Port of Philadelphia reports more cargoSaying business is countering recessionary trends, Port of Philadelphia officials tout higher tonnage figures.

The Philadelphia Regional Port Authority, which operates the port, reports handling higher cargo volumes.

According to the authority, the port handled 3.9 million metric tons of total cargo in 2011, up 10% from the 3.6 million tons it handled in 2010.

Because of the November-to-May Chilean importing season, Port officials in late January didn’t have the latest produce import numbers.

Joseph Menta, the port authority’s director of communications, however, said he believes produce volume should also increase.

“Based on projections from our importers, terminal operators and in-house marketing team — as well as early 2012 activity — we’re optimistic that the 2011-12 winter fruit season will be a successful one, possibly up substantially from last season,” Menta said.

In 2010, Menta said the port handled 308,010 tons of Central American bananas and Chilean fruit, down from the 372,008 tons it handled in 2009 and down from the 326,000 tons in 2008.

For 2010, bananas constituted 243,094 tons, with Chilean fruit accounting for 64,916 tons. For 2008 and 2009, Chilean fruit represented an average 108,700 tons.

“What happens in Chile, such as weather and political issues, affects fruit movement,” he said. “In recent years, we have had weather issues.”

While increases in automobile imports helped boost the numbers, food remains a longtime staple of the port.

The port reports increases in containerized cargoes and other non-containerized cargoes, contributing to the gain.

The latest numbers continue the trend. The port reported 17% more movement in 2010 compared to 2009. The increases help the port reestablish and surpass its pre-recessionary cargo levels, Menta said.

“We got off to a slow start this season from the north of Chile but anticipate that once the harvest if complete we will see a modest increase in volume,” said Robert Blackburn, the port authority’s senior deputy executive director.