 124,239 TEUs of imports. 

Looking at the numbers, it appears last month was the best October on record for South Carolina Ports. The same was true for September. 

Export record in Corpus Christi

The Port of Corpus Christi on Texas’ Gulf Coast set a monthly crude oil export record of 2.2 million barrels per day in October. That’s a more than 60% market share of the national total crude export market, the port said. 

The port also set a record in the third quarter, exporting a total of 48.3 million tons, largely crude oil, surpassing the record from just the second quarter of 46.4 million tons, a 4% increase. 

“The growth primarily was a result of strong exports of United States-produced crude oil to Western European buyers who have moved away from Russian crude imports,” the Port of Corpus Christi said in a news release late last week. “The U.S. and its Western European allies have placed restrictive trade sanctions on Russian crude oil as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Added strength in exports came from refined petroleum products and liquefied natural gas.”

It said additional tonnage records have been achieved this year in renewable energy components as more wind turbines and blades are moved through the Port of Corpus Christi. 

The port said crude oil shipments in Q3 totaled 28.7 million tons, up 5% from Q2. Refined products totaled 8.3 million tons, a 4.4% increase. LNG shipments rose 5.8% to 4.2 million tons and the dry bulk cargo volume grew 3.7% to 2.1 million tons. 

“The Port of Corpus Christi is a key economics engine, not just for the Texas Coastal Bend region but also the state and the nation,” Charles Zahn Jr., chairman of the port commission, said in a statement. “This success also allows the Port of Corpus Christi to reinvest into this great community and plan for future infrastructure improvements that will further the port’s commitment to serving not only its existing customer base but also attracting new customers to the region.” 

Volumes down in Long Beach

In its cargo report late last week, the Port of Long Beach said its volumes “eased up in October following reduced consumer demand and a shift of imported goods toward the Gulf and East coasts.”

The port said October imports were down 23.7% year over year to 293,924 TEUs and exports dipped 2% to 119,763 TEUs. Empty containers fell 13.4% from October 2021 to 244,743 TEUs last month. 

Putting a positive spin on the declines, Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach, said that the “supply chain is returning back to normal and cargo continues to move, so I am optimistic that store shelves will be stocked and goods will be available for delivery during the holiday season.” 

The port noted in its news release that in the first 10 months of 2022 it moved 8,000,811 TEUs, a 1.5% increase from the same period in 2021. 

“Despite surging inflation and interest rates, economists say consumers still have enough resources to weather economic headwinds,” the port said. “Experts feel softening consumer activity will lead to a better balance between supply and demand and reduce stress on the national supply chain.” 

The Port of Los Angeles will release its October figures Tuesday. 

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Click here for more American Shipper/FreightWaves stories by Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills.

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Kim Link Wills

Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills has written about everything from agriculture as a reporter for Illinois Agri-News to zoology as editor of the Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine. Her work has garnered awards from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Magazine Association of the Southeast. Prior to serving as managing editor of American Shipper, Kim spent more than four years with XPO Logistics.
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