LOS ANGELES -- Container traffic at West Coast ports gained momentum in July, although imports from Asia have not yet reached peak-season levels.
The Port of Tacoma topped percentage growth, with international imports up 37.9 percent compared to July 2004. Imports have increased 27 percent year-to-date on new trans-Pacific services and diversions from Southern California.
Seattle's imports increased 17.1 percent as the port saw its second-highest import month in July, and 30 percent year-to-date. Seattle is also gaining market share at the expense of Southern California gateways.
Imports through Oakland increased 19.5 percent in July, like Seattle the second-highest month this year.
Imports through Long Beach increased only 2.7 percent in July, and 15.7 percent through the first seven months of the year. July imports were the second-highest monthly volume of the year.
The Port of Los Angeles reached a new monthly high for the year, but imports were still 2.5 percent lower than in July 2004, when the port recorded its highest volume ever. Los Angeles, like Long Beach, began to experience a diversion of cargo last August as importers re-routed shipments to avoid port and rail congestion in Southern California.
Although the diversions continued into 2005, LA-Long Beach have been congestion-free all year and cargo volumes are beginning to grow once again. Carriers have introduced no new services to Southern California this year, but they continue to increase the size of the vessels they deploy on the busiest U.S. trade lane.
Overall, containerized imports through the West Coast are about 8.5 percent higher through July compared to the first seven months of 2004. The trade had been expecting another year of double-digit growth. Ocean carriers say the 2005 peak season will be short but intense, with September and October expected to be record months. Carriers say forward bookings for those months are especially strong.