US container imports are falling as the economy and workforce take a toll

Pier-300-channel-aerial Port of Los Angeles.

According to the latest The McCown Report US West Coast ports saw a 22% decline in container imports in April, compared to a year-ago record of 812,611 teu, as economic problems and protracted labor negotiations continued to weigh on the performance of Pacific ports.

In fact, Gene Ceroga, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, said last week that terminals at the port were operating at only 70% of their usual capacity, blaming the economy for 15% of the slowdown, while he estimated 15%. This was due to concerns about industrial action that diverted orders to East and Gulf Coast ports.

Mr Seroka said it would be „months” before shippers could return to using West Coast ports once a new labor deal is in place, but he was „hopeful we’ll hear good news soon” on the matter, adding, „We’re on the brink of a tentative deal.”

Elsewhere, leading US East Coast ports saw a 20% decline in container imports to 887,950 teu, bringing total import containers handled by the top 10 US ports to 1.7m teu in April. This represents a 21% drop in the same month. previous year.

And, in further evidence that US imports have fallen from the previous year’s high demand, the The McCown Report The three-month backlog for inbound containers fell 26.7% to 4,689,195 teu.

On the West Coast, Los Angeles posted the biggest decline last month, down 24.7% to 343,688 teu, while on the East Coast the Port of Charleston’s imports fell 28.2% to 101,024 teu.

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Los Angeles held its top spot in April, but the Port of New York & New Jersey is closing in on usurping it from its longtime premiership, registering 331,563 dw container imports last month.

Nevertheless, Mr Seroka is optimistic of a better second half of the year.

„If economic conditions improve and we get a labor deal, that will definitely help drive our constituency,” Mr Seroka said.

„But even with the economic uncertainty, I expect an improvement compared to the first half of the year.

„We are ready for the next freight boom whenever it comes,” Mr Seroka said.

However, the executive said „there’s still a lot of work to be done” in reducing cargo „until we start seeing more normal cargo coming across the transpacific”.

Meanwhile, shipping lines are now looking to introduce a new GRI after container spot rates on Tradelane abandoned the relatively stable April carrier GRIs over the past few weeks. Certain pending contract negotiations.

In fact, Loadstar Several carriers, including ZIM and CMA CGM, are proposing to implement GRIs of up to $1,000 per 40 feet on the transpacific beginning June 1.

Despite encouraging contract talks, carriers are keen to see freight rates rise before the traditional peak season begins in July.

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