Container traffic at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach shot up nearly 10 percent in August from a year earlier, mostly due to a continuing surge in exports from the Port of Long Beach.


Container volume for the twin ports reached 854,956 twenty-foot-equivalent container units, or TEUs, in August, up 1 percent from July and 9.6 percent from August 2004, according to figures released by the ports. Year-to-date, container volume was 6,266,705 TEUs, up 4.9 percent from the year-ago January-through August period.


The overall growth masks a divergence in fortunes at the two ports.


At the Port of Long Beach, container volume jumped 18 percent to 416,784 TEUs in August compared with Aug. 2004, fueled by a 35 percent growth in exports. A weak dollar has helped spur demand for finished products in Europe while Asia's thirst for raw materials continues to rise.


The Long Beach port's ability to handle the next generation of very large container vessels is allowing it to reap more of the gains than its neighbor. Year-to-date, container volume at the Port of Long Beach is up 17.4 percent from the same period one year earlier.


Meanwhile, the Port of Los Angeles is only now beginning to recover from the negative image that went out after last summer's lengthy delays that had dozens of ships waiting days or even weeks to unload their cargo. In August, for the first time this year, the port saw a year-over-year increase in loaded container imports of 1.1 percent to 343,029 TEUs.


Exports from the Port of Los Angeles, while down 2.5 percent in August from July levels, posted a gain of 9.7 percent from August 2004 levels. That, in turn, led to a 2.8 percent increase in total container volume at the port.


The port still trails last year's container volume levels in almost all categories year-to-date. Imports were down 5.4 percent from levels recorded in the January-August 2004 period, while overall container volume showed a 4.3 percent drop.


These figures do not reflect the impact from Hurricane Katrina, which has caused delays in shipments of cargo from the ports to much of the Eastern third of the country. A report earlier this month from the National Retail Federation warned that these delays could cause backups at both local ports, especially at the Port of Los Angeles.

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