January volumes, for the Port of Los Angeles (POLA) and the Port of Long Beach (POLB) saw annual declines to start 2023, according to data respectively issued by the ports this week.
POLA reported that total January volumes—at 726,014 TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units)—were down 16% compared to January 2021, an all-time record for the month. Imports—at 372,040 TEU—fell 13%, and exports—at 102,723 TEU—rose 2.5%. Empty containers came in at 251,251 TEU—a 26% decrease.
“We expect softer global trade throughout the first quarter, particularly compared to last year’s record-breaking start,” Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said during a media briefing yesterday. “Many factories in Asia have had extended Lunar New Year closures, retailers continue to discount products to clear warehouses and inflation-led economic concerns remain top of mind for Americans. With capacity on our docks today, we’re ready to unlock new levels of value and service at the Port of Los Angeles.”
Seroka explained that January import volumes, while down annually, were 6% higher than December, attributing the sequential increase to cargo owners that pushed their products ahead of the Lunar New Year. And while exports showed an increase, he said that comes with the caveat that they remain 22% below the five-year average. The decline in empties was due to the slowing demand for containers in Asia, he noted.
Looking at February, Seroka said POLA expects a significant volume decline and a softer market heading into the second quarter, due to various factors, including:
“We will likely see [volume] numbers increase in the second half of the year but that will coincide with a more traditional Peak Season, with the arrival of fall fashion, back to school, and early year-end holiday cargo,” he said. “Unlike last year, where we saw strong volume in the first six months of the year, 2023 is shaping up to be a more robust setting in the back half of the year.”
POLB data: January POLB volume—at 573,772 TEU—was also down compared to a record January 2022, falling 28.4%. Imports were off 32.3%, to 263,394 TEU, and exports were off 14.2%, to 105,623 TEU. Empties saw a 29% annual decrease, to 204,755 TEU.
“We are taking aggressive steps to meet a new set of challenges for the new year,” said Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero, in a statement. “I remain optimistic that we will recapture market share and develop projects that will enhance our long-term growth, sustainable operations and the reliable movement of goods through the Port of Long Beach.”