Home > Uncategorized > West Coast Ports’ Import Share Falls in Wake of Slowdown

West Coast Ports’ Import Share Falls in Wake of Slowdown

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West Coast Ports lost ground to East Coast and Gulf Coast ports, with the Pacific states’ share of imports falling to 45% in May, after labor negotiations caused delays earlier this year

Containers are loaded at the Port of Long BeachENLARGE
Containers are loaded at the Port of Long Beach PHOTO: TIM RUE/BLOOMBERG NEWS

West Coast ports’ share of container imports fell to 45% in May, down from 51.5% a year ago, as the effects lingered from massive delays earlier this year, according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The decline—measured in the dollar value of goods imported in containers—is partly due to decisions by many Asian shippers to reroute cargo to the Gulf and East Coasts after protracted West Coast labor negotiations led to delays earlier this year at Pacific ports. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union reached contract terms with the Pacific Maritime Association in late February but it took weeks to work through the backlog that had developed.

The kinds of goods sent to the West Coast tend to have a relatively high market value and shippers want to get them to retail stores as quickly as they can, said Jock O’Connell, an international economic analyst with Beacon Economics. The West Coast is the quickest route from Asia to U.S. consumers.

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More goods are being sent through alternative hubs when speed matters most , because they were seen as more reliable during the West Coast slowdowns, Mr. O’Connell said.

Meanwhile, the West Coast’s share of container exports saw another month of steady increases in May, despite the myriad challenges facing export producers this year. February was the low point for the West Coast, when the 29 Pacific ports accounted for only 27.7% share of container export value. Normally, the West Coast ports hover around 35% to 36% share, Mr. O’Connell said.

Exporters face currency fluctuations and weak economies in many parts of the world, which have hurt demand for U.S. products abroad. And agriculture exporters in California are facing severe drought conditions. Despite those challenges, Mr. O’Connell said, export share is “on an upward slope and getting back to normal” on the West Coast.

Write to Erica E. Phillips at erica.phillips@wsj.com

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