The Port of New York and New Jersey has been ranked the third-busiest U.S. seaport for years, trailing behind Los Angeles and Long Beach. But 27 consecutive record-setting months at the East Coast facility catapulted it into the No. 2 slot for 2022.
For the first time in the port’s 101-year history, it moved over 9 million 20-foot-equivalent units (the standard unit of measure for shipping containers), Executive Director Rick Cotton announced Wednesday morning during a State of the Port event.
“While other ports struggled with severe levels of congestion, causing both unwanted delays and reliability issues for shippers, the Port of New York and New Jersey and all of its stakeholders demonstrated exemplary management of cargo vessels to avoid severe congestion,” Cotton said.
In December, the East Coast port moved 613,011 TEUs, bringing its 2022 total to 9,493,664 TEUs. Long Beach, meanwhile, moved 554,104 TEUs in December for a yearly total of 9,133,658 TEUs, moving it into third place in cargo volume after decades in the second place slot.
For four months last year, New York-New Jersey was the busiest container port in the country, data shows.
Despite being outperformed, Long Beach’s 2022 cargo volume was the second highest in the port’s 112-year history, falling only about 250,000 TEUs shy of its previous record set in 2021.
“Cargo is moving smoothly as we move past the economic effects of COVID-19,” POLB Executive Director Mario Cordero said in a statement last week. “In 2023, we will continue to invest in digital and physical infrastructure projects, focus on market share and develop long-term improvements that will strengthen our competitiveness and keep goods moving efficiently.”
The Long Beach port set monthly cargo records in January, February, March, April, June and July last year, fueled by high levels of online shipping, according to port officials. Consumer spending cooled during the summer because of inflation, bringing container volumes down to normal levels.
Economists are forecasting a further decline in cargo volumes through 2023 as consumers shift spending from goods to services, port officials said.
Across the San Pedro Bay, the Port of Los Angeles also had its second-busiest year on record, moving 9,910,819 TEUs—over 750,000 TEUs short of its 2021 record. Even with the loss of market share to East and Gulf coast ports, LA maintained its title as the nation’s busiest seaport for the 23rd consecutive year.
As other ports across the country continue to modernize alongside the San Pedro Bay ports, slight shifts in market share away from LA and Long Beach is natural, officials for both facilities have said. The unprecedented congestion of the last two years, however, saw a much more drastic move away from the West Coast giants.
Congestion reached its peak in January 2022 when 109 container ships were waiting to enter the San Pedro Bay ports. The backlog was reduced slowly and, after 25 months, dwindled to zero in late November.
During the ship backlog, containers stacked up on docks, where they sat for extended periods due to truck chassis and driver shortages. Even containers being moved by train regularly languished on docks for a week or longer.
In December, containers leaving LA and Long Beach terminals by truck remained on dock for an average of 2.6 days, the lowest since June 2020, according to the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association. Only 6.7% of containers remained at terminals for more than five days.
Rail-bound cargo sat waiting for transport for an average of 4.9 days last month, “a significant reduction” from 9.1 days in November and 14.2 days in October, according to the association.
“Over the past few years, as we’ve risen to each and every challenge, we have become a stronger, more resilient port,” POLA Executive Director Gene Seroka said during his State of the Port address last week. “The capabilities that we developed during that time have positioned us well to grow our market share, fulfill our commitment to create jobs and build a better quality of life for our communities.”