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‘Untraditional peak’ a good thing at Port of New York/New Jersey

Cargo windfall welcomed after dismal days at height of pandemic

After dark days at the height of the pandemic, the Port of New York and New Jersey set a container volume record in August. (Port of NY/NJ)

The Port of New York and New Jersey expects container volumes that have rebounded sharply from the height of the coronavirus pandemic to remain strong through the rest of the calendar year.

Canceled — or blanked — sailings commonplace during the economic shutdown in the spring and early summer have waned. The port said there are only two more blanked calls on the books for this year.

And last month the port welcomed the CMA CGM Brazil, the largest container ship to call a U.S. East Coast port, with a capacity of 15,072 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs).

The return of cargo in huge quantities helped the Port of NY/NJ achieve a monthly container record in August, moving a total of 688,365 TEUs, a 1.3% year-over-year increase. Year-to-date volume through Aug. 31 totaled 4,661,453 TEUs.

The port also set a record for intermodal rail volume in August. “At almost 65,000 lifts, the portwide intermodal ExpressRail system handled 7.8% more volume than August 2019, with overall rail volume up 1.4% year-to-date through August 2020,” the port said. 

The August performance came on the heels of what the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey called the single worst quarter on record. Between March, when the full force of the COVID-19 pandemic hit the New York area, and the end of June, the port authority’s revenue miss totaled $800 million — about $200 million per month below budget.

The port welcomes the influx of containers and said in an announcement Thursday that maintaining cargo supply chain fluidity remains a primary objective.

“Port partners are taking proactive steps to add more resources and service hours to support this untraditional peak cargo volume season,” it said. “Daily communications with the port authority, freight railroads and marine terminal operators are ongoing to manage the strong cargo volumes and remain fluid at both the terminal gates and throughout the ExpressRail system. Actions already taken include increased weekend hours and the allocation of more labor to the ExpressRail terminals.”

The Port of NY/NJ tends to report its monthly volumes later than other U.S. ports and thus September’s figures have not yet been shared. 

In August, imports increased 7.1% year-over-year and totaled 368,868 TEUs. Still, imports were down 4.7% year-over-year through the end of August, from 2,536,072 TEUs in 2019 to 2,416,690 TEUs through the first eight months of this year. 

Exports were down 4.7% year-over-year in August and 8.7% from January through August, from 2,458,448 TEUs in 2019 to 2,244,763 TEUs in 2020. 

The port said in Thursday’s announcement that it is “committed to working with Class I rail partners, Norfolk Southern and CSX, as well as local operator Conrail to manage the substantial intermodal volumes. Several system-enhancing investments have been identified and are underway. 

“This assertive approach will ensure that off-port support infrastructure is scaled to accommodate anticipated cargo growth. For example, the Wavery Loop project is an off-site improvement that will enhance staging capacity and overall network fluidity. This Conrail project, which is estimated for completion in late 2021, will provide an additional 12,000 feet of rail staging capacity,” the port said. 

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

F3: Future of Freight Festival


The second annual F3: Future of Freight Festival will be held in Chattanooga, “The Scenic City,” this November. F3 combines innovation and entertainment — featuring live demos, industry experts discussing freight market trends for 2024, afternoon networking events, and Grammy Award-winning musicians performing in the evenings amidst the cool Appalachian fall weather.

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.