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October volumes see further declines, reports POLA and POLB

October volumes, for both the Port of Los Angeles (POLA) and the Port of Long Beach (POLB), again saw annual declines, according to data respectively issued by the ports this week.

Total October POLA volume—at 678,429 TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units)—fell 25% annually, steeper than September’s 21.5% annual decrease and 22% below the port’s five-year October average, for its lowest October tally going back to 2009. Imports—at 336,307 TEU—fell 28% annually, and exports—at 89,722 TEU—were off 8.7%. Empty containers came in at 252,401 TEU, for a 25% annual decline.  

Through the first ten months of 2021, POLA volume is down roughly 6% annually, to 8,542,944 TEU, compared to the same period in 2021, which represents the highest-volume month on record for the port.

On a media briefing this week, POLA Executive Director said that the trend of lower volumes continued in October, which is traditionally one of the port’s stronger volume months, and was even more pronounced than in previous months.

Seroka outlined three basic factors related to October’s cargo decline.

“The biggest is cargo that has shifted to the East and Gulf coasts, due to protracted labor negotiations,” he said. “Second, this year our Peak Season was in June and July, as cargo owners advanced shipments well ahead of the normal holiday cycle. And third, we saw an increase in durable purchases during Covid, like appliances and furniture. But consumers just don’t buy those types of products every year. All of these factors combined with inflation, interest rates, and concerns about a recession tell a more nuanced story of what we are up against today.”

Addressing port operations, Seroka said that dwell times have improved and the port’s vessel backlog is nearly gone, with POLA’s container terminals estimated to be at about 70% of capacity, with the port “eager” to ramp volume back up.

“We have got to get that cargo back and will do everything in our power to make sure that happens,” he said.

POLB data: October volumes at the Port of Long Beach were down 16.6% annually, to 658,428 TEU, with port officials citing reduced consumer demand and a shift of imported good to the East and Gulf coasts as key drivers for the decline.

Imports—at 293,924 TEU—were down 23.7%, and exports—at 119,763 TEU—were off 2%. Empty containers dropped 13.4%, to 244,743 TEU.

On a year-to-date basis through October, total POLB volume is up 1.5% annually, to 8,000,811 TEU.  

“The supply chain is returning back to normal and cargo continues to move, so I am optimistic that store shelves will be stocked and goods will be available for delivery during the holiday season,” said Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero in a statement. “Over the long term, the San Pedro Bay ports complex will continue to be a competitive, strategic and sustainable gateway for trans-Pacific trade.” 

About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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