LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Cargo volume at the Port of Los Angeles is down 15.5% so far this year as the novel coronavirus upends economies around the globe, Gene Seroka, executive director of the busiest U.S. seaport, said on a webcast on Wednesday.
April volume was down 6.5% year-over-year as the financial and human toll of the pandemic come into focus in the United States and around the globe.
Consumer demand for non-essential items has fallen off the cliff in the United States – where the pandemic is blamed for more than 71,000 deaths, swelling unemployment and bankruptcies of Main Street brands like preppy clothing seller J. Crew.
Imports are falling as retailers “delay, postpone and, in some cases, cancel orders,” Seroka said.
“Fast-fashion has struggled with a 50% drop in business overall. Auto and related parts are also down precipitously,” he said.
U.S. exports to Asia and China in particular have swooned, said Seroka, who highlighted weakness in recyclables and agriculture products.
Top shipping lines like Maersk (MAERSKb.CO) have responded by reducing port calls, contributing to job losses across the transportation industry.
China, the world’s manufacturing powerhouse, was first to detect the novel coronavirus. It shuttered its economy late last year in a bid to keep it from spreading.
Since then, the epicenter of the outbreak has shifted to major economies in Europe and the Americas. The worldwide death toll from COVID-19, the infection caused by the virus, now exceeds 257,000.
The World Trade Organization in April warned that the crisis could reduce global trade by 13% to 32%. At the height of the financial crisis in 2009, trade dropped 12.5%.
Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; editing by Jonathan Oatis
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