Ocean shipping: Port of Los Angeles September 2011 volumes show are relatively flat

Total September volume at the Port of Los Angeles of 705,623 TEU was down -0.84 percent compared to September 2010.

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Coming off of a difficult August, September volumes at the Port of Los Angeles showed signs of improvement.

POLA imports—at 372,655 Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEU)—were down 0.16 percent annually and trailed August’s 376,189 TEU and was ahead of July’s 357,667 TEU. Exports were up 26.58 percent at 176,954 TEU, which was below August’s 184,231 TEU and better than July’s 165,135 TEU. Empties checked in at 156,014 TEU for a 21.43 percent decline.

Total September volume at the Port of Los Angeles of 705,623 TEU was down -0.84 percent compared to September 2010. And on a year-to-date basis through September, total TEU at 5,884,347 is up 0.25 percent.

“On the [import] side, we are not seeing much of a Peak Season,” said POLA Director of Communications Philip Sanfield. “We were pretty much flat in September, and there was some hope among retailers and others that there would be a bigger volume surge in September, which is not happening yet.”

In terms of traditional Peak Season shipping volumes, Sanfield said it is possible volumes have already hit a plateau and did not materialize, leaving open the possibility that October could see some gains but not at a peak level.

September 2010 was up roughly 16 percent compared to a weak 2009, with things flattening out for the Port of Los Angeles one year later.

Export numbers for September continue to be encouraging, given that 2010 was a record year for exports at the Port of Los Angeles, with 2011 on pace to exceed that. And total loaded container numbers in September are largely driven by export numbers.

As for the rest of the year, Sanfield said a later peak does not appear to be in the cards at this point.

“We would certainly welcome it,” he said. “We have not heard of any meaningful surge in October. Our customers expect things to be fairly flat. It is really up to retailers. To get things in for the holiday season, this needs to happen fairly quickly. The window for all-water shipping from Asia to the east coast ports is pretty much closed for that, and on the west coast, goods can still make it from the dock to the marketplace in time, but that would mean product needs to come in October. We are not expecting it, but it remains a possibility.”

A flat holiday shipping season remains the prevalent forecast at this point.

When asked about this year’s Peak Season prospects, Hackett Associates President Ben Hackett said it is already taking form in the U.S. in the form of slightly improved freight rates and carriers implementing Peak Season surcharges.

And with the amount of inventory that was being held, Hackett said a Peak Season of some sort is in effect although it will not be as strong as other ones due to a lack of strong demand.

“No matter what happens, Peak Season in the U.S. is likely to be over by the end of September or early October,” said Hackett. “It will come later in Europe, because the sales occur later, with the Peak Season starting later in September and October and ending around the first week of November.”


About the Author

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. Contact Jeff Berman

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