L.A. and Long Beach account for 40% of U.S. inbound container movements and are suffering the largest percentage declines in traffic for 25 years.
Container traffic through L.A. fell 32.6% in February, according to data released this week, with imports down 35.3% and outbound shipments off by 27.6%.
The decline is accelerating following a 10% slide in January and the 6.5% fall for 2008.
The data provide a gloomy outlook for U.S. rail and truck shippers transferring electronic equipment and other durable goods to retail stores and manufacturers, continuing the slide in traffic that became evident last November.
‘We are anticipating our volumes through the first quarter, and maybe even the first half of the year, will continue to be in decline,’ L.A. port spokesman Arley Baker said.
Baker said the declines were the worst since the early 1980s. He said some terminal operators have warned there could be ‘a few months’ of double-digit slides.
Container traffic through Long Beach dropped 23.4% in January after falling 11.3% in 2008. Art Wong, a port spokesman, said the 2008 percentage slide was the worst in at least two decades.
‘We expect weakness through March and probably into the spring,’ Art Wong said. ‘We’re hearing there’s a chance it may be able to level off this summer, but that’s a big wait-and-see.’
CNN Money reported container traffic has been on the wane amid the slump in U.S. and global commerce.
Earlier this week, China reported that exports fell 25.7% in February, compared to the year-ago period, marking the largest slide in more than a decade.
The trend has been evident in the higher-margin air cargo sector. Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals said this week that its volume was down 22% last month. Deutsche Lufthansa AG, one of the largest cargo airlines, is parking aircraft as demand declines.
U.S. domestic freight carriers, including railroads and trucking companies, have continued to reporting large declines in business, though there have been mixed signals over the March trend.
‘It feels like we may have reached a floor,’ Union Pacific Corp. Chief Financial Officer Rob Knight said this week during a transportation conference, although he added that his railroad’s year-to-date freight volumes were down 22% through March 7.
West Coast ports are particularly sensitive to Asian imports and exports. Major U.S. exports through the ports include raw materials such as scrap metal and paper for recycling, while imports include all manner of consumer goods.