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"Pulse of the Ports" conference reveals gloomy forcast

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  • Pacific Merchant Marine Council, NLUS
    An ailing national economy, rising fuel costs, new container taxes and uncertainty about the impact of the Olympic Games in China are expected to continue
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 24, 2008
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      "An ailing national economy, rising fuel costs, new container taxes and uncertainty about the impact of the Olympic Games in China are expected to continue hampering economic growth."
      Yes, but little or no concern is shown for the impending impact of NAFTA, the proposed North American Union, and the now being constructed NAFTA Super Highway. At the Northern California ports luncheon I heard that containers can move to and from Chicago and Port Rupert Canada at rates considerably below those of United States West Coast ports. Look these up on your favorite search engine and see what is being perpetrated on United States' sovereignty by agents in and out of government.

      LAX to L. A. Harbor

      Ports' income may dip in 2008

      By Kristopher Hanson, Staff Writer
      Article Launched: 03/19/2008 11:17:37 PM PDT

      The economic engine of Southern California needs a serious tuneup if it's to remain competitive this year, analysts said Wednesday of local ports.

      An ailing national economy, rising fuel costs, new container taxes and uncertainty about the impact of the Olympic Games in China are expected to continue hampering economic growth at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles in 2008.

      "Demand everywhere is softer than it was last year, and that's going to result in slower trade growth here," said economist Paul Bingham of Global Insight. "We don't expect things to pick up before the latter part of the year."

      Bingham, who believes the United States has been in a recession for several months, was among a panel of experts explaining how the shaky global economy will affect the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and their dependent industries this year.

      Economic studies show trade at the ports is tied to more than 100,000 jobs in the greater Los Angeles area.

      The panel spoke Wednesday to a packed room of more than 500 importers, exporters, shippers, manufacturers and others at the annual "Pulse of the Ports" conference hosted by the Port of Long Beach.

      One of the few bright stories this year is exports, which have increased significantly in the past 18 months as American products become increasingly affordable overseas due to the declining value of the U.S. dollar.

      In the past year, exports out of the twin ports jumped more than 15 percent, compared with flat growth in imports.

      But in a troubling trend for shippers, retailers and consumers, rising fuel costs have increased expenses to move goods, cutting into money that would be used for investment and hiring, officials warned.

      And importers are also concerned about the Beijing Olympics.

      According to Brian Black of Hyundai Merchant Marine, the Chinese government indicates it will shutter factories near Beijing and Shanghai up to eight weeks prior to the Summer Games to address the region's poor air quality.

      It's unclear how this will affect the peak shipping season at local seaports, which typically falls in September and October.

      Usually, manufacturers in China supply the U.S. market with an influx of consumer goods beginning in late summer to avoid backlogs during the busy holiday shopping season.

      But with the Olympics scheduled Aug. 8-24, production may be increased before or after or shifted altogether to Vietnam or Korea.

      "It may lead to an early peak season or there could be a ramp-up of production (post-Olympics) and pressure on carriers to deliver quickly," Black said. "Whatever happens, it's going to require careful planning."

      Another area of concern voiced by several of Wednesday's speakers involved the slew of new and proposed container fees affecting trade moved through Los Angeles and Long Beach.

      In recent months, the ports have jointly adopted fees totaling up to $100 on each 40-foot-equivalent container handled here.

      Fees are designed to fund new, low-emission trucks and a slate of long overdue infrastructure projects, including replacement of the Gerald Desmond Bridge and roadway upgrades.

      The ports move about 8 million to 9 million, 40-foot equivalent units annually, and local dockworkers, importers and exporters are worried too many fees could drive business away just as trade volumes have flattened.

      "The union's very concerned that we (don't) get into a situation where we chase work away," said Mike Mitre, president of Local 13 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents most dockworkers in San Pedro Bay.

      "We're very well aware that a balance must be struck."



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