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  • Writer's pictureFirst Port Global (FPG)

Los Angeles sees box volume fall

Executive Director Gene Seroka calls for a negotiated settlement to trade war with China.

Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka has issued a strong statement on the trade war between the US and China after container volume at the largest container port in the US fell 2.7% in September year-on-year.

“The ill-advised U.S.-China trade war continues to wreak havoc on American exporters and manufacturers,” Seroka said. “We’ve seen declining exports for 11 consecutive months while our fastest growing market segment is exporting empty containers back to Asia. It’s likely we’ll see softer volumes in the fourth quarter. We must have a negotiated settlement of the trade war as it is beginning to impact the more than 3 million jobs in the U.S. that are tied to this port complex.”

On the US East Coast, the 10% and 9% increases in September volume just reported by the ports of Charleston and Virginia respectively seem inconsistent with falling volumes as the result of the trade war. Looking at Virginia, most of the growth was again in empty boxes, with export empties up 17% and import empties jumping 34%, but Virginia did, however, also handle more laden containers, both export (+9%) and import (+5%).

“As a result of peak season volumes and the ongoing trade tariffs, we are seeing a lot of imports and repositioning of empty containers,” said John F. Reinhart, the CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority. “In September, China granted an exemption from additional tariffs on some American soybean imports, pork and other agricultural products and this works in our favour as we have seen some rebound in those cargoes.”

When looking at Virginia’s September 2019 numbers it also has to be considered that the port did experience some slower months in 2018 as dealt with operational issues resulting from expansion projects at both its container terminals. When compared to September 2017 loaded export containers in Virginia were down nearly 7%, and loaded imports were up 4.5% in September 2019. Charleston has not yet published its detailed statistics.

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