Cargo Container Imports Grow Except in Southern California

Import volumes at most of the nation’s ports are on the upswing as retailers bring the last of their goods in for the holiday season.

This is in sharp contrast to last year when a work slowdown and chassis shortage on the West Coast ports crippled operations so dramatically that many importers were either shifting their deliveries to the East Coast and other locations or having goods flown in.

“Conditions aren’t perfect, but the ports are running reasonably well,” said Jonathan Gold, the president for supply chain and customs policy at the National Retail Federation.

In the NRF’s monthly “Global Port Tracker” report, import volumes at U.S. ports were up 2.2 percent in September over the same year-earlier period. October is expected to increase 4.5 percent over last year, and November will see a major gain of 8.3 percent. Shipping will cool off in December as imports inch up only 0.4 percent compared with the previous December.

For 2015, the report predicts that the import shipping volume will jump 6.1 percent.

Ben Hackett, whose Hackett Associates prepares the “Global Port Tracker” report for the NRF, said that with the nation’s unemployment rate decreasing recently to 5 percent, import volumes should continue to be strong. “We expect to see rising take-home pay that will translate into higher sales,” he noted.

Locally, the Port of Los Angeles saw its October import traffic decrease 3.3 percent compared with last year. The adjacent Port of Long Beach also saw a slight 0.8 percent decline in its October cargo-container imports.