- The Port of Long Beach saw its import totals drop 7.8% in March compared to the same month a year earlier. Meanwhile, volume at Los Angeles ticked up 12.4% year-over-year. Both ports saw big slides in volume from February into March, with Long Beach seeing a 22.5% decline in volume and Los Angeles seeing a 17% decline month-over-month.
- Long Beach blamed the uncertain trade climate for the drop in volume. A rush to bring in goods ahead of tariffs last year resulted in high import volumes and packed warehouses.
- The four busiest ports on the East Coast, meanwhile, all reported record import numbers for the month of March.
While March import numbers for Long Beach were down YoY, the port still touted what it saw as a strong first quarter, the second strongest Q1 in the port's history.
"With warehouses full from shippers rushing to beat the looming threat of escalating tariffs, shipments slowed somewhat," Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero, said in a statement. "It's going to take some time for inventory to cycle to markets and for typical growth to resume."
East Coast import volumes told a different story, as several ports saw record March volumes as a result of port infrastructure investments.
John F. Reinhart, the CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority, said the Port of Virginia has worked to put systems in place to increase its capacity, which are beginning to pay off. This was put to the test in March when the port "worked two 14,400-TEU and an 8,500-TEU-vessel at once."
"We had all 12 cranes working, the new stacks operating in conjunction with TRS (Truck Reservation System) and the first phase of the rail yard were all pushed," Reinhart said in a statment. "We're testing our new capabilities and are seeing positive results."
The Georgia Port Authority (GPA) also highlighted infrastructure improvements when releasing its March numbers and said it expects increased capacity to follow. The Mason Mega Rail project is expected to double the Port of Savannah's rail lift capacity.
"Our rail expansion will allow Garden City Terminal to accommodate additional 10,000-foot long unit trains and provide direct rail service to inland markets such as St. Louis, Chicago and Cincinnati," GPA Board Chairman Jimmy Allgood, said in a statement. "By stepping up to the plate to bring on additional rail capacity, we are expanding the size and scope of Georgia's market reach."
Many of these ports experienced record volumes at the end of 2018 and beginning of 2019 as President Donald Trump threatened to increase tariffs. Trump has now threatened increases as early as this week. It remains to be seen what this could mean for volume at the nation's ports.