Coronavirus fears prompts more canceled ships to Long Beach Los Angeles ports

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The steady spread of the novel coronavirus–– recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as COVID-19–– is having an impact on cargo ships heading for the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.

Lee Peterson, a spokesperson for the Port of Long Beach, said officials expect Chinese factories to usually close down for one to two weeks for the holidays, such as Lunar New Year celebrations. He said this tends to cause an increase in canceled sailing trips for the first quarter, or first three months, of the new year.

“We kind of expected every year–– we’re going to see those canceled sailings of about 20 to 30–– in that range–– for the first quarter,” Peterson said. “Right now, we expect to see 50 canceled sailings for the two ports together, so we’ve definitely seen an increase.”

In anticipation of the holiday season, companies may determine that there isn’t enough cargo to warrant a trip and usually cancel shipping schedules if low amounts of goods are produced. Coronavirus concerns are causing Asian shipping companies to close down for an extended period of time–– and this is impacting cargo volume.

In January, the port announced that it was about 5% down from the same month last year in terms of cargo.

This comes on the heels of the recent U.S.-China trade war that caused uncertainty in the trade industry, and had an impact on cargo volume coming through the port.

“We’ve been having this sort of uncertainty for the industry because of the tariffs dispute,” Peterson said. “And now we go into coronavirus.”

On the ground, Peterson said concerns of the virus has not impacted day-to-day operations.

“There’s a full schedule that we’re still following,” he said. “We have people who are going to be this week in Dallas, Texas for a retail-industry event. Next week, there is an event right here in Long Beach–– the Trans-Pacific Maritime conference. So, we’re still doing what we’re doing.”

Peterson added that although the coronavirus had an impact on shipping schedules, he said American appetite for consumer goods has not diminished. The increase in canceled shipping trips could cause a surge in cargo at a later date.

California is currently below 10 reported cases of infected patients, and no reports of the virus have been made in Long Beach. As of Feb. 24, the coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China, has killed 2,618 patients, according to the WHO.