Port of New York breaks trade record, but California bounces back

Containers stand at the GCT New York Container Terminal on Staten Island on October 20, 2022 in New York City.

Gary Hershorn | News from Getty Images | Getty Images

The Port of New York and New Jersey moved nearly 9.5 million TEU (twenty-foot equivalent units) for 2022, the first time in history the port broke the nine million container mark and another sign of its greater importance in the global supply chain is more trade has moved away from the west coast.

The port of New York has increased the number of containers moved annually since 2017, benefiting particularly in 2022 from the threat of strikes in West Coast ports, prompting logistics managers to divert trade.

While the Port of New York and New Jersey ranked second with a total of 9,493,664.00 in total containers behind the Port of Los Angeles with 9,911,158 TEU, the Port of New York has slipped the top spot in recent months from California as the busiest port of the nation. The Port of Long Beach moved 9.13 million TEU last year.

Ports on the East Coast and Gulf Coast have been investing for years in a bid to sustainably increase market share, but the West Coast has an advantage in sea voyage time, which some experts say will ultimately draw more trade back to California once labor problems ease.

Union Pacific CEO Lance Fritz told CNBC on Tuesday his company was hearing about more positive developments in labor negotiations, said the “temperature is relatively low” and said chief executives from the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach were expecting an agreement, despite the schedule remains uncertain. Flexport CEO Ryan Petersen recently told CNBC that leadership on the East Coast will continue “until they get a deal signed…which hopefully will be soon…If they have stability on the West Coast, there’s no point in spending the additional two weeks crossing to the east coast. It’s a lot quicker if you take it through the West,” he said.

For the first time in four months, New York processed fewer containers than the Port of Los Angeles, moving 613,011 containers versus LA’s 728,871.50 in December.

Union Pacific CEO breaks down fourth-quarter results and railroad outlook

In a recent CNBC supply chain poll, nearly a third of logistics managers at major companies and trade groups say they don’t know how much trade they would be returning to the West Coast after a key labor deal is struck. For the week of December 12-19, 341 logistics managers from companies who are members of the National Retail Federation, the American Apparel and Footwear Association, the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, the Pacific Coast Council and Agriculture Transportation were interviewed for the survey Coalition are and the Coalition of New England Companies For Trade.

Overall trade volumes have declined in most key categories, according to Union Pacific results earlier this week. The drop in the volume of trade entering the US is eating away at the revenues of railroads and trucking companies, who are paid by the amount of freight they carry. Union Pacific’s Fritz told CNBC on Tuesday that while transporting domestic cargo is an opportunity, it can’t compensate for the lower amount of total cargo.