The Northwest Seaport Alliance, the joint operator for the ports of Seattle and Tacoma, is reporting continuing declines in volume. While volume was also down for the first half of 2020, the rates of decline however moderated in June versus the prior month.
Port officials noted in reporting the most recent results that they anticipated the continuing impact from COVID-19 on trade, which as expected continues to disrupt the global supply chain. They also continue to see the impact from the trade war with China. As a result, total volume declined by more than 16 percent in June, which compared with a 24 percent decline reported in May.
The port experienced some moderation in both the flow imports and exports in the most recent month. Full imports declined 15 percent in June compared to a 23 percent decline in May while full exports declined 8 percent, reducing the fall by nearly half versus the prior month.
For the first half of 2020, overall volume is down by more than 18 percent with a similar decline in full imports. Full exports are down better than 9 percent. The volume of empty containers for both imports and exports however are down by nearly half versus year-ago levels.
Commenting on the factors that are impacting the port’s performance the directors highlighted the disruptions created not only in terminal operations but the ripple effect in available gates as well as across the supply chain from canceled sailings. So far in 2020, the port has recorded 55 canceled scheduled visits by the shipping lines and currently projects an additional seven canceled sailings through September. By comparison with the disruption from the trade war in 2019, the port in total only recorded 58 canceled sailings for the entire year.
They highlight that while many areas of the business were down the port due to its strong relationship with shippers and those shippers investments breakbulk volume was only down one percent. They also reported that they were seeing some increase in volumes moving into the second half of the year.
While they expect the current increase in volumes would possibly carry through the remainder of the summer months, the port directors noted that they expect a lingering impact from the pandemic well into next year. As a result, they have been opportunistic and aggressive in pursuing new markets and seeking to attract more cargo to the port.
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