Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach show strong July gains
August 13, 2010 - LM Editorial
As was the case in June, volumes at the Port of Los Angeles (POLA) and the Port of Long Beach (POLB) were strong on a year-over-year basis.
POLB imports, which are primarily comprised of consumer goods, came in at 293,878 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) in July for a 32.5 percent annual gain. And exports, which are primarily comprised of raw materials, were up 16.4 percent to 126,177 TEU. Total POLB shipments—including 167,826 empty TEU for a 67.1 percent uptick—at 587,881 TEU-were up 35.8 percent compared to a year ago.
POLA imports—at 369,388—were up 21.02 percent year-over-year, and exports—at 146,368—were up 5.86 percent, which was down compared to a 12.64 percent June increase in exports. Total POLA shipments for July—including 214,987 empty TEU for a 62.0 percent annual gain—at 730,745 TEU were up 26.82 percent year-over-year.
“It was another strong month for us…and is significantly higher than we forecasted at the beginning of the year, when we were pretty conservative with our own internal budgeting,” said POLA Director of Communications Phillip Sanfield. “We are still expecting things to remain strong during the remainder of the third quarter, and we don’t believe we have yet come to the end of the inventory replenishment cycle.”
Sanfield added that it is highly likely retailers have been replenishing their inventories and ordering earlier for the holiday season this year. And he said there has been a backlog of shipments from out of China, which is not yet done at this point. But between now and the end of September, current conditions at the POLA are likely to remain intact and will remain much stronger than they were a year ago.
But what happens in the fourth quarter remains to be seen, considering that industrial production and retail numbers in China have seen some declines. And with the over all U.S. economic outlook still murky, Sanfield said that retailers may be pulling back on orders in the fourth quarter, depending on where inventory levels are at that point.
Empty container numbers at both ports remain very high year-over-year, which could indicate that China is working on getting its equipment back and returning loaded containers back to the west coast ports.
“The high number of empties did slow export activity down somewhat, which was the first time we have seen that in a little bit,” said Sanfield. The United States Department of Commerce, which revealed U.S. exports in June hit $150.5 billion, which was down 1.3 percent from May.
This activity regarding empty containers was also noted in the recent Port Tracker report by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
Ben Hackett, president of Hackett Associates told LM he believes the container shortage is close to an end, with carriers putting vessels back into service that are charged with bringing back empty containers from Europe and North America. And the amount of empty containers moving out of U.S. ports is higher through the first six months of 2010 than it was for all of 2009, according to Port Tracker.
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