July saw another “outstanding” month for cargo volumes at the Port of Los Angeles and wait times were down, said port executive director Gene Seroka, while noting that exports had continued to decline for three years.
Overall volume for July 2022 was 935,345 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs), up from 890,800 a year earlier, and putting it a hair ahead of 2021’s year-to-date figures. Imports were 485,472 TEUs, up from 469,361 TEUs in July 2021. Imports from Asia were up 6%, year on year. Exports also rose, to 103,497 TEUs from 91,440 TEUs in July 2021. Empty containers made up 346,376 TEUs, or 37% of overall volume, again a rise from 329,999 TEUs a year earlier.
“We’ve set records five out of seven months this year,” Seroka said at a press conference August 17. The wait time for ships at anchor had been reduced dramatically from 109 days in January to just 13 today, he added, calling the results “a huge accomplishment, all while moving record volumes.”
Regarding the declining export figures, Seroka said he and other stakeholders in the industry are looking for a way to “finally turn this market around.” He pointed to some success in the port authority’s work with dairy farmers to make exports easier as being cause for hope. In January, the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), the Port of Los Angeles, and CMA CGM announced the formation of a Dairy Exports Working Group aimed at identifying and addressing supply chain issues hampering U.S. dairy product exports.
Seroka said it wasn't just demand keeping volume at the port at an all-time high, but also the port’s state-of-the-art information technology. The port’s Port Optimizer digital platform, developed in partnership with Wabtec Corporation and GeoStamp, offers real-time and historical truck turn times for all 12 container terminals in the San Pedro Bay port complex. For Port of Los Angeles container terminals, average dwell times for both trucks and on-dock rail are also available. “Port optimizer is providing keen insights even compared to just a year ago,” said Seroka.
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Even though the port has been experiencing the equivalent of peak season for two and a half years continuously, volumes at the port are expected to ease somewhat, Seroka said. He said there would start to be a tapering of some imports such as appliances, household fixtures used in remodeling, or sporting goods — items people don’t buy every year. But, he noted, economic indicators show that retail sales are continuing well, even in the face of high inflation. Seroka said many of the largest retailers reported they had been able to offload bloated inventory at a good clip in Q2 2022, and the easing price of gas means people are going out and buying again. “The American consumer’s resilience to buy remains unabated,” he said.
Peak season is around the corner, and the port faces multiple ongoing challenges — not least ongoing labor negotiations between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), as well as concerns over implementation of California State Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) governing employment terms for truck drivers. But Seroka presented a bright future.
“Thanks to the efforts of so many, the supply chain landscape in Southern California has greatly improved,” Seroka said. “At many other ports around the country, ships are waiting for space. Yet here, our terminals have capacity.”
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