Port of NYNJ Beats West Coast Rivals with Highest 2023 Volumes

NYNJ largest port volume
CMA CGM Brazil set a size record in NYNJ in 2020 (file photo)

Published Apr 4, 2023 12:24 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Port of New York and New Jersey is once again claiming the title of the business container seaport in the United States surpassing the volumes of its traditionally busier West Coast rivals in Los Angeles and Long Beach both on the volume of imports and exports. While shipping volumes globally have slowed in the past few months, the U.S. East Coast and Gulf Coast ports have shown stronger resilience versus the West Coast ports that receive most of their volume from China and Asian seaports.

Data released by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey shows the combined port handled 571,177 TEUs during February, traditionally the slowest time of the year for all U.S. ports due to overseas production slowdowns and closures related to the Lunar New Year holiday. Import volume was down by a quarter year-over-year during February with the port moving 288,314 TEU loaded imports arriving at the terminals while exports were down only five percent versus 2022 with the port handling 98,692 TEU loaded exports. 

The volume was the highest in the U.S., exceeding the Port of Los Angeles by more than 83,000 TEUs and the Port of Long Beach by more than 27,000 TEUs. Equally significant, NYNJ exceeded the volume in Los Angeles both for loaded imports and exports and after the first two months of the year is slightly ahead on a year-to-date cumulative basis with a total of 1,216,607 TEU versus Los Angeles’ 1,213,860 TEUs. Los Angeles’s volume was down 30 percent in January and February versus a 20 percent year-to-date decline in NYNJ. 

It is also not the first time the Port of New York and New Jersey has recently claimed the title of the busiest seaport in the U.S. For months from August through November 2022, the port exceeded its rivals in volume. In August and September, NYNJ handled more than 840,000 TEUs per month while it declined to 792,548 in October and 723,069 in November.

“The Port of New York and New Jersey is again No. 1 in the nation,” said Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole. “After years of unprecedented cargo growth, we are using this traditionally slow period to work with our port stakeholders who need to increase capacity throughout the regional supply chain. We expect a stronger second half of the year, as we have been in discussions with many importers that shifted volume to us from elsewhere and are now committed to keeping that volume in our gateway.”

One of the steps that the Port Authority has been taking to improve operations during this period is aggressively clearing out its empty container inventory. So far this year they note empties removal has reached 390,000 TEUs. Port officials highlight that the evacuation of empty containers helps improve seaport operations and fluidity by ensuring more container terminal space for imports to be processed quickly at the port in the future. Last year. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey had announced plans to introduce an imbalance fee for carriers that offloaded more containers than they removed in an effort to reduce the backlog of empties which they said were clogging their terminals.

In 2022, the NYNJ port handled a total of nearly 9.5 million TEUs, its highest annual amount of cargo in its history. Los Angeles by comparison exceeded just over 9.9 million TEU but NYNJ beat Long Beach which had a total throughput of just over 9.1 million TEU. 

With strong demand on the East Coast routes and carriers sending larger vessels to the U.S. eastern seaboard ports, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey expects to experience growth in its volumes.