Friday, March 29, 2013

LA-Long Beach Expecting Steady Cargo Growth

The ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles should see steady growth of containerized cargo imports and exports during 2013 as the U.S. economic picture improves, a panel of industry experts predicts.
During the annual “Pulse of the Ports Peak Season Forecast” on March 27 in Long Beach, representatives for the retail, shipping and terminal operating sectors as well as an economist, predicted three to six percent growth in freight volume during the upcoming cargo peak season, from August through October.

The San Pedro Bay ports themselves predict a 3.4 percent nationwide increase in imports in 2013. The outlook compares favorably to recent years when experts were still waiting to see some concrete signs of economic recovery at home and worldwide.

“All the wheels are turning in the right direction,” panelist Walter Kemmsies, the chief economist for the Moffat & Nichol transportation infrastructure engineering firm, said. “We expect the economy to be better this year than last year.”

The positive outlook was tempered, however, by concerns over the looming reduction in staffing by US Customs and Border Protection at seaports due to the federal government’s mandatory “sequestration” budget cuts. Customs has cut worker overtime due to sequestration and could eventually furlough employees. This, Pacific Merchant Shipping Association President John McLaurin said, hurts the San Pedro Bay ports, since they rely heavily on Customs personnel working overtime for inspection services.

The panel also expressed concern over economic impacts of state-by-state environmental regulations and hurdles that hamper the productivity of drayage trucking operations at local ports.

The ninth annual Peak Season Forecast, which was held in downtown Long Beach, drew a capacity audience of nearly 600 people and featured nine panelists from every segment of the industry.

In addition to Kemmsies and McLaurin, the other panelists were Jonathan Gold, the National Retail Federation’s Vice President of Supply Chain & Customs Policy; Erika Montoya, Program Director for the Specialty Crop Trade Council; International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 President Michael Podue; Chad Lindsay, Vice President of the Pacific Maritime Association; Knud Stubkjær, CEO and Chief Strategic Officer for SSA Marine; Steve Bobb, Executive Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer for BNSF Railway; and Vic La Rosa, CEO/President of Total Transportation Services Inc.

The archived webcast of the two-and-a-half-hour program is available online at