POLA/POLB see solid November 2010 volumes
December 19, 2010 - LM Editorial
Volumes at the Port of Los Angeles (POLA) and Port of Long Beach (POLB) were solid year-over-year in November and mixed on a sequential basis.
POLB imports, which are primarily comprised of consumer goods, came in at 274,480 TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units) in November for a 26.8 percent year-over-year increase but were down compared to the 303,168 that arrived in October. And exports, which are primarily comprised of raw materials, were up 25.6 percent to 142,628 TEU, down from October’s 150,581 TEU.
Total POLB shipments—at 558,307 TEU—were up 30.1 percent compared to a year ago.
POLA imports—at 330,710—were up 11.69 from last year and down from October’s 349,545, and exports—at 170,319—were up 14.19 percent and up from October’s 151,048. Total POLA shipments for November—at 666,970—were up 14.95 percent annually but down compared to October’s 682,384 TEU.
“The double-digit import and export growth for November are very encouraging signs,” said Phillip Sanfield, POLA Director of Communications, in an interview. “We are estimating that once December numbers come in we are going to be about where we are now [roughly 17 percent] in terms of year-over-year improvement, which is really good and better than we had forecasted.”
Heading into 2010, west coast ports were coming off about a year and a half of what Sanfield labeled as “horrible news,” adding that POLA had forecasted an annual growth rate of three-top-five percent. But, the year-over-year increases at POLA and other ports has been significant compared to the early projections and can be viewed as a major step in getting back to pre-recession volumes.
Another encouraging sign with November volumes, noted Sanfield, is that November volumes typically represent orders made after retailers have already planned for Peak Season and the holidays. These figures, he said, show that retailers are focused on keeping inventories replenished, but are taking a cautious approach based on consumer spending habits and trends.
By the February-March 2011 timeframe, Sanfield said it is possible that POLA volumes will be at or close to pre-recession levels, as double-digit growth from 2010 to 2011 is not as likely, because most of the lost volume will have returned. Annual growth level rates could end up in the three-to-seven percent range instead.
These volumes follow the recent Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates which said that import cargo volumes at U.S.-based retail container ports are expected to see gains on an annual basis in December and for all of 2010,
As LM has reported, what is happening with these volumes is different from a typical year in which October is typically the peak month for import cargo volumes as shippers move cargo into the U.S. via ocean carriers in advance of the holiday rush. But what is happening now, according to the report, is that the peak month for volumes is being bumped up to earlier in the year.
“Retail sales remain fairly good, and volumes are holding up as the volume drop-off is not as steep as one would expect for this time of year,” said Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates, in an interview. “Our forecast appears to be in line with what is currently happening, with typical seasonality suggesting a lower set of numbers.”
The report said that the first half of 2010 came in at 6.9 million TEU for a 17 percent year-over-year gain, with the full year expected to hit 14.6 million TEU for a 15 percent improvement from 2009’s 12.7 million TEU, the slowest year since 2003’s 12.5 million TEU. 2008 hit 15.2 million TEU, and the peak in 2007 was 16.5 million TEU.
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