Below are highlights from the recently released trade data from the US Census Bureau and US Bureau of Economic Analysis.
The November numbers continue to be dominated by imports as backed up holiday shipments overwhelmed the supply system and as companies began to move into inventory acceleration typical before the national closures in China for the Chinese New Year’s holiday period. Both imports and exports through the state’s ports, however, were down from October’s numbers, by 2% and 7% respectively in nominal terms. The number of inbound containers to the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, however, were down sharply—off 9.6% from November 2020 and 10.1% from October—as businesses have shifted to smaller vessels in an effort to get around the current congestion for inventory, components, and materials.
Substantial backups at the San Pedro Bay ports also continue. On October 20, 2021 when the state issued its measures to tackle the ongoing supply chain issues, the backup was at 71 container ships and 108 total ships an anchor or loitering off the ports. In the most recent numbers for January 2, 101 container ships were in the backup, including 17 anchored or loitering off the ports and 84 slow steaming or loitering outside of 40 miles. An additional 28 vessels (including tankers and bulk carriers) were anchored or loitering within 40 miles, with no information on the number slow steaming.
While the state and federal measures along with those adopted by the ports have improved congestion conditions within the ports themselves, in many cases the effects have been shifted elsewhere rather than being fully resolved. Empty containers including those on equally supply-constrained truck chassis are now stored outside the ports. And while the current limits on the number of vessels anchored and loitering within 40 miles was adopted in part to minimize air quality impacts on Southern California, these effects instead have been shifted to Mexico as about 20% of vessels instead now loiter south of the border.