Port of Los Angeles shows growth for 2012, despite end of year volume decline

For all of 2012, total container volume—at 8,077,714 Twenty-foot Equivalents (TEU)—were up 1.7 percent compared to 2011. And for the month of December, total volume—at 649,468 TEU—was down 9.4 percent annually.

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The Port of Los Angeles (POLA) saw growth overall in 2012, while December volumes came in on the low side.

For all of 2012, total container volume—at 8,077,714 Twenty-foot Equivalents (TEU)—were up 1.7 percent compared to 2011. This marks the third time that POLA has cracked the 8,000 TEU mark, with 2007 and 2006 being the other two years at 8,355,038 TEU and 8,469,853 TEU, respectively.

And for the month of December, total volume—at 649,468 TEU—was down 9.4 percent annually. Imports for the month—at 296,874 TEU—dipped 6.7 percent, and exports—at 147,417 TEU—were down 16.4 percent. Empty containers—at 588,154 TEU—were down 1.44 percent.

“We had a soft last couple of months to end 2012, especially November and December,” said POLA Director of Communications Philip Sanfield in an interview. “But for the year, even with the labor dispute, we topped 8,000 TEU, which has only happened twice before. That is good news for us when looking at 2012 as a whole. We had incremental growth at 1.7 percent annually but were tracking closer to 4 or 5 percent prior to the last 3 or 4 months of the year, making for a soft end of the year.”

As previously reported, November’s decline at POLA was partially attributed to a vessel service shift from Los Angeles to Long Beach and cargo delays resulting from the first few days of the labor dispute which impacts both POLA and POLB in early November before a tentative agreement was struck.

As for 2013, Sanfield said POLA does not see a lot of growth on the global trade front. But he did point out that January 2012 volume was up about 15 percent over 2011 at 698,715 TEU. That does not portend similar success for January 2013, due to a relatively softer economy, he said, adding that the early 2013 focus calls for slow growth.

“We are likely looking at another year of that unless something significant changes on the global front,” he said.

Ben Hackett, founder of maritime consultancy Hackett Associates shared similar insights for 2013 growth in a recent interview.

In an interview with LM, Hackett said that U.S.-bound import growth is expected in 2013 but at a slower pace than in 2012.

“Uncertainty is the main reason for this,” he said. “First, there was the Fiscal Cliff concern, which has since been resolved somewhat. But tax increases will take disposable income out of the system. The next level of uncertainty is the debt ceiling, which will likely cause consumers to save more money. Things are not the same as they have been over the last 20-to-30 years. Growth is slowing down due to things like globalization coming more into balance and consumers being more hesitant and qualified in terms of what they are buying, which is influencing purchasing patterns. The boom days seem to be over.”

Hackett added that there currently is too much ocean carrier capacity relative to demand, with carriers still not removing as much capacity as is needed to get the market back to an acceptable equilibrium. Instead, carriers remain focused on holding on to market share, he said.

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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