Aerial photo of the Port of San Diego. Courtesy of the port

Southern California port officials said Friday that the pandemic continues to drive down the market for goods in the second quarter of 2020.

That slackened demand has led to an increase in cancelations and a decline in containers passing through cargo terminals across the state, San Diego included.

“Canceled sailings continued to rise at a rapid rate in the second quarter as ocean carriers adjusted their voyages to a decline in demand for imports during the national COVID-19 outbreak,” Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero said.

He added that “the economic challenges may persist for some time.”

Consumer goods flow through ports and ship throughout the country reaching the shelves of major chains and small businesses alike. As pandemic-related job losses and business closures have hit communities, demand has taken a hit.

Long Beach’s numbers reflect those released by other terminals facing economic fallout from the Covid-19 crisis.

The Port of Oakland reported that overall container volume, including imports, exports and empty containers,  declined 2.3% in June compared to 2019. That translates to the equivalent of 199,011 twenty-foot containers this year compared to 203,730 a year ago.

The Port of San Diego is “facing significant cargo and cruise passenger declines,” officials wrote in a June commentary in The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Meanwhile, in Long Beach, dockworkers and terminal operators moved 602,180 cargo units in June, an 11.1% decline compared to June 2019.

Imports shrank 9.3% to 300,714 units and exports dropped 12.2% to 117,538 units. Empty containers shipped overseas to Asia were down 13.1% to 183,928 units, according to statistics posted by the port.

Economic uncertainty brought by decreased consumer spending and ongoing health concerns related to the coronavirus contributed to a drop during the first half of 2020, with cargo shipments at 3,433,035 units.

That’s 6.9% less than the same period last year.

The San Pedro Bay ports complex, the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles combined, had 41 canceled sailings in the first half of 2019.

This year that number more than doubled to 104; 37 were destined for the Port of Long Beach. As the pandemic took hold in the U.S.  in February, the Port of Los Angeles expected volume initially to drop off by 25%.

There is room for optimism though. Canceled sailings are projected to significantly drop as the holiday peak shipping season ramps up this quarter.

“The economic recovery is going to take some time, but we are optimistic for the future of the port and our partnerships with labor and the entire goods movement industry,” Long Beach Harbor Commission President Bonnie Lowenthal said.

City News Service and staff reports

Show comments