North American container terminals are slowing, and in some cases shuttering, as volumes drop due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The coming months are likely to offer little, if any, reprieve from the downturn as the US enters a recession and container volumes likely remain weak.
US-based ports operator SSA Marine is expected to continue with Friday closures of its T18 terminal in the port of Seattle throughout April after implementing closures at the start of March, according to a logistics executive familiar with operations at the site. The one exception being a one-off opening 3 April to offset a 31 March holiday closure. T18 primarily handles neo-panamax ships up to 8,000TEU in capacity.
The closure comes as Seattle’s port operator, the Northwest Seaport Alliance, grapples with some of the steepest declines among West Coast ports. Through February, total year-to-date international boxes fell 13.5% with imports through February down 14.8%.
Ports America, the largest ports operator in the US, will also close its Seagirt Marine Terminal in the Port of Baltimore for the last two days in March “due to the current declines in international container volumes.” Loaded import TEU into Baltimore fell nearly 13% from a year earlier.
Other ports are working at less than full capacity. Los Angeles, the largest US port by volume, said that cargo volumes are at 85% of regular traffic.
The coronavirus pandemic was the first hit to trade volumes as China’s factories remained on extended hiatus due to the country’s widespread quarantines.
Even as Chinese factories slowly return to normal, the US is beginning to see its rate of coronavirus infections surge, leading to massive shutdowns of the country’s major consuming regions New York and San Francisco.
A nearly 11-year economic expansion has ended, according to economic researchers, with the US economy forecast to drop 6.5% in the second quarter, and another 1.9% drop forecast for the third quarter.