NW Seaport Alliance Reports Steep Drop in Container Volume

Port of Seattle (NWSA file image)

Published Feb 20, 2020 1:47 PM by The Maritime Executive

In a sign of the lingering effects of the trade war between the U.S. and China, the Northwest Seaport Alliance reported Wednesday that its total container volume for January 2020 was about 260,000 TEU - a 19 percent decrease from January 2019.

After an unprecedented international container throughput for the same month last year - tied to shippers moving cargo ahead of tariffs - there was a larger than usual gap in the year-over-year figures for January 2020. Imports fell by 21 percent, and exports declined by about 20 percent. 

Domestic container volumes in January 2020 were also down, falling by about 8.5 percent relative to January 2019. Alaska’s year-to-date volumes were down 13 percent, and Hawaii’s year-to-date volumes were up by nearly the same percentage amount. Hawaii volumes benefitted from one additional vessel call for the month of January relative to last year. 

In non-containerized cargo, breakbulk fell by about 11 percent, and auto volumes were down by nearly 30 percent year-over year, falling to about 10,500 units.

The figures for international trade are not expected to improve in February. The NWSA said in a statement that it continues to monitor shipping developments related to the coronavirus outbreak, and like other stakeholders, it predicts negative impacts worldwide - including the Seattle and Tacoma gateway to the American market. According to Alphaliner, the epidemic has led to the cancellation of nearly half of all transoceanic boxship sailings out of China since late January, taking about 1.7 million TEU of capacity offline. Those blanked sailings will begin to appear in the February numbers in U.S. West Coast seaports.