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US box imports slide 10pc in June, better performance by west coast ports

UNLIKE the trend of the past year, US west coast ports fared better in comparison with their east and Gulf coast gateway rivals last month, recording a smaller decline in container imports

23 July 2020 - 19:06

UNLIKE the trend of the past year, US west coast ports fared better in comparison with their east and Gulf coast gateway rivals last month, recording a smaller decline in container imports.

The latest monthly statistics compiled by New York-based consultancy Blue Alpha Capital show that container imports into the top ten US ports declined by 10.2 per cent in June, compared with the same month of last year, to 1.5 million TEU.



Meanwhile, the latest 2020 retail figures show that sales were up were up 7.5 per cent in June compared to the same month last year.



The largest container port in the US, Los Angeles, saw a decline of 6.8 per cent in imports, to 369,189 TEU, while neighbouring Long Beach was down 9.3 per cent, to 300,714 TEU.



Despite Oakland seeing an improvement of 1.9 per cent, to 82,461 TEU, Seattle/Tacoma saw imports slump by 17 per cent to 101,835 TEU and overall there was an 8.3 per cent drop in imports at west coast ports in June, for a total of 854,202 TEU.



However, the US Atlantic and Gulf coast ports saw a 12.5 per cent slump in imports to 677,895 TEU, reversing the long-term migration of services from west coast hubs. The worst performers were Charleston, down 18.9 per cent to 69,777 TEU, and Houston, down 17.4 per cent to 86,903 TEU.



The year-on-year 10.2 per cent decline in June imports was an improvement on the 16.7 per cent decrease in May, but worse than April's 7.5 per cent decline.



Blue Alpha Capital founder and author of the report John McCown said he anticipated any recovery in volumes was 'temporary', arguing that there were a number of metrics that pointed to the decline in imports 'moving back to May's range in the months ahead'.



He added: 'Nobody can say with any certainty when year-on-year declines will stop, and container volumes will begin to recover.'



Meanwhile, Port of Los Angeles executive director Gene Seroka advised that the total number of containers moved across the hub's terminals in June was down 9.6 per cent, year on year, to 691,475 TEU, reports UK's The Loadstar.



But he said: 'I will take this number in the midst of an unsettled trade war and the global pandemic,' and added that 'exports continued to take a beating', down 21.3 per cent in June to 109,586 TEU.



However, there was some reason for optimism in the number of empty containers shipped back to Asia: down a more modest 7.2 per cent last month, compared with a year-to-date reduction of 22.4 per cent.



'This means we are starting to see an evacuation of empties to prepare for a modest uptick in imports,' said Mr Seroka.



But he said the 'double hit of the trade policy and the pandemic' would see container throughput shrink to 'levels of cargo volume not seen since the great recession'.



Mr Seroka's stark prediction is for a slump of 15 per cent in the number of containers handled at the port this year, compared with 2019, to an estimated 7.9 million TEU.


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