LONG BEACH—The volume of containers in Los Angeles-Long Beach in November dropped 2 percent compared to the same month last year as the strike by office clerical workers apparently took a toll on traffic in the port complex.
The Office Clerical Unit of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 struck 10 of the 14 container terminals at the ports for eight days beginning Nov. 27. ILWU dockworkers honored the pickets, shutting down cargo-handling at those terminals.
Los Angeles and Long Beach combined handled 1,138,495 20-foot container units, including empties, in November, compared to 1,153,988 in November 2011. Loaded import containers declined 4 percent, and loaded export containers were down 8 percent.
Long Beach sustained less impact from the OCU strike than Los Angeles because the OCU does not represent workers at three of its terminals and those facilities remained open throughout the strike. Only one of the container terminals in Los Angeles does not have OCU workers.
November was actually the busiest month of 2012 for Long Beach in terms of total volume, including empties. Exports in November were higher than in any other month and imports were second only to the loaded imports handled in June.
Chris Lytle, Long Beach executive port director, said two trans-Pacific services shifted over from Los Angeles, including one service with vessels of 9,000-TEU capacity or more. Lytle said he anticipates that monthly container counts in Long Beach will continue to show gains into 2013 compared with the same months in the previous year.
Total container volume in Long Beach increased 14.6 percent in November. Loaded import containers increased 17.6 percent and loaded export containers were up 18.5 percent. Empty containers increased 5.1 percent.
Los Angeles, by contrast, was down in all categories. Imports declined 18.6 percent from November 2011, exports were down 25.8 percent and total container volume declined 16 percent.
Year-to-date container traffic at the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex as a whole was up 1 percent through November compared with last year. The Southern California gateway is under-performing the West Coast as a whole. According to the Pacific Maritime Association Web site, which tracks container traffic for all U.S. West Coast ports, loaded container volumes on the entire coast were up 2 percent through October, the latest reporting month.
U.S. West Coast ports are undoubtedly feeling the competition provided by Prince Rupert, British Columbia. Container traffic at the Canadian Pacific Coast port year-to-date through November is up 40 percent over last year to 515,924 TEUs.
Prince Rupert, located 500 miles north of Vancouver, has grown rapidly since its Fairview Container Terminal in its first full year of operation in 2008 handled 182,523 TEUs. About two-thirds of Prince Rupert’s container volume is generated along the Canadian National Railway intermodal corridor from Chicago to New Orleans. One-third of the port’s volume is Canadian cargo.
Prince Rupert has three weekly services by the CKYH alliance of China Ocean Shipping Co., “K” Line, Yang Ming Line and Hanjin Shipping Co. Those lines also have services at the major U.S. gateways, so cargo is migrating from the West Coast ports to Prince Rupert.