Exports drive Nov. port growth as imports slow
Exports drove improvements in container volumes at several major U.S. ports in November from the same month a year ago, as import traffic decelerated with the end of the traditional peak shipping season that runs from August through October.
November imports are typically destined for store shelves in January.
The Port of Los Angeles was the biggest gainer with a 17-percent increase to 683,649 TEU, almost 101,000 more than in November 2012. Throughput of loaded outbound containers jumped 23.3 percent to 179,175 TEU, while imports grew 18.3 percent to 342,247 TEU.
November was a bright spot for the nation's largest container port, in an otherwise grim year. The Port of Los Angeles has seen volume drop 3.7 percent year-to-date, including drops of more than 4.5 percent in both September and October, when shipments from Asia normally increase as retailers prepare for the holiday sales season.
Some of the loss can be attributed to ocean carriers switching service to the adjacent Port of Long Beach, which experienced a modest 2.5-percent gain in cargo volume to 569,599 standard shipping units in November. Exports increased 9.9 percent to 151,950 TEU, the port's second best month for exports in 2013. Imports increased 6.5 percent to 296,638 TEU.
Imports and exports nearly offset a 12.7-percent decline in empties to 121,011 TEU, a positive trend that meant boxes were being refilled with goods for export.
The Port of Long Beach is 12.1-percent ahead of last year's pace for the calendar year so far, including 10.8-percent more exports and 14.4 percent more imports.
Container throughput at the Port of Virginia grew 4.5 percent in November, not accounting for the one-time event of 13,680 TEU (or 7 percent of November 2012 volume) diverted to the port from New York-New Jersey because of Superstorm Sandy.
On an absolute basis, the Port of Virginia's volume fell 2.9 percent to 192,918 TEU. The export volume of 106,880 TEU exceeded import volume by about 20,800 TEU, as exports grew 2.3 percent and imports fell 8.7 percent.
The port's volume is 6.4 percent ahead of last year at more than 2 million TEU through the first 11 eleven months, according to the Virginia Port Authority.
Container traffic at the Port of Charleston increased more than 6 percent in November to 133,481 standard shipping units, up from 125,780 TEU during the same month last year. Exports have led the way throughout the year with increases of 12.5 percent in TEU year-over-year and 7.6 percent since the start of the fiscal year in July.
Shipments of agricultural products, particularly grain, comprised a big portion of the export gains. The Port of Charleston has several new grain transload facilities nearby.
"Exports are driving our growth well above the industry average and our deep harbor facilitates the handling of additional export cargo. I expect we will continue to see exports trending upward through the rest of the decade, ultimately balancing imports," Jim Newsome, the head of the South Carolina Ports Authority, said.