The Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex began 2013 with a strong showing as the total container volume increased 5 percent over January 2012.
Containerized imports increased 5 percent, and exports were up 1 percent over the same month last year.
The news was especially welcome because the nation’s largest port complex in 2012 recorded only a 1 percent increase in container volume compared to the previous year.
The 5 percent increase in containerized imports in January is also good news for retailers as it signals confidence in the U.S. economy this year. The retail trade drives the eastbound trans-Pacific, especially in January, when importers complete their transactions before the Chinese New Year celebrations in Asia begin.
The celebrations this year began last weekend. Factories are expected to remain closed longer this year than during past lunar New Year celebrations because Chinese exports to Europe are down as the continent is in an economic recession.
Individual port numbers in Southern California reflect a shift of freight last year by Mediterranean Shipping Co. and CMA CGM from Los Angeles to Long Beach as those carriers established exclusive hubs in Long Beach.
As a result, Long Beach reported a large increase in container volume. Total container volume in January was up 17.5 percent, with imports increasing 19.5 percent and exports up 8.2 percent over January 2012.
Los Angeles, meanwhile, reported a drop in volume, with imports down 5.3 percent, exports declining 5.4 percent and total container volume down 4.3 percent.
Since Los Angeles-Long Beach handles about 40 percent of all U.S. containerized imports from Asia, the January numbers could indicate stronger growth in the eastbound Pacific in 2013. Exports, however, will lag import growth due to the impact of Europe’s recession on global markets, at least in the first half of the year.