Container Volumes Fall by 24 Percent at NW Seaport Alliance

File image courtesy NWSA

Published Jun 18, 2020 2:12 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Northwest Seaport Alliance - the joint operations initiative for the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma - saw its containerized cargo volumes fall by 24 percent year-on-year in may, reflecting the economic fallout from the global coronavirus pandemic.

Full imports declined by 23 percent and full exports fell by nearly 16 percent. (Empties fell even more sharply, down by 38 percent for imports and 42 percent for exports.) Auto shipments also fell by 20 percent. 

Domestic volumes for Hawaii and Alaska are down six percent year-to-date. 

The dropoff represented the cumulative effects of blanked sailings: the NWSA experienced a total of 46 canceled port calls through May as carriers responded to the effects of the COVID-19 shutdown and the long-running trade dispute between the U.S. and China. The shipping lines have announced an additional 17 canceled sailings in the months to come, bringing the total to 63 for the year. 

"This is an unprecedented number of canceled sailings," said NWSA CEO John Wolfe. "These canceled sailings not only disrupt operations in Seattle and Tacoma, they create a ripple effect across the whole supply chain. In terms of jobs, these impacts are felt by our longshore workers, our truck drivers, our rail operators, and many others who help us move cargo through our gateway. Over the last several weeks, we've seen a 25-35 percent drop in longshore hours as compared to 2019 . . . For our export operators shipping goods to Asia and other [regions], these canceled sailings could mean not enough containers to put their agricultural goods on vessels."