West Coast container volumes in November declined 6 percent compared to November 2011, reflecting the impact the strike by office clerical workers in Los Angeles-Long Beach had on business at the ports.
Containerized imports in November were down 6 percent and exports dropped 7 percent, according to numbers published Wednesday on the Web site of the Pacific Maritime Association.
The Office Clerical Unit of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 picketed 10 of the 14 container terminals in the Southern California port complex beginning on Nov. 27. ILWU dockworkers honored the picket lines, closing down cargo-handling at the terminals for eight days.
The strike had a noticeable impact on container volumes as port volumes had been trending upward through much of 2012. Year-to-date container volumes through November were up 2 percent. Imports increased 2 percent compared to the first 11 months of 2011, while exports were down less than 1 percent.
The Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex handles about 70 percent of the containers that move through the West Coast. A number of vessels that were scheduled to stop in Southern California on their first call inbound were diverted to Oakland.
However, those ships dropped off and took on only Northern California cargo. The vessels then proceeded to Los Angeles-Long Beach where they were idled until the ports reopened. Therefore, much of the cargo that was supposed to be handled in Southern California in late November was most likely handled in December after the strike ended.
Also, some vessels diverted to ports in Mexico and Panama. Perishable freight reportedly moved north across the border, but other containers were held at the ports and vessels on subsequent voyages retrieved them and delivered the containers to Los Angeles-Long Beach when the strike was over.