“Everybody expects 2009 to be a bleak year. Now, it looks like 2010 is going to be just as bleak.”
Idle ports signal two ‘bleak’ years ahead in world trade
Loss of financing threatens sector that accounts for 25% of world economy
BY MICHAEL JANOFSKY AND MARK DRAJEM JANUARY 5, 2009
Chris Lytle, chief operating officer of the port of Long Beach, Calif., took in a panorama of the slumping world economy from his rooftop observation deck one day this month.
Shipping cranes stood still, truck traffic trickled and a cargo vessel sat idle, moored to a pier.
“You never see that,” Lytle said. “It’s quiet. Too quiet.”
Port traffic is slowing around the world — everywhere from North America to Asia — as a recession erodes consumer demand and the credit crisis chokes off loans to export-dependent companies. International trade is set to fall by more than two per cent next year, the most since the World Bank began measuring it in 1971. Idle ports are showing how quickly a collapse in trade can spread, undermining growth in each country it reaches.
September and October are typically Long Beach’s busiest months as U.S. retailers take deliveries for holiday sales. This year, September imports fell 15.8 per cent from a year earlier, October’s dropped 9.5 per cent, and November’s slid 13.6 per cent.
“Everybody expects 2009 to be a bleak year,” said Jim McKenna, chief executive officer of the Pacific Maritime Association, a San Francisco-based group representing dock employers at U.S. West Coast ports. “Now, it looks like 2010 is going to be just as bleak.”