Positive Outlook Continues After Strong Start to 2024 at SoCal Ports

Singapore freight forwarders – Star Concord
17-Apr-2024

 

Container volumes continued strong at Southern California’s twin ports maintaining the momentum and a positive outlook for the trade. Both the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach highlighted an ongoing year-over-year trend of volume increases while predicting that the outlook remains positive.

Providing an update on the first quarter of 2024, the Port of Los Angeles said it was the third-best opening for the year in the port’s history. They marked eight consecutive months of year-over-year growth for imports and ten consecutive months of year-over-year gains in exports. Overall volume was up 19 percent in March and 30 percent for the first quarter in what is traditionally a slower period of the year.

“Consumer demand remains strong and continues to drive cargo through this vital gateway for trans-Pacific trade,” said Port of Long Beach CEO Mario Cordero. The port highlighted that March marked its seventh consecutive month of year-over-year cargo growth. Long Beach experienced a better than eight percent increase in import volumes for the month and more than a 16 percent increase in volume for the first quarter. Exports, however, remained soft, down more than 20 percent in Long Beach during March.

Export volumes however at the neighboring operations in the Port of Los Angeles continue very strong. Port Director Gene Seroka highlighted that export volumes were up 47 percent year-over-year and that Los Angeles had its best month for exports since January 2020. He said that it reflects the improvement in the U.S. trade balance and they hope to see further increases in the coming months.

“Moving into April and the second quarter, I expect robust cargo flow to continue here,” Seroka said at today’s monthly update. “A strong job market and continued consumer spending, along with our ability to handle additional volume, will help drive cargo to Los Angeles in the coming months.”

Los Angeles is forecasting more than 700,000 TEU volume for April noting that they are currently in the heart of the slack season for the ports. They said that the ports are currently operating at 75 percent of historic capacity meaning that they can manage further increases.

They believe the strength of the U.S. economy will continue to drive volume despite uncertainties over interest rates and other factors. Seroka said that the Port of Los Angeles’ outlook is for “healthy cargo flow” as the year progresses.

The National Retail Federation issued a similarly positive outlook for container volumes at U.S. ports, predicting that next month’s inbound cargo volume at the nation’s major container ports is expected to top two million units in May 2024. It would be the first time since last fall that volumes reached that mark. 

Further, the retail trade group expects that volumes at the major U.S. ports can sustain or exceed the two million TEU mark at least into the summer. They are now forecasting an 11 percent increase in volumes for the first half of 2024 to a total of 11.7 million TEU. This comes after an overall 12.8 percent decline in TEU volumes in 2023.

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