Friday, March 13, 2009

LA Port Import Traffic Collapses in February

by Bill McBride on 3/13/2009 06:03:00 PM

Earlier today the Census Bureau reported that both imports and exports continued to decline in January. But February is looking even worse. Last week China reported exports had collapsed in February. And from the Journal of Commerce Online today: St. Petersburg TEU Traffic Plunges

The First Container Terminal in St. Petersburg, Russia’s biggest box terminal, reported traffic in February plunged 27.3 percent from a year ago as imports collapsed.

The terminal handled 61,301 TEUs in February, taking volume for the first two months of the year to 124,608 TEUs, a drop of 24.7 percent on the same period in 2008.

The decline “is a direct result of the unfolding economic downturn which is affecting Russian importers in every possible way,” said Egor Govorukhin, vice president sales and marketing at National Container Co., the terminal’s owner.
Now we have data from the Port of Los Angeles for February (usually I wait until Long Beach reports too and combine the two ports, but this collapse is stunning).

LA Area Port Traffic Click on graph for larger image in new window.

This graph shows the loaded inbound and outbound traffic at the port of Los Angeles in TEUs (TEUs: 20-foot equivalent units or 20-foot-long cargo container). Although containers tell us nothing about value, container traffic does give us an idea of the volume of goods being exported and imported.

Inbound traffic was 35% below last February and 35% below last month.

The Port of Los Angeles put up a special message explaining the collapse:

Contributing factors:
  • Continued worldwide economic crisis contributing to a decline in trade volumes.

  • Consumer sales are down due to high unemployment rates.

  • 15 less vessel calls this February due to this decline and the consolidation of services in order to fill up the existing services.

  • Chinese factories closed for an extended periods of time (beyond the normal time period) for Chinese New Year.

  • Due to the lack of volume and Chinese New Year, Maersk 6700 TEU/week vessel did not make any calls in LA during the month of February (which is traditionally a low volume month).

  • Anticipate this year’s volumes will continue to be below last year’s volumes because sales are still slow with most economists predicting there will not be any recovery before the second half of the year.
  • We have to be careful because of the impact of the Chinese New Year on trade, but it does appear trade collapsed in February.