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POLA and POLB see September volume declines

POLA and POLB see September volume declines

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

Total September POLA volume—at 709,873 TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units)—marked a 21.5% annual decline up against September 2021, POLB’s all-time high for the month of September. Imports—at 343,462 TEU—were off 27% annually, and exports—at 77,680 TEU—saw a 3% annual gain, falling in 37 of the last 49 months. Empty containers were down 20% annually, to 288,731 TEU.

POLA officials pointed to high levels of retail and other inventory already being on shelves and in warehouses as a key driver for the annual declines, following a theme echoed by the port, when it reported its August volumes, which saw a slowdown after 25 months of record-breaking import volumes,  saying that some goods that usually arrive in August the for the fall and winter season shipped earlier to make sure they reached their destination in time, coupled with inflationary concerns and elevated inventory levels having made some retailers and e-commerce sellers more cautious.

On a year-to-date basis through September, total POLA volume—at 7,864,514 TEU—is off roughly 4% annually.  

On a media briefing this week POLA Executive Director Gene Seroka said that September marked the second month of double-digit declines.

“A great deal of holiday season goods have already arrived,” said Seroka. “Traditionally, September was a high-volume month for end-of-year products. This year, our Peak Season months were June and July.”

The other factor contributing to volume declines, for POLA and most everywhere along the West Coast, according to Seroka, is related to concerns over port dockworkers’ labor union contract negotiations, with shippers routing more cargo through the East and Gulf coasts, which he said is likely to continue until a new contract is in place.

“That cannot happen soon enough,” he said.

Ongoing public concern about the economy is also remains an issue, observed Seroka, with record-high inflation, high fuel costs, interest rates, and other uncertainties making Americans cautious and could impact discretionary spending.

The upside to that, he said, is consumer hesitancy and abundant retail inventories possibly leading to merchandise markdowns ahead of the holiday season.

POLB data: The Port of Long Beach reported that September volume slipped 0.9% annually in September, to 741,823 TEU. Imports were off 7.4% annually, to 342,671 TEU, and exports declined 1.9%, to 112,940 TEU. Empty containers climbed 7%, to 286,212 TEU.

In assessing September volumes, POLB officials said that “consumers are growing more cautious with spending as the economy faces persistent inflation and aggressive tightening by the Federal Reserve.”

On a year-to-date basis through September, total POLB volume is up 3.5% annually, to 7,342,383 TEU, third quarter volume off 0.3% annually, to 2,334,605 TEU.

“Consumers and retailers are concerned about inflation, leading to warehouses filled with inventory and fewer product orders from Asia,” said Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero in a statement. “The respite is leading to increased capacity on the docks and fewer ships waiting off the coast to enter the Port.”

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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