SoCal ports complex record first volume declines in two decades
2007 container volumes through the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles declined for the first time in two decades, mirroring a national economic malaise sparked by the implosion of the U.S. housing market and an international credit crunch.
Despite the relatively minor 0.6 percent decline over 2006 volume, the two adjacent ports remained the busiest port complex in the Western Hemisphere, moving a combined 15.7 million TEUs in 2007.
The Long Beach port fared slightly better than its neighboring counterpart, reporting a 0.3 percent increase over 2006 TEU volumes, while Los Angeles saw a 1.36 percent decline from the year-ago period.
In addition, while loaded inbound container volumes through the two ports experienced near zero growth during 2007 at 8.1 million TEUs, the ports notched an 18 percent increase in loaded export containers to 3.2 million TEUs, from 2.7 million TEUs in 2006. Experts say that export surge is attributable to the relative weakness of the U.S. dollar in the world markets, making American exports attractive bargains for foreign markets.
The increase in exports — responsible for an on-and-off shortage of loadable containers throughout the West Coast — and the decrease in imports also reflected in a decline of nearly 550,000 empty TEUs headed back to Asia through the Southern California ports. It was the first recorded decline in empties through the ports in at least five years.
The ports' volumes have also led to lack of job growth in the Southern California transportation industry, a system heavily dependent on the movement of imported goods. Local transportation industry job numbers are not expected to rise until imports pick up again through the ports. According to a study commissioned by the two ports last year, nearly 50,000 jobs in Southern California are directly related to the port complex.