Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Automotive industry drives port growth

Despite growing concerns of slowing economic growth, the North American automotive industry continues to report impressive gains. First quarter production increased 17% over the same period as in 2011 and second quarter is expected to increase an estimated 20% . The growth in the North American automotive industry has been a boom for US and Mexican ports.

For first quarter 2012, the Port of Baltimore noted a 61% increase in vehicle tonnage exported - 243.6m kg. Baltimore is taking advantage of key agreements made with the likes of BMW, which signed a five year agreement in 2010 to ship 50,000 cars through the port. In 2005, Mercedes Benz signed a 20 year lease with the Maryland Port Administration for its waterfront vehicle-processing center. For 2011, the Port of Baltimore handled more vehicles than any other US port.

The Port of Jacksonville recorded a 24% in vehicle tonnage during first quarter – 187.3m kg. Honda announced its logistics partner, Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics, would handle exports of Honda’s latest CR-V, currently being manufactured in Ohio, through the Port of Jacksonville. This is in addition to Honda’s other models that are being exported through Jacksonville.

Mexican vehicle exports increased almost 21% for first quarter. The Port of Veracruz, the country’s largest vehicle-handling port, reported a 31.2% increase in exports. Although the Port of Lazaro Cardenas noted a decline in vehicle exports (-39%), vehicle imports increased a whopping 72.5% which may suggest a market share gain from US ports. This is a growing option as oppose to using US west coast ports as some shippers are able to take advantage of not only NAFTA benefits but also are able to utilize Kansas City Southern, a US Class I railroad and the only rail access to this port which links the port to the US heartland.

As many European countries entered recession at the beginning of the second quarter, it remains to be seen if US and Mexican ports can continue this growth in vehicle exports – particularly for US east coast ports. The Port of Detroit, the largest vehicle-export port noted exports declined over 20% during first quarter.  Although the majority of Detroit’s vehicle exports are to Canada, this may be an indication of a slowdown at least for the “Big 3” – GM, Ford and Chrysler who all have major manufacturing facilities in the Detroit area.