Port of LA reports second best April in its 115-year history

Posted on May 9, 2022

Despite COVID lockdowns in China, cargo volumes at the Port of Los Angeles remain strong. Last month, the port logged its second best April in 115 years. While volume was down 6% compared with a year earlier, it was 17% higher than the previous five-year average, Port of LA Executive Director Gene Seroka said Friday.

“Cargo is still finding its way out of ports throughout Central China,” he said. “So far, we’ve seen no dramatic change in the number of vessels leaving China since lockdowns went into effect in Shanghai six weeks ago.”

This week, 46 ships are headed to San Pedro from China.

“I don’t see a bust coming anytime soon,” Seroka said. “More likely, we may see a lull in volume with a fairly quick bounce back when the lockdowns end.”

Over the first four months of 2022, port volume is slightly ahead of where it was at this time in 2021, when the massive import and export complex recorded its best year since operations began in 1907. Seroka said he expects May and June to be slightly lighter than last year’s torrid pace.

“American consumer demand is still growing, just not quite at the pace of last Spring,” he said.

While the port has reduced the number of ships idling on the water from 109 in January to 35 today, Seroka admitted “there’s still much more work to do” to clear containers from the docks.

In March, the velocity of cargo leaving the port was 200,000 containers over a 30-day period — a 16% improvement compared with last fall. But that 30-day number has been slipping, Seroka said. It now stands at 187,000 containers.

The port continues to struggle with getting cargo moved onto railways. Rail-bound cargo has increased six-fold over the last two months, Seroka said, and is waiting nearly six days to get on a train. That’s triple the dwell time compared with before the pandemic. A spike in volume and fewer rail workers “has significantly hampered service,” he said.

About 30% of the imports coming to LA are destined for rail, but only 20% of the cargo leaving the docks is getting onto the tracks. “We’re not going to catch up that way,” said Seroka, saying he is in almost daily contact with the White House, U.S. Department of Transportation and leaders in the private sector to figure out solutions.

The Port’s April cargo update came the same day the U.S. Labor Department announced strong employment figures. Employers added 428,000 jobs last month. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.6%. In March, 11.5 million job openings went unfilled and a record 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs.

“We’ve got to find a way to square that circle and emphasize training, up-skilling and re-skilling,” Seroka said, adding that the Port of LA is about to break ground on its new Goods Movement Training Campus. “Job hiring is not moving as fast as most American manufacturers would like to see. There’s a lot of work happening, but it has to be a multi-pronged approach. It cannot happen fast enough.”

Source: Spectrum News1

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