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Record Q3 container volume of 2.7m TEU at the Port of Los Angeles

CONTAINER throughput at the Port of Los Angeles hit an all-time high in the third quarter and showed few signs of slowing as year-end holiday restocking fuelled a sustained surge in imports

19 October 2020 - 19:00

CONTAINER throughput at the Port of Los Angeles hit an all-time high in the third quarter and showed few signs of slowing as year-end holiday restocking fuelled a sustained surge in imports.

The port handled 2.7 million TEU July through September, up by 5.9 per cent from the same quarter a year ago, according to data released last week. Total volume for the third quarter, which is also typically the peak season for container shipping, was also a 38 per cent increase over the pandemic-hit Q2.



Container shipping activity has gone from strength to strength as shipowners moved past playing catch-up on cargoes delayed by cancelled sailings earlier in the year. The market is now being driven by the traditional September to October restocking window ahead of the holiday shopping season as well as a more fundamental shift in consumer spending toward imported goods.



'This amount of cargo volume creates supply chain complexities. Surging imports have caused dwell times to increase, with longer turnaround times for trucks,' Port of Los Angeles executive director Gene Seroka said.



Major retailers like Walmart and Home Improvement fuelled much of the surge as they remained open while other shops around the country were closed, Mr Seroka said. Imports of athletic wear and electronics have also surged as more people adapt to a working-from-home environment.



At the same time, loaded export volumes from the Port of Los Angeles fell on a year-on-year basis for 22 of the last 23 months. More than half of the 1.25 million boxes exported from Los Angeles port in Q3 were empty containers being repositioned in Asia to bring in more imports.



'Exports are down because of the lack of a national trade policy,' Mr Seroka said. 'We have to look for a better balance in trade.'



The US trade deficit ballooned to the highest level in 14 years at US$67.1 billion in August, according to the US Department of Commerce.



Despite the surge in Q3 imports, total volume at the Port of Los Angeles in 2020 is expected to be the lowest in four years at about 8.9 million TEU, down 5 per cent from last year in the wake of dozens of cancelled sailings earlier this year, particularly in the March through May period as the coronavirus outbreak became a global pandemic, reports S&P Global Platts, London.



Total throughput at the port in September was 884,625 TEU, up by 13.3 per cent year on year but a drop of 8 per cent from the record monthly volume in August. The port is expected to process around 950,000 TEU in October and more than 800,000 TEU in November, Mr Seroka said.


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