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Category: Ports

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Import surge is projected for L.A. and Long Beach ports

A container ship at the Port of Long Beach
The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach will receive a stronger surge in imports than expected in the first half of 2010, rising as much as 28% over previous year levels, as the long-awaited economic recovery continues to gather strength, according to a report released Monday by the National Retail Federation.

Overall, imports into the nation’s major container ports is expected to rise 25% during the first six months of the year, compared with the year-earlier period.

The projection shows that at least some economists are expecting steady progress at a time when others are fretting over the possibility of a double-dip recession. Previous forecasts for the local ports and for the nation’s busiest harbors for container cargo had predicted lukewarm improvement at best for the first half of the year.

But Hackett Associates, which tracks import data every month for some of the nation’s biggest retailers, said that it was noticing positive signs from a number of indicators. One of those was the fact that the record number of ships that were laid up or idled for lack of work last year has begun to drop substantially.

“This forecast assumes that we are not in a double-dip recession and that a recovery is underway,” said Ben Hackett, founder of the consulting firm. “The forecast for 2010 points towards growth.”

The National Retail Federation, which had previously been quite cautious about the pace of the economic recovery, let go of those inhibitions Monday.

“This is a dramatic turnaround over what we’ve seen during the past two years,” said Jonathan Gold, vice president for supply chain and customs policy for the retail federation.

Gold cautioned that increases in import volumes don’t mean that retailers will record the same improvement in sales. “But retailers are clearly expecting to move more merchandise this year,” he said.

Hackett’s monthly report, called Port Tracker, covers imports at the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach — the nation’s largest — as well as Oakland; Seattle; Tacoma, Wash.; New York/New Jersey; Virginia; Charleston, S.C.; Savannah, Ga.; and Houston.

Those ports handled a combined 1.1 million containers in December, the latest month for which actual numbers are available. That was unchanged from November but represented a 2.6% increase over December 2008.

Hackett said those numbers broke a 28-month streak in which monthly import totals were lower than the same month the year before. In 2009, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach handled 6.75 million and 5.1 million cargo containers, respectively, their lowest totals in several years.

-- Ronald D. White

Photo: A container ship at the Port of Long Beach. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

California exports increase from 2008, breaking a streak

Portsla

For the first time since October 2008, the value of California's monthly exports increased slightly from the same period the year before.

The state shipped $10.95 billion in goods abroad in November 2009, up 1.9% from the $10.75 billion the state shipped in November 2008, according to a University of California Center Sacramento analysis of data released this morning by the U.S. Commerce Department. 

But this uptick pales in comparison with national data. Overall U.S. exports increased by 11.1% in the same period, said Jock O'Connell, international trade and economics advisor at the center.

"We're peeking around an important corner here, not fully turning it," he said.

The real increase in exports came from agricultural and non-manufactured products, which jumped by 29.8% from November 2008. Exports of manufactured goods from California were down 2.1%. 

The export picture continues to favor Northern California, O'Connell said, indicating that region might fare better in a recovery. The number of loaded shipping containers leaving the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach was up 11.4% in November from the same period the year before. But loaded shipping containers sailing from the Port of Oakland increased 39.7%.

Consumption is still slow as well: $25.1 billion in foreign goods entered California in November, down 8.2% from November 2008. 

-- Alana Semuels

Photo: Container ships at the Port of Long Beach. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

Casden forecast remains gloomy for office landords

Southern California's industrial real estate markets have a chance of getting off their knees next year, but the office market should continue to be painful for owners, according to a report released today.

“Heightened traffic at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach will create more jobs and an increased need for warehousing across Southern California," said Tracey Seslen, co-author of the Casden Real Estate Economics Forecast compiled at USC's Marshall School of Business.

Office rents will continue to fall, however, as white-collar-job losses extend into next year and drive down demand. That will hurt landlords but offer a break to companies that want to rent more space or renew their leases at potentially lower rates.

Expected nationwide growth in green technology, education and healthcare should bode well for the recovery of L.A.’s office markets in 2011, the report said, but next year will be another tough one for owners.

-- Roger Vincent

L.A., Long Beach clash over ports

Just 13 months after Los Angeles and Long Beach set their maritime rivalry aside to fight diesel pollution at the nation’s busiest seaport complex, the partnership has collapsed.

In a disagreement that hinges on labor practices, the two cities are now so fundamentally at odds that some experts fear customers will seek out other harbors to escape a storm of complications, acrimony and confusion.

At issue is whether the drivers who haul freight to and from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach should be required to work for trucking companies -- and therefore be more likely to be recruited by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union.

Click to read the full story.

-- Ronald D. White

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