Ports of Tacoma and Seattle see 23.5% volume drop

The Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA) handled 247,675 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in April, a 23.5% year-over-year decline in total container volume.

“The economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the global supply chain,” NWSA CEO John Wolfe said during a press conference Monday.

Empty containers moved plunged 38.3% year-over-year, from 276,731 TEUs in April 2019 to 170,622 TEUs this year. Full exports declined 17.6% year-over-year in April and full imports decreased 13.9%.

“During the first four months of 2020, we handled 1,036,556 TEUs. As a result, the total cargo volume is down 17.5% over last year through April,” Wolfe said. 

“Part of this is driven by the canceled sailings as a result of COVID, and our gateway experienced a total of 39 canceled sailings through April, driven by both the lingering trade dispute with China and the global coronavirus pandemic,” he continued. “The shipping lines have announced 18 more canceled sailings [through early July], although that number is pretty fluid at this time.

“These canceled sailings not only disrupt terminal operations in both Seattle and Tacoma, they create a ripple effect across the whole supply chain. It can show up in a way where purchasers are experiencing some delays in the arrival of their cargo based upon an inconsistent sailing schedule,” Wolfe said. 

The ports of Seattle and Tacoma, Washington, moved 46,224 auto units in the first four months of that year. That’s down 7.8% from the same period last year. Total year-to-date domestic container volumes dipped 2.7%. Alaska and Hawaii volumes declined 2.5% and 4%, respectively, Wolfe said. 

He added that the ports and terminals have remained operational throughout the coronavirus crisis.