Photo: Port of Long Beach

Cargo Boom Continues at Nation’s Second-Busiest Port

Mike Schuler
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February 4, 2021

The Port of Long Beach has reported its busiest January on record as the cargo boom continues into 2021.

Dockworkers and terminal operators at the port moved 764,006 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) in January for a 21.9% jump from the same month last year

January marked only the second time that January volumes have topped 700,000, surpassing the previous record set in January 2018 by 106,176 TEUs.

Imports through the nation’s second-busiest port grew by 17.5% year-over-year to 364,255 TEUs, while exports also climbed 7% to 116,254 TEUs. Empty containers headed back overseas increased 34.6% to 270,221 TEUs.

The Port of Long Beach said the January boost was largely driven by the ongoing rise in consumers’ online spending on home improvement items and office equipment in response to stay-at-home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This cargo boom has resulted in unprecedented congestion at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the busiest gateway for U.S. imports from China.

“After the volatility with cargo volumes in 2020, we hope to see some stability and continued economic recovery over the next year as we remain focused on attracting business and building for the future,” said Mario Cordero, Executive Director of the Port of Long Beach. “We remain focused on the health and safety of our dockworkers as they continue to unload a record-breaking amount of cargo from a surge of container vessels calling at the Port.”

The strong start to 2021 follows a record-breaking year for the Port of Long Beach with 8,113,315 TEUs moved in 2020 despite headwinds from the pandemic and the ongoing trade war with China.

The port said that while activity typically slows down in February during overseas celebrations for the Lunar New Year, projections show that this month could be busier than usual as unscheduled container ship calls continue to make up for voyages that were canceled at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. This will almost certainly add to the congestion problems in southern California.

“Trade moving through the Port of Long Beach will be a vital key to the economic recovery we hope to see this year,” said Long Beach Harbor Commission President Frank Colonna. “We’re staying the course by focusing on attracting business, growing our market share and continuing to build for the future.”

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