LONG BEACH, Calif. An upturn in West Coast construction of warehouses and distribution centers is contributing to rising steel demand in the market served by the Port of Los Angeles, the regions largest point for import arrivals, according to a port executive.
Marcel Van Dijk, business development manager for the port, expects steel imports to rise another 7 to 10 percent in 2013 after increasing 10 percent last year.
Steel arrivals in breakbulk cargoes totaled 2.2 million tonnes in 2012, Van Dijk told the American Institute of International Steel (AIIS) on Jan. 24. He also estimated that some 700,000 tonnes of steel mill products arrived in containers, up from 560,000 tonnes in 2011.
About 1.2 million tonnes of last years breakbulk imports were composed of slab, up from about 1.1 million tonnes in 2011. They were overwhelmingly designated for flat-rolled producer California Steel Industries Inc. (CSI), Fontana, Calif.
The rise in imports last year represented a continuing recovery from the recent low of less than 1 million tonnes unloaded in the recession year of 2009, but they remain far below the high of about 4 million tonnes in 2006.
But a pickup in the construction of industrial warehouses and distribution centers associated with e-commerce and information technology are helping to boost steel demand in the regional market, Van Dijk said.
About 13 million square feet of warehouse and distribution space is under construction in the area that has the most impact on the ports steel imports, with approximately 11 million square feet in the outlying Riverside and San Bernardino counties and the remainder in Los Angeles County, he noted.
For example, a 1-million-square-foot "fulfillment center" was dedicated in the fourth quarter of last year by the worlds largest online retailer, Amazon.com Inc., in the city of San Bernardino.
Van Dijk later pointed out to AMM that these facilities consume not only the steel long products normally associated with construction, but also the flat-rolled steel used for warehouse siding and roof construction.