Records in container handling continue to be broken at both east and west coast ports as infrastructure investments start to pay off and market demand increases.
Monday June 26 was the first anniversary of the inauguration of the Expanded Panama Canal, and the year has seen record throughput for U.S. east coast ports. In its first year of operation, over 1,500 Neopanamax vessels transited the new locks, with container ships representing nearly half of the Expansion's traffic.
Demand is increasing with the U.S. south home to 10 of the 15 fastest growing cities, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. “Overall, cities in the South continue to grow at a faster rate than any other U.S region,” said Amel Toukabri, a demographer in the Census Bureau’s population division. “Since the 2010 Census, the population in large southern cities grew by an average of 9.4 percent. In comparison, cities in the West grew 7.3 percent, while cities in the Northeast and Midwest had much lower growth rates at 1.8 percent and 3.0 percent respectively.”
Georgia's Record Container Volumes
In the south, Georgia Ports reported record container volumes this month. More than 9,500 TEUs were moved on and off of the OOCL France, one of two 13,000-plus TEU vessels to call the Port of Savannah within 21 days. The arrival of larger vessels, including the OOCL France, contributed to a record-breaking month for the Georgia Ports Authority. The port handled 350,104 TEUs in May, over 10 percent more than May last year.
The implementation of container shipping alliances have meant more 13,000-plus TEU vessels are heading for Georgia's ports, and 35 weekly container services now call at the port's Garden City Terminal, more than any other port on the U.S. East Coast.
Jaxport's Largest Container Ship Visit
On June 24, Jaxport and the TraPac Container Terminal at Dames Point welcomed the 10,100-TEU MOL Bravo, the largest container ship to ever visit a Florida port. Although the ship moved a significant amount of cargo during its Jacksonville stop, she isn’t able to operate at full capacity due to the 40-foot depth of the St. Johns River shipping channel. The federal project to deepen the channel to 47 feet is set to begin construction by early 2018.
Los Angeles Throughput Record
Across the nation, on June 23, Evergreen Line’s Ever Sigma discharged the ninth millionth TEU to pass through the Port of Los Angeles in the span of 12 months, setting a new annual record for the most container throughput of any port in the Western Hemisphere.
The 12-month period for this new record corresponds with the port’s July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017 fiscal year, and the port is on track to end the 2017 calendar year exceeding last year’s record volumes. In 2006, Los Angeles was the first port to surpass an annual throughput of eight million TEUs, a decade-long record that was broken in 2016 by volumes of 8.8 million.
The Northwest Seaport Alliance approved a $52 million purchase of four more container cranes this month. The new cranes will join four others already on order for Husky Terminal in the South Harbor.
The new cranes, to be built by Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industry in China, will be capable of serving ultra-large container vessels with an outreach of 24 containers and a lift height of 165 feet above the pier deck. Construction is underway at Husky Terminal to reconstruct Pier 4 to align it with Pier 3, creating a contiguous 2,960-foot berth. These improvements will allow two 18,000-TEU ships to dock at the same time.