The Port of Long Beach’s executive director said a drop in consumer spending contributed to a nearly 35% year-over-year (y/y) drop in imports at the West Coast gateway.
“Warehouses remain full and fewer cargo containers are crossing the docks because consumer spending remains slow,” Mario Cordero said in a statement Wednesday. “We are ready for a rebound in retail as we work with our industry partners to recapture market share.”
Regarding market share, the port’s news release said shippers continue to “shuffle routes from the West Coast to seaports on the East and Gulf coasts.”
It did not say why the shuffling was occurring, although it has been going on for more than a year, beginning with severe container ship congestion in San Pedro Bay and continuing with fears of a prolonged labor shutdown, as members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union have been working without a contract since last July.
As a result of the impacts, the Port of Long Beach moved 603,878 twenty-foot equivalent units in March. That’s down 30% from March 2022, which happened to be the port’s busiest March on record.
Loaded imports decreased 34.7% y/y to 279,148 TEUs, while loaded exports increased 16.9% to 133,512 TEUs. The number of empty containers moved through the port dropped 40.5% to 191,218 TEUs.
“Consumers spent less as income growth slowed, savings buffers declined and credit card debt rose,” Wednesday’s news release said.
March’s numbers were improved from February, when the port moved 543,675 TEUs, a 31.7% decrease from the same month in 2022.
The Port of Long Beach moved a total of 1,721,326 TEUs during the first quarter of 2023. That’s down 30% from Q1 of 2022.
The port hinted that better days may be ahead, pointing out that “economists say financial markets are starting to stabilize following fears of a banking crisis in March.”
Sharon L. Weissman, president of the Long Beach Harbor Commission, said the port stands ready to serve.
“We continue to invest in our infrastructure projects and look for ways to efficiently and sustainably move cargo so our customers new and old are reminded why we are the Port of Choice,” Weissman said. “We will be ready when cargo volumes are on the rise again.”
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