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Japan disaster impacts L.A. port business

March 14, 2011 7:49:16 PM PDT
The devastation triggered by the 9.0 earthquake and tsunami in Japan are sure to have a big impact on the Port of Los Angeles, one of Japan's top business partners in the United States. It could affect port jobs as well as business.

The Japanese port of Sendai has been shut down as thousands of containers are strewn all over.

The Port of Los Angeles had close to a billion dollars in trade come from the port of Sendai last year alone.

"Auto parts make up almost 45 percent of what is imported from Japan, along with electronic parts and appliances making the other 6 percent," said Phillip Sanfield, director of media relations for the Port of Los Angeles. "We're hearing that there may be some problems obviously with port workers getting to work, and electrical. It takes a lot of power to operate the port."

Japanese automakers have been hit hard by the earthquake and tsunami. Monday, Nissan announced that some of its U.S.-bound vehicles were badly damaged.

"Last year, about 150,000 Nissans were shipped through the Port of L.A. This year we were expecting a little bit more than that. That remains to be seen what kind of production facilities and operations there will have," said Sanfield.

These are uncertain times at the Port of Los Angeles. At more than $30 billion yearly, Japan is its second-largest trading partner behind China.

The closure of several ports in northeast Japan are expected to cost that country $3.4 billion of lost seaborne trade -- each day.

Sanfield says it will take a week to 10 days to get a better idea of the full economic impact. But there could be a major trickle-down effect in the U.S. as a whole. Yet he says it's hard to think about money when so many lives have been lost.

"Mostly we have a lot of trading partners and friends over in Japan," said Sanfield. "Foremost, our hearts and thoughts and prayers are going out to all of the people in Japan."