Business Monday

Bucking trends, PortMiami had a good year in 2015

A cargo ship passes in Biscayne Bay, where the $205 million Deep Dredge project at PortMiami was completed in September. In a generally tough year for export-import trade, PortMiami had a good year in 2015.
A cargo ship passes in Biscayne Bay, where the $205 million Deep Dredge project at PortMiami was completed in September. In a generally tough year for export-import trade, PortMiami had a good year in 2015. For the Miami Herald/File

In a generally tough year for export-import trade, PortMiami had a good year in 2015.

Overall U.S. trade with the world fell 5.59 percent, a $221.96 billion decline to $3.75 trillion. Trade at the nation’s leading port, the Port of Los Angeles, was down 7.13 percent. At the Port of Houston, the value of its exports and imports fell 18.50 percent. At New York Kennedy International Airport, the decrease was 3.41 percent, or $6.63 billion.

Closer to home, Miami’s International Airport’s trade fell 14.17 percent, and Port Everglades’ trade fell 7.14 percent.

So, for PortMiami, a 5.75 percent gain, equal to an extra $1.37 billion, is good news. With $25.27 billion in two-way trade in 2015, PortMiami advanced five positions to rank as the nation’s No. 35 gateway for trade among the nation’s roughly 475 airports, seaports and border crossings. It slipped past Port Everglades, which fell four positions to rank No. 36. MIA ranked No. 19.

In fact, among the 15 seaports that ranked ahead of PortMiami at the end of the year, only two saw their trade grow more rapidly, the Port of Charleston and the Port of Savannah, according to WorldCity analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

The $25.27 billion total at PortMiami in 2015 is second only to the 2012 total of $25.61 billion. So, yes, a good year.

My first instinct was that PortMiami was helped along by the labor issues last year at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which fed East Coast ports, including Savannah, one of the nation’s leading seaports for U.S. trade with China.

The $25.27 billion total at PortMiami in 2015 is second only to the 2012 total of $25.61 billion. So, yes, a good year.

Sure enough, it was a good year for PortMiami’s trade with China — in case you are wondering, imports from the port’s leading trade partner accounted for 94 percent of that trade — but the gain was not outsized at 6.49 percent. So, I nosed around a little more in the data.

Turns out, the single biggest increase was in medical instruments and devices imported from Costa Rica. What makes that unusual is that U.S. trade with Costa Rica fell more than 35 percent last year, dinging a wide range of airports and seaports, including MIA.

Those Costa Rican imports into PortMiami increased from $77.97 million in 2014 to $488.68 million in 2015, a greater than 500 percent increase. That $410.72 million increase accounted for almost the entire $427.40 million increase the port experienced from around the world in 2015.

With that quintupling — a word I don’t often need to pull out in discussing trade — these imports ranked No. 3 among all PortMiami imports, behind only T-shirts and sweaters. A year earlier, this category of imports had ranked No. 13, had ranked No. 17 five years earlier and No. 35 a decade ago.

The medical instrument category is fairly broad and can include everything from the tiny and relatively inexpensive, like sutures and syringes, to the big and costly, like EKG and MRI equipment. Almost all of what was entered PortMiami from Costa Rica last year falls into the category of big and costly.

It wasn’t all good news, of course: PortMiami trade with Venezuela fell below $400 million for the first time since at least 2003

With the advance, PortMiami became the leading U.S. gateway for Costa Rican trade, surpassing its neighbor, MIA, which saw its trade tumble after Intel shifted computer chip manufacturing from outside San Jose to Malaysia, but still ranked No. 2.

Turns out, though, as I nosed around a little more, Costa Rican imports of medical devices and instruments into the United States increased only 16.09 percent — good enough for it to rank No. 6 among the world’s nations but not enough to explain a more than 500 percent increase at PortMiami.

It turns out that PortMiami’s gains were almost exclusively at the expense of its neighbor to the north, Port Everglades, which ranked No. 6 for U.S. trade with Costa Rica, but saw its imports in this category drop from $379.18 million to $871,927 — a decrease of 99.77 percent. That is a $378.30 million decrease.

It wasn’t just medical devices, as PortMiami’s trade with Costa Rica increased $1.05 billion overall, allowing the Central American nation to jump from a No. 10 rank among the port’s trade partners to No. 4, trailing only China, the Dominican Republic and Honduras.

No other nation approached the level of gains that Costa Rica did, but the two that were closest were Honduras and Italy, ranked No. 3 and No. 12, respectively. Both saw gains in excess of $300 million over their 2014 totals. Honduras maintained its No. 3 ranking but Italy advanced 17 positions to No. 12. The gains in Honduras are tied to T-shirt and sweater imports while the gains in PortMiami trade with Italy were largely gains in wine, furniture and tiles.

Honduras’ PortMiami trade increased just 18.57 percent, coming from a larger base than Italy’s, while the European nation’s trade with the port jumped 175.06 percent.

It wasn’t all good news, of course.

PortMiami trade with Venezuela fell below $400 million for the first time since at least 2003, as the country continues to be mired in political and economic turmoil. In 2012, PortMiami’s total trade with Venezuela stood at $1.25 billion. It has fallen 72.33 percent in just three years.

PortMiami’s trade with Venezuela is largely exports to the South American nation, even though the country is a large oil and refined petroleum exporter. Those imports that enter South Florida enter at Port Everglades. PortMiami’s trade declining reflects more accurately the diminished buying power of the Venezuelan people, business and government.

PortMiami’s trade with No. 2 Dominican Republic also fell sharply in 2015, the third consecutive year of decline, from a record of $2.91 billion in 2012 to $2.22 billion in 2015. Two of the largest declines in that time were in port exports of cotton yarn and motor vehicles.

Next up: a focus on Port Everglades’ trade. Reach Ken Roberts, president of WorldCity, at kroberts@worldcity web.com. Twitter: @tradenumbers

Costa Rica, Honduras, Italy trade grows

Total PortMiami Trade

2015

2014

1-year

change

1-year

change (%)

10-year

change

10-year

change

Rank

World total

$ 25,272,299,521

$ 23,898,840,807

$1,373,458,714

5.75%

$4,542,967,444

21.92%

1

China

$ 3,946,739,695

$ 3,706,119,346

$240,620,349

6.49%

$1,893,411,332

92.21%

2

Dominican Republic

$ 2,215,157,546

$ 2,562,880,611

-$347,723,065

-13.57%

-$360,989,502

-14.01%

3

Honduras

$ 2,070,982,263

$ 1,746,614,569

$324,367,694

18.57%

$403,929,430

24.23%

4

Costa Rica

$ 1,822,896,705

$ 771,066,657

$1,051,830,048

136.41%

$1,261,142,434

224.50%

5

El Salvador

$ 1,222,584,273

$ 1,065,612,951

$156,971,322

14.73%

$446,976,659

57.63%

6

Panama

$ 1,097,424,073

$ 881,699,179

$215,724,894

24.47%

$771,009,486

236.21%

7

Guatemala

$ 1,023,259,716

$ 947,735,136

$75,524,580

7.97%

$354,961,926

53.11%

8

Colombia

$ 948,389,823

$ 1,013,510,984

-$65,121,161

-6.43%

$216,969,084

29.66%

9

Haiti

$ 809,414,727

$ 894,020,707

-$84,605,980

-9.46%

$211,895,211

35.46%

10

France

$ 787,623,078

$ 621,096,378

$166,526,700

26.81%

$281,089,475

55.49%

11

Nicaragua

$ 728,972,539

$ 590,037,124

$138,935,415

23.55%

$541,941,863

289.76%

12

Italy

$ 552,961,626

$ 201,031,850

$351,929,776

175.06%

-$211,539,387

-27.67%

13

Netherlands

$ 424,499,983

$ 413,476,768

$11,023,215

2.67%

$110,174,748

35.05%

14

Germany

$ 403,614,241

$ 349,285,219

$54,329,022

15.55%

-$56,901,200

-12.36%

15

Jamaica

$ 396,937,204

$ 409,437,210

-$12,500,006

-3.05%

$7,681,980

1.97%

Source: WorldCity analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data

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