The July container volume at West Coast ports fell 3 percent compared to July 2010, despite another strong showing in exports.
Exports surged 8 percent, but imports declined 9 percent compared to last July, according to statistics published on the Pacific Maritime Association website
On the import side, the weak number is not as bad as it seems because July and August 2010 were unusually strong months in the trans-Pacific trade. Importers in early 2010 experienced tight vessel capacity and a shortage of containers, so they shipped earlier than usual.
Facing no such issues this years, importers are expected to ship much of their holiday merchandise in the traditional peak season months of September and October. The July number is also encouraging in that it was the highest monthly import total so far this year.
Containerized exports have been strong all year. The monthly export figures at West Coast ports have exceeded those of the same months in 2010 for seven straight months.
The best is yet to come for exports because summer is considered the slack season for scrap paper and agricultural products, two of the highest-volume exports in the trans-Pacific. Exports begin to build in the fall with the agricultural harvest and peak in the winter months.
Relatively strong imports in early 2011, and strong exports each month, have kept total cargo volumes at West Coast ports in the black so far this year. Containerized imports year to date are up 2 percent over the same period last year. Exports are 9 percent higher and total container volume is up 4 percent compared to the first seven months of 2010.