Ports look to the positives for the start of 2021

by Beth Maundrill

It is no secret that 2020 was a challenging year for ports and all those involved in the supply chain but there is a renewed air of optimism as many ports begin 2021 by reporting satisfactory annual figures for 2020.

US Ports see surge in final quarter of 2020

Ports in the US have seen a surge in imports, especially from China, at the end of 2020 and recent reporting from various locations has seen double-digit year-on-year (YoY) increases.

The Port of Oakland saw imports grow by 11% YoY in December 2020. Port executives cited a continued trend of growth that began in June as the global economy began to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns in many nations were relaxed.

On the East Coast, South Caroline Ports reported a strong finish to December 2020 with the strongest December on record for TEU throughput which stood at 209,606 TEU. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey also saw its TEU traffic increase by 23% YoY in November 2020.

Meanwhile, Port Houston saw a massive YoY increase in December 2020 of 26%. The Port’s Executive Director, Roger Guenther, said he was optimistic that the rebound in container volume would continue.

The biggest overall trend is that exports from China and Asia in general have resumed at a heady pace and we are likely to see large YoY increases of TEU volumes continue in the first quarter of 2021. However, keep in mind this would be compared to the disastrous start of 2020.

With all these signs of optimism ports are surely not out of the woods yet. According to Fitch Ratings there is still a difficult road ahead in 2021 as the US economy continues to worsen, trade tensions are ongoing and fiscal stimulus is delayed.

The credit agency has said that its outlook shows the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to impede growth, even though there will be an improved performance in 2021.

Development projects steam ahead

Investment and development at ports and terminals largely continues to go ahead and a number of large infrastructure projects are underway across the globe.

Key projects that are part of the Port of Gdansk’s €1.3 billion ($1.58 billion) infrastructure improvement plan are set to be completed in 2021. The total investment includes up to 40 projects.

Of those to be completed in 2021 are the extension and modernization of the road and rail network at the Outer Port and the expansion of quays at the Inner Ports.

Meanwhile, in Sweden, the Port of Helsingborg and the City of Helsingborg are exploring the possibility of moving the entire container port south.

The move would allow for greater opportunities for both the City and the Port to develop. For the Port it would also allow it to manage the increase in container flow and enable larger vessels to call.

Finally, the Liverpool2 expansion project welcomed five cantilever rail-mounted gantry (CRMG) cranes. The five CRMG cranes are the first of two lots that will be delivered in 2021 and increase Liverpool2’s fleet to 22, according to Peel Ports Group.

One of our top tech trends already makes a splash

Towards the end of 2020 PTI made some predictions on which technology trends our readers should be keeping an eye out for in 2021.

Among these was 5G, The Port of Felixstowe, the UK’s largest container Port, has joined forces with Three UK to conduct a 5G and internet of things (IoT) trail. Three UK said the technology will be used to enhance productivity, efficiency and safety across its core operations.

Meanwhile, in industry Nokia and Kalmar are set to expand their ongoing collaboration to provide new solutions for ports and intermodal terminal operators looking to automate their operations.

In the first of the new collaboration programs, Nokia and Kalmar will incorporate Nokia 4G and 5G private wireless into offering development for use with straddle carriers, automated stacking carriers and rubber-tyred gantry cranes.

The author is the Head of Editorial at Port Technology where this piece first appeared. Views expressed in this article are the author’s own

Featured photo courtesy: Unflash

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