Ports Afraid Weakening Economy Means Santa Will Leave Coal in Their Stocking

Even though 2010 is proving to be a much happier year than 2009 for carriers and ports, weak consumer sentiment and rising odds of further deterioration in the economy has the operators of the big West Coast ports, Los Angeles and Long Beach, worried that a solid July will not prove to be a precursor to good pre-holiday shipping volumes.

From the Los Angeles Times:

July is usually the opening month of the busiest cargo shipping season of the year… Import numbers tend to climb steadily through October…But perhaps not this year.

“The traditional peak season may be melting away,” said Ben Hackett, founder of Hacker Associates, which monitors cargo volumes at the busiest seaports in North America on behalf of the National Retail Federation….

Consumers remain very cautious about the safety of their own jobs, and retailers are paying attention to those signals, experts said.

“Retailers are monitoring demand very closely and hoping to see increases in employment and other areas that will boost consumer confidence,” said Jonathan Gold, vice president for supply chain and customs policy for the National Retail Federation….

July was still one of the best months in many years for both ports. At Los Angeles, the nation’s busiest container port, imports were up 21% to 369,389 containers compared with a year earlier, and exports increased 5.9% to 146,369 container…

At Long Beach, second only to Los Angeles in cargo traffic, imports climbed 32.5% to 293,878 containers compared with the same month a year earlier and exports rose 16.4% to 126,177 containers…

But some experts pointed out that some of the gains were a reflection of how hard the shipping industry was hit last year….As trade dried up in 2009, cargo containers stacked up where they were last delivered. As trade picked up, shipping lines had to move record numbers of those empty containers back across the Pacific to factories in Asia….

At Los Angeles, the number of empty containers moved in July was up 62% compared with a year earlier. In Long Beach, the number of empty containers shipped was up 63% compared with a year earlier.

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One comment

  1. Doug Terpstra

    Okay, this post begs for at least one comment. I’ll bite.

    “The traditional peak season may be melting away,” said Ben Hackett.

    Oooo! Not a good choice of words for the future plight of ports. About things melting away, if and when Iceland shrinks and sea level rises a few meters (or 27 as many climate scientists say is likely, ports will have far more to worry about that slack consumer demand.

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