POLA sees declines for June and mid-year volume tallies

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor · July 15, 2020

June and year-to-date first half 2020 volumes for the nation’s largest port, the Port of Los Angeles (POLA), saw annual declines, according to data issued by the port today.

Total June TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units), at 691,475, were down 9.6% compared the June 2019, which was the best June in the port’s 113-year history. And on a year-to-date basis, total TEU volume, at 3,761,889 TEU, were off 17.1% annually.

June imports, at 369,189 TEU, were off 6.8%, and saw a 13.7% annual decline on a year-to-date basis. Exports, at 109,586 TEU, slipped 21.3% annually, and were down 17.7% year-to-date. And empties, at 212,701 TEU, were down 7.2% in June and down 22.4%, to 1,063,146 TEU on a year-to-date basis.

“Given the circumstances we were not in bad shape for the month of June,” said POLA Executive Director Gene Seroka on a media call earlier today. “I will take this number [of 691,475 TEU] during the midst of an unsettled trade war and the global pandemic that we are working through today. Up against last year…we began to see retailers replenishing omni-channel distribution inventories, and cancelled sailings have slowed, although we did see some vessel shift of services over to the Port of Long Beach. Halfway through the year now, we have improved just a bit and are tracking 17.1% behind 2019 at the mid-year point.”

Addressing the empty containers tally, Seroka said that the port is starting to see the evacuation of empties to prepare for a modest uptick of imports in the months to come.

Putting the numbers into context, as they relate to the entire San Pedro Ports Complex, which includes POLA and POLB, total volume, at 1,293,655 TEU, is down 10.3% annually in June compared to what Seroka called a “very choppy 2019,” and is down 12.5% year-to-date, to 7,194,925 TEU, which he called a subtle improvement.

The top POLA executive also presented the port’s cargo projections through 2020, with 2020 pegged to come in at 7,911,000 TEU, which would represent a 14.2% annual decline.

He explained that there has been a steady increase in cargo volumes going back to 2014, even though POLA did not keep pace with national growth rates.

“We began to see the trade policy out of Washington impact us in the latter part of 2018 and full-year 2019,” he said, “and now the double hit of the COVID-19 pandemic and trade policy is in clear focus, with levels of cargo volume not seen since the Great Recession.”

July 15, 2020