Long Beach port container traffic down 13% in April

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The Port of Long Beach on Wednesday, May 16, said container traffic dropped 13 percent in April compared to the same period a year ago, reflecting continued caution in the world economy. Analysts, however, continue to forecast modest growth in trade for 2012, and the port announced three new lines of vessels from Asia that will begin calling later this month.

Combined, the three services are expected to add as much as 500,000 20-foot equivalent container units through the remainder of the year. Carriers seasonally add service lines toward the second half of the year in expectation of the holiday season.

Last month, port terminals handled 461,911 TEUs compared to 531,090 TEUs in April 2011. Imports were down 13.8 percent to 232,963 TEUs compared to 270,107 TEUs in April 2011, and exports were down 16.2 percent to 120,452 TEUs compared to 143,683 TEUs. The port said the decrease in numbers is partly due to the elimination of several niche service lines that had called last year.

After an increase in March, cargo volumes dropped again in the month-to-month comparison in April. For the calendar year, container volumes at the port are down by 5.8 percent compared to the first four months of 2011. According to the port, despite an improving economic outlook domestically, there is still much uncertainty about the world economy in the short term.

Empty container moves were down 7.5 percent to 108,496 TEUs compared to 117,300 a year ago. Since imports exceed exports, empty containers are sent overseas to be refilled with goods.