Container volumes declined by a huge 22.9% to 544,037 teu at the Port of Los Angeles in February as the slow-down of supply chains, owing to the coronavirus outbreak, becomes apparent.
A reduction in services from the Far East played a key role, as imports dropped by 22.5% and empties declined by 35%. In comparison, exports only slipped by 5.7%.
Port of Los Angeles executive director Gene Seroka said: “While cargo volumes are important, the coronavirus is first and foremost a public health crisis that needs to be brought under control with the collaboration of governments and medical experts from around the world.
“We are more interconnected than ever with our global partners so it’s no surprise that Trans-Pacific maritime trade has been significantly impacted.”
He continued: “As factory production in China remains at low levels, we expect soft volumes in March. Looking ahead to anticipated manufacturing improvements, we will need to return empty containers to Asia and push lingering US export boxes out swiftly.”
Neighbouring hub, the Port of Long Beach, saw container throughput slip by 9.8% to 538,428 teu in Februrary.
Imports fell by 17.9% and empties decreased by 12.8% while exports actually increased by 19.3%.
Although a Phase 1 preliminary trade agreement was signed in January by the US and China, about US$370bn in Chinese goods remain under the increased tariffs, pointed out the port authority.
The coronavirus has caused further disruption to the supply chain with an increase in cancelled sailings and a reduction in cargo moving through the nation’s second-busiest port, it added in a statement.
Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach: “With the extended factory closures and slowdown of goods movement in China and other Asian countries in February due to Lunar New Year and COVID-19, we are seeing shipping lines needing to cancel some sailings.
“Once the virus is contained, we may see a surge of cargo, and our terminals, labour and supply chain will be ready to handle it.”