NW Seaport Alliance Reports Continuing Decline in Container Volumes

nwsa container port rainier
File image courtesy NWSA

Published Aug 20, 2020 8:27 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Northwest Seaport Alliance of the ports of Seattle and Tacoma reported a 17 percent year-over-year decline for the month of July, with a steep falloff in both import and export volumes. 

Last month, the twin ports saw export boxes fall by 23 percent, and imports came down by 16 percent relative to the same period last year.

The NWSA's container business has been heavily affected by the coronavirus downturn. It has experienced a total of 57 blank sailings for the year through July, driven primarily by COVID-19 and the long-running trade dispute with China. “Experiencing nearly the same number of canceled sailings as we did in all of 2019 in the first seven months of this year, the global pandemic and the trade war between U.S. and China have unleashed unprecedented impacts to our gateway,” said CEO John Wolfe.

Tariff-related movements led to a 19 percent volume drop in January, largely unrelated to the outbreak then beginning in China. The port saw a relatively small decline in February, then a  22 percent drop in March, followed by 24 percent in April, 24 percent in May and 16 percent in June (year-on-year). Overall, container volumes for the first seven months of 2020 declined by about 18 percent compared to the same period in 2019. 

In the ro/ro sector, the port's auto volumes are down even more sharply, falling 34 percent year-over-year for the year to date. Breakbulk cargo volumes have been stable. 

“Despite these very difficult times, we remain cautiously optimistic as shipping lines have announced only one more blank sailing through the end of 2020. This is a fluid situation, and we’re not out of the woods yet," said Wolfe. “The Northwest Seaport Alliance, along with our supply chain partners, continue to aggressively pursue new markets and innovative solutions."