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Volumes by Port in California, Are They Improving?

Volumes by Port in California, Are They Improving?

The ports in Long Beach, Los Angeles, and Oakland have all been plagued with port congestion and delays recently, partly because of union and labor disputes, but at least for two of them things are looking up. But two out of three of California’s port fair much better last month than they had previously been.

All ports along the West Coast waterfront had a rough first half of the year, seeing diverted cargo to the East and Gulf Coasts, as well as Canada bring down their market share. But in May, the Pacific Maritime Association and union members both approved of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union contract which got workers back on the job and clearing freight buildup. After a slow start to the year, the Port of Long Beach reported that July was its best month ever in the 104 years it has been operating.

This passes the 2007 “best month ever”, which occurred right before the Great Recession of 2008. Compared to last year, Long Beach saw over an 18% increase in cargo container volume, which equals moving 690,244 twenty-foot equivalent container units (TEUs). They attributed it to the start of peak season, more cargo coming their way from the other ports and steps the port has taken this year to improve their overall systems. In the last five months, there are been four significant jumps to cargo totals, and this is one of them. Other include May (4.8 percent), April (7.3 percent), and March (42.1 percent).

These big gains are signs that the nation’s economy is improving. Retailers are importing more goods to stock their shelves and consumers are buying them. We are importing more, and many of those containers are going to Long Beach for processing. “These exceptional results are great news for Long Beach and the nation’s economy,” said Long Beach Port Chief Executive Officer Jon Slangerup. “We’ve worked closely with all of our stakeholders to prepare for our peak season, which is off to a great start with very strong back-to-school shipments and our best export month in a year. We applaud our partners for their role in these impressive results.”

Also experiencing gains is the San Francisco Bay Port of Oakland, continuing its growth of import traffic for the fifth month in a row, all while dealing with a noteworthy shortage of dockside workers. Compared to this time last year, containerized imports were up almost 9%. The recent labor shortages caused big delays for both shippers and truckers. Cargo has to be diverted to other ports along the coast. But now, new workers are flowing into the dock and clearing the backlog of vessels.

In stark contrast to its neighboring ports, Los Angeles saw a 2.5% drop in overall volumes over last July, some of it due to union worker agreements that hadn’t taken effect yet. Though traffic has been low here for the first half of the year, it is expected to pick up during the last half.

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