As the coronavirus grinds the world's economy to a halt, and supply-chains break, many of the key components of US commerce - like port traffic - are starting to feel the virus' ugly effects. For instance, year over year volume at the Port of Los Angeles - the busiest seaport not only in the US but in the entire Western hemisphere - is expected to plunge 15% in the first quarter as a result of the outbreak.
Executive Director Gene Seroka told American Shipper: "Forty vessel sailings have been canceled from Asia, mainly China, to the Port of Los Angeles from Feb. 11 through April 1. Those 40 vessel cancellations would represent nearly 25% of our normal traffic at the Port of Los Angeles."
He continued: “There are a number of revenue streams that are floating here: the goods themselves, the ocean freight, the business on the docks, truck and warehouse communities. This will be substantial and I’ve given guidance to the marketplace that for the first quarter of 2020, the Port of Los Angeles volume will be down 15% year-on-year.”
He also said that nonperishable exports are piling up across the country: “We’re going to start to see a whipsaw effect in the industry. Pretty quickly those empties and exports will need to be evacuated to get ready for factory production when we curb — or hopefully eradicate — this virus and workers can get back on the job.”
He continued: “This is a human health concern number one, and we need all hands on deck to get our people well and back to productive lives. But at the same time, we’re going to have to find equilibrium in the industry to play catch-up and then even out before we reach our traditional peak season this summer.”
Meanwhile, some businesses, like CMA CGM group in China, said they are entering the "recovery phase" of operations.
The company said: “Manufacturing activities are gradually picking up, more port workers and truck drivers are returning to their posts and cargo flow is easing up at the major coastal ports.”
But in the U.S., the effects on ports are widespread. In addition to Los Angeles, Baltimore reduced its workday by 75 minutes effective Monday. The Georgia Port Authority said that imports handled at two of their ports could fall by 40% in March and April. The American Association of Port Authorities said overall volume at U.S. ports in Q1 could be down by 20% or more.