East coast ports like New York and New Jersey, unlike their west coast counterparts, are less dependent upon trade with China, and therefore less subject to the current fluctuations in US-China trade, he told the American Journal of Transportation.
Containers inbound from China make up over 60 per cent of the container trade at west coast ports, but only 33 per cent at NY/NJ. "There are more trade lanes feeding into the east coast," he said.
"Some have suggested that cargo moved in early to beat the tariffs," he said. "I can't say that hasn't occurred. But if that were the entire explanation, we would then have seen a cargo falloff. So far we really haven't."
PANYNJ is proceeding apace with its work planning for the future, having released a new 30-year strategic plan which addresses, among other things, how it intends to make port operations more environmentally sustainable.
Mr Ruda attributes NY/NJ's growth, even in the face of global trade head winds, to a number of factors. For one, larger containerships are now able to call on the port, thanks to the expansion of the Panama Canal, the raising of the Bayonne Bridge, and the deepening of port channels to 50 feet.
Related to those developments, there has been "some shift in intermodal cargo from the west coast to the east coast", he said. "We have grown our year-over-year intermodal volumes for the last four years."
The Port of Authority invested over US$600 million in the ExpressRail intermodal system since the 1990s. The opening of ExpressRail intermodal access at Global Container Terminal Bayonne earlier this year means "basically every major terminal" at the port "has on-dock or near-dock intermodal capacity," said Ruda.
"We have Asia services that come through the Panama Canal and Suez Canal routings that come across the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, whereas the west coast is almost exclusively dependent on its large transpacific trade."
That's why the slippage of a couple of percentage points in NY/NJ's China trade hasn't hurt the port, as it has gained volumes from India and Vietnam. "European traffic has also held up well," said Mr Ruda.
North-south trades may be the next growth area for the port as, in April, Seaboard Marine began a new service from NY/NJ's Red Hook terminal in Brooklyn serving ports in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua.
The services are expected to provide new business to NY/NJ to the tune of around 200,000 containers with cargoes including food, beverages, sugar and coffee.