Cargo flow improved in July at the Port of Los Angeles, where the backlog of ships waiting at anchor has dropped by nearly 90% since January, the port’s Executive Director Gene Seroka said during a press conference Wednesday. Loaded imports and exports increased during the month, following declines in June.
There were 109 ships at anchor outside Los Angeles in January compared to 13 this week, Seroka said, adding that truck dwell times are also down, falling from a high of 11 days to four days. The increased fluidity came despite the port’s continued handling of record cargo volume, he added. Seven months into 2022, the Port of Los Angeles is on pace with last year’s record-setting volume, moving more than 6.3 million twenty-foot-equivalent units (TEUs) to date.
July statistics from the Port of Oakland, also released Wednesday, were not as strong and reflected slowdowns driven by trucker protests against California’s AB5 labor law, which imposes sweeping changes on independent owner-operators. Total container volume fell 28% in July year-over-year; loaded imports were down nearly 27% and exports were down 31%.
Protests at the port snarled operations, slowing the unloading of inbound ships and delaying imports from leaving the terminals, officials said. Congestion in the container yards affected export operations as well, limiting the terminals’ ability to load ships with goods and making it harder for exporters to coordinate shipping activities and get their goods out of the port.
Port officials said it could take a month for the port traffic to recover from the protests.
AB5 and other issues remain concerns statewide, according to Matt Schrap, chief executive officer of the non-profit Harbor Trucking Association (HTA), who joined Seroka in the Port of L.A. press conference this week. Enforcement is the biggest question mark with AB5, according to Schrap, who said the state has not set a “clear enforcement path,” leaving many independent owner-operators scrambling to figure out how to deal with the changes.
Another challenge is coming on January 1, when a new truck and bus regulation from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) takes effect. The rule will ban truck models made in 2009 or earlier from entering ports and rail yards throughout the state, a move that Schrap and others say will affect around 23% of the region’s drayage fleet.
“Suffice it to say, removing a quarter of the capacity from the system could have profound impacts on our ability to get business done and move those boxes off dock,” Schrap said Wednesday.
Looking ahead, officials in both L.A. and Oakland said they expect demand for imports to soften in August, driven by slowing factory orders in China and elevated inventory levels among some U.S. retailers.
Victoria Kickham, an editor at large for Supply Chain Quarterly, started her career as a newspaper reporter in the Boston area before moving into B2B journalism. She has covered manufacturing, distribution and supply chain issues for a variety of publications in the industrial and electronics sectors, and now writes about everything from forklift batteries to omnichannel business trends for Supply Chain Quarterly's sister publication, DC Velocity.