Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach feel impact of Chinese New Year in February
March 15, 2012
POLB imports, which are primarily comprised of consumer goods, came in at 388,589 TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units) in February for a 15.2 percent year-over-year decrease and were below the 456,424 TEU in January. Exports, which are primarily comprised of raw materials, were down 1.6 percent to 120,006 TEU behind January’s 117,083 TEU. Empties were down 25 percent at 77,108 TEU.
POLB officials said that the decrease in February imports is partly attributable to an early Chinese New Year, as import volumes usually fall following the New Year with Asian factories closed for a week or more during this time. They added that in 2011 the Chinese New Year fell on February 3, with a subsequent decline in volumes occurring in the latter part of February and into early March, whereas in 2012 the Chinese New Year was on January 23, with the entire slow down period occurring in February.
“The Chinese New Year clearly had an impact on volumes,” said POLB Assistant Director of Communications Art Wong in an interview. “China accounts for at least half of our business so somewhere between 15 percent-to-25 percent decline as a result is what you see in our numbers.”
Wong said that the port’s weakest month in 2011 was March, which had nearly identical import numbers—at 191,211 TEU—and export numbers—at 131,761 TEU—as February 2011.
Total February volume at the Port of Los Angeles fell 1.7 percent in February to 419,084 TEU. Imports felt the impact of Chinese New Year—at 254,359—were down 7.8 percent, and exports—at 164,725—were up 9.5 percent annually, marking the 21st straight month that exports have risen at POLA. Empties dipped 17 percent annually to 525,653 TEU. Total loaded imports and exports for February at 426,243 TEU were down 1.7 percent compared to February 2011.
POLA Director of Communications Philip Sanfield told LM that there were no major surprises with the February numbers, with another strong month of exports although he noted export growth is not expected to be as strong as it was in 2011, which was up roughly 14 percent over 2010. Total 2011 exports marked a POLA all-time record at 2,109,394 TEU.
“Imports were softer annually and it looks like Chinese New Year had something to do with that as far as we can tell,” said Sanfield. “There were a lot of forecasts suggesting February would be down and we saw that on the import side. But exports have been strong each month and it is narrowing the historical gap. Overall, we are pleased with the export numbers in February and not surprised by the imports.”
While February was down overall, Sanfield said that an import uptick could be on the way as retailers begin to re-stock inventory in the coming months. The National Retail Federation recently said that it expects 2012 retail sales will grow 3.4 percent to $2.53 trillion.
Sanfield added that POLA is “cautiously optimistic about import growth in the coming months.
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