2013 finished on a fairly high note for both the Port of Los Angeles (POLA) and the Port of Long Beach (POLB), lending further credence to the slow but steady trajectory of the economic recovery.
Total POLA volume-at 653,358 TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units) —was up 11.09 percent annually in December. Imports, which are primarily comprised of consumer goods, came in at 296,874 TEU—increased 8.63 percent, and exports, which are primarily comprised of raw materials, at 147,417 TEU—were up 16.85 percent. Empty containers—at 588,154 TEU—were up 10.24 percent.
For all of 2013, total volume for POLA fell 2.59 percent to 7,868,582 TEU, with imports at 3, 976,691.80 TEU and exports at 1, 921,069.00 TEU.
POLA officials said December volumes benefitted in part from shippers moving cargo ahead of the 2014 Chinese New Year, which is on January 31.
POLA Director of Communications Phillip Sanfield told LM that the port rode a strong November and December through the end of 2013, which bodes well for early 2014.
The 2.59 percent annual decline, he said, has more to do with the effects of volumes having been negatively impacted due to a new service line between ocean carriers MSC and CMA CGM that moved from POLA to neighboring Port of Long Beach (POLB) launched in late 2012, with both carriers having established hubs at POLB, with vessels calling on POLB. MSC is sharing a POLB hub with COSCO and MSC is in a terminal sharing arrangement with Hanjin at POLB. With that service cracking the one-year mark, the port will now see more favorable annual comparisons.
“We were up against that for much of the year but that is largely behind us and are likely looking at low single-digit growth for 2014,” he said. “The port recently started and incentive program rewarding carriers for moving more containers through the port, so we are hoping that is going to spur some additional and new cargo growth. It was approved last November and that kicks in next month. If carriers bring in more cargo in 2014 than they did in 2013, they will earn what is essentially rebates and the rate goes up significantly if they bring in more than 100,000 TEU.”
Sanfield added that the competitive landscape remains difficult, and international growth has been relatively low compared to previous decades, and coming up with innovative ways to stay competitive, coupled with the ongoing infrastructure investments POLA is making, are serving as drivers for POLA to cement its status as a premier gateway.
December volumes at the Port of Long Beach were up 4 percent annually at 582,443 TEU. Imports fell 1.4 percent to 291,434 TEU, and exports headed up 9.3 percent to 148,150 TEU. Empties saw a 10.8 percent gain to 142,859 TEU.
For 2013, total cargo volume was up 11.3 percent to 6,730,573 TEU, placing the year as the third highest on record, with only 2006 and 2007 ahead. POLA officials said gains were partially attributed to CMA CGM and MSC increasing throughput at the port at the end of 2012, or the opposite impact of what happened to neighboring POLA.
The coming Chinese New Year had the potential to result in increased January volumes at POLA, too, according to Art Wong, POLA director of media and community relations.
“While it will also likely give us a bit of a boost, it will also mean that export activity in January could slow down as factories will be closed in China during the Chinese New Year (which runs through February 10).”
Regarding the strong performance in December, Wong said it is a byproduct of the economy regaining strength, with POLA a bit stronger than POLB although things still ended up well overall.
And he noted that the second half of 2013 was strong, following a pretty flat first half, making things optimistic that momentum will carry over into 2014 and can keep at a strong pace later in the spring after Chinese New Year is complete.
“Not only were imports steady in the second half of the year, exports were also strong over the last few months, which hopefully serves as a sign that Asia is starting to see the growth we are having here and moving more raw materials to produce things to be shipped back to us in North America.