Port of Long BeachImage Courtesy: Port of Long Beach

The Port of Los Angeles, the U.S. busiest port, has seen a 22.9 percent decrease in handled containers for the month of February compared with the same month in 2019 amid the coronavirus impact.

The coronavirus outbreak has caused a major disruption to the supply chain, resulting in an increase of canceled sailings and a reduction in cargo moving through the nation’s ports.

“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.

“As factory production in China remains at low levels, we expect soft volumes in March. Looking ahead to anticipated manufacturing improvements, we will need to return empty containers to Asia and push lingering U.S. export boxes out swiftly,” Seroka added.

“We’re actively working with our supply chain partners to be prepared for a cargo surge once production levels ramp up.”

February imports decreased by 22.5% to 270,025 TEUs compared to the previous year, while exports decreased by 5.7% to 134,468 TEUs. Empty containers declined 35% to 139,544 TEUs.

In total, February volumes, also adversely impacted by the Lunar New Year holiday celebrated in Asia, totaled 544,037 TEUs. For the first two months of 2020, total container volumes reached 1.35 million TEUs, down 13% compared to last year.

February cargo volume at the Port of Long Beach declined as well due to fewer ship calls amid the coronavirus outbreak and lingering effects of the trade dispute with China.

Terminal operators and dockworkers moved 538,428 TEUs last month, down 9.8% compared to February 2019. Imports dropped 17.9% to 248,592 TEUs, while exports increased 19.3% to 125,559 TEUs. Empty containers sent overseas decreased by 12.8% to 164,277 TEUs.

Although a Phase 1 preliminary trade agreement was signed in January by the United States and China, about USD 370 billion in Chinese goods remain under the increased tariffs, the port authority said.

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 Mario Cordero, Executive Director of the Port of Long Beach.

“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.”

“Along with the economic effects of reduced trade due to the health situation, we also have the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Long Beach. We hope for the swift recovery of these individuals,” said Long Beach Harbor Commission President Bonnie Lowenthal.

The port will continue to monitor the outbreak internationally, and work with our stakeholders to keep our crucial link in the supply chain open and operating.”

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