Ocean shipping: November 2011 POLA/POLB volumes are mixed

Export growth at the Port of Los Angeles breaks monthly volume record for second straight month

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November 2011 volumes at the Port of Los Angeles (POLA) and Port of Long Beach (POLB) were decidedly mixed compared to the same period a year ago.

POLB imports, which are primarily comprised of consumer goods, came hit 231,749 TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units) in November for a 15.6 percent year-over-year decrease and were below the 240,248 that arrived in October. Exports, which are primarily comprised of raw materials, were down 22.2 percent to 111,011 TEU, ahead of October’s 1118,325 TEU. Empties were down 17.1 percent at 117,121 TEU.

Total November POLB shipments—at 459,881 TEU—were down 17.6 percent compared to a year ago.  And on a year-to-date basis, POLA volume is down 3.29 percent at 5,551,142 TEU.

POLA imports—at 354,313 TEU—were up 6.17 percent compared to November 2010 and down compared to October’s 368,842 TEU. But once again the driving force behind monthly numbers was exports at 197,878 TEU, which is the single highest monthly total for exports, topping October’s 193,548 TEU. November POLA exports were up 15.01 percent annually.

Total volume year-to-date for the first 11 months of the year at POLA—at 7,291,042 TEU—is up 0.99 percent. 

“Exports are certainly the bright spot of 2011,” said Phillip Sanfield, POLA Director of Communications, in an interview. “To some degree they are keeping our overall numbers up year-over-year.

For all of 2010, POLA handled about 1.8 million TEU exports and that figure through the first 11 months of 2011 has already been surpassed at 1.9 million TEU and is on track for a 2 million export TEU year.

“We are winding down a year in which there was not a traditional peak season, with largely flat numbers,” he said. “We saw a slight decrease in volume in November sequentially, which is not uncommon for that time of year. In more traditional years, we see the peak in August, September, and October before dipping the next three months. We are seeing that to a degree, but any time we hit or approach 700,000 TEU in a month that is a good month.”

For November, POLA hit 694,108 TEU, which was 4.07 percent better than November 2010.  Sanfield said that November marks the last month in which POLA has seen the benefit of California United Terminals (CUT) switching from Long Beach to Los Angeles in December 2010.

POLB officials said a portion of the decline in November’s traffic was attributable to the CUT’s departure.

“The numbers reflect caution by retailers despite improving consumer confidence and a better than expected holiday shopping season this year,” said POLB. “After experiencing record gains in 2010, calendar-year-to-date numbers are down for 2011. Imports are down 3.3 percent and exports are down 3.1 percent compared to the first 11 months of 2010.”

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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