Directors of the ports at Los Angeles and Savannah agree that the second quarter will be tough on port volumes as both facilities cope with blanked (cancelled) sailings. The lower port volumes, coupled with a loose truck market, could be a double whammy for U.S. Class I railroads.
On the West Coast, Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka recently said port volumes through April were down roughly 15.5% from the same period in 2019, a reflection of voided sailings. But sequentially, April volumes of 689,000 TEUs were higher than the 449,568 TEUs handled in March.
Through the end of the second quarter (June 30), “we see 28 void sailings, which is a tremendous number, yielding softness in the market through the months of May and June,” Seroka said in an American Shipper article. “Retail continues to delay, postpone and in some cases cancel orders. Fast fashion has struggled with a 50% drop in business overall. Auto and related parts are also down precipitously.”
Meanwhile, the Port of Savannah is bracing for 37 blanked sailings during May, representing about 20%-22% of its vessel calls, according to Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) Executive Director Griff Lynch. The port normally doesn’t have voided sailings in May. To date, June could see blank sailings representing about 15% of its vessel calls, Lynch said in another American Shipper article.
“We’re getting ready for two really tough months, then we’re hopeful we can kind of turn the corner,” American Shipper quoted Lynch as saying. GPA’s fiscal year ends in June. “We know it’s not going to be an immediate bounce back, but we’re hoping to see month-over-month improvements after we end the fiscal year. Maybe that’s more hopeful than factual, but we’ll have to see how it all plays out.”
While U.S. intermodal containerized traffic has risen from its Covid-era lows in recent weeks (the blue line below), the latest data from U.S. Customs is concerning, as shown in green in the chart below. That could translate to an associated decline in intermodal shipments in the coming weeks.
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