The Port of Los Angeles ends the first quarter “very soft.”

The Port of Los Angeles reported 623,234 TEU throughput in March, ending a very weak quarter at the start of 2023.

“The economic situation slowed down world trade considerably in the first quarter; However, we are beginning to see signs of improvement, including nine straight months of declining inflation,” said Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles.

In the first three months, the port handled 1,837,094 TEU, down 32% from the record-breaking first quarter of 2022, as the pandemic-driven import surge continued in the first half of last year.

The surge has led to a dramatic year-on-year percentage decline beginning this year. But pulling the chart further back, first-quarter volume was 19% below the five-year average of 2.2 million TEU — a trend Seroka said “needs to be reversed.”

In March 2023, loaded imports reached 319,962 TEU, down 35% year-on-year. Loaded exports amounted to 98,276 TEU, a 12% decrease compared to the previous year. Empty containers landed at 204,996 TEU, down 42% year-on-year as demand from Asia eased.

On the bright side, March volume is up 28% compared to February.

“While March cargo volume was lower than last year at this point, early data and monthly growth point to a moderate increase in the third quarter,” Seroka added.

Seroka said widespread concerns about West Coast labor negotiations and a slowing overall economy, with inflation hitting consumer spending and retailers pumping pauses in factory orders, contributed to the first-quarter light freight numbers, but activity expected to pick up gradually through July ahead of a more normal peak shipping season.

Seroka also addressed last week’s suspension of cargo operations on Thursday evening and Friday day, saying the impact was relatively minor given the lower activity during the Good Friday morning shift.

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