Coronavirus Causes Cargo Drops at LA, Long Beach Ports

By Karen Robes Meeks

San Pedro Bay ports saw cargo volumes fall last month from February 2019 as coronavirus concerns have prompted canceled sailings and supply chain disruptions, according to new numbers released Tuesday.

The Port of Los Angeles moved 22.9 percent fewer containers with 544,037 TEUs, while the Port of Long Beach handled 538,428 TEUs, down 9.8 percent from February 2019.

In Los Angeles, imports tumbled 22.5 percent to 270,025 TEUs and exports dipped 5.7 percent to 134,468 TEUs last month. Empty containers also fell 35 percent to 139,544 TEUs.

“While cargo volumes are important, the coronavirus is first and foremost a public health crisis that needs to be brought under control with the collaboration of governments and medical experts from around the world,” said Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka. “We are more interconnected than ever with our global partners so it’s no surprise that Trans-Pacific maritime trade has been significantly impacted.”

Seroka also expects soft cargo numbers in March as factory production in China remains low.

“Looking ahead to anticipated manufacturing improvements, we will need to return empty containers to Asia and push lingering US export boxes out swiftly,” he said. “We’re actively working with our supply chain partners to be prepared for a cargo surge once production levels ramp up.”

In Long Beach, COVID-19 also affected cargo numbers. Imports dove 17.9 percent to 248,592 TEUs, while empty containers dropped 12.8 percent to 164,277 TEUs. Meanwhile, February exports rose 19.3 percent to 125,559 TEUs.

“With the extended factory closures and slowdown of goods movement in China and other Asian countries in February due to Lunar New Year and COVID-19, we are seeing shipping lines needing to cancel some sailings,” said Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero. “Once the virus is contained, we may see a surge of cargo, and our terminals, labor and supply chain will be ready to handle it.”

By Sarah Spangler