Friday, May 1, 2015

SoCal Cargo Forecast: Slow Growth

By Mark Edward Nero

Experts from across the goods movement industry gave insight into the business April 29 during the 11th “Pulse of the Ports: Peak Season Forecast” event hosted by the Port of Long Beach. Some identified improvements in the US economy, slowing growth in the Asian economy and long-term trends in shipping as forces that shape the flow of cargo through the San Pedro Bay ports.

The annual event drew an estimated 600 people to the Long Beach Convention Center’s Pacific Ballroom to hear how current trends are expected to affect trade throughout the rest of 2015. This year’s session not only explored the cargo forecast, it also delved into the recent challenges of cargo movement and how the supply chain is evolving to cope with demands for higher efficiency and improved reliability.

“We bring all the parts of the supply chain together for Pulse of the Ports each year, and our speakers put all their issues and problems right on the table,” Long Beach Harbor Commission President Doug Drummond said. “It shows how the Port of Long Beach is taking a leadership role, as we improve the supply chain’s velocity, efficiency and sustainability.”

Dr. Walter Kemmsies, chief economist for Moffatt & Nichol, titled his talk “Outlook – Lots of Moving Parts” due to the mixed bag of forces that will shape trade this year. While the economy is not fully recovered, he said it’s been on the upswing and that this will likely continue and is expected to fuel increases in imports. Meanwhile, export growth is expected to be challenged due to a strong U.S. dollar and the increasing efficiency of overseas agriculture and other sectors.

Kemmsies also noted that while the global economic outlook is for slow growth at best, global markets are becoming more stable, which in the long run can fuel increased trade through U.S. ports.

Other panelists recounted challenges impacting the industry, such as equipment shortages and congestion. Increased transparency, improved coordination among stakeholders, and supply chain optimization were among the key goals listed for 2015 and beyond.

Federal Maritime Commission Chairman Mario Cordero echoed a sentiment expressed by many of the panelists when he predicted that most of the volume redirected during the recent labor negotiations would return to West Coast ports.

“The West Coast has had its challenges. Despite serious concerns and legitimate questions over the last few months, this is the place to be,” Cordero said.

An archived webcast of the event and speaker information are available at