Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach kick off 2011 with solid volumes
February 18, 2011 - LM Editorial
The Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach both began 2011 on a solid note, with year-over-year volume gains.
POLB imports, which are primarily comprised of consumer goods, came in at 242,445 TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units) in January for an 11.3 percent year-over-year increase but were down compared to the 256,889 that arrived in December. POLB Exports, which are primarily comprised of raw materials, were up 12.7 percent to 127,546 TEU, down from December’s 142,628 TEU. Total POLB shipments—at 474,960 TEU—were up 10.8 percent compared to a year ago.
POLB officials pointed out that January’s gains came despite the departure of California United Terminals in December, which represented roughly 10 percent of all Port of Long Beach’s volume. They added that in 2010, the Port of Long Beach posted the biggest container cargo gains of any U.S.-based port.
POLA imports—at 338,606—were up 14.28 from last year and up from December’s 312,860, and exports—at 159,050—were up 12.61 percent and down from December’s 161,625. Total POLA shipments for December—at 660,517—were up 15.28 percent annually and were also ahead of December’s 612,651 TEU.
“This was the second best January in the history of the Port of Los Angeles, with January 2007 being the highest ever at 691,000 TEU,” said Phillip Sanfield, POLA Director of Communications, in an interview. “There was balanced growth in the month, with double-digit increases in imports and exports, which is an encouraging sign.”
Another driver for strong volumes, according to Sanfield was that POLA had an additional 24 vessels calling on the port in January compared to January 2010. Some of this is related to the re-location of the California United Terminals to Los Angeles from Long Beach in mid-December, but POLA did not disclose specifics on how much volume it gained from that move.
The Chinese New Year could have also brought additional cargo into West Coast ports in January, given the fact that the two-to-three week long celebration in February typically results in minimal factory output and production occurring that time.
While January was strong for the POLB, Sanfield pointed out that January 2010 was one of the softer months for the port, when it showed a total 2 percent annual decline from 2009. But it was the only month in 2010 which was a negative growth month.
“We are still remaining cautious about 2011, and we don’t anticipate sustaining the double-digit growth we saw in 2010 and this January,” said Sanfield. “One reason is we saw some of our best months ever last summer, and we are expecting the growth pace to slow as we approach spring and summer. Single digit growth is what we are planning for in 2011 as a whole.”
This prognosis is in line with the recently-released Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates, which is calling for a 6 percent annual growth rate at major U.S. retail container ports through the first half of 2011.
In a recent interview with LM, Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates, said that the 2011 outlook is one of cautious optimism with 2011 being different from 2010 in that 2010 was driven by a mix of inventory restocking and purchases brought forward due to shortages of containers and space, and a lack of forecasting on retail sales, which led to additional purchasing activity. Another driver for a busy first half of 2010 were first-time homebuyer tax credits, which spurred housing-related import activity for items like furniture, coupled with improving industrial production in the U.S.
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