Container imports through the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles spiked in June compared to the same month last year, indicating that retailers and other importers moved up deliveries to mitigate the risks posed by ongoing labor negotiations.
Importers moved 698,720 TEUs, or 20-foot equivalency units, through the two ports in June, up 12. 9 percent compared with 618,772 in June, 2013. The sum included 316,054 TEUs at the Port of Long Beach, up 8.8 percent, and 382,666 TEUs at the Port of Los Angeles, up 16.6 percent. The two ports handle an estimated 40 percent o the country’s container imports.
Despite the surge, overall container traffic, which includes both imports and exports, for the first six months of 2014 was up just 2.5 percent at the Port o Long Beach compared with the same period in 2013. At the Port of Los Angeles, however, year-to-date container traffic is running 9.2 percent ahead of the same period in 2013.
The National Retail Federation has been warning its members for months to accelerate imports to avoid disruption to their back-to-school and fall operations should Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) ’ fail to reach a contract. The ILWU’s six-year contract with the PMA expired July 1 and the two parties continue to negotiate. The PMA represents container shipping lines and terminal operators at all 29 ports.
While spokesmen for both the PMA and the ILWU have said port operations will continue as normal while they remain at the table, many are bracing for disruption to port operations. A study released in late June by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the National Retail Federation (NRF) estimates a five-day work stoppage at the ports could reduce gross domestric product by $1.9 billion a day. That rate of loss would rise to $2.5 billion a day should work stoppages go on for 20 days.