The Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex got off to a “flat” start in 2014, in contrast with the “strong” numbers posted by the ports of Savannah and Charleston in January.
Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach
The Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex’s total container volume in January was 1.214 million TEUs, inching up 0.8 percent from 1.205 million TEUs in January 2013. Monthly loaded containers moving through the nation’s largest port complex rose 3.0 percent over the level seen in January 2012, driven by a 4.6 percent increase in imports and partially offset by a 0.6 percent slide in exports.
Los Angeles reported its volume in January reached 685,550 TEUs, increasing 2.5 percent compared with the same month in the previous year, while the Port of Long Beach reported its January container volume was 528,884 TEUs, dropping 1.4 percent year-over-year.
January imports at Los Angeles rose 6.7 percent, from 337,428 TEUs in 2013 to 360,037 TEUs in 2014, while imports at Long Beach increased 2.0 percent to 279,415 TEUs. The gains were likely driven by an early Chinese New Year, which pushed incoming cargo forward in time for the holiday. Notably, the Chinese pots of Ningbo, Shanghai, Shekou and Yantian reported severe delays in cargo handling in the weeks leading up to the Lunar New Year.
January was also the second month that Long Beach’s throughput was compared year-over-year with a full month with CMA CGM cargo, following the moves by CMA CGM and Mediterranean Shipping Co. from Los Angeles to Long Beach in late 2012 and early 2013, respectively.
Exports at Los Angeles improved 1.7 percent from 159,258 TEUs in 2013 to 161,939 TEUs in 2013, while Long Beach’s exports declined 3.4 percent to 122,411 TEUs. Monthly empties at Los Angeles increased 2.5 percent year-over-year to 685,550 TEUs, while empties at Long Beach dropped 6.3 percent to 127,058 TEUs.
“Exports and empties typically slow ahead of the Lunar New Year, which this year was Jan. 31, because much of China and other countries in East Asia shut down for two weeks for the holiday,” the Port of Long Beach explained in a written statement.
Air and ocean trades to and from China are expected to remain slow until March.
Total loaded containers for Los Angeles in January increased 5.1 percent to 521,975 TEUs, from 496,686 TEUs in 2013. For the fiscal year-to-date, which began on July 1, 2013, total container volume at Los Angeles was 4.843 million TEUs, up 2.3 percent compared with the same period in the previous year.
Total loaded containers for Long Beach inched up 0.3 percent in January, versus January 2013, reaching 401,826 TEUs. For the fiscal year-to-date, beginning Oct. 1, 2013, container volume at Long Beach improved 3.4 percent year-over-year to 2.257 million TEUs. Imports were up 3.6 percent, exports rose 5.6 percent and empties increased 0.8 percent.
The Port of Long Beach noted that it expects 2014 to be busier than 2013, which was the third busiest year in the port’s history with a total of 6.73 million TEUs.
“We expect to be back to peak cargo levels at the Port of Long Beach by 2015 or 2016,” said Noel Hacegaba, acting deputy executive director and chief operating officer of the Port of Long Beach.
West Coast ports, however, could be challenged this year by labor instability, productivity issues and other emerging competitive threats, which will be discussed in greater detail at JOC’s TPM 2014 conference.
Ports of Savannah and Charleston
For its fiscal year-to-date, which started July 1, 2013, Savannah reported a 6.7 percent increase year-over-year, reaching 1.554 million TEUs.
Curtis Foltz, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, remarked in a published statement: “We are encouraged by the strong growth in January that continued a trend that began during the fourth quarter and are hopeful these volumes signal a strengthening U.S. and global economy.”
Earlier this month, Foltz said Savannah is looking for growth of 5 to 7 percent in its container throughput this year, fueled by continued growth in export demand and retail imports as the U.S. economic growth accelerates.
South Carolina Ports Authority also reported that it handled 942,013 TEUs from July 2013 through January 2014, its fiscal year-to-date, up 5 percent from the 892,487 TEUs moved during the same period in the previous year.
“Container volume in Charleston has grown consistently year over year since fiscal year 2010,” said Jim Newsome, SCPA president and CEO, in a written remark. “We remain a Top 10 port, and through our efforts to deepen the harbor and prepare for big ships to call in greater frequency, we are poised to meet the future growth of the industry and remain a leader in our competitive region.”
Newsome previously predicted that Charleston will see 5.5 percent growth in fiscal year 2014, following a 9 percent volume jump in fiscal year 2013.
East Coast port leaders in general are optimistic about the global recovery this year, but cautious about forecasting higher growth than the relatively healthy rates they achieved in 2013, as they wait to see the impact of potential mega-alliances, including the P3 and G6.