Container traffic at West Coast ports declined 3 percent in October compared to the same month last year. Imports were down 4 percent and exports dropped 2 percent.
October 2012 was somewhat of an anomaly, though, as contract negotiations between East Coast employers and the International Longshoremen’s Association had broken down and the possibility of a dockworker strike was on the minds of many beneficial cargo owners.
A number of East Coast BCOs most likely diverted some of their cargo to the West Coast last year. As a result, October 2012 was the busiest month of the year for West Coast ports, according to statistics published on the website of the Pacific Maritime Association.
Compared to other months in 2013, though, October was a relatively good month for West Coast ports. October was the second busiest month of 2013 so far in total containers handled.
October was also the West Coast’s busiest month so far for exports. The increase in outbound container traffic could mark a turn-around for U.S. exports, which had been languishing all year because of the economic recession in Europe and slower economic growth in China.
Overall year-to-date container traffic has been lackluster, however. Container volumes at West Coast ports through October are 1 percent higher compared to the first 10 months of 2012. Imports are up 2 percent and exports are down 1 percent.
California’s ports have led the way so far. Total container volume was up 2 percent in Oakland and 1 percent in Los Angeles-Long Beach during the first 10 months of 2013. Container volume in Seattle-Tacoma declined 3 percent. Portland was up 2 percent on a much smaller base of container cargo.
The largest vessels that carriers deploy in the U.S. trades call in Los Angeles-Long Beach inbound and Oakland outbound. It appears that carriers are pushing more cargo through the California gateways than the Pacific Northwest in an attempt to realize greater utilization of the mega-ships.