California ports press on

California ports press on

The still-pending lawsuit against the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach from the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) challenging aspects of its Clean Trucks Program (CTP) is only one of the problems facing the California ports these days

The still-pending lawsuit against the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach from the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) challenging aspects of its Clean Trucks Program (CTP) is only one of the problems facing the California ports these days.

Container cargo shipments through the Port of Long Beach in 2008 fell 11% compared to 2007, the biggest single-year decline in more than 20 years, with December levels falling 25.3% to its lowest monthly total since February 2005, according to the Port.

Although 2007 was the busiest year in the Port’s history, imports of all products were slow throughout 2008 and exports decreased significantly beginning in mid-September, with imports falling 34.2% and exports falling 26.9% year-over-year in December.

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The still-pending lawsuit against the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach from the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) challenging aspects of its Clean Trucks Program (CTP) is only one of the problems facing the California ports these days.

Container cargo shipments through the Port of Long Beach in 2008 fell 11% compared to 2007, the biggest single-year decline in more than 20 years, with December levels falling 25.3% to its lowest monthly total since February 2005, according to the Port.

Although 2007 was the busiest year in the Port’s history, imports of all products were slow throughout 2008 and exports decreased significantly beginning in mid-September, with imports falling 34.2% and exports falling 26.9% year-over-year in December.

In addition, according to The Cunningham Report, the Port of Los Angeles was down 6.0% year-over-year in 2008, and was down 12.8% in imports and 25.9% in exports year-over-year in December.

“Despite the weak global economy, Port of Long Beach remains fiscally strong and competitive,” said Port executive director Richard D. Steinke. “While 2008 was a difficult year for the maritime industry, the Port is firmly committed to investing in improvements that will provide new, local jobs, stimulate the local economy, protect the environment and improve security.”

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF) and HIS Global Insight’s monthly Port Tracker report, U.S. ports surveyed an estimated 15.3 Twenty-Foot-Equivalent Units (TEU), a 7.1% drop from 2007 and the lowest total since 2004, as a result of the economic downturn.

“2008 was a slow year for the ports for the simple reason that it was a slow year for retail sales,” said NRF vp for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold. “We don’t expect a significant increase in traffic at the ports until retail sales return to normal levels, and even then retailers will be careful not to over-stock.”

The Port Tracker report projects January’s TEU to be down 6.3% year-over-year, and February is expected to be down 11.1% from February 2008, although they expect a slight bump in March.

“Between the economy and the customary winter impact of the slow season, port traffic is very weak,” IHS Global Insight Economist Paul Bingham said. “Port traffic is projected to continue to be very slow due to the underlying weakness in demand.”

The FMC lawsuit, which claims the commission has “serious concerns about potentially unreasonable increases in transportation costs or decreases in transportation services that may result from the CTP,” is expected to be ruled on later this year.

The Port of Los Angeles began late last month distributing $44 million in incentive checks to the 107 Clean Truck Program (CTP) concessionaires that have committed to deploying new, privately funded clean trucks into drayage service in advance of CTP schedule requirements, with each participant receiving $20,000 for each EPA 2007-compliant truck used at the Port.

However, according to The Cunningham Report, smaller carriers were upset that the port sent an $8.24 million check to Swift Transportation well ahead of the checks to carriers that have far fewer vehicles.

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