Port of New York and New Jersey container traffic muted in December

Traffic at the Port of New York and New Jersey fizzled at the end of 2015, but for the whole year, the port’s six container terminals saw a record number of boxes passing through.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the port handled 499,225 twenty-foot equivalent units, or TEUs, a common measure of shipping container volume, a 3% increase from the previous year. However, the gains were driven largely by a high number of exported empty containers. Imports rose by 0.5% from a year earlier in December, while loaded exports fell 7%.

Imports and loaded exports are considered the best barometer for global trade, as empty containers are often shuffled between ports to make sure shippers have enough containers in necessary locations.

For the full year, loaded import containers rose by 9.2%, a sign of growing consumer demand. Loaded exports fell 2.6%, indicating that the strong dollar is making it more expensive for foreigners to buy U.S.-made goods. Several of the largest ports in the U.S. reported slow holiday shipping seasons, in part due to high inventory levels among retailers and other importers. The Port of New York and New Jersey is the East Coast’s busiest port, and third in the nation after Los Angeles and Long Beach.

January numbers for the Port of New York and New Jersey, set to be reported early next month, could show further drops after weather and labor related disruptions at the port. In mid-January, a blizzard closed the port’s terminals for two days, and later the same week, the ports were shutdown by a union-led work stoppage.

“We need to maintain labor harmony in the port to ensure future growth, and we will work closely with the New York Shipping Association, International Longshoremen’s Association and other stakeholders to prevent a recurrence of the one-day labor walkout late last month,” said Molly Campbell, commerce director for the Port of New York and New Jersey, in a written statement.  

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