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June volumes at Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach see strong gains

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
July 17, 2014

As was the case in May, June volumes at the Port of Los Angeles (POLA) and the Port of Long Beach (POLB) released this week were strong for various reasons.

POLA reported that total volumes were up 13.89 percent annually at 736,438 TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units), which represents its highest TEU tally in a single month since September 2012.

POLA imports, which are primarily comprised of consumer goods, were up 16.55 percent at 382,666 TEU, and exports headed up 8.51 percent to 160,823 TEU. Empty containers saw a 13.4 percent annual gain at 192,949 TEU.

For the first six months of the year, total POLA volumes are up 9.2 percent at 4,052,227 TEU. June 2014 volumes outpaced the three-year average for the last three totals for June over 2011, 2012, and 2013, which is 661,430 TEU, by 10.2 percent.

“June was very good due to a few different things,” said POLA Director of Media Relations Phillip Sanfield in an interview. “One is that we had a series of larger vessels calling at the port, with our largest one ever to date arriving in June in the form of a 15,000 TEU ship. And it seems like some cargo is moving ahead of schedule, due to the Pacific Maritime Association and International Longshore Warehouse Union negotiations. It is certainly a factor, but we are not entirely sure as to what extent, as we don’t think it accounts entirely for the nearly 14 percent annual gain we saw in June.”

Sanfield added if shippers are going to be moving cargo earlier at least it is staying in the port complex at POLA, but more will be known in terms of how much of an impact this early shift in cargo has had when July and August numbers are released in the coming weeks. When the port labor negotiations are complete and shippers return to their normal patterns, as many shippers planned to move cargo before June 30 due to the negotiations, Sanfield said July will be telling as to whether there is a subsequent significant slip in cargo volumes or if the current pattern is in fact holding. 

POLA volumes marked the port’s best June since 2007, which was the highest-volume year in the port’s history, at 610,516 TEU. June 2007 came in at 662,219 TEU. This came on the heels of May 2014 being representing the best May performance at the port since May 2007.

Total POLB volumes were up 8 percent annually at 610,516 TEU, with June 2014 standing as the best June at the port since June 2007, which hit 662,219 TEU.

Imports were up 8.8 percent at 316,054 TEU, and exports were up 4.7 percent at 140,034 TEU, with empties up 9.3 percent at 154,428 TEU.

On a year-to-date basis, POLB volumes are up 2.5 percent at 3,303,133 TEU. Imports are up 3.7 percent at 1,698,723 TEU, and exports are up 1.3 percent at 853,099 TEU.

Officials at both ports did not offer up insight as to how things are going in July on a month-to-date basis, but the most recent edition of the Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates indicated that July volumes at U.S-based retail container ports, which includes POLA and POLB, among others, could top 1.5 million containers, which would represent the single highest monthly volume in five years and continue a trend in which retailers have been shipping stock to the U.S. well in advance of typical seasonal patterns in an effort to ensure they have enough available stock on hand for the back to school and holiday seasons and also to fend off a possible West Coast port labor strike.

KeyBanc Capital Markets analyst Todd Fowler observed in a research note that he while he anticipated stronger trends during June from pull-forward activity ahead of on-going port labor discussions, import volumes were slightly ahead of expectations.

“Stronger June trends could result in a greater slowdown in July and August with volumes potentially declining high single digits, before rebounding to low to mid single digits in late 3Q14 and early 4Q14 from peak demand,” he wrote. “Considering these dynamics, we view recent strength and potential upcoming weakness as timing related, but expect stable import demand later in the year supporting our constructive freight outlook for 2H14.”

About the Author

Jeff Berman headshot
Jeff Berman
Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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