The westbound transatlantic trade was robust in 2019, but growth is expected to be more modest in 2020
Ports America vice president containers Joseph M Greco told Container Shipping & Trade “The strong US dollar has supported a robust westbound trade in 2019 where vessel capacity has increased roughly 10% during this time.
“The strong volume growth experienced in 2019 is not expected to persist. 2020 is anticipated to see a small to modest expansion.”
Looking at opportunities on the trade going forward he said these “will be determined by the global economy and the strength of the US dollar to drive westbound volumes”.
Speaking about challenges on the trade lane, Mr Greco said “Some challenges facing the transatlantic lane are uncertainty around geopolitical factors, tariffs and a slowing global economy. The physical challenges posed to a terminal operator to accommodate transatlantic vessels ranging in size from 4,000 to 8,000 TEU are relatively reasonable because the Tier 1 ports and terminals are outfitted to accommodate the larger vessels utilised in the Asian trade lanes.”
The investments in infrastructure, equipment, and technology that Ports America is making in key assets such as Port Newark Container Terminal (PNCT) and Seagirt Marine Terminal in Baltimore are poised to meet the requirements of the growing number of vessels and expanded capacity, said Mr Greco, adding “These investments will also ensure that cargo moving through the terminals occurs in a highly efficient manner, which will positively impact customers’ supply chains.”
Mr Greco said “Ports America terminals are investing heavily in additional development to support growth and efficiencies that will benefit the transatlantic trade.” PNCT has almost completed a US$500M project that includes additional terminal capacity, berth and dredging improvements, four additional super-post-Panamax cranes and several technology improvements that support the terminal and the new gate complex.
Seagirt Marine Terminal has initiated a project that will modernise one of its berths with deeper dredging and four additional super-post-Panamax cranes to be able to accommodate two 14,000-TEU vessels simultaneously. Additionally, a new terminal operating system was rolled out in November and several other technology and gate projects have been completed in 2019 or have been committed to.
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