January PIERS data confirmed the major impact port congestion had on U.S. red meat exports exiting through the West Coast. Waterborne beef exports transiting through the West Coast were down 21 percent from a year ago, while exports through East and Gulf Coast ports were down only 2 percent. Combined waterborne beef exports were down 14 percent to 44,851 metric tons (mt), with West Coast ports accounting for 61 percent of the waterborne export volume – down from 66 percent a year ago.
Pork exports transiting through the West Coast ports were down 35 percent, while exports utilizing other ports fell 19 percent. Total waterborne pork exports were down 30 percent to 75,038 mt. The West Coast ports accounted for 64 percent of January’s waterborne pork exports, down from 69 percent in January 2014.
January PIERS data also revealed the widespread impact of the West Coast labor standoff on exports from a number of U.S. industries. Total U.S. containerized exports declined 15 percent from a year ago, with shipments from the East Coast increasing slightly but exports from the West Coast falling nearly 30 percent.
Port labor update: Work stoppages at the Port of Oakland continued to draw the ire of the Pacific Maritime Association this week, as detailed in this news release. The port’s largest terminal had to suspend operations March 11 due to a dispute over staffing requirements. The terminal reopened the following day.
Despite these disruptions, a spokesperson for the Port of Oakland told American Shipper magazine that good progress has been made in clearing the shipping backlog. As of March 11, only four vessels were anchored or holding station in Oakland, which was down from the mid-February high of 20 vessels. But a persistent problem in Oakland is that vessels continue to arrive late from Southern California due to more severe congestion in the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and port officials warn that these delays could continue for several more weeks.