Ports Break Records To Get Backlog Cleared
The volume of containers handled at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach is reaching historic levels as longshoremen barrel through what was once a three month long backlog of containers waiting to be unloaded.
This March marked the second busiest month in Port of Los Angeles history with 791,000 TEUs handled. The month also marked the busiest March on record for the Port of Long Beach, and its 16th busiest month on record in terms of total inbound containers handled at 317,520. Altogether the port complex of Los Angeles and Long beach reported handling almost 1.5 million containers in March, a 24% increase in total container traffic over March of last year.
However, news coming out of the ports isn’t all good. Despite the record-breaking month, the total number of containers handled at the two ports is down year-to-date compared to 2014 due to the dramatically reduced volumes seen in January and February. The total number of containers handled in Q1 2015 is down 5% at the port of Los Angeles and 3.3% at Long Beach compared to the same time last year. Additionally, the number of export containers loaded fell 21% last month compared to March of last year, reflecting an overall decrease in US exports as the dollar strengthens and Asian and European trading partners report weak economic performance.
The Bottom Line
Consistency and reliability have been buzzwords in shipping circles this year as ports around the US deal with the fallout from the West Coast port shutdowns two months ago. These ports appear determined to reestablish themselves as attractive options for shipping companies after the series of shutdowns in February marred relations with carriers. The unparalleled intermodal rail and port infrastructure boasted by the Pacific Coast is necessary to handle the world’s largest ships and allows freight traffic to run smoothly across the US. East Coast ports have struggled to acclimate to the excess container volume being diverted from the West Coast and are still dealing with unprecedented levels of congestion as a result. With historic backups at the port of New York/Long Island, Virginia and many others, the fallout from the West Coast port shutdown has been indicative of how much the United States needs West Coast ports to be operating at full functionality.