POLA and POLB see post Lunar New Year volume declines in February

Total POLA February volume dropped 12.4 percent annually to 625,381 Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEU), and POLB volumes decreased 11.2 annually percent to 498,311 TEU.

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While the early timing of the Lunar New Year helped boost cargo volumes at the Port of Los Angeles (POLA) and Port of Long Beach (POLB) in January, it appears to have had the opposite effect for February volumes, according to data recently issued by both ports.

POLA and POLB are the two largest North American ports, and they collectively account for more than 40 percent of U.S. imports.

Total POLA February volume dropped 12.4 percent annually to 625,381 Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEU). POLA pointed out that this was up against February 2016’s 713,721 TEU, which was a port record and up 42 percent over February 2015. And compared to the port’s most recent 5-year average of February volumes, this past February was up 7.2 percent, even with the significant annual decline.

And on a sequential basis. February volumes were off 24 percent compared to January’s 826,640 TEU, which was the highest-volume January in its 110-year history, beating January 2016’s 704,398 TEU, as well as the second best month ever for the port.

February imports fell 19.8 percent annually to 298,974 TEU, and exports were off 6.1 percent to 155,357 TEU. Empty containers saw a 12.1 percent annual decline to 171,048 TEU.   

"While volumes eased compared to the record cargo we saw last February, I’m pleased that we’ve seen year-over-year growth to start 2017,” said Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka in a statement. “We are actively engaged on many fronts to grow cargo volumes-and jobs-in the San Pedro Bay.” 

On a year-to-date basis through February, POLA volumes are up 2.3 percent annually at 1,452,020 TEU.

POLB volumes decreased 11.2 annually percent to 498,311 TEU. As was the case at POLA, this was against a very good February 2016, which was the best February ever recorded for the port at 561,412 TEU and was up 35.9 percent compared to February 2015.

Imports saw a 15.6 percent decrease to 249,759 TEU, while exports decreased at a slower rate, off 2.6 percent annually at 119,811 TEU. Empties were off 9.7 percent at 128,742 TEU.

“The Lunar New Year holiday began Jan. 28, almost two weeks earlier than in 2016,” POLB officials said. “The Lunar New Year typically results in slower trade since businesses in China — the world’s No. 2 economy and the Port’s primary trading partner — close for a week or more to observe the holiday. The impact on the Port is seen two weeks afterwards, accounting for the time it takes vessels to cross the Pacific.”

POLB volumes are down 1.5 percent annually for the first two months of the year at 1,080,999 TEU.

In a research note on the POLA and POLB volume, KeyBanc Capital Markets Analyst Todd Fowler wrote that adjusting for the Lunar New Year, container import volumes were modestly softer than expected during February, potentially reflecting a later Easter holiday (April 16, 2017 compared to March 27, 2016).

“That said, we anticipate volumes to rebound both sequentially and year-over-year in March, potentially in the mid to high-teen range, as shipping volumes resume,” he wrote. “Based on normal sequential trends, we anticipate volumes to increase mid single digits on a full-year basis (Exhibit 1), supported by improved inventories and a stronger U.S. dollar.”

Chris Rogers, research director for Panjiva, recently noted that Rogers told LM there are some technical issues that likely impacted February data.

“At this time of year, the numbers are always a little bit volatile due to the timing of the Lunar New Year, as many factories in China, South Korea, and Japan shudder or slow down the last week of January and the first week of February,” he explained.  “Last year’s Lunar New Year was later in February, and it was a leap year, too, with one extra day in February.”

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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