At least three of the largest American container ports posted record-setting volumes in 2016. Full-year results are not yet in from all of the top ten port authorities, but early numbers suggest strong volumes on the East and West coasts.
Combined traffic at California's three main ports rose by about two percent in 2016, reaching a total of 18 million TEU. At the Port of Los Angeles, box movements rose from 8.2 to 8.9 million TEU, making 2016 the busiest year ever for the busiest port in the western hemisphere. Los Angeles also had its busiest holiday season ever, with record volumes for the fourth quarter.
At the adjacent Port of Long Beach, volumes fell by six percent year-on-year as carrier alliances shifted and Hanjin Shipping wound down its operations. Total box movements in 2016 came to 6.8 million TEU, down from 7.2 million TEU the year before. MSC has since acquired Hanjin's stake in Long Beach Pier T, and the port expects a good future with the world's number two carrier as a tenant.
Volumes at the Port of Oakland rose to 2.4 million TEU, up from 2.3 million the previous year, despite the closure of Ports America's Outer Harbor Terminal early in 2016.
On the East Coast, early numbers suggest outstanding performance. The South Carolina Ports Authority reported that volumes rose to nearly two million TEU, a new record, and traffic at the Port of Virginia jumped to a record-setting 2.7 million TEU, four percent above last year's levels.
It may be that many more port authorities and terminal operators had a banner year. At the Port of Savannah, which posted a six percent increase in holiday traffic but has not yet released its full-year numbers, executive director Griff Lynch recently suggested that the rise is attributable to improvements in market conditions. "An increasing demand for America's exports abroad and strong consumer confidence here at home are helping to boost cargo throughput," he said in December.