Southeast U.S. Ports Hit Cargo Records, West Coast Ports Await Labor O.K

Last week, the South Carolina State Ports Authority announced that it would handle 1 million pier containers by the end of its fiscal year in June 2015. This amount of cargo has been a goal of the Ports Authority since prior to the recession. Overall, the SPA has handled 700,000 pier containers (total boxes moved, regardless of size) in 2015, including 86,000 in February. The February pier container figure is an increase of 17 percent over Fiscal Year 2014. For the year to-date, the Port of Charleston has handled 1.23 million TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units), which is a 14.3 percent increase over the previous year.

While cargo volumes are increasing at ports in the Southeastern U.S., West Coast port operators and users are awaiting the final approval of a new five-year labor contract by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). ILWU delegates, meeting in San Francisco, could take all week to recommend approval of the new long-term contract by the union rank-and-file. Failure by the union to approve the contract would force a reopening of negotiations and further slow the passage of cargo through the 29 West Coast ports that rely on ILWU workers.

As a result of slow negotiations and work slowdowns at West Coast Ports, a significant cargo backlog has accumulated outside major ports-of-entry such as the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and ports on the East and Gulf Coasts (as well as Canada) have seen a surge in shipments avoiding the backlog and labor unrest. The West Coast’s market share of U.S. containerized imports fell last year to 52.3 percent, down from 56.8 percent in 2000.

TIA continues to monitor the West Coast Port labor negotiations and the national shifts in cargo that have resulted from the unrest. For additional information on the state of play please contact Will Sehestedt at or 703-299-5713.