Imports into the country’s busiest container port complex in Southern California are slumping as U.S. trade falters and retailers and manufacturers shift their supply chains amid increasingly contentious West Coast port labor negotiations.
The neighboring ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach handled 630,231 loaded inbound containers in October, down 26% from the same month last year and the lowest volume of goods in the ports since May 2020.
Gene Seroka, the Port of Los Angeles executive director, said Tuesday that the biggest factor in the cargo decline that began in August is that importers are shifting more of their goods to East Coast and Gulf Coast ports “because of tedious work.” Negotiations.”
“We need to get this shipment back,” Mr. Seroka said.
Some representatives of the shipping industry had hoped that the talks, which began in May, would now be concluded. But talks have stalled for several months and officials now believe they won’t be complete until early 2023 at the earliest.
The talks cover more than 22,000 workers at 29 ports from Washington state to California and include about 70 employers who operate cargo handling operations. Talks have been held up in recent months over a dispute between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents dockers, and another union through which workers perform specific work at a single terminal in 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 have said they are avoiding West Coast ports because previous contract talks have become contentious and have led to a slowdown in freight. Sporadic work stoppages have occurred in several West Coast ports in recent months, although port officials say container movements overall remain stable.
The declines contrast with East Coast ports, which continue to see strong cargo flows. Shipped imports in the ports of New York and New Jersey rose 12% in September from a year earlier.
Descartes Datamyne, a business intelligence service from supply chain software provider Descartes Systems Group inc,
said in its latest trade report that total US container imports fell 13% in October from the same month a year ago, but in October 2019 were still above pre-pandemic levels and 22.8% below the 2022 high August.
Some importers this year have withdrawn year-end goods earlier than usual to mitigate the risk of potential backlogs. This has also contributed to the recent drop in cargo volume during what is typically a busy shipping season.
Mr Seroka said cargo volume is also declining due to a drop in 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 been so congested during the Covid-19 pandemic spending spree that dozens of ships have been forced to wait for weeks to unload at ports.
Write to Paul Berger at [email protected]
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