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Cargo Volumes Get Holiday Boost At Port of Long Beach

Cargo Volumes Get Holiday Boost At Port of Long Beach

Cargo volumes at the Port of Long Beach jumped 14.7% year over year in October, a rise that’s attributed to the holiday shopping season and efforts to recapture market share.

“Cargo is rebounding and we are continuing to collaborate with our industry partners to recapture market share and invest in infrastructure that will position us for future growth,” Port of Long Beach CEO Mario Cordero said in a press release. “We are anticipating moderate growth through the rest of the year as retailers continue to stock shelves for the winter holidays.”

The Port of Long Beach has moved 6,577,815 TEUs in the first 10 months of 2023, which is down 17.8% from the same timeframe last year, but port officials say that it is on pace with pre-pandemic levels.

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U.S. East-West Coasts Rate Spreads Shrink, Asia Services To Shift

The spread has shrunk between ocean freight rates going from China to the U.S. West and East Coasts, as shippers reexamine the routes through the Suez and Panama Canals.

According to reporting from the Journal of Commerce, the short-term rate for shipping a dry ocean container from Shanghai to the U.S. East Coast was only $412 more than it was to the West Coast, which marked a four-year low. That margin has widened a bit since but is still significantly closer than it was in summer.

The Panama Canal has experienced a heavy drought, limiting the amount of transits per day. And, as the Southeast Asia market grows, experts expect more imports could head through the Suez, rebalancing the amount of capacity that goes through the two canals.

Panama Canal Problems Require Complex Solutions

It’s going to take a series of complicated solutions to combat the well-documented, drought-fueled crisis facing the Panama Canal, according to reporting from Journal of Commerce.

Several rounds of cuts in transits per day have already been announced due to the ongoing issues.

With billions of dollars of forthcoming infrastructure on shaky grounds because of upcoming Panamanian elections, plus the intricate nature of the needed projects, all while revenue is being lost, together creates a volatile situation.

“Ultimately, the canal’s specialists, together with the Army Corps of Engineers, determined that a set of solutions would be necessary because projects within the Panama Canal’s watershed area would not be sufficient to meet the growing demand,” a canal authority spokesperson told the Journal of Commerce. 

U.S. House Bill Aims To Boost Inspection Services Funds At Ports

A new bill introduced by two members of the U.S. House aims to increase funding for Customs and Border Protection inspection services, while also not putting added expenses on ports.

The CBP SPACE Act — introduced by Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (WA) and Rep. Laurel Lee (FL) in mid-November — would create a “funding mechanism for CBP facilities at ports and limit the demands CBP could make of ports,” according to a press release for the bill.

CBP has struggled with staffing over the years, while some ports have complained that CBP has requested significant upgrades.

“Seaports contribute trillions of dollars to our economy every year while protecting our communities from dangerous contraband and harmful diseases. Customs and Border Protection plays a critical role in helping our ports screen incoming cargo and visitors every day,” said Rep. Lee. “However, recent demands from CBP requesting ports pay for new and expensive equipment are highly concerning. What is more concerning is that CBP has threatened to reduce CBP officers at some ports and threatened to cease operations at others should their demands not be met. The lack of resources is both a major threat to our national security and would only further strain our congested supply chains.”

October Imports from Asia Hit 2023 High

U.S. imports from Asia reached a yearly high last month, as 1.57 million TEUs traveled the trade lane, according to data by PIERS.

This marks a 12.4% year-over-year increase from October 2022, with peak shipping season providing a bump.

Earlier this year, The National Retail Federation said they expect U.S. holiday spending to grow by 3% to 4% over 2022, reaching record levels.

“It is not surprising to see holiday sales growth returning to pre-pandemic levels,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in the press release. “Overall household finances remain in good shape and will continue to support the consumer’s ability to spend.”

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