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Ports of LA and Long Beach set all-time cargo record in 2018

THE twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach both posted their highest container volumes ever in 2018, driven by importers' concerns over a looming trade war.

The Port of Los Angeles, North America's busiest container port, handled 9.46 million TEU last year, the most in its 111-year history and 1.2 per cent more than in 2017.

The neighbouring Port of Long Beach processed more than 8 million TEU for the first time last year, after container cargo totals jumped 7 per cent from 2017.

"This is a rush of cargo based on political trade policy," said Gene Seroka, executive director for the Port of Los Angeles, where direct trade with China accounted for just over half of the US$284 billion in cargo the port handled in 2017. "Many people were fearful that we were going to go from a 10 per cent tariff on certain items to 25 per cent on January 1," Mr Seroka said.

The US and China in late November agreed to a 90-day cease-fire in their bitter trade war. Under that deal, the US will keep tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports at 10 percent.

That news came after many importers sped up orders for everything from apparel to auto parts to avoid the higher tariffs.

The cargo surge at Los Angeles/Long Beach and other major US ports spurred disruptions that are rippling through the supply chain. US warehouses are stuffed to the rafters, forcing some importers to delay port cargo pickups or to park containers in parking lots, the Voice of America reported.

The National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates' Global Port Tracker expect 2018 imports to jump 5.3 per cent to a record 21.6 million TEU.

"Retailers have brought in much of their spring merchandise early to protect consumers against higher prices that will eventually come with tariffs," said National Retail Federation vice president Jonathan Gold.

However, that rush could mean less business for ports in 2019, according to NRF research partner Hackett Associates. "We are projecting declining volumes in the coming months and an overall weakness in imports for the first half of the year," said founder Ben Hackett in a statement.

They also project cooling in the early months of 2019, as imports typically soften due to a post-holiday drop in demand and Lunar New Year factory shutdowns in Asia.

"We'll see a little bit of a lull during Lunar New Year and thereafter. That in and of itself will allow us to catch up," Mr Seroka said.

Source; Schednet

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