The shipping ports of Los Angeles (top left) and Long Beach are seen from the window of a commercial aircraft over Long Beach, California, U.S. March 13, 2023. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

Port of Los Angeles Concludes ‘Very Soft’ First Quarter

Mike Schuler
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April 12, 2023

The Port of Los Angeles reported handling 623,234 TEUs in March, closing out a very soft quarter to start 2023.

“Economic conditions slowed global trade considerably in the first quarter; however, we are beginning to see some signs of improvement, including nine consecutive months of inflation declines,” said Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka.

In the first three months, the port handled 1,837,094 TEUs, down 32% compared to 2022’s record-setting first quarter as the pandemic import surge continued in the first half of last year.

The surge has made for dramatic year over year percentage declines to start this year. But pulling the chart back further, first quarter volumes came in 19% below the five-year average of 2.2 million TEUs—a trend that Seroka said “needs to be reversed.”

March 2023 loaded imports reached 319,962 TEUs, down 35% compared to the previous year. Loaded exports came in at 98,276 TEUs, a decline of 12% compared to last year. Empty containers landed at 204,996 TEUs, a 42% year-over-year decline as demand from Asia has subsided.

On a positive note, March saw a 28% increase in volume compared to February.

“While March cargo volume was lower than last year at this time, early data and monthly growth indicates a moderate increase in Q3,” Seroka added.

Seroka said widespread concerns over West Coast labor negotiations and a slowing overall economy with inflation hitting consumer spending and retailers pumping the breaks on factory orders contributed to the light cargo numbers in the first quarter, but activity is expected to pick up gradually through July before a more normal peak shipping season.

Seroka also addressed last week’s pause in cargo operations on Thursday night and Friday day, saying the impact was relatively minor given the lower activity during the Good Friday morning shift.

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