Chinese Carriers Leave US Ports With More Empty Containers


  • Two Chinese carriers are shipping more empty export containers than loaded exports out of the two biggest ports in the United States, according to CNBC analysis of exclusive trade data.
  • CNBC analyzed the container data for 2020 and 2021 from the Port of Los Angeles, Port of Long Beach, U.S. customs and IHS Markit PIERS import export data. PIERS tracks U.S. Customs cargo shipping records.

A recent news article published in the CNBC reveals about Chinese carriers are shipping more empty containers than full ones out of U.S. West Coast ports.

The story of top 2 carriers

The top two carriers that transported more empty containers than loaded U.S. exports out of the Port of Los Angeles were OOCL, which is headquartered in Hong Kong, and its parent company, COSCO, which is headquartered in Shanghai.

OOCL recorded a 35.1% decrease in loaded exports and a 104.1% increase in empty containers. COSCO transported an increase of 4% in loaded containers versus a 104.6%  increase in empties.

Exports from West declining

“According to industry-wide data, exports from the U.S. West Coast have been on a declining trend since 2019, due to a range of factors including changes in market demand,” OOCL said. “OOCL’s key hub on the West Coast is the Long Beach Container Terminal. For reasons of efficiency and cost, where possible we have been switching cargo from a range of ports to ship through Long Beach, inevitably leading to a decrease of our throughput at those other ports.”

Analysis of the Port of Long Beach data revealed OOCL topped the list with a 3.2% decrease in loaded exports versus a 31.61% increase in empty exports.

The findings come on the heels of the Port of Los Angeles reported another decline in exports, in March. The port has seen a decrease in loaded exports during 37 out of the last 39 months. U.S. exports out of the port have fallen to the lowest level since 2002. Likewise, U.S. exports from the nearby Port of Long Beach have fallen to their lowest level since 2009.

Government moves

The Federal Maritime Commission, the government agency tasked with protecting U.S. maritime trade through regulation,recently announced it is expanded its auditing into the trade practices of both the large ocean carriers as well as the new smaller carriers which launched operations in 2021.

Congress is in the process of revamping the Shipping Act of 1984 to potentially prohibit what the FMC is describing as unreasonable export rejections. Both the House and Senate overwhelmingly passed its own versions of the bill. Sources told CNBC that discussions are underway to blend the bills into one piece of legislation that President Joe Biden is expected to sign.

“If these reports are true, this is alarming proof that America’s producers – the farmers and ranchers who work tirelessly to help feed the world – are being unfairly hung out to dry,” Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said of CNBC’s analysis.

“It also increases the urgency for Congress to act on my Ocean Shipping Reform Act, which was unanimously approved by the Senate and would help level the playing field for our exporters and give more authority to federal agencies that can hold these carriers accountable.”

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Source: CNBC


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