Port of Philadelphia Reports Stunning 16 Percent Jump in Cargo in 2014

Marking Fifth Consecutive Year of Double-Digit Cargo Growth Along City’s Delaware River Waterfront

Final cargo figures for 2014, compiled by the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority (PRPA), reveal that 5,950,319 metric tons of cargo were handed at the Port of Philadelphia’s maritime facilities in 2014, a stunning 16.66 percent increase compared to the 5,100,385 tons of cargo handled in 2013. Further, 2014’s total cargo tonnage marked the fifth consecutive year of double-digit cargo growth at the Port of Philadelphia.

“In the wake of the national economic downturn of a few years ago, we became more aggressive than ever in improving and marketing the Port,” said PRPA Chairman Charles G. Kopp. “As a result, we’re now experiencing our fifth consecutive year of major cargo increases at our facilities.”

In addition to dramatic tonnage increases, 2014 also marked a particularly large increase in container counts at the Port, with 449,122 TEU’s moving through the Port of Philadelphia in 2014, compared to the already healthy 367,499 TEU’s handled in 2013. This marked a 22.21 percent increase. Counted as tonnage, 2,916,148 metric tons of containerized cargo moved through the Port in 2014, a 19.36 percent increase over the year before.  All told, containers have shown consistent growth in the past several years at the Port of Philadelphia. Containers are handled at PRPA’s Packer Avenue Marine Terminal, the Port’s largest and busiest facility.

Breakbulk cargoes (cargoes not shipped in containers, with the exception of vehicles and liquid bulk) experienced a healthy gain of 14.44 percent in 2014 when compared to 2013.  In all, 1,382,861 metric tons of breakbulk cargoes were handled in 2014, compared to 2013’s 1,208,350 tons.  Highlights include steel, which was up 49.53 percent, with 394,717 tons handled; and forest products, which were up 28.2 percent, with 614,843 tons handled.

Though down slightly in breakbulk numbers, it’s important to note that  fruit (225,294 breakbulk tons handled) and cocoa beans (97,688 tons via breakbulk) are increasingly being handled as containerized cargoes, meaning that these cargoes aren’t genuinely down at all, only that a portion of them are shifting to containers.

Automobiles, which began arriving in 2010 and were a big factor in the resumption of the Port’s prosperity after the national economic downturn, continued to show strong performance in 2014. Counted as individual units, 150,637 automobiles (principally new Hyundai and Kia vehicles) moved through the Port of Philadelphia in 2014, compared to the 129,239 automobiles handled at the Port in 2013, a 16.56 percent increase. Counted as tonnage, 213,646 tons of vehicles were handled in 2014, an 18.12 percent spike.  Automobiles arrive at the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal and are processed at the adjacent Philadelphia Automobile Processing Facility.

Liquid bulk cargoes continued to show steady growth as well in 2014, with 1,437,664 tons of liquid bulk products moving through the Port last year compared to the 1,267,915 tons handled in 2013, a 13.39 percent increase. These cargoes are handled via a tank farm located adjacent from the Tioga Marine Terminal, where liquid bulk vessels arrive.

The five consecutive years of double-digit cargo growth at the Port of Philadelphia is detailed as follows: 3,628,312 metric tons handled in 2010, a 14 percent increase over the previous year; 4,001,759 tons handled in 2011, a 10 percent increase; 4,431,214 tons handled in 2012, an 11 percent increase; 5,100,385 tons handled in 2013, a 15 percent increase; and 5,970,480 tons handled in 2014, a more than 16 percent increase.

The cargo increases of 2014 and recent years are occurring amid an unprecedented period of expansion and investment.  As of right now, a $350 million project to deepen the Delaware River’s main channel from 40 to 45 feet is close to 70 percent complete, with the latest rounds of bids to deepen the remaining  areas or “reaches” of the river now being evaluated for an anticipated spring 2015 resumption of the project. The deepening project, funded by the federal government with local matching funds provided by PRPA (an agency of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania) is on track for completion in 2017, about the time a deeper and wider Panama Canal will begin serving the world’s ocean carriers.

Further, the PRPA Board of Directors is now evaluating 16 private-sector respondents for its Southport Project, the first major expansion of the Port of Philadelphia in several generations. The three major parcels encompassing Southport are being offered by PRPA for a variety of potential maritime and energy uses, and the healthy level of responses to the Port’s October 2014 request for expressions of interest bodes well for this ambitious project to boost in a major way the level of economic activity at the Port of Philadelphia.

Additional information about the Port’s cargoes, as well as updates on the deepening project and Southport, can be found at PRPA’s website, www.philaport.com.

Attached photograph: Wood pulp cargoes, manufactured by Fibria Celulose of Brazil, being handled at the Port of Philadelphia’s Tioga Marine Terminal.  A cargo that began arriving at the Port in 2014, Fibria’s wood pulp cargoes- used in the manufacture of paper towels, facial tissues, and other household paper products- are a big reason that the Port’s forest products cargoes jumped 28 percent in 2014.