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Change is in the Air

The North America edition of the Global Port Tracker has a couple of new additions to its format. We have added an overview page that provides the reader with a total of all the ports covered by the newsletter. This combines the West and East Coast summaries plus Houston. We hope that readers will find it helpful to see this combined coverage on the same page.

We have also added Jacksonville as one of the ports we cover thanks to the Port Authority’s agreement to allow us to share their monthly data. Why add Jacksonville? The sharp growth in volumes there over the last three years resulting from an increase in direct calls by carriers has brought this port into competition with Miami and Port Everglades in terms of volume.

It’s clear that 2017 turned out to be a remarkable year in terms of import container volume, with 8.1 percent growth over 2016 to reach 23.4 million TEU. The West Coast had a 7.4 percent increase while the East Coast had a 9.7 percent increase.

That level of growth is difficult to sustain, however, and our models suggest that 2018 will continue to expand but only at about half that pace despite solid fundamentals that indicate a healthy economy and continued growth in consumer spending. We expect an additional one million TEU this year.

The U.S. stock market has seen a hiccup recently, but we hope that it is temporary and does not lead to a lack of confidence that could put a damper on consumer spending and industry investment. Europe and Asia are in a similar position – strong economic fundamentals but a degree of nervousness that led markets to collapse globally, not just in America. Despite concern about the impact of political disunity and populism on world trade, participants at last month’s Davos Economic Forum were extremely upbeat about the future and very excited in particular about artificial intelligence. Ironically, experts say it was algorithms that played a large role in the stock market reversal.

Everyone was overjoyed about the rising stock market, and President Trump was glad to claim credit for growth that took place on his watch. We hope that the growth returns but can only wait to see who holds the trump card for the global economy.

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