Fitch: U.S. Port Growth Steady as NAFTA Decision Looms
U.S. ports are positioned for another solid year of growth, though the Trump administration's evolving stance on both domestic and international trade is a long-term development worth a close watch, according to Fitch Ratings in its latest sector briefing.
This after a strong 2017 in which ports on both coasts saw overall growth through the year. "Moving to larger ships and implementing operational alliances have helped drive volume growth on both coasts in 2017," said Emma Griffith, Director. "Overall volume growth averaged 7.7% on the East Coast and 6.3% on the West Coast."
The Trump administration's appetite for renegotiating trade agreements and implementing new tariffs will go a long way towards shaping future movement in both imports and exports. "The U.S. is already withdrawing from the Trans Pacific Partnership and there is the possibility it may do the same with NAFTA, which is likely to lead to changes to import and export volumes along with the trade routes, though such impacts are not likely to materialize until next year at the earliest," said Griffith.
Another notable development Fitch is watching intently is how an expanded Panama Canal will influence cargo levels and shipper route planning. East Coast ports did see marginally higher growth in 2017 as compared with their West Coast peers. Also likely to improve prospects for the East Coast is New York and New Jersey's air draft restrictions, which have recently been removed with the raising of the Bayonne Bridge. Meanwhile, other ports are pursuing dredging improvements for required 47-foot to 50-foot depths.