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POLA and POLB November volumes are mixed

Total November POLA volume at 877,564 TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units) posted a new all-time monthly record for the port, topping October’s 814,574 TEU, with November up 23.6 percent on an annual basis.… By Jeff Berman

A theme of mixed volumes for the month of November at the Port of Los Angeles (POLA), which saw increased volumes, and the Port of Long Beach (POLB), which saw lower volumes, was apparent in data issued by the ports this week.

POLA and POLB are the two largest North American ports, and they collectively account for more than 40 percent of U.S. imports.

Total November POLA volume at 877,564 TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units) posted a new all-time monthly record for the port, topping October’s 814,574 TEU, with November up 23.6 percent on an annual basis.   

November imports at POLA headed up 22 percent to 437,050 TEU, and exports rose 25 percent to 177,359 TEU. Empties saw a 26 percent increase at 263,514 TEU.

On a year-to-date basis through November, total POLA volume is up 6.98 percent to 8,060,246 TEU.

“We are grateful to the cargo owners who see the value in this trade corridor, and to our container terminal customers, labor and other supply chain partners who, working together, efficiently processed this extraordinary surge of holiday season cargo,” said Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka in a statement. "Their ability to handle this much volume is a testament to the resiliency and competitiveness of this gateway.”

And POLA Director of Media Relations Phillip Sanfield, like Seroka, was upbeat about the port’s November performance, calling it an extraordinary month, with some strong organic growth for not only POLA but for the entire San Pedro Bay port complex, which also includes POLB, even though POLB had softer volumes, had significant growth over all, which he viewed as an encouraging sign.

Cumulative volumes for POLA and POLB were up 6.4 percent annually at 707,660 TEU.

“That was one reason we saw record numbers, and another reason was that CMA CGM recently acquired the APL terminal in Los Angeles, which is at Pier 300,” he said. “CMA CGM brought in a vessel string POLA from across the bay that has spiked our numbers as well. It is really a combination of organic growth and CMA CGM bringing in an additional vessel service and the displaced Hanjn cargo that had been going exclusively to Long Beach, with some of it now spilling over into Los Angeles.”

Another factor working in POLA’s favor, he pointed out, is that over the last several months cargo moving into and out of POLA is moving with speed, efficiency, and reliability compared to just a few years ago, when he said the pace of cargo movement was crawling.

The improvements speak to changes the port has made for supply chain optimization tactics for things like chassis operations and turn times or working with various port stakeholders to ensure it can handle all of the cargo, which has proven to be effective, especially in recent months, with high cargo volume numbers and no major logistical issues.

POLB November volumes fell 13.8 percent annually to 534,308 TEU, with port officials citing shifting alliance routes and the Hanjin bankruptcy still impacting volumes.

Imports were down 11.8 percent at 270,610 TEU, and exports decreased 3.1 percent to 120,897 TEU. Empty containers fell 24.2 percent to 142,801 TEU. On a year-to-date basis through November, POLB volumes are off 5.6 percent annually at 6,226,242.

November volumes at the port had difficult annual comparisons to November 2015, which was its second-best November ever recorded and was part of a six-month stretch of volume gains to finish 2015 at more than 7 million TEU for the third time ever at POLB.

Port officials said 2016 has been a different story, though, due to ocean carrier consolidation activity, which has led to mergers and carriers reorganizing into new alliances and realigned routes. And they added that Hanjin accounted for 12.3 percent of containerized volume at POLB, as well as holding a 54 percent stake in Total Terminals International, which operates Piert T, which is one of the largest and most modern terminals at POLB.

KeyBanc Capital Markets analyst Todd Fowler was upbeat about POLA and POLB November volumes.

“For the second consecutive month, container imports exceeded our expectations, likely reflecting seasonality associated with a later holiday shipping peak, improved inventories, and ongoing disruption associated with the Hanjin Shipping Co. bankruptcy,” he wrote in a research note. “Trends are consistent with our recent checks indicating a later holiday peak and should benefit truck and intermodal volumes through year-end and possibly early 2017. Looking ahead, we expect imports to moderate sequentially, although partially dependent on holiday sales activity and the related impact on restocking activity for early 2016.”

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About the author
Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman
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