More containers leaving Los Angeles empty than with goods inside

Exports from the contiguous US ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach fell by 27.6% and 20.7% year on year, to 91,439 teu and 109,951 teu respectively in July, while imports grew by 2.9% at LA, to 469,361 teu and by 1.6% at LB, to 382,940 teu, reports The Loadstar.

Port of Los Angeles executive director Gene Seroka said that July’s exports were the lowest since February 2005, noting that exports had declined in 29 of the past 33 months at Los Angeles, and that there were more than three times as many empty containers leaving the port than loaded ones.

Seroka said that “our largest export commodity continues to be air as we reposition empty containers back to Asia”.

Bad though the trade balance is, the increase in wait times means that, if the backlog of cargo on ships at anchor in San Pedro Bay awaiting berths was factored in, the import numbers would be even higher.

Exports from the top 10 US container ports declined by 8.3% in July, compared with the same month last year, to 763,619 teu. Imports rose by 14.3% yoy to 2,096,076 teu, according to data from New York-based consultancy Blue Alpha Capital, which said that the gap between import and outbound volumes at US ports widened in July to a new record ratio of 2.75x, compared with a 2.19x average in 2020 and 1.85x average for 2019.

Blue Alpha Capital’s founder John McCown said that the impact of tariffs on exports had combined with equipment shortages and action by carriers to impact the nation’s export market. “While the impact of tariffs looks to have dissipated for container imports, volume data strongly indicates they are having a more adverse effect on exports,” he said.