Business sales are rebounding from the first half of this pandemic year, based on shipments at the country's busiest container port.
Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said cargo volume was up 50% in the year's second half, helped by a surge in the holiday season.
That's largely because consumer habits have caused a spike in online and e-commerce orders. One result has been long delays in unloading ships at U.S. ports and limited warehouse space.
"It's all the change in the American consumer, Seroka said on Monday’s CNBC "Power Lunch." "We're not buying services, we're buying goods."
The port, managed by the Los Angeles Harbor Department, has seen a surge in shipments that has put a strain on the supply chain.
The L.A. port has been North America's busiest container port the last two decades, accepting 17% of all U.S. cargo. In November, it logged 890,000 20-foot-equivalent units of shipments, up 22% from the previous year. Since August, monthly cargo volume had averaged nearly 930,000 in 20-foot-equivalent units — a volume Seroka called "unusual" this late in the year.
Although exports at the port generally have declined monthly the last 25 months — blamed partly on the trade policy with China — imports from Asia are arriving at record levels, the port authority said.
"In addition to the trade policy, it's the strength of the U.S. dollar that makes our goods a little bit more than they would be otherwise for competing nations in same product categories," Seroka said. "And right now, the most startling statistic, is that we’re shipping back two times the amount of empty boxes than we are American exports across our docks."
Seroka added the port had focused on digitizing operations to optimize shipping schedules and logistics.
"The port is strained," he said.
Activity at the Port of Los Angeles expected to continue for several months.
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