Friday, 14 August 2020 | 15:29
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U.S. Ports Likely to See Slump in Cargo Volume From Coronavirus

Thursday, 05 March 2020 | 00:00

Many U.S. ports are expected to handle 20% less cargo this quarter as fewer shipments from China make their way to America as a result of the coronavirus epidemic, according to the American Association of Port Authorities.

As Chinese factories struggle to ramp up production, containership operators have canceled nearly 60 trans-Pacific sailings to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif., in the first quarter, according to the ports, which together comprise the largest U.S. gateway for seaborne trade.

Carriers have canceled roughly 110 trans-Pacific sailings to North America from early February to early April, according to Denmark-based maritime research group Sea-Intelligence.

The West Coast ports have the most exposure to coronavirus impacts. Ports in China including Hong Kong represent around 63% and 58% of volumes headed to Los Angeles and Long Beach, respectively, according to Panjiva, the supply chain research unit of S&P Global Market Intelligence. Typically there are about 20 to 30 canceled sailings in the first quarter because of Lunar New Year factory closures in Asia, a Port of Long Beach spokesman said. The increase this year is because of the coronavirus, he said.

A number of container terminals have eased back on the number of work shifts, according to boxship executives. Terminals at the port complex are operating at about 30% to 40% of their normal gate capacity, according to the Harbor Trucking Association, a Long Beach-based industry group that represents port trucking companies.

“Things will rebound eventually and indeed we’re hearing news about factories that are coming back online in China and ports there ramping back up to move the cargo,” Chris Connor, president and chief executive of the American Association of Port Authorities, said in a statement last week. “At the same time, supply-chain managers around the world are working tirelessly to keep cargo moving to ensure that the goods we need are available when and where we need them.”

Transportation analysts expect the import lull to last for some weeks because of low staffing levels in China, with the effects rippling out across domestic logistics networks that move goods from the ports to distribution centers.

While freight flows could pick up in late April or May, “port volumes are correlated to rail volumes, and we would expect volume declines to accelerate in March and April for the industry,” Citi transportation analyst Christian Wetherbee wrote in a research note last week. “Truck activity is also correlated to ports and will likely be impacted.”
Source: Wall Street Journal

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