Wednesday, April 14, 2021

LA Area Port Traffic: Strong Imports in March

by Calculated Risk on 4/14/2021 02:18:00 PM

Note1: Import traffic was heavy in February and March - ships were backed up waiting to unload in LA. "some vessels are spending almost as much time at anchor as it takes to traverse the Pacific Ocean." They are still backed up in April!

Note2: The expansion to the Panama Canal was completed in 2016 (As I noted a few years ago), and some of the traffic that used the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach is probably going through the canal. This might be impacting TEUs on the West Coast.

Container traffic gives us an idea about the volume of goods being exported and imported - and usually some hints about the trade report since LA area ports handle about 40% of the nation's container port traffic.

The following graphs are for inbound and outbound traffic at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in TEUs (TEUs: 20-foot equivalent units or 20-foot-long cargo container).

To remove the strong seasonal component for inbound traffic, the first graph shows the rolling 12 month average.

LA Area Port TrafficClick on graph for larger image.

On a rolling 12 month basis, inbound traffic was up 4.8% in March compared to the rolling 12 months ending in February.   Outbound traffic was down 0.1% compared to the rolling 12 months ending the previous month.

The 2nd graph is the monthly data (with a strong seasonal pattern for imports).

LA Area Port TrafficUsually imports peak in the July to October period as retailers import goods for the Christmas holiday, and then decline sharply and bottom in February or March depending on the timing of the Chinese New Year.


2021 has started off incredibly strong for imports.

Imports were up 98% YoY in March (collapsed early last year due to pandemic), and exports were down 1.5% YoY.