Date: Monday, December 5, 2022
The Port of New York and New Jersey, now the busiest in the US, attributes more than 85% of its growth this year to the cargo it snagged from West Coast rivals contending with labor talks, and said that its top priority is to keep that business in the east.
“We estimate between 85% and 90% of our growth this year actually is West Coast cargo,” Beth Rooney, director of the Port of New York and New Jersey, said in an interview Thursday. “Our focus now is on retaining that cargo that has shifted here.”
The largest complex on the East Coast handled more containers than any other port in the country for a third straight month in October. Its main competitors in California, meanwhile, moved the lowest number of containers since mid-2020 in the same period.
Taken together, the neighboring ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are by far the biggest port complex in the US, handling about 40% of all the nation’s containerized trade with Asia. Still, widespread logjams last year and uncertainty around ongoing labor talks involving 22,000 dockworkers has led shippers to increasingly divert cargo to the East Coast.
Despite taking more market share from the West Coast, the Port of New York and New Jersey is starting to see volumes slow as consumers shift their spending from goods to services and others tighten their belts amid an uncertain economic outlook. October marked the third-weakest month for the East Coast port this year.
“We were spoiled in the last couple of years with 10% annual growth, 18% annual growth,” Rooney said, adding that the outlook for 2023 is much gloomier. “We will be much more either flat or just slightly above the volume that we will end up doing in 2022.”
Meanwhile, Rooney said the port should take space to address labor, operational and infrastructure issues, and work on advancing round-the-clock operations, which she hopes to see in place in the “2035, 2040 timeframe.”
“We can’t rest on our laurels. We can’t take this breathing room and become lax and just go back to the way things used to be,” Rooney said. “We have had a glimpse into our future. And we need to take the breathing room that we have now and make sure that we use that to plan for the future.”