Cargo numbers at the Port of Los Angeles rose in October, the third consecutive month POLA has seen increases — an mirroring an October rise also reported earlier by the Port of Long Beach.
POLA Executive Director Gene Seroka announced the October numbers at his monthly virtual news conference on Friday, Nov. 17.
“We’ve seen a solid start to the fourth quarter,” Seroka said.
Cargo was up by 7% over October 2022, he added, coming in at 725,775 twenty-foot-equivalent containers, or TEUs, the industry’s standard cargo container measurement.
“Overall, considering this year’s light peak season,” Seroka said, “October was a good month at the Port of Los Angeles.”
So far in 2023, the port has moved about 7.1 million TEUs despite a “very slow” start to the year, Seroka said.
And the trend is expected to continue, he added.
“November already is shaping up to be one of our strongest months of the year,” with some 800,000 TEUs projected, Seroka said.
The Port of Long Beach also reported an uptick in cargo for October earlier this week, with a 14.7 % increase at that port over the same month last year.
The combined ports also showed a boost in market share, Seroka said.
“In the last three months, the San Pedro Bay ports increased their market share to 46% compared to 42% last year,” he said. “Though there is a lot of room for improvement, we’re starting to see more cargo moving back.”
Seroka also said exports edged up at the Port of Los Angeles.
“The rise of exports is a positive trend that continued in October,” he said, “with a 35% increase over last year’s very soft numbers.”
After years of “very low” export trade, he said, “it’s encouraging to see the trend begin to reverse.”
The “resilience” of the American consumer and other factors, Seroka said, are contributing to the uptick.
“We’re running at 70% capacity right now,” he said, but added there are still uncertainties in the supply chain. The push toward zero-emissions, Seroka said, continues but will still require “a lot of work ahead of us.”
Sources at both ports have said the signing of the recent dockworker contract, encouraging signs in holiday spending projections (though Black Friday sales will be watched closely, Seroka said) and now some ongoing labor stress impacting East Coast ports will continue to be positive trends on the West Coast. More than half of Port of Los Angels shipments, Seroka said, come from China and the L.A./Long Beach complex is the most direct route for that cargo.
Appearing with Seroka at this month’s news conference was Steve Hughes, president and CEO of HCS International and a leading voice in the automotive industry regarding supply chain issues.
While that after-market industry, including vehicles and parts supply, is still not “back to normal” in terms of supply chain issues, Hughes said, “we’re on the verge of returning to pre-COVID normality.”
It was in early 2022, he said, “where we started seeing the lines of supply versus demand pass each other.”
“At the same time, a very large backup of purchase orders started being shipped and showing up at warehouses,” he added, which overloaded the inventory as demand dropped.
Asked about the perils of shipping or transporting by rail electric vehicles and batteries, Hughes said concerns are prompting some changes. With a “spate” of car fires during shipping — which are harder to put out — the industry “is trying to find better and safer ways to store the batteries and cars,” Hughes said.
Hughes, however, expressed concerns about a possible new AQMD regulation that many fear will “cap” cargo numbers at the ports as a way to further reduce pollution.
Called the Ports Indirect Source Rule No. 2304, the measure has generated intense discussion, as it was still being crafted by the South Coast Air Quality Management District. The final version has not been released — a final draft is expected by the end of this year — but it is designed to establish requirements to reduce emissions from mobile sources related to marine port operations.
“This is something that really scares me,” Hughes said.
“I am beside myself with frustration on this,” he added, “because of the great work that both Gene (Seroka) and Mario (Cordero, CEO at the Port of Long Beach) and what CARB (the California Air Resources Board) has done in very aggressively eliminating pollution, and the results are remarkable.”
If approved, Hughes said, the rule would be “a serious challenge for California businesses” and hurt the state.
“Most importantly,” Hughes said, “we will see a lot of cargo diverted to other ports and that is going to bring more pollution.”
But in a written response to questions about the rule in October, AQMD spokesperson Nahal Mogharabi called some of the criticism of the effort “grossly inaccurate rhetoric being spread by some in the industry.”