Cargo volumes at West Coast ports surged in February, creating a feeling of optimism that 2013 could turn out to be better than originally anticipated.
Containerized imports increased 25 percent compared to February 2012, according to numbers published on the Web site of the Pacific Maritime Association. Exports increased only 2 percent, however, dragged down by the deepening recession in Europe, and the impact of Europe’s troubles on China and other U.S. trading partners.
Nevertheless, the spike in imports helped West Coast ports record a 15 percent increase in total container volume, including loaded import and export containers, compared to last February.
West Coast ports performed well during the first two months of 2013, with total container volume up 10 percent, imports up 15 percent and exports increasing 2 percent compared to January and February of 2013. Economists earlier this year had projected modest growth in 2013 of only about 4 to 5 percent.
The sustainability of the strong performance in imports will become clearer when the March numbers are reported. February was expected to be a strong month compared to February 2012 because the Chinese New Year celebration was held earlier last year. Factories in Asia pushed forward their shipments in 2012 before the plants closed for a week or two.
The lunar New Year celebration this year was later, so declining shipments in March will be compared to relatively strong imports in March 2012.