Updates on Major U.S. Ports

Keep in mind that port operations are significantly affected by disruptions in rail and truck operations, and vice versa. Rails, ports, and truckers are all facing equipment and labor shortages coupled with high volume. FreightWaves reported on July 28, “With the count now rising to 153, the North American container ship queue has increased in size by 66% over the past seven weeks.”

West Coast

California’s controversial law AB5 threatens to disrupt the current system of how many truck drivers are classified as independent contractors instead of employees. If AB5 is enforced, it could affect up to 70,000 owner-operators in the state of California.

Oakland:

  • Experienced a few days of significant disruption at the end of July due to truckers protesting AB5 — legislation that would require California trucking companies to reclassify many truck drivers as employees instead of independent contractors
  • Port shut down led to container wait times over 26 days

LA/LGB: Union negotiations persist between ILWU and PMA; the White House remains involved to help prevent disruption at port operations

Seattle: Descartes reported in June that delays remained steady at an average of 11 days during both April and May

East Coast

Due to disruptions and uncertainty on the West Coast over the last few months, many shippers routed their goods through major East Coast ports instead, which continue to experience high import volumes, delays, and congestion.

New York/New Jersey

  • Per Descartes’ June report referenced above, NY/NJ topped the list with the highest average delay times in April and May — 14 and 13 days respectively
  • Severe congestion and difficulty in returning empty containers has culminated in a quarterly container imbalance fee that goes into effect September 1, 2022. The fee “will be assessed on ocean carriers who do not evacuate empty containers that take up sorely needed space for arriving imports and impede overall port productivity and fluidity.” See more details here.
  • The Port Director at NY/NJ, Bethann Rooney, commented at the beginning of July: “We’re handling a full 33 percent more containers through our terminals than we were in the same period in 2019…” (Source here)

Charleston: South Carolina Ports reported a record fiscal year 2022, with 22% increase in import volume year over year

Norfolk: High import volume led to record fiscal year for 2022 as well as record high number of TEUs in June 2022. Overall, Port of Virginia saw a 14.7% increase in TEU volume from fiscal year 2021

Savannah: Backlog of vessels reached 40 ships in the month of July; the Wall Street Journal comments: “The backup at Savannah, which handled some 2.9 million containers last year, is the latest sign that congestion at U.S. seaports is persisting even as authorities from Southern California to New York are trying to speed up the flow of boxes and keep goods moving.”

Gulf Coast

Houston:

  • Continues to see record high import volume as well as associated delays
  • According to a statement released by Port Houston, June was “…the fifth month this year with double-digit growth over 2021, which was a record year for Port Houston’s container volume.”
  • Bayport and Barbours Cut Container Terminals extended gate operating hours to include Saturdays, effective June 4, 2022
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