Container volumes handled at West Coast ports in October declined 6 percent compared to October 2010, largely because of a 9 percent drop in imports, according to the Pacific Maritime Association.
Containerized exports increased 1 percent year-over-year. Loaded containers in the first 10 months of the year were up 2 percent year-over-year, according to compiled statistics from PMA's Web site.
Since West Coast ports handle about half of all U.S. containers, and about two-thirds of the U.S. trade with Asia, the numbers reflect the overall U.S. liner trade trend of declining imports and increasing exports.
U.S. imports were down 2 percent during the first 10 months of the year compared to the same period in 2010. Imports were actually higher in the first four months of 2011 compared to the same period last year, but the tide turned in May and monthly figures since then were lower than in the corresponding months of 2010.
Exports, however, have been strong all year, and growth in the outbound trades is accelerating. Containerized exports through West Coast ports are up 8 percent year-to-date compared to the first 10 months of 2010.
October was the second busiest month of the year for exports, down slightly from March, which is traditionally the peak of the export season. Exports should remain strong now through the winter months, peaking next March.
Imports this year peaked in August and the monthly numbers have been declining since then. Imports will probably remain light the next couple of months, but there should be a small peak in January before factories in Asia shut down for two weeks for the 2012 Chinese New Year celebrations.