Imports at the nation’s busiest container port complex in Southern California plummet as U.S. trade plummets and retailers and manufacturers shift their supply chains amid negotiations over increasingly controversial over port labor on the west coast.
The nearby ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach handled 630,231 inbound containers loaded in October, down 26% from the same month a year ago and the lowest volume of cargo entering the ports since May 2020.
Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, said on Tuesday that the most important factor in the drop in cargoes, which began in August, is that importers are moving more of their goods to ports on the east coast and from the Gulf Coast “due to an extended labor force”. negotiations. »
“We need to recover this cargo,” Mr Seroka said.
Some shipping industry officials had hoped the labor negotiations, which began in May, would now be over. But the talks have stalled for several months and officials now believe they are unlikely to conclude until early 2023 at the earliest.
The talks cover more than 22,000 workers at 29 ports from Washington state to California and involve about 70 employers who run cargo handling operations. Talks have been suspended in recent months due to a dispute between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents dockworkers, and another union over which workers do some work at a single terminal at the Port of Seattle.
The ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents the employers in the talks, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Importers said they were avoiding West Coast ports because previous contract negotiations had become contentious and led to freight slowdowns. In recent months, several West Coast ports have experienced sporadic labor disruptions, although port officials say overall container movements remain stable.
The declines contrast with East Coast ports which continue to see strong cargo volumes. Imports loaded at the Port of New York and New Jersey were up 12% year-over-year in September.
Descartes Datamyne, a business intelligence arm of supply chain software provider Descartes Systems Group Inc.,
said in its latest trade report that overall U.S. container imports fell 13% in October from the same month a year ago, but were still above pre-pandemic levels in October 2019. The report said inbound volumes from China fell 5.8% from September to October and was down 22.8% from the 2022 peak in August.
Some importers pulled year-end goods earlier than usual this year to mitigate the risk of potential backups. It has also contributed to the recent drop in freight volumes during what is normally a peak shipping season.
Seroka said freight volumes are also down due to lower consumer spending on household goods such as furniture and appliances.
The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are the largest US ports on important trade routes with Asia. Ports have become so congested during the Covid-19 pandemic-era buying frenzy that dozens of ships have been forced to wait weeks at a time to unload at ports.
Write to Paul Berger at [email protected]
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