American Shipper

SoCal ports? cargo volume declines continue in September

SoCal portsÆ cargo volume declines continue in September

Cargo volumes at the nation's two busiest container ports continued to slide during September giving the first solid evidence that a hoped for peak shipping season increase is not materializing.

   The ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, respectively the nation's No. 1 and No. 2 busiest container ports, reported a collective 10.7 percent decline in September cargo volumes to 1.25 million TEUs compared to September 2007.

   Inbound container volumes fell a collective 12.1 percent to 646,296 TEUs, while export boxes managed to stay in positive territory with a slim 0.9 percent increase to 273,101 TEUs.

   Individually, the Los Angeles port fared slightly better than neighboring Long Beach, though still only reporting an increase in one category: export containers.

   Los Angeles port reported a 6.7 percent decline for September to 692,890 TEUs. Inbound container volumes slipped 9 percent to 367,159 TEUs, while export containers improved 5.7 percent to 143,471 TEUs.

   September marks the 16th monthly decline in total container volume for Los Angeles in the past 19 months. Last month's 5.9 percent increase in total volume was the first monthly increase over 1 percent for the port since February 2007.

   Next door, Long Beach port reported a 15.2 percent drop to 554,837 TEUs. Inbound volumes fell 15.8 percent to 279,137 TEUs, while outbound volume slipped 3.9 percent to 129,630 TEUs.

   The Long Beach port has reported month-to-month declines for 11 of the past 12 months, however the one non-declining month, December 2007, registered a statistically insignificant increase of 128 TEUs, or 0.02 percent.

   September volumes bring the calendar year-to-date numbers for Long Beach to 6.7 million TEUs, an 8.5 percent decline, and for Los Angeles to 5.9 million TEUs, a 4.8 percent drop compared to the first nine months of 2007.

   The ports combined nine-month volumes are 12.66 million TEUs, down 6.8 percent.

   The ongoing financial downturn in the U.S. economy, compounded by the housing market collapse and the world credit crunch, has led to lackluster predictions for retail sales this holiday season.

   “The outlook for the holiday sales season is pretty grim with a 1 to 2 percent decline in sales compared to last year,” Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp. told the Torrance Daily Breeze. “You’re going to see continued declines in imports in 2009 before you see any kind of real change. The outlook is not positive.”