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Box volume at LA port plunges 23pc in Feb amid coronavirus scare

THE Port of Los Angeles, the busiest port in the US by both container volume and cargo value, has experienced a significant decline in cargo movement in February due to the coronavirus outbreak

11 March 2020 - 19:00

THE Port of Los Angeles, the busiest port in the US by both container volume and cargo value, has experienced a significant decline in cargo movement in February due to the coronavirus outbreak.

According to the latest port statistics, the major hub for Chinese imports lifted a total of 544,037 TEU in February, down 22.9 per cent compared to the same month in 2018 when the port handled 705,306 TEU, according to media reports.



In a statement, LA port's executive director, Sene Seroka, said: 'While cargo volumes are important, the coronavirus is first and foremost a public health crisis that needs to be brought under control with the collaboration of governments and medical experts from around the world.



'We are more interconnected than ever with our global partners so it's no surprise that Trans-Pacific maritime trade has been significantly impacted.'



Imports in February decreased 22.5 per cent to 270,025 TEU, while exports also decreased 5.7 per cent to 134,468 TEU. Empty containers marked a decline of 35 per cent, falling to 139,544 TEU. In total, container volumes have fallen 13 per cent in the first two months of 2020 with a total of 1.35 million TEU, the port said.



'As factory production in China remains at low levels, we expect soft volumes in March,' Mr Seroka said.



'Looking ahead to anticipated manufacturing improvements, we will need to return empty containers to Asia and push lingering US export boxes out swiftly. We're actively working with our supply chain partners to be prepared for a cargo surge once production levels ramp up.'



Cargo volumes at neighbouring Port of Long Beach also declined in February amid fewer ship calls attributed to the coronavirus outbreak. The port of LB said it moved 538,428 TEU last month, down 9.8 per cent compared to February 2019. Imports dropped almost 18 per cent, while exports increased 19.3 per cent. Empty containers sent overseas decreased nearly 13 per cent.



'With the extended factory closures and slowdown of goods movement in China and other Asian countries in February due to Lunar New Year and Covid-19, we are seeing shipping lines needing to cancel some sailings,' said Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach. 'Once the virus is contained, we may see a surge of cargo, and our terminals, labour and supply chain will be ready to handle it.'



There's also the concern of Covid-19's spread in Long Beach itself.



'Along with the economic effects of reduced trade due to the health situation, we also have the first confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Long Beach,' said Long Beach harbour commission president Bonnie Lowenthal. 'We hope for the swift recovery of these individuals. The Port will continue to monitor the outbreak internationally, and work with our stakeholders to keep our crucial link in the supply chain open and operating.'



The US-based National Retail Federation has warned that the coronavirus' impact on imports are expected to be larger and longer than previously thought as factory shutdowns and travel restrictions in China continue to affect production.



'There are still a lot of unknowns to fully determine the impact of the coronavirus on the supply chain,' NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy, Jonathan Gold said.


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