Impacted by novel coronavirus and trade war, the San Pedro Bay ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in southern California, the largest container port complex in the United States, estimated that cargo volumes would continue sliding down in the second quarter after the bleak first quarter.
The Los Angeles Business Journal reported Monday that a large number of “blank” or canceled sailing had been announced by cargo operators for the coming month, including 15 missed sailing in May and 11 in June for the Port of Los Angeles while 15 cancellations during the same period for the Port of Long Beach.
The Port of Long Beach reported that it had only one canceled sailing in April, but there are more to come. The two ports had 10 blank sailings in last May and June.
These new blanks followed 61 canceled sailings for the San Pedro Bay ports complex during the first quarter of this year, a 96.7 percent increase compared to the first quarter of 2019, the report said, so that the ports had no breathing room even though there was a “better than expected” number in April.
According to data updated early this month by the Port of Los Angeles, terminal operators and dockworkers there moved 688,999 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of cargo last month, a 6.5 percent decline compared to April 2019. The Port of Long Beach, meanwhile, reported 519,730 TEUs in April, a 17.3 percent decrease year on year.
However, in the Port of Los Angeles, the April moving volumes was 53 percent more than March volumes. Imports at the Port of Los Angeles increased 2.6 percent to 370,111 TEUs compared to April 2019 data while exports were down 16.2 percent to 130,321 TEUs. Empty containers declined 14.4 percent to 188,567 TEUs.
“Given the unique circumstances of a trade war and pandemic, April volumes are better than expected,” Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said in a statement. “As we move deeper into the remainder of the second quarter, we’re forecasting significantly lower volumes, particularly on the import side.”
He said the current blanks represented about 25 percent of normal sailings for his port at this time of the year due to lack of demand, adding that fast fashion had struggled with a 50 percent drop in business, shipments of steel are down 69.9 percent, and fruit and scrap metal cargo at the port declined 9.5 percent.
Meanwhile, at the Port of Long Beach, April imports were down 20.2 percent to 253,540 TEUs. Port officials attributed the drop to a decrease in consumer demand during stay-at-home orders prompted by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“Manufacturing in China is rebounding from the COVID-19 pandemic; however, demand in the United States is below normal due to the ongoing crisis,” the Port of Long Beach said in a press release last week.
“We look forward to a recovery stage and rebounding cargo shipments as the nation contemplates relaxing shelter-in-place orders, people return to work and consumer demand rises – however it will not be in the short term,” said Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach, in the press release.
The San Pedro Bay Port Complex handles approximately 40 percent of all containerized imports and 30 percent of all containerized exports for the United States, according to data released by the Port of Los Angeles last June.