Cargo Volumes Handled by U.S. Seaports on the Rise - Global Trade Magazine
  February 8th, 2016 | Written by

Cargo Volumes Handled by U.S. Seaports on the Rise

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  • Exports set a record for the fifth year in a row with a year-on-year increase of 3.7 percent.
  • Imports rose for the first time since 2010, up 0.3 percent to 760.9 million tons.
  • One in three U.S. ports estimate they will require at least $100 million in upgrades to handle 2025 freight volumes.

Seaports are seeing a steady rise in waterborne cargo volumes, according to a newly released U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report. Overall, 2014 freight tonnages increased 3.1 percent over 2013 totals.

Based on the Corps’ new report, the volume of goods moving through U.S. ports in 2014 boosted the nation’s economy but also placed added burden on America’s aging and deficient freight transportation network.

All told, freight volumes moving through U.S. seaports in 2014 reached a three-year high of 2.35 billion short tons. That figure includes imports, exports, and domestic cargo shipped through and within the U.S. coastal, Great Lakes, non-contiguous, and inland waterway ports.

The Corps of Engineers’ Waterborne Commerce Statistics Center tracks the commercial movement of U.S. foreign and domestic cargo and vessels.

Exports set a record for the fifth year in a row with a year-on-year increase of 3.7 percent to 647.8 million tons. Imports rose for the first time since 2010, up 0.3 percent to 760.9 million tons. Domestic cargo ended the year on a positive note, with coastwise, Great Lakes and inland waterway commerce posting gains from 2013 of 4.3 percent, 3.0 percent, and 5.8 percent, respectively.

“These figures tell us that America’s farm goods, raw materials, and manufactured products continued to compete globally in 2014, while manufacturing and industrial interests, farmers and retail consumers here in the U.S. rekindled demand for imports,” said Kurt Nagle, American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) President and CEO. “While this is positive news for the American economy, the increased demand for goods places added strain on our already-overburdened freight transportation system, much of which is used to move cargo to and from our ports. In a 2015 AAPA survey, we found that one in three United States ports estimate they will require at least $100 million in landside connection upgrades to handle their projected 2025 freight volumes.”

Long term, according to AAPA’s analysis of the Corps data, the growth trend for U.S. cargo remained positive for foreign trade thanks to the export sector and marginal for the domestic trades.

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