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  January 13th, 2021 | Written by


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  • “The numbers cement Savannah’s position as one of the key hub ports in global trade."
  • The Port of Buffalo is seeing international shipments of wind energy components taking off.
  • The Port of Long Beach accomplished a pair of records in September by achieving its busiest month ever.

We have pursued an amazing amount of infrastructure in a short period of time. In 2021, we will have the deepest harbor on the East Coast.

Large retail stores are reopening, merchants are stocking up for the winter holidays and the increased use of e-commerce appears to be an enduring trend picked up by consumers during the recent stay-at-home orders.

It’s a tossup which is more impressive: that several U.S. ports experienced strong (and in some cases record-breaking) growth during the third quarter of 2020, or that these gains came in the middle of a global pandemic and economic uncertainty.


Consider the examples that follow.


In August, the Port of Savannah moved more containers over its docks, more cargo through its rail yards and more trade in and out of its inland terminals than at any other point in its 75-year history.

Let’s let that sink in, shall we?

Indeed, August 2020 saw the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) move 441,600 twenty-foot equivalent container units (TEUs), an increase of 1 percent or 3,850 TEUs compared to August 2019, in which the previous record was set.

The GPA also set a record this past August for intermodal cargo, handling 49,402 containers (approximately 89,000 TEUs) by rail. And more containers moved through the GPA’s Appalachian Regional Port in August than ever before at 3,420 lifts, an increase of 1,679 or 96 percent.

“The numbers cement Savannah’s position as one of the key hub ports in global trade,” says GPA Board Chairman Will McKnight. “The combination of big ship efficiency, our landside infrastructure and the soon-to-be-completed harbor deepening make Georgia the logical choice for American farms and factories competing in the global marketplace. The Port of Savannah stands ready to support the nation’s exporters as our economy regains momentum.”

Yes, Savannah stands ready—although not on its heels. Consider this: After setting those all-time records in August, the port in September welcomed the CMA CGM Brazil, the largest ship to ever call the U.S. East Coast with a capacity of 15,072 TEUs.

“As the largest ship ever to call the East Coast moves 5,600 TEUs on and off the largest single container terminal in North America, it is clear that our efforts to expand capacity and reach are taking hold,” said GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch said shortly after the CMA CGM Brazil docked

“Frankly, we weren’t expecting to experience record volumes during this pandemic, but thanks to our employees, the ILA and all of our partners who pulled together and our customers who believe in us, this announcement is possible today.”

While it had the microphone, the GPA seized the opportunity to make another pro-growth announcement: The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, which will deepen the river to 47 feet at low tide, is now 75 percent complete. 

“The sight of this colossal ship makes perfectly clear the benefits America will gain from the Savannah Harbor deepening,” said Col. Daniel H. Hibner, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District. “The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, now nearly complete, will boost the economy at a critical time and will have broad impacts for Georgia, South Carolina and throughout the Southeast.”


Sure, you can read on about the recent success of the South Carolina Ports Authority (SC Ports). Or, you can take the GPA information above and replace “August” with “September” and “Savannah” with “Charleston.”

First, SC Ports’ September volumes reflected the strongest year-over-year activity since the pandemic hit, showing a continued recovery and strength in containers, vehicles and inland port moves.

The Wando Welch and North Charleston container ports handled 195,101 TEUs, a record September for SC Ports and a slight increase year-over-year. The Port of Charleston’s Columbus Street Terminal handled 21,702 vehicles during the same month, which was less than 2 percent down from the previous year. But fiscal-year-to-date, vehicle volumes are up 25 percent.

Meanwhile, inland Port Greer had 12,994 rail moves in September, up 4 percent year-over-year, while inland Port Dillon’s 3,108 rail moves that same month was up a whopping 27 percent over September 2019. The inland ports’ combined 16,102 rail moves in September represented an 8 percent jump from a year ago.

“September volumes outperformed expectations as we see an uptick in cargo flowing through our marine terminals and inland ports,” says SC Ports President and CEO Jim Newsome said. “We will continue to operate well-run terminals, as we have throughout the pandemic.” 

And, they will continue to push the envelope.

“We remain highly focused on capturing more retail goods and e-commerce cargo, such as with Walmart’s new 3 million-square-foot distribution center Dorchester County,” Newsome said.

Like Savannah, the Port of Charleston also saw a record fall with the call in September by the CMA CGM Brazil. “The ability to seamlessly handle the CMA CGM Brazil highlights SC Ports’ deep harbor and modern capabilities,” Newsome said.

If that sounds similar to what came out with CMA CGM Brazil’s Savannah call, prepare for more déjà vu all over again: SC Ports also revealed its Charleston Harbor Deepening Project is on schedule to achieve a 52-foot depth in 2021.

“We have pursued an amazing amount of infrastructure in a short period of time,” Newsome observed. “In 2021, we will have the deepest harbor on the East Coast.”


The Port of Long Beach accomplished a pair of records in September by achieving its busiest month ever and the most active quarter in its 109-year history.

Trade was up 12.5 percent in September compared to the same period in 2019. Dockworkers and terminal operators moved 795,580 cargo container units and broke the “best month” record; the previous single-month record of 753,081 TEUs was only set this past July, surpassing by nearly 42,500 TEUs.

The port processed 2,274,271 TEUs between July 1 and Sept. 30, a 14.1 percent increase from the third quarter of 2019. It was also the port’s busiest quarter on record, topping the previous record set during the third quarter of 2017 by nearly 160,000 TEUs.

“Large retail stores are reopening, merchants are stocking up for the winter holidays and the increased use of e-commerce appears to be an enduring trend picked up by consumers during the recent stay-at-home orders,” said Mario Cordero, the port’s executive director. “Still, we must move ahead with caution during the remaining months of 2020 because the national economy continues to be heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“These numbers reflect a continuation of the secure, speedy and reliable service we provide at the Port of Long Beach during this difficult time in our country,” added Long Beach Harbor Commission President Frank Colonna. “Delivering top-notch customer service and maintaining the health of our workforce remains our top priority.”

The port saw 92 containerships call in September, 19 of which were unscheduled vessels that made up for voyages canceled earlier this year.


Port Manatee’s dynamic containerized cargo trade continues to swell at a record pace, surging nearly 55 percent in the just-ended fiscal year, according to figures reported on Oct. 13 by the closest U.S. deepwater seaport to the expanded Panama Canal.           

In the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, an all-time-high 88,466 TEUs crossed Port Manatee docks, up 54.6 percent from the preceding 12-month period, when the port saw moves of 57,239 TEUs. That figure was up 49.2 percent over fiscal 2018, when 38,361 TEUs moved through the Palmetto, Florida, port.

“With container throughput more than doubling over the course of just two years, Port Manatee is increasingly fulfilling regional consumer demands for goods ranging from fresh produce to appliances,” said Carlos Buqueras, Port Manatee’s executive director. “As our dockside container yard expansion project advances toward mid-2021 completion, Port Manatee is positioning to continue to efficiently handle rapidly growing cargo volumes.”

The container yard expansion is adding 9.3 acres to the existing 10-acre paved facility adjoining Port Manatee’s Berth 12 and 14 docks.  

While the COVID-19 pandemic and related impacts did not slow Port Manatee’s container upsurge–including a 24.9 percent rise in containerized cargo tons to 668,672–some other cargo sectors were negatively affected at the fiscal year’s end. 

The port’s total cargo tonnage for fiscal 2020 of 9,327,183 was down 7.5 percent from the record 10,081,743 tons in fiscal 2019, with liquid bulk tonnage slipping 8.6 percent, to 5,957,157, and dry bulk tonnage falling 16.7 percent, to 1,866,383. Led by increased volumes of lumber and scrap metal, Port Manatee’s general cargo throughput was up 9.3 percent, to 531,019 tons.          

Priscilla Whisenant Trace, chairwoman of the Manatee County Port Authority, said she is encouraged by the port’s latest cargo numbers, realized amid the implementation of enhanced health and safety measures.

“We commend the men and women who are maintaining essential operations at Port Manatee, serving consumers of Southwest Florida and beyond,” she said. “Sustained growth of Port Manatee’s container trade is a testament to the success of our diverse strategy, with key infrastructure investments poised to facilitate even greater cargo activity and deliver still more positive socioeconomic impacts throughout our region.” 


“Exploding” is how Port Director Patricia C. Schreiber describes the Port of Buffalo’s 2020 navigation season, which through early September had welcomed 15 vessels with more scheduled to arrive.

“Projects that we’ve been working on for years have finally come to fruition,” Schreiber says in a press statement. “We’ve expanded the realm of everybody’s projects here by offering as much as we can whether it’s transloading, warehousing, rail or dock-side service, and even long-term storage.”

A diverse mix of commodities at the forefront of the Port of Buffalo’s busy season include wind turbines, salt, and sugar. The port’s sugar business began in the fall of 2019 when Schreiber worked to attract a new terminal customer.

“We were able to develop this new partnership because we’re a one-stop-shop with certified weigh scales and the ability to bring in material via vessel and out by either train or truck,” notes Schreiber. “We were and continue to be responsible for offloading bags of sugar from the vessel, stacking them into our warehouse, and scaling our customer’s trucks for shipping.” 

You might say Buffalo’s taste for sugar has . . . wait for it . . . 

“This year, our customer decided that they were only going to ship organic sugar,” Schreiber revealed. “So, we created a custom solution on their behalf. To handle the organic sugar shipments, we decided to certify the Port of Buffalo as an organic port.”

The Port of Buffalo is a proud member of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System, a marine highway that extends 2,300 miles from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. About 143.5 million metric tons of cargo are moved across the system on an annual basis, supporting more than 237,868 jobs and $35 billion in economic activity.

Like its partner facilities within the system, the Port of Buffalo is seeing international shipments of wind energy components taking off. Explaining that the process to bid on wind turbines actually began two years ago, Schreiber says “our hard work paid off. This year, we’ve been handling multiple shipments of wind turbines. To us, that means a full dock for the season.”