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February 17 2020

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34 The Journal of Commerce | Februar y 17 2020 Special Report Roll-on/Roll-off Shipping: The Year Ahead Februar y 17 2020 | The Journal of Commerce 34 THE US ROLL-ON/ROLL-OFF (ro-ro) automobile market sent mixed mes- sages in 2019. Global auto sales were down from the previous year, but US imports and exports of vehicles were both up. Through the first 10 months of 2019, total US auto imports ticked up 3 percent, according to PIERS, a sister company of The Journal of Commerce within IHS Markit. The Port of Baltimore maintained its sta- tus as the largest import gateway for the eighth year running, as inbound auto volumes jumped 8.6 percent year over year to 698,952 metric tons (mt). The Port of Jacksonville, meanwhile, leapfrogged the Port of New York and New Jersey to become the second-largest ro-ro auto import gateway in the country, thanks to an 11 percent increase in volume during the same period. On the export side, total US vol- umes grew 1.3 percent year over year through October, a sharp contrast from the 12.2 percent decline seen in the first 10 months of 2018. The Port of Jacksonville maintained its comfortable lead over its compet- itors, handling 176,156 mt, nearly as much as the next busiest ports — Baltimore (down 44.1 percent) and New York-New Jersey (down 27.2 percent) — combined, despite a 7.3 percent decline. Port Houston saw the largest increase of the top 10 auto export ports, but from a much smaller base, as volume skyrocketed 365.5 percent to 55,851 mt. Several port representatives and carriers credited a strengthened used car market in West Africa as a key driver of the auto export market's return to positive growth in 2019. US ports moved healthy volumes despite a slightly contracted demand for autos, both in the United States and across the globe. Analysis by IHS Markit revealed US demand through November was down 0.8 percent from the previous year. Although final figures for 2019 were not yet available, the analysis projected end-of-year light vehicle demand to total about 17.1 million units, down 1.1 percent from 2018. Ana- lysts expect the downward trend to continue into 2020, forecasting a further 2.3 percent decrease to 16.7 million units for the year. "The threat of tariffs moves a lot more cargo," Patrick Cooper, +49.7% +3% -0.7% +16.9% +30.7% -5.5% +1.6 -4.8% +11% +8.6% 100,000 200,000 300,000 400,000 500,000 600,000 700,000 800,000 Philadelphia San Diego Portland Hueneme Providence LA-LB Brunswick NY-NJ Jacksonville Baltimor e Jan.- Oct. 2019 Jan.- Oct. 2018 Jacksonville leapfrogs NY-NJ auto import volumes Source: IHS Markit Notes: HS code - 8703 © 2020 IHS Markit Automobile import volume at top 10 US ports (in metric tons), with year-over-year change Stop-and- go traffic Mixed messages from ro-ro vehicle market likely to persist By Catherine Dorrough GPA continues to expand the Colonel's Island ro-ro terminal at the Port of Brunswick (pictured) to get ahead of future demand growth. Georgia Ports Authority (GPA)

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