The ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles continued to see higher year-over-year container traffic in February, although the growth was somewhat slower compared with the stronger gains seen much of last year.

But concern looms at both ports as to whether the Japan tsunami crisis and the rising cost of oil will have an impact on the container volumes in months to come.

The Port of Los Angeles logged a 5.6 percent increase in February, with a total of about 554,912 containers for the month.

The Port of Long Beach had an 11 percent increase in cargo container volume. Although exports were down 1 percent, imports increased 12.4 percent. Total container volume was 458,336.

“This shows some strength in the economy,” said Phillip Sanfield, spokesperson for the Port of Los Angeles. “But there’s still plenty of yellow flags. We’re keeping a close eye on the price of oil and in time we’ll know the effect of the tragedy in Japan on international trade.”

In 2010, the Los Angeles facility had its fourth-best year on record, with exports rising 10.3 percent to 1.8 Million TEUs. Long Beach also had a strong year, with cargo shipments up 24 percent.

Sanfield said the February numbers are strong, especially considering the fact that in February 2010 the increase in container volume was 27 percent over February 2009.

Still, with Japan being the United States’ second-largest trading partner, there is concern what will happen in coming weeks.

The ports in southern Japan, where most of the country’s shipping originates, were not affected by the March 11 tsunami.

But a larger question of how Japan’s manufacturing sector will handle rolling brown-outs and other disruptions caused by the tsunami is still unknown, according to Art Wong, spokesperson for the Port of Long Beach. Long Beach is a major home port for Toyota imports.

“We’ve heard the ports in central and southern Japan are operating normally,” he said. “The concern will be if manufacturing can continue to act normally or whether there will be temporary plant shut-downs.”

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