East beating west – a tale of two (US) coasts
And no change anytime soon
Surging first-half volumes at the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex saw the US west coast gateway overtake Hong Kong to become the world’s ninth largest container port.
According to new data from Alphaliner, throughput at Los Angeles-Long Beach was up 41% on the first half of 2020, reaching 10.18m teu, compared with 7.19m teu last year.
Growth at the US’s second largest port, New York-New Jersey, was almost as impressive, increasing by 31% year-on year to reach 4.39m teu, and saw it rise from the 20th largest port globally, to the 18th spot, climbing above Hamburg and the Thai gateway of Laem Chabang.
In contrast, Hong Kong’s throughput for the first half grew by just 1.6% to 8.77m teu, and dropped down to tenth position as its long-term decline continues, Alpahliner explained.
“Volumes have fallen every year but one at the port over the last decade as the multi-operator port has battled competitors in southern China.
“By contrast its nearest geographic rival, Shenzhen, has increased volumes 11% since H1 2019, while smaller Guangdong Province ports west of the Delta also attracted more traffic. Hong Kong now ranks 10th place globally, versus 5th place as recently as 2017,” the analyst said.
Another port heavily dependent on transhipment traffic that saw its prominence decline is Dubai, which has been subject to increasingly keen competition from nearby Abu Dhabi, which recently signed a concession with CMA CGM to jointly develop a new container terminal at the port.
Dubai’s first-half throughput grew 3.4% to 6.9m teu. However, this also represented a 3.6% decline on the first half of 2019.
Meanwhile, Hamburg registered an even greater decline over 2019 figures. While 2021 volumes at Germany’s largest box port were up 5.5% over 2020 to 4.33m teu, they were down 6.7% on the first half of 2019.
Among its major European rivals, Antwerp showed the strongest performance, with first-half 2021 throughput of 6.17m teu, some 5.1% up 2020 and 5.6% up on 2019, while Rotterdam hit 7.12m teu – up 8.1% on 2020, but just 1.1% up on 2019.
Overall, volumes at the top 20 largest ports we 13% up on the first half of 2020, Alphaliner noted, “although there was a slight decline of around 1% compared to the last six months of 2020 – another sign that the current boom is being driven by disruption and capacity shortages rather than volumes”.