California’s seaports are hoping May was just the beginning of an upswing in trade volume going into the summer months.
The Port of Long Beach reported handling its highest volume of import and export containers in May since last year’s peak month of August. Dockworkers received 330,639 loaded import containers, measured as 20-foot-equivalent units, or TEUs. On the export side, the port handled 138,594 loaded TEUs.
The Port of Oakland counted 81,293 loaded import TEUs in May, which was also its highest import volume since last August. Oakland’s export performance in May was a bright spot on the Pacific coast, as dockworkers shipped 83,969 loaded TEUs of exports—more than that port has reported in a single month since October of 2014.
Exports have lagged behind nationwide as the dollar gained strength last year, making U.S. goods more expensive to overseas customers. As the dollar has weakened in recent months, exports have made a slight comeback.
But this year, the West Coast ports’ performance has been sluggish. Compared with the first five months of 2015, imports were down 1.5% in Long Beach and exports were flat. Compared with 2014, imports were off by 1.6% and exports were down by almost 15% through Long Beach.
The West Coast ports were plagued with extreme congestion during the first several months of last year, as labor negotiations wrapped up between the dockworkers and port employers. A backlog of dozens of ships took weeks to clear after the parties reached an agreement in late February.
So far in 2016, Oakland has shown major improvement over that period in 2015, with imports rising 12.3% and exports up 13.6%. But compared with the prior year, when volumes were more stable month to month, total loaded TEUs through Oakland were flat so far this year, with imports up slightly and exports down.
Source: Wall Street Journal