The Port of New York and New Jersey is now the busiest shipping port in the in the US, outranking the California ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach in August for the first time, according to new data.
The shift comes as global shipping companies have increasingly been diverting goods to the East Coast on concerns that the California ports could be shut down at any point over protracted labor negotiations with the union that represents 22,000 dock workers. Their contract ran out on June 30 and shippers are worried about a pile-up of freight in the Pacific Ocean that could clog up supply chains yet again.
The Port of New York and New Jersey processed a record 843,191 import and export containers in August. The Port of Long Beach came in second, moving 806,940, while the Port of Los Angeles ranked third in the nation with 805,314, according to CNBC, which first reported the latest data.
Last month was the busiest August in the New York metro area port’s history, with the port’s five busiest months all occurring this year, according to the report
“We are exceeding pre-COVID numbers. It is astonishing, and it is a credit to the men and women who are moving the cargo with such efficiency, ”Kevin O’Toole, chairman of the Port Authority told CNBC. “Our planning with rail to complement the actual infrastructure and the dredging are allowing this added capacity that would not have happened four or five years ago.”
But the greater volume is also increasing the wait times along the East Coast. It now takes nearly 10 days for a ship to dock at the Port of Savannah and nine days for a ship to dock in New York/New Jersey, according to MarineTraffic data as of Sept. 19.
At the same time, the shift away from the West Coast has pushed shipping prices down, in part, because consumer spending is cooling, experts say.
The last labor dispute on the West Coast in 2014 and 2015 resulted in a nine-month period of delays and disruptions, but the union and ports have said they are not planning a strike this time.
One of the points of contention between the two sides is whether and how to upgrade the ports with new technology that could result in a loss of jobs.
President Biden inserted himself into the negotiations in June and has been monitoring the situation.