US West Coast Ports Bounce Back to Higher Volumes

The US West Coast ports have experienced an increase in container volumes during the first three months of 2016, as the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach saw their busiest quarters in years.

The port of Los Angeles handled more than 2 million TEUs during the first quarter of 2016, representing an increase of 11.3 percent during the quarter compared to last year’s volume of 1.8 million TEUs.

The situation at the port of Long Beach was similar, as the volumes were up by 6.1 percent for the quarter, from 3.2 million TEUs to 3.3 million TEUs in the first quarter of 2016, while the port of Oakland saw its 2016 containerized volumes rise by 18.9 percent so far over 2015.

Total monthly volumes at the port of Los Angeles reached 612,863 TEUs in March, representing a drop of 22.6 percent compared to the same month a year earlier, when volumes surged after congestion issues were resolved. March 2016 imports at the port plunged by 33.3 percent to 287,231 TEUs, while exports increased by 9.5 percent to 159,362 TEUs. Empty containers, which are sent back overseas to be refilled with more goods, dropped by 22.8 percent to 166,269 TEUs.

Monthly container volumes at the port of Long Beach were down by 26.2 percent, mostly due to the Lunar New Year, when many factories in East Asia shut down for one to two weeks, as the port handled a total of 464,855 TEUs in March compared to 630,084 TEUs seen in the same month a year earlier.

“The uneven global economy, industry financial pressures, weak U.S. export demand and the introduction of megasized container vessels to West Coast ports have created dynamic conditions for the maritime industry that will continue to play out over the coming year,” Port of Long Beach CEO, Jon Slangerup, said.

In March, Long Beach marine terminals handled a total of 464,855 twenty-foot equivalent units or TEUs. Imports decreased by 34.6 percent to 207,635 TEUs and exports were flat at 127,210 TEUs. Empty containers decreased by 29.8 percent to 130,010 TEUs.

The port of Oakland has reported “signs of export rally” at the port’s quarterly containerized export volume was up 19.9 percent, while the monthly export volume increase by 9.9 percent, marking the third-straight monthly increase in Oakland.

Port officials attributed the gains to a recent decline in the strength of the dollar as U.S. goods are more affordable overseas when the dollar’s value declines.

The ports total containerized cargo volume, imports, exports and empty containers, was up by 18.9 percent for the quarter, while total monthly volume declined by 14.5 percent, as a result of a drop in imports.

The US West Coast ports’ recovery comes after 29 ports were hit by prolonged contract disputes over a new labor contract between the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), which led to significant drops in the ports’ cargo volumes in 2015.

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