East Coast ports finished the year on a high note despite a challenging trade environment and the Covid-19 pandemic, port officials in Virginia and South Carolina said this week.
The Port of Virginia set a record for December volume, processing more than 260,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), up nearly 16% compared to 2019. That followed record-setting levels in October and November, officials said. The port processed an all-time monthly high of 280,000 TEUs in November.
Despite the end-of-year gains, the port saw overall 2020 volume decline 4%, which officials attribute to the trade war with China and supply chain slowdowns related to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our volumes for 2020 are not what we had hoped for initially, but we finished the year without any interruptions in our operations and record-setting volumes in October, November, and December,” John F. Reinhart, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority, said in a statement this week. “Even though it was a difficult year, we delivered significant accomplishments.”
Volumes began a slow rebound in July and trended upward through the rest of the year, according to the port. During the last three months of the year the combined total TEU volume was more than 814,000 units.
The South Carolina Ports Authority also marked its strongest December on record in 2020, handling 209,606 TEUs at its Wando Welch and North Charleston container terminals, a nearly 12% increase year-over-year. Loaded imports were up more than 14% and loaded exports were up nearly 9%.
“The pandemic created unprecedented challenges to supply chains around the world,” SC Ports President and CEO Jim Newsome said in a statement Monday. “I am immensely proud of our port employees and all those working in the maritime and logistics community for showing up every day during a pandemic to keep supply chains fluid. Their dedication ensures that food products, medical supplies, manufacturing parts, and retail goods are efficiently delivered. We are grateful to them, and we look forward to a brighter 2021.”
Officials at the Port of New York and New Jersey reported increasing volumes through the end of the year as well. Officials said Monday that cargo volume through the port rose for the fourth straight month in November, the latest month for which figures are available. The port handled 738,885 TEUs in November, up 23% compared to a year ago. Imports rose nearly 28% during the month, exports were up nearly 19%, and rail volume was up 17%.
From January through November, the port handled 6.8 million TEUs, officials said.